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The Complete Guide To Tattoo Needles

Tattoo Needle Definition

When someone refers to "a tattoo needle", they're rarely talking about a single needle; more often than not, they're talking about a group of several small needles, or sharps, attached to a needle bar. Tattoo needle groupings have 4 defining properties: needle diameter, needle count, configuration, and needle taper.

Tattoo Needle Types


Tattoo Needle


With the wide array of different types and the lack of standardization in naming for sizes and shapes, Tattoo Needle is easy to get confused. There are many types of Tattoo Needles. Here are a few of them:

Flat Tattoo Needles

Flat Tattoo Needles are needles that are soldered in a straight line to a needle bar. These needles are the most popular for lining because their shape lets them deliver more ink to the skin. This means clearer, darker lines with just one stroke. Larger flat needles can be used for color fills and deliver more quickly with just one pass.Flats also distribute color, but artists use them exclusively for displaying depth within one color tone; for example, to illustrate a sky. Flat shaders (FS) types sometimes group up to 15 soldered needles in a side-by-side row.

Flat needles are marked FL (Flat Liner) or, less often, FS (Flat Shader) for short. Just like round needles, these are written out with the number of pins in front, like 7FL or 5FS.

Also like round needles, flat needles use their twin-sized tubes, so a 7FL needle will use a 7F tube.


Magnum Tattoo Needles

Magnum needles are the go-to for almost all shading work. These sets have a longer taper that`s either the same or greater than the taper found on round shaders. Magnums deliver a lot of ink, making them ideal for large areas of color. Because they allow so much ink through, you`ll need less passes over an area using magnum needles, which means they`ll do less damage to the skin during multiple passes.

They also come curved, and tattoo artists refer to them as mags (or abbreviate them as "mag" or "M"). Magnums always have two rows, and when they are double-stacked, as opposed to regular, they are more compact. When filling in a large area with a single color, a regular magnum needle more evenly and easily distributes color. A highly rated demonstrative video about different needles recommends using the looser woven magnums, unless the tattooist has a long taper to accompany the stacked magnum.


Round Tattoo Needles

Round needles are needles that are soldered around a central shaft in round patterns. Round needles can be liners or shaders, depending on how close together they are placed. Round liners are packed tightly (close together), which makes them perfect for technical work, small lines and details. You might also see loose round liners. Loose round liners are used for thick, bold outlines like those found on Japanese-style tattoos. Round shaders are great for all-purpose color fill and basic shading.

Tattoo artists commonly refer to rounds as loose needles. They provide the most flexibility in terms of thickness; however, they are generally reserved for shading work and use a circle formation. Packagers commonly abbreviate them to "RL," listing sizes as 7rl, 9rl, and so on. Round shader sizes are referred to as "RS," listed as 9rs for example.

Round needles are marked RL (Round Liner) or RS (Round Shader) for short. You'll almost always see them written with their number in front, like 9RL. The number in front tells you have many needles are used in the configuration, so a 9RL has 9 needles placed in a circle configuration, a 7RL has 7 and so on. If you're just starting out, you'll want to focus on round shaders in sizes 3, 5, 7, and 9 for some shading and filling in small areas.


What Tattoo Needles do What

So what tattoo needles do what? RL or Round Liner Needles are used for lining. RS or round shader are used for shading. Flats are used for areas with geometric shapes and shading. Weaved magnums are used for shading, blending and coloring large areas. Stacked magnums are used for shading, blending and coloring tighter large areas. Both can be used for lining if you turn the needle to the side. This does take a bit of skill to do, so only do it if you have practiced the technique enough or else you may end up damaging the skin. Round curve magnums are used for shading, blending and coloring large areas with less impact to the skin. The needles are made in an arch formation to better deflect the skin when it goes in and out. With a regular magnum, there is potential for the edges of the mag to dig into the skin, with a round magnum, the arch of the needle will allow you to move more freely on the skin without the risk of the edges digging in.


How to use Tattoo Needles

So how to use tattoo needles like rounds, magnums and curved magnums? Rounds are quite straight forward. The larger the area of coverage, the larger count needle you would use. For thicker lines, use a larger count round liner. Pigment dispersal using a magnum is smoother than rounds. A good comparison would be a round liner is a pen while a magnum is a magic marker. Proper use of a magnum takes a bit of practice. The magnum should always hit the skin at an angle. If it goes in straight and not at an angle it will stick into the skin which will cause the needle to jump. Always drag the magnum across the skin by pulling it across. Do not push forward as this will cause the magnum to dig into the skin causing pain and getting the needle caught. Color in a circular motion, a magnum, being wider, will cover more area faster than a conventional round. Wipe the skin often so you can pay attention to the texture while you are using a magnum.


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