When it comes to tattoo needles – there are a lot to choose from! Each needle allows for getting the ink into the skin in a different way with various tattoo effects. In this post, we explore what the sizes mean and also the different ways each needle works on your skin. Keep in mind that this is an ever evolving and highly subjective topic. Tattoo artists use different needles based on their preference and style. Stick and Poke tattoos were historically done with needle and thread. Now we just use tattoo needles ;-)

Our new PRACTICE KIT includes an instructional poster that graphically explains some of this really nicely. Here is some more info:

Tattoo Needles Explained Easy

tattoo needle

tattoo needle

Needle Types, General

RL = Round Liner –  for lining and outlining.

RS= Round Shader – for shading.

MS = Magnum Shader – are for shading in large areas. Can be a curved shader, which is a bit gentler on the skin.

F= Flat – these are for shading within geometric designs.

Needle size:

The number before the needle type indicates the number of needle tips soldered together at the end.

“3RL” is three little tips that each carry a little ink. This is for a narrow line.

“5RL” is a five little tips that will create a thicker line than the 3RL and so on….up to like 20!

We sell a few kits that each include needles for what you need –  1RL, 3RL, 5RL, 7RL, 9RL, 5MS, 9MS, M1 and more are added every so often.

Bugpin needles and supertight (ST, XT) needles refer to the closeness of the needle tips at the poking end. These are for very tight, dark lines. These needles are usually more expensive.

Needle Taper:

Is how much the needles taper at the end. Standard taper is 1.5mm. These can go up to 8mm! A greater taper is used for extensive shading with less trauma to the skin.

Needle Thickness

Standard thickness is 0.35mm or #12. Ink will appear to flow faster down a wider diameter needle, speeding up the tattoo. More precision is possible with thinner needles.

If the needle package says: “1203 RL” that means,  “#12 thickness, 3 Round Liner.” Our kits all include standard thickness.

What are single needle tattoos?

Single needle tattoos are tattoos done with single needles- such as a 1RL.  These have only one needle tip. Each poke only deposits one very small dot of ink.  This technique allows for a delicate, intricate, fine tattoo. This often takes longer than a tattoo using multiple needle tips. Some single needle designs are truly amazing! You can practice these using our Practice Kit.