How Many Needles Are There In A Tattoo Gun: [All About Needle Groupings]

If the tattooing field is new to you, you must have already been confused about the different types of tattoo needles because they have various purposes. While switching from one machine to another, you may often forget how many needles in a tattoo gun are there. But it will become a piece of cake once you get familiar with the codes of needles and their label system.

For a lining tattoo device, you will need 7 to 11 liner needles. Contrarily, you have to use as many as 21 of them for your shader. The needle number varies on account of their features and your design requirements.

A whole discussion is coming up on tattoo needles, their types, uses, and more. Don’t miss it!

The Types Of Tattoo Needles And Their Uses

There are primarily six tattoo needle types, including Round Liner Needles, Magnum Shader Needles, Round Shader Needles, Flat Shader Needles, Double Stacks Magnum Shader Needles as well as Curved Magnum Shader Needles. I will explain all of them below.

1. Round Liner Needles

You can identify these needles with their code RL. The reason behind the name is the round pattern of the needle pins. Tattoo artists usually use these needles to create clean and edgy lining tattoos.

How thick you want your lines to turn out depends on how many round liners you choose.

For example, if you choose number 01, it will generate a fine, thin line. On the other hand, 14 will give you a thick one. Moreover, the thickness of a pin also defines that of a line.

Tattoo artists use round liner needles to make geometric patterns, Samoan style, dot work, tribal artwork, etc. You can also pull off intricate and bold lines, traditional techniques and neo-traditional styles, and scripts and lettering with them.

2. Round Shader Needles

These are quite similar to round liners. The key difference is the placement of the pins. They do not sit closely with each other, which allows you to draw thicker lines, pack colors, and make shades.

You can use these needles for making thicker lines, basic shades, colors, Japanese designs, geometric patterns, traditional artworks, neo-traditional designs, Samoan-styled scripts and lettering, and so on.

3. Magnum Shader Needles

Most shading work requires these types of needles. Professional tattoo artists prefer this needle grouping for every type of shading design. The reason is that the needles can take in and deliver lots of ink. This makes them fitting for shading and coloring gigantic tattoos.

There are many types of Magnum Shader Needles available in the market. They serve different purposes of tattoo work, including shading, coloring, Samoan tattoos, colorful tribal tattoo designs, Japanese styles, color realism, Black and Grey work, as well as neo-traditional and traditional styles.

4. Curved Magnum Shader Needles

This type of needle also goes by soft magnums, round magnums, soft edge magnums, etc. You can use them in the manner you use magnum shader needles.

The difference between these two is the arrangement of pins, which have a pattern bending toward the center. That means the needle edges will run along your skin more congruously, spreading the ink better and making more consistent lines. Simultaneously, the shades are soft. So it will cause less harm to your skin.

You can get the curved magnum shader needles if you want to make Black and grey designs, Japanese tattoos, tribal tattoos, color realism, any type of shades and colors. You can also explore traditional and neo-traditional tattoo techniques.

Read Next: How to use Magnum tattoo needles

5. Flat Shader Needles

When it comes to flat shader needles, the pattern of their setting becomes straight. Tattooists use these needles principally for drawing the tattoo outline since the needle shape is suitable for delivering a big chunk of tattoo ink into your skin.

This kind of needle enables a tattoo artist to create darker and sharper lines with one stroke only. Flat needles of larger sizes are usually essential for shading and filling colors. They are best for designing complex and detailed tattoos with shades like geometric patterns of mandala tattoos.

Another use of flat shader needles lies in semi-permanent makeup. Along with that, you can use them for line work, colors, shades, mandala tattoos, tribal tattoos, traditional, color realism, and neo-traditional tattoos. If you are interested in Japanese tattoo art and Samoan techniques, you can get flat shaders.

6. Double Stack Magnum Shader Needles

Double stack magnum shader needles, or double stacks, in short, are mainly for creating intricate shades. They have a tight layout on the needle bar. And that makes it highly convenient for tattoo artists to shade and fill colors.

Except for flat shaders’ specialization in semi-permanent makeup, you can do every other thing it does with double stacks.

Abbreviations Of The Needle Groupings

Now you will learn the most widely used abbreviations of the needle groupings. It is necessary to know them because they will help you when you buy needles to use in your tattoo studio.

  • RL: Round Liner
  • RLXP: Extra Super Tight Round Liner
  • RLXT: Super Tight Round Liner
  • RS: Round Shader
  • FS: Flat Shader
  • T: Textured Round Shader
  • M1: Magnum
  • M2: Double Stacked Magnum
  • M: Stacked Magnum
  • CM: Curved Magnum Shader
  • MG: Magnum Shader

How Many Needles In A Tattoo Gun

Diameters Of Tattoo Needles

The first pair of digits of every needle code refer to their diameters. That means if you get a tattoo needle with the code ‘1209’ RL, it has a #12 (0.35 mm) diameter. The diameter depends on the number. If the latter is small, it is small, and vice-versa.

It is vital to understand the diameters because they determine the ink flow. The narrower a needle, the higher authority you will have over the ink flow. Needles with a diameter of 0.30 mm or #10 are the widely used ones for lining because of their accurate thickness.

But needles having a diameter less than #10 are not that suitable for drawing smooth lines as their ink flow is more constricted. On the contrary, #12 or #13 needles are too difficult to control for tattooists.

Factors That Determine The Use Of Needles In A Tattoo Gun

Many kinds of needles are available in the market, from bugpin to magnum. Each of them has different purposes. Also, a tattoo artist does not need to use all needles at once. Which needle you will have to use depends highly on your artworks and their placements.

That is what requires you to understand the labels and codes with the tattoo needles. If you do not have a thorough understanding of them, you will have a hard time proceeding with the process.

The codes of the needles pinpoint various characteristics of their respective tattoo needles. A code tells you about its needle count, group format, and diameter.

You may think that the letters and numbers in the codes are random until you begin to learn what they mean and the information they give you. How many needles in a tattoo gun are necessary depends on factors like needle grouping, intended purpose, desired effect, etc.

For instance, a 1209RL is a 12-gauge (or diameter) round liner needle, and it features nine pins (nine is the needle count here). Now, if you want to make up your mind to buy it, you have to make sure it meets the criteria of your purpose and desired outcome. The perfect execution of a complete tattoo has a lot to do with the proper choice of needle groupings.

Interesting Read: Setting needle depth on a rotary tattoo machine

More Needle Sizes

Here is a couple of needle sizes to help you understand them better.

Similarly, the #8 gauge refers to a diameter of 0.25 mm. It is one of the tiniest needles, often called Bugpins. You need this needle if you want a slow ink flow for detailed tattoo work. Sometimes artists use them just because the pins can take in more ink because of their tight and compact setting.

Another popular size is the #10 gauge, with a diameter of 0.30 mm. Double Zeros is another name of this needle type. It goes along with any tattooing style and needle grouping, as it is fundamentally a middle size of gauze, apart from the 8 and 12. It has a controlled and steady ink flow. But that is not as slow as that of the #8.

How Do I Know Which Needles Are Safe For Use?

If they are sterilized and individually packaged, they are safe for use.  Most needles at present are pre-sterile. However, you must remember to check that. If they are not sterile, you will have to sterilize them on your own with the use of an autoclave before tattooing on one’s skin. Sterilized needles have expiration dates. When the date is over, it means they are not sterile anymore, hence unsafe for use.

While confirming the safety, also see if their placement on the needle bar is straight and secure. If you do not notice and use bent or crooked needles, they will cause significant skin damage. Plus, they will give you nightmares with uneven ink dispersion.

Final Words

Tattoo needles consist of various needle groupings, varying with the intended use or desired outcome. How many tattoo needles in a tattoo gun are necessary is up to the purpose and grouping. That is why understanding different diameters and groupings play a critical role in this regard.

Learning about so many needles at once may become overwhelming. But it will come in handy when you get to work. As you begin to get introduced to them, you get a better idea of using the appropriate number of needles for lining, shading, and coloring.

I hope you enjoyed learning the tattoo needle basics from here. Thank you for reading.