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Complete Guide To Tattoo Needle Sizes and Uses

Complete Guide To Tattoo Needle Sizes and Uses

With more and more tattoo needle brands and configurations coming to the market releasing their products, it's easy to get confused with the variety.

When it comes to tattoos, we consider the needles just as important as the ink. Different needles can be used for different effects and achieve various results and needle quality can make or break how well your equipment performs for you. As a tattooist, it is important to know how to identify the key differences and be confident in knowing what each one does.

This guide will discuss the different types of tattoo needles, their sizes, and their uses so that you can find the perfect needles for your next piece.

As we titled this blog,' A complete guide...' we thought we'd start with the very basics.


There are MANY different needle styles; for today’s tattooists, they mostly fall into four basic configurations:

  • Round Liner
  • Round Shader
  • Magnum
  • Curved Magnum

These needles are interchangeable when attaching them to the tattoo machine to achieve different effects that ultimately determine which outcome a tattooist prefers and what is best for a specific tattoo.

The four tattoo needle components


The diameter of a tattoo needle is the measurement of the needle's thickest point. This point is measured in millimetres and is defined in the first two numbers you will see on a needle packet.

The diameter of the needle affects the ink flow. So, the narrower the diameter, the finer and more controlled the stream of ink flow will be. Therefore, narrower tattoo needles have a finer ink flow and are preferred by tattooists who specialise in fine line work and cosmetic artists. Tattooists working on larger pieces would typically opt for a tattoo needle with a larger diameter for shaded or colour dense areas as those needles allow for a free ink flow.

The diameter of a tattoo needle will also affect the amount of the ink deposited into the skin. Smaller diameter deposits are better for shading and creating smooth gradients, while larger punctures are typically better for bolder work and thick lines.

Tattooists often refer to #12 needles as 'Standards', which are extremely popular across all needle groupings. These popular #12 needles have a 0.35mm diameter. Generally for tattooists there are three common five diameters commonly available.

These are:

  • 0.25mm (#08)
  • 0.30mm (#10)
  • 0.35mm (#12)


The needle count is the second number on a needle packet, and it refers to the number of needles grouped together and attached to the needle bar.

The spacing between the needles also varies depending on the desired effect. Closer grouping (“Tights”) will result in a finer line, while wider groupings (“loose” or “turbo”) will result in a bolder line.



As the name suggests, round liner tattoo needles are typically used for lining.

Round liner needles are circular groupings of needles that are clustered into a point. These needles have a round taper and are used mostly for lining designs whether they may be bold or on the finer side. Medium taper liners for bolder, fatter lines, allowing more skin contact by the needle for more pigment, and longer taper for thinner lines with less potential for trauma.


You'll never guess it, but shader needles are mainly used for... Shading!

Similar to round liners, round shaders contain a circular cluster of needles. The critical difference between liner and shader needles is there's more space between each pin for increased ink flow. Shaders can be used for small area filling in of colour, blending and shading a tattoo. Medium taper shaders are typically used for colour work, allowing more needle contact with the skin to deposit more pigment. Long taper shaders may be more commonly used for black and grey work where finer pigment tonal grading is sought.


Magnum tattoo needles have two rows of needles stacked on top of one another in a flat, even formation. Each needle is spaced intermittently for a wider skin coverage and is typically used for solid work like heavy-colour packing.

These needles have a slighter larger, more open taper and are used for both lining and shading.

Similar to shaders, medium taper magnums are typically used for colour filling work, and longer taper magnums when blending or shading.


Curved Magnum tattoo needles are the same as regular magnum needles with the exception that they have a shorter taper at the edges to create a curved alignment that can be turned or manipulated by the artist to vary the ink effect.

These needles have a slighter larger, more open taper and are used for both lining and shading.


As we mentioned before, tattoo needles come in a variety of thicknesses. The most common size range in tattoo needles being from 0.25mm - 0.35mm. However, needles outside of this range are available.

The diameter of the needle is important as it determines how much ink it can hold or flow. A larger diameter needle will provide more ink and create a thicker line with a wider compression into the skin, while a smaller diameter needle will hold less ink and create a thinner line.


Taper lengths are another important factor to consider when choosing tattoo needles. The taper is the portion of the needle that tapers down from the shaft to the point. Taper lengths range from 0.25mm to 0.60mm, with shorter tapers being more common for lining and longer tapers for shading where a finer needle point is often preferred. The most common taper sizes are:

  • Standard (short) taper: 1.5mm
  • Long Taper: 2.0mm
  • Double Long Taper: 2.5mm
  • Extra Long Taper: 3.5mm
  • Super Long Taper: 5.5mm
  • Super Extra Long Taper: 8.0mm

Different taper lengths also result in various line widths. For instance, a shorter taper will result in a thicker line, while a longer taper will result in a thinner line.


Apart from the four major components we've already discussed, there are plenty of other things to consider when selecting which tattoo needles are right for your work.

With that in mind, let's discuss:


The next thing to consider is whether you want smooth or textured tattoo needles. Smooth needles are the standard needle type of needle. They create clean, crisp lines and can be used with any kind of ink.

Textured needles are less commonly used, but remain popular. This type of tattoo needle doesn't have polished tapers, which creates a dimpling effect of small grooves along the needle the taper. This means that textured tattoo needles hold more ink, and tattooists will find themselves dipping less into their ink cups. They are also ideal for shading and creating soft, blended edges.


Knowing the needle options available and how the standardised coding works enables you to take some trial or alternative makes and configurations in your work to widen your effect and result options.

We have a growing range of needles available for our artists and are always adding additional configurations and brand options. On the shelves today you can find…

Supreme cartridges from Good Guys Supply

Beautifully designed innovation from Canadian Legends at Good Guys Supply, these cartridges enable stability at their core. The supremes chassis also utilise a membrane that is engineered to be slightly lighter tension which improves the longevity of the machine.

We spoke to Co-founder Lucas Ford for more insiders on their performance and precision. “I love the supremes because I can load one up and know the grouping will run smooth and true without fail. Finally, a cartridge liner that I can count on for wobble free lining every single time."

“Improving the ink reservoir and flow of the tip was a must for our supremes. Pulling long effortless lines and dipping less while tattooing makes for a far more efficient process.” Shop our range of Supreme cartridges here.

Cheyenne Cartridge Tattoo Needles

More than 40 different configurations

Cheyenne cartridges were the first to introduce full safety membranes, and they’re still popular for being versatile, high-quality, and high-performing. Every Cheyenne cartridge offers something new, including the latest capillary cartridges, which come with a reservoir that saturates your needles with every dip. Made and controlled from the Cheyenne factory in Germany, they consider themselves at the top level of needle quality and consistency. Find all Cheyenne cartridges here.

Precision Tattoo Needles

More than 80 different configurations

USA sourced Precision needles are made from 304 stainless steel. They’re sharp, artist-recommended, and versatile for any style. Grab yours here.

Some of our other trusted brands include Kwadron and Ez Tattoo Supply, which are all available to shop online.

If you still have questions in regards to anything discussed within this guide, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of our team, or keep up with us on our socials below.

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