Needles for tattooing are different than the needles used in the medical field. Instead of just one hollow tube, tattoo needles are solid and are made up of a number of needles bound together in a wide variety of shapes and tightness to create the artist’s desired effect.
Because tattooing styles vary, every artist has his or her own preference as to which needle size and configuration they prefer. The following is a very basic guide to tattoo needles:
Four important identifying properties of specific tattoo needles are diameter, taper, needle count and configuration.
Diameter is self-explanatory, it is the width of the needle itself, and the four standard or most common needle sizes are #12, #10, #8 and #6. #12 is the largest size diameter at 0.35mm. #10 is a diameter of 0.30mm. #8 is a diameter of 0.25mm. #6 is a diameter of 0.20mm. For lining, #10 tends to be the most commonly used, and for shading or coloring, many artists choose #12, 0.35mm.
Taper refers to the length of the point on the needle. This measurement can vary between manufacturers and every artist will have a taper length that they feel most comfortable with. Standard short tapers are generally 1.5mm long, standard long tapers would be 2.0mm long, and extra long tapers can go up to 7mm long.
When talking about needle count, you’re referring to how many needles are held together in a certain configuration, which brings us to the last term.
Configuration is a term that describes the pattern in which a group of needles is welded together. There are many different kinds of configurations, and they all produce different results. Round liners are grouped in a tight, round formation, while round shaders are grouped in a looser one. There are flats, which are grouped in a straight line, and weaved magnum, which consists of two rows in a woven pattern. Stacked magnum configurations also have two rows, but they are tightly grouped together, and round magnum, which is designed similarly to the stacked magnum, but in a curved arch.
Over time, each tattoo artist will get a feel for which needles work best for the job they want to do, and most artists will not do a job in the exact same way. There are some configurations which are more commonly used, but it is up to the individual artist to determine what helps them to achieve their artistic vision in the best way possible.