Tattoo needles are used to apply a tattoo design by injecting pigment into the inner layer of skin. The name “needle” is a bit misleading, since tattoo needles actually resemble a pin more than a medical injection needle. Tattoo needles push ink into the skin. Another common misconception about tattoo needles is that one needle is used at a time to create a tattoo design. In reality, a group of tattoo needles are used for most tattoos.
Tattoo needles are connected to a tattoo machine, or tattoo gun. A tattoo machine has a bar to which a group of needles, known as a sharp, are attached by soldering. The tattoo machine’s electrical motor moves the bar rapidly up and down, about 80 to 150 times per second. The tattoo machine precisely controls the depth of the needle injection, allowing an area of skin to be covered rapidly and uniformly. Buy your own tattoo needles here.
Type of Tattoo Needles
There are several different types of tattoo needles, each used for a different effect. Liners and shaders are the main categories of needles. Within these categories, the configurations of needle groups are given names like round, flat, stack and magnum. Tattoo needle groups usually consist of 3, 5, 7 or more needles.
Liner Tattoo Needles
The liner type of tattoo needle is used for outlining a design. Liner tattoo needles are also known as rounds because they are grouped in a circular shape. This round shape draws a uniform line like the tip of a pencil or pen. Liner needles may be used individually for a fine line or in a group to create a thicker outline. When the needles in the round are group tightly, a crisp solid line can be created. When the round consists of loosely-grouped needles, the resulting line has more of a shaded effect.
Liner Tattoo Needles
Shader Tattoo Needles
After a tattoo has been outlined using liner tattoo needles, the design is filled in using shader needles. These needles are usually grouped in rows, but occasionally a round shader is used for filling in a small area. Different groupings create different effects and are given different names. A single row of needles is known as a flat. Two rows of needles (a “double flat”) that are placed one on top of the other are called a stack. The top row in a stack has one less needle than the bottom row (which is why the groupings are always odd). The two rows in the stack are offset to avoid the appearance of stripes in the shaded area.
Flat Tattoo Needles
Magnum Tattoo Needles
A magnum is a single row with an odd number of needles. Diagrams of a magnum group may look like two stacked rows, but this is due to the fact that every other needle is bent upwards. Magnum rows can also be stacked. They are ideal for shading large areas and color filling.
Magnum Tattoo Needles
Sizes of Tattoo Needles
Individual tattoo needles come in different sizes. Each size is referred by a number that is tied to a specific needle diameter size. The #12 needles are the largest, with a diameter of .35mm. The sizes are ranked in increments of .05mm, with the #10 being .30mm and the #8 being .25mm. The #6 is the smallest needle at .20mm. There are no standards in place for tattoo needle sizes, however, and some manufacturers use the “bug pin” numbering system (named for pins that are used to mount insects). In this system, size 0 is the same as #12, 00 is the same as #10, etc.
Taper of Tattoo Needles
“Taper” refers to the length of a needle point. The taper of tattoo needles varies from short to long. The decision to use a short or long taper is a matter of individual tattoo artist preference. Each type of taper can produce a different tattoo effect.
Tattoo Needle Tapers
Sterilization of Tattoo Needles
Tattoo needles should be completely sterilized before use to avoid the transmission of blood-borne diseases and infections. To avoid decontamination of tattoo needles, many tattoo artists use disposable needles. Since used tattoo needles are a biohazard, care must be taken to place them in an approved container for hazardous waste. If needles are going to be reused rather than disposed of, they must be sterilized in an autoclave machine. This device uses steam and high temperatures to kill germs on used tattoo needles.
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