How Far Should The Needle Stick Out When Tattooing – Basic Knowledge All Tattooists Must Know

The needle depth is undeniably the most important factor in the tattooing process. A proper depth will help people gain a perfect tattoo without any damages. So, how far should the needle stick out when tattooing? Continue reading our article to discover the answer!


A tattooist is in the middle of making body art.

How Far Should The Needle Stick Out When Tattooing?

If you want to gain an ideal tattoo and a safe process, the needle should go 1mm and 2mm through the skin. Why’s that? Let us explain in more detail below!

The structure of skin includes three main layers:

  • Epidermis (the layer that we can touch, contains five sublayers)
  • Dermis (contains two sublayers)
  • Subcutaneous tissue (or fat layer) 

Because the outer layer is always growing up, the ink will not last long if the tattoo needle stays there. On the other hand, if you stick your needle deep into the subcutaneous tissue, your customer can suffer serious pain and infection. So, in order to gain the ideal depth, stick the needle until it is laying in the middle layer of the Dermis. 

More specifically, the Dermis layer has a thickness range from 1mm to 2mm. According to the Tattoo needle depth chart, you should adjust your needle in this range when processing. Besides, the grip and the tip have to fit properly with the needle on the machine. Simultaneously, your job is to adjust the tattoo depth by controlling the penetration level of your tip.


Basic Knowledge All Tattooists Must Know

Remember that there will be no precise measure because the structure of each body’s skin is different. Make sure your needle is sticking between no more than 2mm and no less than 1mm! 

In case the depth is going to exceed, the tattoo area will bleed so much. When the ink runs into the fat layer, it will move beyond the tattoo lines and create distorted images. You wouldn’t want that to happen, right?

How To Set Up A Tattoo Needle Properly

There are two main ways of setting up the needle: “running flush” and “hanging needle.”


Set up the needle

For running flush, you will loosen the tube and slide it forward until the length of the tip and tube is the same. This method can help you avoid the needle running into the inside too much. However, when the tube touches the skin, the pigment will scatter everywhere. That would make it hard to see the pattern. 

When it comes to hanging needles, you have to dip the tip in each inch of your tattoo. You line the needle up, then move the tube back so that the needle can stick out a little bit. By doing this, you can follow your tattoo process thoroughly. 

In practice, the “hanging needles” approach is more preferred because there is only a minimum amount of excess ink when tattooing. However, don’t let the needle go too far, or the ink can not attach to the skin.

Expert Tips 

#1 It would help if you try to practice on fruit when beginning a tattoo apprenticeship. The damage level on a piece of apple will help you recognize whether the depth is too deep or not.

#2 When your needle is in the fully retracted position, there should not be any needle hanging out of the tip. The reason is that when a needle returns to the tip fully, it will pick up more ink to deliver to the skin. By returning fully to the tip, it allows the ink to saturate around the needle before it travels out again in the process. 


1. Which Angle Should You Tattoo At?

When you put the ink into the skin, the standard angle is usually between 45 and 60. Besides, pay attention to the line effect to adjust until you get the perfect angle. 

2. Is It Necessary To Stretch The Skin When Tattooing?

The answer is definitely yes. To get precise lines and get the ink efficiently, you have to stretch the skin tightly. That also helps the needle work smoothly, not fall out or get hung up on the skin. If the client’s skin is not tight enough, the line can be distorted.   

3. How Do I Know If My Tattoo Is Not Deep Enough?

If you stretch the needle not deep enough, you can soon see some gaps. The reason is that the ink will be pushed out and peel off like scrabs while your skin is healing. Another signal is that the tattoo will fade from black to grey after some weeks very quickly.

Final Thoughts

How far should the needle stick out when tattooing” is the basic knowledge that every tattooist must know before practicing. However, adjusting the perfect needle into the skin is a long training and practicing process. It will also determine whether you are capable of tattooing or not. If your line works well with no pain, clients will come back to you soon!

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