Tattoo Needle Sizes And Uses: [Ultimate Tattoo Needle Guide] (2023)

Even if you are not a newbie as a tattoo artist, remembering the needle counts and sizes of various tattoo needles could be difficult. What differentiates a conventional Magnum Shader from a Curved Magnum? When should you use a 10 gauge needle over a 12 gauge one, and vice-versa? In this piece we will talk about tattoo needle sizes and uses.

There is a variety of tattoo needle sizes and they are appropriate for different applications. We will provide a comprehensive tattoo size chart later in this article.

If you are still learning the craft of tattooing, we would like to assure you of the fact that being au fait with tattoo needles is not as difficult as you may believe. This article will walk you through the sizes and applications of various tattoo needles. Therefore, you will be able to pick the right needle while doing a tattoo.

Table of Content

  • Types Of Tattoo Needles
    • 1. Round Liners
    • 2. Round Shaders
    • 3. Magnum Shaders
    • 4. Curved Magnum Shaders
    • 5. Flat Shaders
    • 6. Double Stack Magnum Shaders
  • A Detailed Breakdown Of Tattoo Needle Sizes
    • 8 Gauge (0.25mm)
    • 10 Gauge (0.30mm)
    • 12 Gauge (0.35mm)
  • Tattoo Needle Size Chart
    • 1. 0.25mm-Bugpin-Needles (Round Liners)
    • 2. 0.25mm-Bugpin-Needles (Magnum Shaders)
    • 3. 0.25mm-Bugpin-Needles (Round Shaders)
    • 4. 0.25mm-Bugpin-Needles (Curved Magnum Shaders)
    • 5. 0.30mm-DoubleZero-Needles (Round Liners)
    • 6. 0.30mm-DoubleZero-Needles (Round Shaders)
    • 7. 0.30mm-DoubleZero-Needles (Magnum Shaders)
    • 8. 0.30mm-DoubleZero-Needles (Curved Magnum Shaders)
    • 9. 0.35mm-Standard-Needles (Round Liners)
    • 10. 0.35mm-Standard-Needles (Round Shaders)
    • 11. 0.35mm-Standard-Needles (Magnum Shaders)
    • 12. 0.35mm-Standard-Needles (Curved Magnum Shaders)
    • 13. 0.35mm-Standard-Needles (Flat Shaders)
    • 14. 0.35mm-Standard-Needles (Double Stack Magnums)
    • 15. 0.25mm-Bugpin-Needles (Double Stack Magnums)
    • What Do Tattoo Needle Codes Mean?
  • Tattoo Needle Buying Guide
    • Buy Pre Sterile Needles
    • Make Sure The Needles Are Compatible With Your Equipment
    • Check The Build Quality
  • Final Words

Types Of Tattoo Needles

With a handful of alternatives available, browsing through a catalog of tattoo needles might appear to be a bit overwhelming. But, don’t be concerned! It will all make sense once you get past the learning curve.

Tattoo Needle Sizes And Uses: [Ultimate Tattoo Needle Guide] (1)

You can categorize your options into six distinct classes: Round Shaders, Round Liners, Curved Magnum Shaders, Magnum Shaders, Flat Shaders, as well as Double Stack Magnum Shaders. We have discussed each category in greater depth below.

1. Round Liners

Round liners have a round pin design, as the name suggests, and they are great for drawing tidy lines. Therefore, these are ideal for creating outlines. The pins of round liner needles are soldered in a circular arrangement to provide delicate, flawless lines. The line thickness will be determined by the round liner rating you go for.

For example, a 01 round liner will produce fine lines, while a 14 round liner will yield much thicker lines.

The specialty of these liners is that they release a small amount of ink in one go. For this reason, they are the best for perfecting the details on a tattoo. Doing lines would have been a nightmare if it let out too much ink at once.

Uses: Lining, dot work, script, and lettering.

(Video) How To Tattoo Choosing The Correct Needles For Lining & Shading! + Do Not Make This Mistake!!!

2. Round Shaders

There are a lot of similarities between round shaders and round liners since both have round pin orientation. The key difference lies in the proximity among the pins. Round liner pins are denser, hence they are perfect for crisp detailing. Round shaders, on the other hand, are better suited for doing thicker lines and coloring the outlines since the pins are more dispersed.

Uses: A limited amount of line work, shading and color filling, script, and lettering.

3. Magnum Shaders

Magnum shaders are the go-to needle type for shading. These do the opposite work of round liners, i.e., they allow a lot of ink to come out at the same time. So, they are excellent for covering more skin in minimal time. To work the ink in, fewer passes are required over an area, resulting in less skin impact.

Uses: Shading and color packing, black and grey tattoos, color realism.

4. Curved Magnum Shaders

Tattoo artists also call these needles soft magnums, round magnums, and soft edge magnums. Curved magnum shaders operate the same way as regular magnum shaders, but the pins in curved magnum shaders are curved towards the center, instead of a linear orientation.

Curved magnum shaders also release a lot of ink, but they do so in a more controlled way. So, when you are working around the edges, you would like to use this tool for better accuracy and more ink simultaneously. For fine shading, there are no better alternatives to curved magnum shaders.

Uses: Shading and color packing, black and grey, color realism.

5. Flat Shaders

Flat shaders have linearly arranged pins on the needle stick. They’re great for lining and can quickly transfer a lot of ink into the skin, allowing for a lot of shading. Because of the shape and arrangement of the pins, these needles can distribute more ink across the skin. With only one stroke, you can create crisper, darker lines.

If you need a dark, black outline or perhaps some detailed shading, such as in mandala-style tattoos or geometric designs, flat shaders should be your weapon of choice. You can do color fills and shading with large flat shaders since they release a generous amount of ink in one sweep.

Uses: A selection of line work, small shading and color packing, black and grey tattoos, color realism.

6. Double Stack Magnum Shaders

Double stack magnum shaders are somewhat of a bygone trend these days, but you can find use for these tools in certain scenarios. The spacing between the pins is minimal, so you can use this for complex coloring and shading.

In simple terms, you can use a double stack magnum shader if you want the services of a magnum shader but need the ink rollout to be more controlled.

(Video) Tattoo Needles - Sizes and Usage

Uses: Black and grey tattoos, color realism, shading, and color packing.

Additional Read:

  • What need to use for coloring a tattoo?
  • How many needles are there in a tattoo gun
  • Needle depth settings on a rotary tattoo machine
  • How to use magnum tattoo needles

A Detailed Breakdown Of Tattoo Needle Sizes

Now that you’ve learned everything there is to know about needle categories, we should turn our focus towards needle measurements.

There is a strong relationship between ink flow and the size of a tattoo needle. Smaller needles account for a smoother ink transfer. A number (typically 8, 10, or 12) denotes the gauge, whereas a millimeter measurement expresses the diameter.

Don’t be confused by the terms ‘’gauge’’ and ‘’diameter’’. Both of them indicate the size of a needle. In some markets, the manufacturers use the ‘’gauge’’ term to sell the needles, while ‘’diameter’’ is more common in other markets. Here, we will discuss both gauge and millimeter measurements to give you a clearer idea.

Here are the most common needle sizes:

8 Gauge (0.25mm)

Also known as Bugpins, these needles belong to the group of the smallest tattoo needles. They are not the smallest, however, you can find even smaller ones for special purposes. But for standard use, 8 gauge is the tiniest tattoo needle. When you require a more reserved flow of ink for elaborate designs, these are the needles to choose.

10 Gauge (0.30mm)

10 gauge is a widely popular needle size. Tattoo artists also know this needle as Double Zeros and deploy them on various occasions. It has widespread applications since it is the intermediary size among the primary needle sizes of 8, 10, and 12 gauges. 10 gauge needles are not as accurate as their 8 gauge counterparts, but they still provide a fairly consistent ink flow.

12 Gauge (0.35mm)

12 gauge needles are also a common sight in a tattoo professional’s toolbox, like the 8 and 10 gauge needles. These needles have the fastest ink flow rate among standard sizes, so artists rely on them for lining, shading, and coloring. For bold lines and coloring huge patches of skin, this is the tool you use.

6or0.20mm,14or0.40mm,and6or0.45mmaresomeoftheotherneedlesizes we have left out of this discussion.

Since theyonlyoffer a handful of unique functionalities,theyarebecomingincreasinglyrare.

Tattoo Needle Size Chart

We’ve come up with this useful chart to assist you in matching the correct needles with the appropriate size tips.

(Video) Tattoo Needles Explained

1. 0.25mm-Bugpin-Needles (Round Liners)

Needle Size (RL)Tip Size
04Same as above
05Same as above
09Same as above

2. 0.25mm-Bugpin-Needles (Magnum Shaders)

Needle Size (MG)Tip Size

3. 0.25mm-Bugpin-Needles (Round Shaders)

Needle Size (RS)Tip Size
5Same as above
7Same as above
18Same as above

4. 0.25mm-Bugpin-Needles (Curved Magnum Shaders)

Needle Size (CM)Tip Size

5. 0.30mm-DoubleZero-Needles (Round Liners)

Needle Size (RL)Tip Size
03Same as above
05Same as above
09Same as above

6. 0.30mm-DoubleZero-Needles (Round Shaders)

Needle Size (RS)Tip Size
09Same as above

7. 0.30mm-DoubleZero-Needles (Magnum Shaders)

Needle Size (MG)Tip Size

8. 0.30mm-DoubleZero-Needles (Curved Magnum Shaders)

Needle Size (CM)Tip Size

9. 0.35mm-Standard-Needles (Round Liners)

Needle Size (RL)Tip Size
03Same as above
09Same as above

10. 0.35mm-Standard-Needles (Round Shaders)

Needle Size (RS)Tip Size

11. 0.35mm-Standard-Needles (Magnum Shaders)

Needle Size (MG)Tip Size

12. 0.35mm-Standard-Needles (Curved Magnum Shaders)

Needle Size (CM)TIP Size

13. 0.35mm-Standard-Needles (Flat Shaders)

Needle Size (FS)Tip Size

14. 0.35mm-Standard-Needles (Double Stack Magnums)

Needle Size (MG2)Tip Size
07Same as above
13Same as above

15. 0.25mm-Bugpin-Needles (Double Stack Magnums)

Needle Size (MG2)Tip Size
07Same as above
09Same as above
13Same as above

What Do Tattoo Needle Codes Mean?

Unless tiny needle with a circular pin arrangement that is commonly used as lining needles. F refers to flats, M1 represents weaving magnum, RS symbolizes round shaders, M2 stands for stacked magnum, and RM means round magnum.

Tattoo Needle Buying Guide

Buy Pre Sterile Needles

Most tattoo needles nowadays come pre-sterilized. Unsafe tattoo needles might cause skin infections and many other health hazards. So, always check the packaging information to find out whether or not the needles have been sterilized. You can, of course, disinfect them on your own. But, we often forget to do so when we are in a hurry. Better be safe than sorry!

Make Sure The Needles Are Compatible With Your Equipment

Before buying, refer to our tattoo size chart and ensure that the needles you are buying match the tube/tip you already own. If your needles are not in sync with your tattoo toolkit, you will be throwing your money away.

Check The Build Quality

Check that the pins are straight and properly soldered onto the needle bar. Using deformed needles significantly boosts the risk of causing severe injuries. Apart from the skin damage risk, it will also take a toll performance-wise, as bent needles will not be as accurate and efficient as the properly shaped ones.

Final Words

Even though the title reads tattoo needle sizes and uses guide, we have tried to incorporate as much information we could about tattoo needles. We hope, reading this article will give you a firm grasp on the essentials you need to know to master the use of tattoo needles.

Some artists develop their own preferences as they become an expert, so some of the information we gave here might not suit some users. But, it will benefit anyone who is starting from scratch and want to learn about tattoo needles in no time.

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(Video) TATTOO NEEDLES EXPLAINED - everything you need to know

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Tattoo Needle Sizes And Uses: [Ultimate Tattoo Needle Guide] (2)

Lisa Moreno

My name is Lisa Moreno. I started this site to share my joy and experience throughout the journey of being a tattoo artist. Read my story here.


How do you know what size tattoo needle to use? ›

The gauge of a tattoo needle is directly linked to ink flow. The narrower the gauge or diameter, the more controlled and finer the flow of ink is. The gauge is indicated by a number (usually 8, 10 or 12), and diameter by a millimetre measurement. ALTHOUGH THEY MEAN THE SAME THING!

What each tattoo needle is used for? ›

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.

What is a 1209rl tattoo needle used for? ›

Generation A standard 9 count round liner is often used for thicker lining, as well as shading and color packing of smaller areas. It is complete with a membrane and a capillary-action tip for better ink flow.

What is a 1203rs tattoo needle used for? ›

Generation C (Gen1) standard round shader with 3 needle count works well for lining, detail work, and shading small areas.

What are 3RL tattoo needles used for? ›

Tattoo Needle Sizes and Uses Chart
Needle GroupingTube SizeCommon uses
1RL, 3RL1 – 3 roundLines, intricate shading, and fill-in
4RL, 5RL4 – 5 roundOutlines, shading, and fill-in
7RL7 roundShading and color fill
8RL, 9RL8 – 9 roundShading, thick outlines, and color fill
42 more rows
31 Aug 2020

What tattoo needle is best for lining? ›

Flat Needles

Flat needles are soldered together in a straight line to a needle bar. These needles are ideal for lining because of their ability to hold more ink and deliver clear, dark lines into the skin in one stroke.

What voltage should a tattoo shader run at? ›

Generally most artists use voltages around 7v-9v for lining (8 should be a good start) and 8-10v for shading.

What angle do you tattoo at? ›

Migliaccio says you should insert the needle into the skin at a 45 degree angle, as if you're sewing the ink into the surface of the skin, and not poke it in too far — less than an eighth of an inch deep.

What is a 1207rl tattoo needle used for? ›

Generation A standard 7 count round liner is used for thick lining, color packing, and shading. It has a membrane and a capillary-action tip for better ink flow.

What is a 1205rl tattoo needle used for? ›

They are great for lining, dot work, detailed work as well as larger needle counts can be found used for shading small areas.

What is a 1205m tattoo needle used for? ›

Generation C (Gen1) standard magnum with 5 needle count works wonderfully for lining, shading and color packing of smaller areas.

What is a 1201rl tattoo needle used for? ›

Generation A standard single round liner used for complex detailing, lining, dotwork and micro-pigmentation. Equipped with a protective membrane and a capillary-action tip for a smoother ink flow.

What is the difference between 1rl and 3RL? ›

Sizes and what they mean

The smaller the number, the smaller the mark. A 1rl is the smallest needle available, but can be hard to work with. In our kits, 3rl is the smallest needle in our kits. 5RL is the next biggest after 3RL and the size of the line will increase all the way up to 20RL.

Why do you use Vaseline when tattooing? ›

Dry skin can impact the appearance of your tattoos during and after the process. Moisture is key to protecting and caring for skin, so the moment you decide to get a tattoo, keep the area hydrated with Vaseline® Healing Jelly to lock in moisture and help protect the skin.

Whats the difference between 3RL and 5RL needles? ›

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….

Why are my tattoo lines so shaky? ›

Stretching the Skin the Wrong Way

You should always stretch the skin in the direction of the line you're tattooing. If you're stretching in the opposite direction, the moment you let the skin go, the line will look shaky.

What depth should a tattoo needle be set at? ›

The dermis, the target for your tattoo ink, is between 1 mm and 2 mm under the surface of the skin. (1 mm is 0.03 inches.) The exact depth may vary from person to person, but 1 mm will be the minimum depth and 2 mm will be the maximum. All your work must occur within this range.

How hard do you push when tattooing? ›

Push the needle into your skin.

It's very difficult to push a tattooing needle in too deeply because of the design of the needle will keep it from happening, but you do need to make sure it goes deep enough, at least a few millimeters. As you do, start moving it along the outline of your design.

What setting should I put my tattoo machine on? ›

Six volts is appropriate for lining. Most tattoo artists adjust voltage by listening carefully to the sound of the gun--it should produce a steady buzz or a hum. The sound shouldn't crackle or sound make a staccato noise such such as those made by machine guns or typewriters.

Do you push or pull when tattooing? ›

The Push: Shoving the pigment into the skin in a single, fluid line with back and forth movements. The Pull: You'll pull the tattoo machine away from the tube tip to allow for a reduced amount of color into the skin.

Should a tattoo be facing in or out? ›

In tattooing a general rule is that all designs should face the center of the body (heart). For example, front thigh tattoos should face inwards towards each other. And top outer arms will face forward in the same direction the body faces.

How do tattoo artists draw perfectly? ›

Dip pens and tracing paper are valuable tools used to create what is called a “tattoo stencil,” and helps ensure a client will get exactly what they want from their ink. After a traced design is applied, the artist can use their skills to follow the lines and fill in the blanks for the perfect tattoo.

How often do you dip tattoo gun in ink? ›

You will find that you have to dip frequently to maintain good ink flow every 5 seconds or so works for me depending on colour and speed etc. If your ink is spraying out over your client it is probably because of machine set up rather than too much ink (unless you really are overloading with ink).

How do you do the perfect line tattoo? ›

To apply the line, press the needle tip against the skin and pull your hand along the line. Remember to move the tattoo gun with only your fingers and leave your hand in place. Applying even and consistent pressure throughout the linework is the only way to ensure even lines take place.

What does RLB mean in tattoo needles? ›

FYT Regular Tight Liner (RLB) Tattoo Needles are a tight grouping of long tapered #12 needles. All our liners are most commonly used for detailing and to produce fine outlining with thin, medium, or thick outlines.

Whats the difference between 1003rl and 1203rl? ›

A: The difference is the diameter and taper specs.... the 1003rl is . 3mm and the 1203 is . 35. The cartridges starting with 10 in the part number are usually called bugpin.

What 1211rl tattoo needle is used for? ›

These liners are #12 (0.35mm) in diameter and have long tapers (4mm). They are great for lining, dot work, detailed work as well as larger needle counts can be found used for shading small areas.

Is a 21 or 23 gauge needle bigger? ›

The higher the gauge, the smaller the diameter. For example, a 30 gauge needle has a narrower lumen than a 25 gauge needle. Different companies use different measurements for gauges, so it is important to specify inner diameter.

Is 21 or 22 needle smaller? ›

Unlike standard measurement systems, there is an inverse relationship for the gauge numbers and the size of needles. As the gauge number increases, the needle width gets narrower. For example, a 22g needle is thinner than a 21g.

What size needle is bigger 20 or 22? ›

IV needles are sized by gauges, and the smaller the gauge number, the bigger the needle will be. In this article and video, I'll discuss the three most common IV gauge needles you'll encounter as a nurse: 18 gauge, 20 gauge, and 22 gauge.

Which needle size that beginners should use? ›

Medium sizes are generally the best for beginners. This means you should look for a width size of six (4mm), seven (4.5mm), or eight (5mm). For length, a 10-inch needle is usually a good starter size because they'll be small enough to handle easily.

What do needle size numbers mean? ›

The numbers on sewing machine needle packages represent the thickness of the fabric you are able to sew with the needles. The larger the numbers the thicker the fabric you can sew. Conversely, smaller numbers are for sewing finer fabrics.

What is the standard needle size? ›

The most widely used needles are the 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100 sizes, in other words, half a millimeter to a millimeter thick.

Can you inject 21 gauge? ›

For example, venipuncture requires the use of needles typically as large as 22–21 gauge inserted to depths of 25–38 mm to withdraw milliliters of blood. In contrast, vaccines usually require injection of less than 1 ml of fluid and, therefore, 25- to 22-gauge needles with a length of 16–38 mm are adequate.

What is the most commonly used needle? ›

The 1/2 and 5/8 inch needles are the two most common needle lengths and span both intradermal and subcutaneous injections.

What is a 24 gauge needle used for? ›

💉24 GAUGE: The 24 gauge needle is used for administering fluids during surgery and trauma among children. Insertion is less painful due to its small size and is incredibly difficult to insert into tough skin.

What size needle hurts the least? ›

Results: Twenty-one participants verbally reported the thinnest needle (27 gauge (G)) as least painful, compared to the intermediate (23 gauge; p = 0.013) and the thickest needle (21 gauge, p = 0.004).

Do thinner or thicker needles hurt more? ›

The needle's width, known technically as the gauge, has a lot do with how uncomfortable it feels when it pierces your skin. Not surprisingly, the narrower the needle (which, ironically, means it has a larger gauge number), the less it hurts.

What is the thinnest needle size? ›

The smallest, thinnest needle is the nano 4 mm, 32 gauge needle, which is about as thin as two strands of hair.

What is a 20g needle used for? ›

They are for intramuscular, subcutaneous, and other injections and are available in a wide range of gauges and lengths. They have an oversized chrome plated luer lock hub. These needles are supplied non-sterile and are autoclavable.

Which needle is bigger 24 or 26? ›

The larger the needle size: the smaller the actual size of the needle will be. (So a size 24 Tapestry needle is smaller than the size 22 and the 24 Tapestry is larger than a size 26.)

What is a 27 gauge needle used for? ›

Many dentists prefer using smaller gauge (27- or 30-gauge) needles for anesthesia injection, believing that needles with a smaller diameter result in less injection pain than wider diameter needles.


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