Best Tattoo Tubes 2021

As a new tattoo artist, it’s hard to figure out where to buy tattoo tubes online and how to mix and match tubes, tips, grips and more. However, without the right materials, you won’t be able to use your machine correctly. To help, we’ve put a shopping guide together so you can know exactly what you need.

By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to shop for equipment with confidence.

In this article, we’re breaking down:

  • Where to buy tattoo tubes, tips, grips, and needle cartridges online
  • How to match tattoo needles with the right tubes
  • The difference between disposable tattoo tubes vs. stainless steel - and how to choose what’s right for you.

Keep reading to become a tattoo tubes expert, or pick from the table of contents to jump to where you need to go:

Our Top Picks

If you’re looking for professional recommendations, you’re in the right place. Here’s the quality materials* our tattoo artists recommend:

*Prices listed at time of publishing

disposable tattoo tubes
Price: $15

Why We Like Them:

  • Comfortable grip
  • Compatible with all needle cartridges
  • Each grip comes with a sterilized plunger bar

Shopping Tip: Pair with rotary and coil machines that use a vice grip (example: Inkjecta).

disposable tattoo tubes
Price: $15

Why We Like Them:

  • Comfortable grip
  • Compatible with all needle cartridges
  • Each grip comes with a sterilized plunger bar

Shopping Tip: Pair with rotary and coil machines that use a vice grip (example: Inkjecta).

disposable tube with tubes tips grips in one
Price: $25

Why We Like Them:

  • Clear tube so you can easily see the needle
  • Good for doing highlights, since the metal filings won’t taint the white filings won’t taint the white
  • Completely disposable (no autoclave needed)

Shopping Tip: Use with matching liners. Pair with rotary and coil machines.

disposable tube with tubes tips grips in one
Price: $25

Why We Like Them:

  • Clear tube so you can easily see the needle
  • Good for doing highlights, since the metal filings won’t taint the white filings won’t taint the white
  • Completely disposable (no autoclave needed)

Shopping Tip: Use with matching liners. Pair with rotary and coil machines.

disposable tube for tattoo artists
Price: $25

Why We Like Them:

  • Clear tube so you can easily see the needle
  • Completely disposable (no autoclave needed)

Shopping Tip: Use with matching round shaders. Pair with rotary and coil machines.

disposable tube for tattoo artists
Price: $25

Why We Like Them:

  • Clear tube so you can easily see the needle
  • Completely disposable (no autoclave needed)

Shopping Tip: Use with matching round shaders. Pair with rotary and coil machines.

disposable tube with tattoo tips
Price: $25

Why We Like Them:

  • Clear tube so you can easily see the needle
  • Completely disposable (no autoclave needed)

Shopping Tip: Use with matching mags. Pair with rotary and coil machines.

disposable tube with tattoo tips
Price: $25

Why We Like Them:

  • Clear tube so you can easily see the needle
  • Completely disposable (no autoclave needed)

Shopping Tip: Use with matching mags. Pair with rotary and coil machines.

Looking for our recommendations on other tattoo supplies? Check out our full directory of Tattoo Equipment Reviews

What to Look Out for While Buying Tubes for Your Tattoo Machine

You’ll need to make sure the size and style of the tubes you buy “match” your tattoo needles. Most of the time, the needle that the tube pairs with will be listed in the product description on the package. For example, a 7 Round Liner would need to be paired with a tube that has a 7 Diamond Tip. 

Diamond (VT)

The sharps of a round liner needle pinch in to come to a point.

A diamond tip helps guide the fine point of a liner so it doesn’t rattle around.

Round (RT)

The sharps of a round shader needle are spread out further than in a liner.

A round tip allows the needle to easily move.

Flat (FT)

The sharps of a magnum are in a flat and long needle configuration.

A flat tip gives magnum needles more space.

Diamond (VT)

The sharps of a round liner needle pinch in to come to a point.

A diamond tip helps guide the fine point of a liner so it doesn’t rattle around.

Round (RT)

The sharps of a round shader needle are spread out further than in a liner.

A round tip allows the needle to easily move.

Flat (FT)

The sharps of a magnum are in a flat and long needle configuration.

A flat tip gives magnum needles more space.

Should You Buy Separate Tattoo Tubes, Tips, and Grips?

Sometimes, these three pieces come packaged in one piece, or you can swap parts out.
Generally, buying your tube or “backstem”, tip, and grip all in one piece makes things simpler. However, buying separate parts can let you customize your set up a bit more. Some artists prefer different tube lengths, as well as thicker or thinner grips. Buying these pieces separately lets you customize your setup to your preferences. 
tattoo supplies in different styles

A one-piece setup will have all three parts (tip, tube, and grip) fused together into one piece with no seams. A two-piece setup will come in two parts and can be divided in two ways:

  • The tip and tube stem will be fused together, and the grip will be separate
  • The tube and grip will come in one piece, and the tips or needle cartridges will be separate

Not sure how to put tattoo tubes in your machine? Our Complete Guide to Tattoo Machines contains videos on how to set up a coil, rotary, and pen machine. 

Should You Buy Traditional Needles or Needle Cartridges?

For most machines, you can choose. If you want to use a “traditional” needle, you’ll need to make sure you buy a grip that works with normal tips. If you want to use cartridges, you need a needle bar and grip that are made specifically for cartridges. 

rotary machine with traditional needle
rotary machine with cartridge system

Note:

We recommend always using membrane cartridges. They are more hygienic because they stop ink from flowing back into the machine.

How to Buy the Right Grip Size  

The purpose of a machine grip is to let you keep your hands loose while you tattoo. You don’t want to tire your muscles by gripping something as thin as a pencil for hours on end.

disposable tube with tattoo grips

Your grip should be comfortable and easy to hold. We recommend a ¾ inch grip for small hands, and a full inch grip for larger hands. 

FAQ: Should You Use Stainless Steel Tubes or Disposable Tubes?

For most tattoo artists, whether they use stainless steel or disposable tubes comes down to preference. However, we know there’s a lot of confusion around this subject, so here’s the answers to some of the biggest Tattoo Tube FAQ’s:

Can I Reuse Tattoo Tubes?

You can reuse stainless steel tattoo tubes if you have the materials to make sure they’re scrubbed and sterilized correctly. If you do not have pipe cleaners, an ultrasonic cleaner, and an autoclave you must use disposable tubes to avoid transmitting blood-borne diseases between clients. 

Warning:

Boiling or heating equipment in the oven will not clean it correctly

What if I Use Disposable Tips with Stainless Steel Tubes?

Do not reuse stainless steel grips and backstems for multiple customers even if you’re using disposable plastic tips. Contaminants can still get inside the grip and backstem, even if you’re changing the tips each time. Everything needs to be sterilized.

Note:

The more seams in your tubes, the more places viruses have to hide from cleaning. This is why a 2-piece or single-piece tube setup is recommended over having separate tubes, tips, and grips.

How Do I Clean Tattoo Tubes?

If you’re using a stainless steel tube setup, you must clean it with these three steps after every session:
  • Scrub with Jif cleaner or CaviCide using steel pipe cleaners
  • Ultrasonic cleaner
  • Autoclave
While this process sterilizes your equipment, we still highly recommend using disposable tattoo tubes for each customer instead to ensure safety. 

Note:

Some shops don’t have an autoclave, so they’ll only allow disposables

Need More Help?

There are lots of little nuances in tattooing…and equipment is only one of them. It’s hard to find the straight-forward information you need to progress, and with so much out there online, it’s nearly impossible to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.
This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 
That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 
With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists.
Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to start tattooing full time faster…

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

write a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

SUGGESTED ARTICLES FOR YOU

MORE FREE CONTENT FOR YOU

Tattoo Equipment

November 12, 2021

As a tattoo artist, you need to know where to find quality ...

Tattoo Equipment

Dragonhawk Fake Skin Review

August 12, 2022

*Price at time of publishingDragonhawk fake skins aren’t our favorite. They’re too ...

Dragonhawk Fake Skin Review

A Guide To The History Of Tattoos

August 12, 2021

An Introduction to Tattoo HistoryTattooing is an art form that has existed ...

A Guide To The History Of Tattoos

Our Community

Join the Tattooing 101 Community today and get free, instant access to tools and resources that take you behind the curtain of all things tattooing. From apprentice to shop owner, we've got you covered.