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Article: Choosing the Right Tattoo Needle

Choosing the Right Tattoo Needle

Starting out in the tattoo industry is both thrilling and overwhelming, especially when you're trying to figure out the maze of tattoo cartridges and needle sizes. This guide will help you understand the basics of choosing the right cartridges, needle sizes, and the differences between shaders and liners. Let's dive in and make sense of these essential tools.

Understanding Needle Sizes

Choosing the right needle size is a crucial first step for beginners. The numbering system for tattoo needles can be confusing at first, but it’s pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it. For example, an 0801RL means a round liner needle, where '08' is the needle diameter, '01' is the needle count, and 'RL' stands for round liner. An 0801RLB is a round liner with a bugpin needle, perfect for finer lines and detailed work.

Different Types of Needles for Different Pieces

Different tattoos need different needle types. Round liners are great for outlining and creating clean lines, while round shaders (RS) are excellent for shading and filling in areas. Magnums (M or RM) are versatile and commonly used for shading large areas or creating gradients. Curved magnums (CM) are designed for contours and tricky areas.

Shader vs. Liner

In tattooing, shaders and liners have specific roles. Liners, with fewer needles tightly grouped together, are designed for precision and sharp lines. Shaders, with more needles arranged in a broader configuration, are perfect for shading larger areas. Your choice between a shader and a liner depends on the intricacy and size of the tattoo.

Choosing the Right Cartridges

Navigating the vast selection of cartridges can be daunting. Reputable companies often label their cartridges with clear indications of needle type, size, and configuration. Beginners should focus on quality and opt for cartridges from trusted brands known for reliable and consistent results.

Practical Tips for Beginners

  1. Research and Learn: Spend time learning about different needle types, sizes, and configurations. Understanding the basics is key before making any purchases.
  2. Experiment: Try out different cartridges to see what works best for your style and preferences. Everyone’s technique is unique, and finding the right fit might take some trial and error.
  3. Ask for Advice: Don’t hesitate to seek advice from experienced artists or reputable suppliers. They can offer valuable insights and recommendations.
  4. Invest in Quality: Quality cartridges are an investment in your craft. Choose reputable brands to ensure consistency and reliability in your work.


As a beginner in the tattoo industry, understanding cartridges, needle sizes, and types can seem complex. But with some knowledge about shaders, liners, needle sizes, and how to decode cartridge labels, you can confidently start your tattooing journey. Remember, the right tools are the foundation of every great piece of art, so choose wisely and let your creativity shine.

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