How Many Needles Are In A Tattoo Gun? (Detailed Answer)

There is a great deal to explore on your tattooing journey, from information about the needles, the mechanism that power tattoo guns, to how the ink is injected into the skin, and more. Obviously, to become a skilled tattooist, knowing your needles as the back of your hands is one of the primary skills. 

The common question that those who have just started out often stumble on is: “How many needles are in a tattoo gun?”. Our article will give the answer and other must-know information regarding tattoo needles.

How Many Needles That Go Into A Tattoo Machine?

How Many Needles Are In A Tattoo Gun?

Tattoo needles often come in clusters, and there can be anywhere between 1 to 35 needles going to the tattoo machine. Fewer needles draw a thinner line, while more needles can cover a ton of space more quickly. It entirely depends on what the tattooist is tattooing and the intended effects. 

Basics Of Tattoo Needle Codes

Types of needles

The first tool of the trade a tattooist needs to get the hang of is needle type, which might appear confusing at first. However, all the needles would fall into 6 basic categories, so getting the gist of these groupings and their common uses are all you need to know as a beginner:

#1. Round liner

Round Liner Needle

Round liners needles form a round pattern and are ideal for crisp, clean lines. There are two factors contributing to the thickness of the line: the number of chosen round liners (from very fine at 01 to very thick at 14) and the gauge of the pin. This type only lets a small quantity of ink out at once, making them suitable for detailed tattoo works. 

Tattoo artists commonly use round liners for dot work, bold and intricate lining tasks, Japanese, Geometric, Samoan, Tribal, traditional and neo-traditional, etc. 

#2. Round shader

Round Shader Needle

Unlike round liners, you can see the pins of round shaders are not as closely packed together. Thus, they are a better candidate for carving out thick lines, simple shading, blending, and coloring. Other tattoo works where round shaders come in handy are script and lettering, Geometric, Samoan, Tribal, traditional and neo-traditional.   

#3. Magnum shader

Magnum Shader needle

When it comes to shading, tattoo artists would never leave out magnum shader needles. This grouping style holds a lot of ink so that one pass can let more ink out to cover a larger patch. That’s why magnum shaders are the go-to for color packing and shading. 

Besides, they are frequently used for black and grey, color realism, Tribal, Samoan, Traditional and Neo-traditional.

#4. Curved magnum shader

Curved Magnum Shader Needle

Curved magnum shaders can go by different names, like soft magnums, round magnums, or soft edge magnums. The main point to tell the difference from magnum shaders is the arched shape the pins form in the middle. 

The idea is that when the pins are lined up this way, the needles can conform better with the skin for the sake of a more consistent line and better ink spreading. Moreover, the style is relatively easy on the skin and is suitable for soft shading, thus the name soft magnums.

Like magnum shaders, soft shaders are used for color shading and packing. Other ink work like black and grey, Japanese, color realism, Tribal, etc., can also benefit from this configuration.

#5. Flat shader

Flat Shader Needles

Flat shaders, as the name suggests, create a flat, straight line to a needle bar. Each pass generates a clearer, darker line than other configurations as they can hold and inject more ink. In addition, it makes flat shader needles particularly fit for the lining. 

#6. Double stack magnum shader

Double Stack Magnum Shader
Double Stack Magnum Shader

Double stack magnum shader needles feature tightly packed pins. As a result, they are a common choice for more intricate work of shading and color, adding to tight spots. 

You can utilize this style to shade or pack colors. Double stack magnum shaders are also great for color realism, Black and Grey, Tribal, Japanese, Traditional and Neo-traditional, etc.

Sizes of needles


The needle’s diameter, or gauge, is shown by the two first digits in a needle code. For instance, a number 5 rounder shader should be marked as 1205RS, with the number 12 indicating 0.35 mm in diameter. The higher this number, the larger the needle is. 

The size of the needles matters because it directly dictates the ink flow. A narrow tattoo needle, the finer the flow and the better control the artist has. There are 3 most common sizes that you will frequently come across:

  • 8 Gauge – 0.25mm Diameter
  • 10 Gauge – 0.30mm Diameter
  • 12 Gauge – 0.35mm Diameter

10 gauge is often the sweet spot for lining work as the artists will have a steady, controlled ink flow. Needles with 8 gauge are often favored for more intricate tattoo work when the slow ink flow makes the job easier. Known as a standard size, just like 10 gauge, 12 gauge pumps out faster ink flow, so they are preferred for color packing, shading on larger spots, and doing bold lines.

Tattoo needle counts

Back to the needle code, the next two digits refer to the number of needle pins used to make up the configuration or needle counts. For example, a needle marked as 1205RS means that there are 05 12-gauge needles grouped. 

This is not the entire story when it comes to needles, though. Each needle type has a different optimal number of needles grouped to achieve the desired effects and purposes that the artists want. 

Below are basic guidelines:

Style Of Grouping Optimal Number Of Needles
Round Liner 7-9 pins
Round Shader Small: 1-5 pins

Large: 7-21 pins

Magnum Shader 7-9 pins
Curved Magnum Shader 7-9 pins
Flat Shader 7-11 pins
Double Stack Magnum Shader 11-17 pins


How many needles are in a tattoo gun? There is no fixed number of needle pins grouped in a tattoo machine. As you can see, different types of grouping have different optimal needle counts. The style of configuration, needle size, and the ideal number of needles are intrinsically linked, all of which determine how far you can achieve the desired effects.

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