Inside: Tattoo Needle Types + Usage

What is a Tattoo Needle?

So what tattoo needles do what? RL or round liner needles are used for lining. RS or round shaders 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 Tattoo Needle

Tattoo Needle Types

All these needles fall into six basic groupings of tattoo needles: Round Liners, Round Shaders, Magnum Shaders, Curved Magnum Shaders, Flat Shaders and Double Stacks. Below we go into more detail on each type.

Round Liner Needles

The pins on round liner needles are soldered in a round pattern to produce crisp, clean lining tattoo work. The thickness of the line will depend on the number of round liner you choose (e.g. 01 very fine, 14 very thick) as well as the thickness/gauge of each pin (see Tattoo Needle Sizes below). Lining needles once dipped in your ink, will let only small amounts of ink out to then be worked into the skin. If too much ink was let out, the lining would be quite a task!

Commonly Used for: Dot work. All lining work both bold and intricate. Script and lettering. Japanese. Traditional and neo-traditional. Geometric. Tribal. Samoan.

Best Tattoo Needle Options

Round Shader Tattoo Needle

Round shaders are very similar to round liners except the pins are not placed as close together. Meaning, for as well as doing thicker lines, they can also be used for colour filling and basic shading.

Commonly Used for: Some line work. Script and lettering. Basic shading and colour filling. Japanese. Traditional and neo-traditional. Geometric. Tribal. Samoan.

Types of Tattoo Needles

Magnum Shader Needles

Magnum shaders are the preferred grouping or needle type for pretty much all shading work. Magnums hold and deliver a lot of ink, making them perfect for large areas of colour packing and shading. Less passes are required over an area to work the ink in meaning less trauma to the skin. There are a few different variations of magnum needles. See below.

Commonly Used for: Black and grey. All types of shading and colour packing. Colour realism. Japanese. Traditional and neo-traditional. Tribal. Samoan.

Curved Magnum Shader Needles

Curved magnum shaders – also known as soft magnums, soft edge magnums and round magnums – are used in the same way except the pins are arranged so they arch at the centre. Meaning the edges of the needle run along the skin with more conformity, allowing for better dispersal of ink and a more consistent line. It’s also less damaging to the skin and helps with soft shading.

Commonly Used for: Black and grey. All types of shading and colour packing. Colour realism. Japanese. Traditional and neo-traditional. Tribal. Samoan.

Double Stack Magnum Shader Needles

Not as current as they maybe once were. The pins on double-stack magnums, or double stacks, are packed much more tightly together. This helps for any intricate shading or colourwork where you still want it to perform as a magnum with many pins but not as spread out.

Commonly Used for: Shading and colour packing. Black and grey. Colour realism. Japanese. Traditional and neo-traditional. Tribal. Samoan.

Flat Shader Tattoo Needle

Flat shader needles are pins that are soldered in a straight line on the needle bar. These needles are used 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 colour fills and shading as they deliver more ink quickly with just one pass. Flat needles are good for intricate shadings such as in geometric patterns and some mandala work. Flat shader needles are also common in semi-permanent makeup.

Commonly Used for: Some line work. Small shading and colour packing. Black and grey. Colour realism. Japanese. Traditional and neo-traditional. Tribal. Samoan. Geometric.

Learn More About Tattooing + Equipment

  • What is an Autoclave? – Using an autoclave allows items to be steamed under pressure to properly kill bacteria and germs. It’s vital that the tools and things are heated to the proper temperature to achieve sterilization. We will teach you all about autoclaves and how you can benefit from using one. While they are normally used in healthcare, they can be used to clean and sanitize tattoo equipment.
  • Why your Tattoo Pens Matter – There are various ways to create a tattoo. Tattoo pens are a simplified tool from the traditional tattoo machine that uses a small motor to drive a needle up and down. The result is a simplified and lower cost method of tattoo creation. Read more about tattoo pens and their advantages and disadvantages.
  • What is a Tattoo Blowout? – Tattoo blowouts are not super common, but when they do occur it is generally because of the tattoo artist applying too much pressure. The ink is placed below the surface of the skin and in turn is injected into the next layer of fat. This can cause a number of issue both with the tattoo clarify, longevity, and even some health concerns. Read more about how this happens and what to do.