Tattoo Needle Sizes And Uses: A Guide For The Best Tattoo

If you are a new tattooist seeking the right tattoo needle, it is essential to understand the needle information first. Learning about tattoo needle sizes and uses is not as intricate as looking at a list of over 100 different types of tattoo needles. 

Some consider it complicated but trust us; you’ll be able to select the best needle for any style of the tattoo once you’ve grasped these essentials. We got you covered here! Let’s get started!

Decode The Tattoo Needle 

Before going deep into needle sizes and uses, let’s take a closer look at their codes! When you look through a tattoo needle with the code attached, you probably don’t know what it means. Here is the answer:

A tattoo needle code usually contains three elements orderly: tattoo needle diameter, needles count (pin), and grouping format.

Example: 1207RL

12 = #12 gauge, a type of diameter (details below)

07 = needles count

RL = Round Liner, a type of needle

1207RL could also be called the #12 Round Liner needle with seven pins. 

The typical letter denominations:

RL – Round Liner

RS – Round Shader

M, M1, or MG – Magnum

M2 or MG2 – Double Stacked Magnum

CM – Curved Magnum

FS – Flat Shader

Tattoo Needle Sizes And Uses

Now that you have some basic insights about needle codes, it’s time to learn about needle sizes and uses. To be clear, we divide them into three main parts: diameter, taper, and style.

Diameter Breakdown 

Let’s find out about needle diameter, a.k.a. gauge. The flow of the ink corresponds to the gauge of the tattoo needle. The smaller the gauge is, the easier and smoother it is to control the ink flow. Typically, people denote gauge by a number (commonly 8, 10, or 12) or a specific diameter number in millimeters. 

#8 gauge (0.25mm diameter)

The #8 is one of the smallest gauges referred to as Bugpins. People choose the #8 gauge because they give a slower ink flow, serving complicated or detailed lines. Some tattoo artists like to work with the #8 gauge needles since they can retain more ink at a time.

#10 Gauge (0.30mm Diameter)

#10 Gauge (Double Zeros) is a highly popular needle size. It is appropriate for most tattoo designs and needle groups since it is the medium gauge size among the three primary gauges (8,10, and 12). Compared to the #8 gauge, the #10 has a regulated, smooth, but not sluggish flow.

#12 Gauge (0.35mm Diameter)

Regarding the #12 gauge, people often call it Standard. Like the #10 gauge, they also suit all tattoo styles and needle groups. If you want a faster ink flow for the desired liners and traditional works, go for the #12 gauge! It is perfect for bold lines and color-packing/shading large areas. 

Note: Some other needle sizes not listed above include #6 gauge (0.20mm diameter), #14 gauge (0.40mm diameter), and #16 gauge (0.45mm diameter). These are not popular now and only have very few specific uses.

Needle Diameter and Needle Taper Illustration

Tattoo Needle Taper

The taper is the length from the needle’s tip to the point where it reaches its thickest point. The taper decides the slope of the needle point’s angle, such as a needle with a longer taper is sharper because the needle’s point is much steeper.

Why is taper important? 

Needle taper affects the amount of ink that may flow from the needle. The longer the taper length, the less ink flows into the skin at once and vice versa. 

In reality, this might not be a big deal to you. For the most part, tattooists generally pick the taper based on their experience since they believe there isn’t much difference in the size of the taper. If you want to make sure, go with a medium taper that won’t entail any tightening. 

The common sizes of tapers:

  • M: 3.5mm taper
  • L: 5.5mm taper
  • X: 7.0mm taper

Tattoo Needles Uses – Style Grouping 

When it comes to tattoo needle uses, we can classify them according to styles. Magnum Shaders, Curved Magnum Shaders, Double Stacks, Flat Shaders, Round Shaders, and Round Liners are the six basic groupings of tattoo needles. We shall discuss each grouping in further depth below.

Tattoo Needle Types
Choose The Right Type Of Needle For Your Tattoo

Round Liner Needle – RL

Regarding the Round Liner needle, the welded pins are circular and clustered into one point. The line thickness depends on the needle count you choose and per needle’s gauge (see Diameter Breakdown above). 

Once dipped into ink, this lining needle only lets a small amount of ink reach your skin to produce crisp, clean lining tattoo work.

  • Optimal needle count: 7-9 pins
  • Usage: lining specialized, from bold to intricate – text, geometry, Tribal, Samoan, etc.
Round Liner needle

Round Shader Needle – RS

The Round Shader needle is quite similar to the Round Liner one, except the needles do not place closely. For that reason, it creates thicker lines and is suitable for coloring and simple shading.

  • Optimal needle count: small 1-5, large 7-21 pins
  • Usage: thick lining (Text, geometric, Tribal, Samoan), color filling, and simple shading.
Round Shader Needle

Magnum Shader Needle – M,M1,MG

The Magnum shader needles are straight in a row, and the needle spacing is not close to each other. People highly recommend using it in most of the shading works. 

Because of its ability to retain and distribute a large amount of ink, this tattoo needle is perfect for packing and coloring large areas.

  • Optimal needle count: 7-9 pins
  • Usage: best for shading, blending, and color realism.
Magnum Shader needle

Curved Magnum Shader Needle – CM

Curved Magnum shader needle (soft magnums, round magnums) is quite the same as the Magnum Shader one, except that the arrangement of the needles forms a central arch. As a result, the ink will disperse better, the line is more uniform, good for soft shading, and the skin has less trauma.

  • Optimal needle count: 7-9 pins
  • Usage: Soft shading, blending, and color realism.
Curved Magnum Shader Needle

Double Stack Magnum Shader Needle – M2, MG2

The Needle Double Stack Magnum Shader has two layers, each of which stacks and is close to the other. This needle type is useful for shading or coloring, requiring a magnum of many pins but not too sparse.

  • Optimal needle count: 11-17 pins
  • Usage: blending, shading, and color realism.

Flat Shader Needle – FS

When it comes to the Flat Shader needle, the welded pins are linear across the needle bar. This style allows you to distribute a large amount of ink to the skin, creating more obvious and nebulous shapes with only one line. Tattooists utilize larger flat needles for coloring and shading.

  • Optimal needle count: 7-11 pins.
  • Usage: multiple uses.

Compilation Chart

We have classified needles according to their characteristics and uses. Let’s refer to our table below:

Type Tube/Size Uses
7M16-7 flatLines, shading, and color fill
7RS7 roundShading, lines, small areas fill in
4F-5F4-5 flatLines and detail
4RL-5RL4-5 roundOutlines, shading, and fill in
9F8-9 flatShading and color fill
5M25 flatOutlines, lines, detail, and shading
3RS3 roundLines and detail

Tattoo Needles And Uses – FAQs


Above is all the basic information about tattoo needle sizes and uses for tattoo beginners. The small tip for you before choosing a suitable needle is to define your purpose clearly. Just determine the tattoo you want, sketch it, analyze the lines, and pick the right needle.

We hope this article is useful, and you can choose a good needle and have a perfect tattoo! Thank you for reading!

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