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:
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)
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.
In addition to the needle configuration, there’s a few other important things you need to know about a tattoo needle before using it:
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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 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 often come with needle bars that then press the plunger of a cartridge needle down.
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.”)
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.)
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.
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