Best Tattoo Needles for Artists | Tattoo Needle Reviews

Tattoo needles are how you as a tattoo artist are able to put ink into your client’s skin. But not all tattoo needles are made equally, and choosing the wrong ones can make it harder for you to do your best work.

That’s why our professional tattoo artists have put some of the most popular brands of tattoo needles to the test, checking them out for:

  • Safety
  • Good construction
  • Comfort and ease of use

Each product featured here has been rigorously tested to give you the practical and trustworthy information you need to make the right choice for your tattooing.

Understanding Tattoo Needles

Before we dive into different tattoo needle brands, it’s important to understand the different styles of needles because the type, size, and configuration of a needle can make a big difference in how the tattoo turns out.

Types of Tattoo Needles

There are several types of tattoo needles, each designed for specific tasks. Round liners (RL) are used for creating line work and fine details, while round shaders (RS) are used for shading in tight areas. Magnums (M1) and curved magnums (M1C) are used for shading and color packing.

The term “needle configuration” refers to whether the needles are arranged on the needle bar in a liner, shader, or mag formation.

Round Liner (RL)

Round Shader (RS)

Magnum (M1)

There are several types of tattoo needles, each designed for specific tasks. Round liners (RL) are used for creating line work and fine details, while round shaders (RS) are used for shading in tight areas. Magnums (M1) and curved magnums (M1C) are used for shading and color packing.

The term “needle configuration” refers to whether the needles are arranged on the needle bar in a liner, shader, or mag formation.

Important Tattoo Needle Terms

In addition to the needle configuration, there’s a few other important things you need to know about a tattoo needle before using it:

Needle Taper

The taper of a needle refers to the shape of the needle's point. Short taper (ST) needles deliver more ink and long taper (LT) needles deliver less ink.

Needle Diameter

How thick the needle is. Needles with a thicker diameter (like a 12-gauge needle) delivers more ink into the skin than a thinner diameter (like a 10 or 8-gauge needle). 

Needle Count

How many individual sharps are in the needle. (A 9 round liner has 9 individual sharps that make up the whole needle.)

Understanding these factors is key to selecting the right needles for your work, and you can see each of them right on the box so you know you’re buying the right ones:

How to Choose the Best Tattoo Needles

Choosing the right tattoo needle depends on these factors:

Type of Work

tattoo.haneul rose
rose tattoo
Antonina Rostra realism tattoo

The needle type you use should match the task at hand. Round liner needles are ideal for line work, while shaders and magnums are better for color packing and shading.

Material Quality

The needle's material can affect its durability and performance. Look for needles made of surgical stainless steel (and medical-grade plastic housing for cartridge needles), as they are known for their strength, sharpness, and corrosion resistance.

Sterilization

Tattooing involves breaking the skin, so it's crucial that your needles are sterilized to prevent infections. Always choose pre-sterilized needles. (Sterilization dates as well as a color-coded sterilization indicator should be on the back of each needle.)

Warning:

Different areas of the world have different rules on whether or not they can label something “sterile.” If you buy tattoo needles off Amazon, they might say they are sterile, even if that’s not the case. Always buy needles directly from reputable tattoo needle suppliers, like Painful Pleasures.

Brand Reputation

Brands that are well-established and trusted by professional tattoo artists often produce high-quality needles. 

Low-quality needles often have too much space between the cartridge and the needle itself, which can make the needle “bounce around” side to side, causing shaky lines. High-quality needles will glide smoothly in and out of the cartridge.

Compatibility: Traditional Tattoo Needles vs. Needle Cartridges

Not all needles are compatible with all tattoo machines. Always make sure the needles you choose will fit your machine.

How to Tell if Tattoo Needles or Needle Cartridges are Compatible with Your Tattoo Machine

There are two main types of tattoo needles: traditional needles (that have a long needle bar attached to the sharps that actually pierce the skin) or cartridge needles, which come in a plastic casing.

Coil Machines

Coil machines use traditional needles or you can get a needle bar to attach to the grommet of the machine and that needle bar can then press a cartridge needle down. 

Rotary Machines

Rotary machines often come with needle bars that then press the plunger of a cartridge needle down. 

Pen Machines

In general, pen machines use needle cartridges exclusively. Most standard needle cartridges will fit with most pen machines. (Your machine will say in its description something along the lines of “compatible with most standard cartridge needles.”)

Different Tattoo Artists Prefer Different Tattoo Needle Types

A lot of what you choose to use will come down to your preference as a tattoo artist. Some artists prefer the “old school” traditional needle bars. Other artists like cartridge needles because they are easier to set up, use, and dispose of. (This is why we recommend cartridge needles for new artists - and why our professionals choose cartridge needles themselves.)

Pro Tip:

The best needle cartridges come with a membrane to prevent ink backflow. This can help keep tattoo machines cleaner. You will still need to use an autoclave on the machine or use a fully-disposable setup, but it is always a good idea to have that extra layer of protection.

Our Tattoo Needle Reviews

Now that you know what makes a great tattoo needle, you're now ready to dive into our in-depth reviews. 

These reviews are not just summaries of product features – they're thorough evaluations carried out by our professional tattoo artists. Each needle is tested under real tattooing conditions, examining its performance, durability, and ease of use.

Whether you're a beginner seeking affordable options or a seasoned artist looking for high-end needles, our reviews will help you find the right tool for your work.

Clear Cut Stencils Transparent Thermal Transfer Paper Review

January 26, 2024

While more expensive than traditional stencil paper, Clear Cut’s transparent transfer paper can give artists an advantage in visibility. Buy Clear Cut Stencils for $40.00 from Kingpin Tattoo Supply *Price at time of publishing. Table of Contents Our ScoreClear Cut Stencils – Our Review:PreciseBetter for Smaller TattoosLong-Lasting Stencil Who Clear Cut Stencils Transparent Thermal Transfer Paper

Clear Cut Stencils Transparent Thermal Transfer Paper Review

Spirit Stencil Paper Review

January 26, 2024

Our favorite long-lasting tattoo stencils, this is the product we recommend for both new artists and seasoned professionals. Spirit Classic Thermal Paper for $40.99* for 100 sheets from Kingpin Tattoo Supply. *Price at time of publishing.  Table of Contents Spirit Classic Thermal Paper OverviewOur ScoreSpirit Stencil Paper – Our Review:ConsistentMid-Range CostDurable Who Spirit Classic Thermal

Spirit Stencil Paper Review

Quelle Cartridge Needles Review

May 18, 2022

Solid saturation with a smaller ink reservoir, Quelle cartridge needles have good ink flow and work perfectly with rotary tattoo machines.

...
Quelle Cartridge Needles Review

Tattoo Practice Skin: A Complete Guide and Review Directory

April 28, 2022

Practicing is an essential aspect of mastering any art, and tattooing is no different. As a tattoo artist, your skills can be honed and perfected over time, but to get there, you need dedicated practice. In the past, budding tattoo artists were stuck with pig skin or their own body. Luckily, today we have practice skins,

Tattoo Practice Skin: A Complete Guide and Review Directory

Police Cartridges: CNC Tattoo Needles Review

April 21, 2022

CNC’s Police tattoo needle cartridges offer high quality on a budget. Perfect for aspiring tattoo artists looking for a safe but affordable needle cartridge.

...
Police Cartridges: CNC Tattoo Needles Review

Rhein Tattoo Cartridges Review

April 21, 2022

While not our #1 choice for a professional tattoo artist…they are safe and half the price of most needles for those on a strict budget.

...
Rhein Tattoo Cartridges Review

Zombee Tattoo Cartridges Review

March 31, 2022

Zombee tattoo cartridge needles are a good option for practicing on fake skin. However we recommend premium needle cartridges for working on actual skin.

...
Zombee Tattoo Cartridges Review

Mast Cartridge Needles Review

March 21, 2022

Great practice tattoo needle cartridges for aspiring artists, Mast cartridges offer good ink flow and fit with most rotary tattoo machines.

...
Mast Cartridge Needles Review

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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.

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