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How Many Needles Does a Tattoo Gun Have?

tattoo gun needles

How Many Needles Does a Tattoo Gun Have?

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If you’re planning to become a tattoo artist, then the first thing that you would want to know about – all the different tattoo needles available. Or you are planning to get a tattoo and just keen to know about the tattoo gun and the number of needles in it, then read this post until the end. Here in this post we are sharing with you about the tattoo gun and how many needles does a tattoo gun have.

Tattoo Machine/Gun

A tattoo machine, also known as a tattoo gun is a hand-held device which is used to create a tattoo, a permanent artwork on the skin with indelible ink. Tattoos have been a tradition for centuries, across the globe. There are many different forms of tattoos styles and methods. Traditionally, Samoan and Thai techniques were used to etch a tattoo onto the skin. These techniques were not so effective. In the traditional techniques, a single needle shaped thing made with a thin stick of bamboo was used to inject the ink into the skin. The process was very slow as the tattooist could only make one strike at a time, which made the whole process ineffective. Modern tattooing techniques on the other hand are very effective. Today tattoo machines or guns are very effective, they come with rapidly moving needles. In modern machines it is easy to adjust the depth of the needle, which was not possible with the traditional tattooing techniques. More often than not, older techniques used to result in scarring because of the less consistent depth of the needle.

Tattoo Machine Gun

Modern tattoo guns use electromagnetic coils to move an armature bar up and down. A barred needle grouping is connected to the armature bar that pushes ink into the skin. Besides “coiled” tattoo machines, tattooists also use rotary tattoo machines, which are powered by regulated motors rather than electromagnetic coils.

Modern tattoo machines pulsate a needle into the skin at around 6,000 motions a minute. And at the same time, this machine pools ink on the surface of the skin. Each time the piercing needle creates a hole, and when it comes out of the skin, it creates a vacuum. This vacuum then sucks the ink on the surface of the skin into the hole.

Factors Determining Needles Used in a Tattoo Machine

There are many different types of needles available from magnum to bugpin. Each needle serves a different purpose. Also, not all the needles are used at the time. The use of needles primarily depends on the artwork and its placement. Tattoo machine needles come with codes and labels, which is important for a tattoo artist to understand. Without their thorough understanding, it is very difficult to further the process.

Each needle code pinpoints the different aspects of the specific needle. More often than not, it refers to its diameter, needle count and group format. At first, these codes may appear like some random numbers and letters, but gradually you will get the understanding about these codes. As these codes are important because they help you have all the required information that you need. The amount of needles depend on several different factors, such as: Intended purpose, Groupings, Needle grouping, Desired effect, and Understanding of Needle Codes.

As said earlier, each tattoo gun needle comes with code, this code is a combination of numbers and letters. For instance, 1209RL means a 12 gauge, 09 Round Liner Needle. The 09 in the code means 9 needle counts or 9 pins that are used to make a round grouping. The letters at the end of the code refer to the grouping of the tattoo needles.

Different Types of Needles Used in a Tattoo Machine or Guns

There are six basic types of tattoo needles, which include, Round Liners Needles, Round Shaders Needles, Magnum Shaders Needles, Curved Magnum Shader Needles, Flat Shaders Needles and Double Stacks Magnum Shaders Needles. Here is a detailed explanation about all these needles along with their uses.

1. Round Liner Needles

The round liner needles are identified with code RL at the end. The pins on the round liner needles are soldered in a round pattern, thus the name. More often than not, these needles are used to create crisp, clean lining tattoos. However, the thickness of the line depends on the number of round liners a tattooist chooses. For instance, number 01 will produce a very fine line, while 14 will create a very thick line. Besides, the thickness/gauge of each pin will also define the thickness of the line. Round Liner needles are used to create Dot work, Geometric Patterns, Tribal Artwork, Samoan Style Tattoos, All lining work both bold and intricate, Script and lettering, Traditional and Neo-Traditional Tattoo Works.

2. Round Shader Needles

Round shaders are more or less like round liners. The only difference is the pins are not placed closely, which makes it easier to etch thicker lines, fill colors and do a basic shading. The Round Shader needles are used for Thicker Line Work, Basic Shading, Filling Colors, Making Geometric Patterns, Japanese Designs, Traditional and Neo-Traditional Tattoo Designs, Samoan Script and Lettering, etc.

3. Magnum Shader Needles

Maximum shading work is done with Magnum shader needles. This is in fact, one of the most preferred grouping or needle types for all kinds of shading work. The reason behind it is – Magnum Shader needles hold and deliver a lot of ink, which make them perfect for coloring and shading large-sized tattoos. Magnum shader needles come in different variations. More often than not, these needles are used for all types of shading and coloring work, Black and Grey Tattoos, Samoan Tattoos, Color Realism, Colorful Tribal Tattoos, Japanese Tattoos, Traditional and Neo-Traditional Tattoo Work.

A diagram explaining different needle types

4. Curved Magnum Shader Needles

Curved magnum shaders, also referred to as soft magnums, soft edge magnums and round magnums. Curved magnum shader needles are used in the same way as magnum shader needles are used. The only difference that curved magnum shader needle has is – the pins are arranged in a way that they arch at the centre. This means the edges of the needle run along the skin with more congruity, which allows better spreading of ink and a more consistent line work. Also, it is less damaging to the skin as it allows soft shading. Curved Magnum Shader Needles are generally used for Japanese Tattoos, Black and Grey Tattoos, All types of Shading and Coloring packing, Color Realism, Tribal Tattoos, Samoan Style Tattoos, Traditional and neo-traditional.

5. Flat Shader Needles

Flat shader needles have their pins soldered in a straight line on the needle bar. These needles are used for lining work, as the shape of the needles are able to deliver more quantity of ink into the skin. These needles enable the tattooist to produce clearer and darker lines with just one stroke. Larger flat needles are usually required for filling colors and shading. Flat shader needles are considered the best for producing intricate tattoos with shading, like mandala tattoos or geometric patterns. Flat shader needles are also used for semi-permanent makeup purposes. These needles are commonly used for, Line Work in Tattoos, Coloring and Shading Tattoos, Black and Grey Tattoos, Japanese Tattoos, Color Realism, Mandala Tattoos, Intricate Tattoos, Tribal Tattoos, Samoan Tattoos, Traditional and Neo-Traditional Tattoos.

6. Double Stack Magnum Shader needles

Double stack magnum shader needles, commonly known as double stacks are mostly used for intricate shading works. The pins on double stacks are packed very tightly, which helps tattooists to shade or fill colors easily and conveniently. These are used for works like, Line Work in Tattoos, Coloring and Shading Tattoos, Japanese Tattoos, Color Realism, Mandala Tattoos, Intricate Tattoos, Tribal Tattoos, Samoan Tattoos, Traditional and Neo-Traditional Tattoos, etc.

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Needle Grouping Abbreviations

Now it’s time to throw some light on the commonly used needle grouping abbreviations. It’s important for every tattoo artist to know each grouping abbreviation as it helps to make informed decisions while you purchase needles for your studio.

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

Needle Grouping Abbreviations

Tattoo Needle Diameters

The first two digits in a needle code refers to the diameter of the needle. This means that a 1209RL tattoo needle has a #12 or 0.35 mm diameter. The higher the number, the larger the diameter of the needle will be. Understanding diameter is important, as it determines the flow of the ink. The narrower the needle, the more control the tattooist has over the flow of the ink. #10 or 0.30 mm needles are the most commonly used needles for line work because of the accurate thickness these needles offer. While, needles smaller than #10 make it more difficult for the tattooists to draw smooth lines. Smaller needles have a more constricted ink flow. On the other hand, with larger needles, like #12 and #13 and above it becomes difficult for the tattooist to control the flow of the ink.

Summing it up……

Learning about different types of needles and their work along with the codes and labels can be overwhelming at first. However, it is really very important to have a good understanding of the codes and label system of needles. It will help you make informed decisions while you purchase the needles for your studio. Remember, the more you are aware of these codes and label systems, and about how many needles does a tattoo gun have for a particular tattoo, the easier your job becomes.

Happy Tattooing…… ☺ ☺

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