A tattoo artist's main tool is his tattoo machine. Each machine has its specific characteristics which will correspond to a way of working of the tattoo artist as well as to the style of tattooing which he will perform.
But to work correctly and efficiently it is also important to choose the right needles. For this it is crucial to know the different types of needles on the market and how they are codified.
Just like with machines, you will have to try several brands of needles to find the one that will work best. You should know that from one brand to another for the same reference, the size of the beam (and therefore your line) may differ slightly (due to the quality and the way the needles have been welded).
Needles or Cartridges?
If you opt for traditional single-use needles/beams, you will also need a single-use or aluminum/stainless steel sleeve, grip or tube (sterilisable). This choice also implies using several machines if you need different bundles (liner, shader and/or magnum) for the same tattoo. If you enjoy tattooing the traditional way (whether with a coil or rotary machine), this is the choice for you!
The other possibility is to opt for cartridges, so you can easily change beams on the same machine (if it is versatile enough). However, you will have to be very careful to choose the machine or sleeve adapted to the cartridges.
2 factors will determine the size of your needle bundles. The first is the diameter (or gauge) of the needles and the 2nd is the number of welded needles. It goes without saying that for the same number of needles on the bundle, the smaller the diameter of each needle, the finer the bundle will be.
Another characteristic will determine the fineness of the beam, it is to type it. The longer the tap, the more the needle will be tapered.
There are 4 types of caliber:
- 0.25 mm (caliber #08 or A depending on the brand)
- 0.30 mm (gauge #10 or B depending on the brand)
- 0.35 mm (gauge #12 or C depending on the brand)
- 0.40 mm (gauge #14 or D depending on the brand)
in some brands you will also find 0.18mm and 0.20mm
There are several types of typing:
- Le short taper
- Le Medium taper
- Le long taper
- L’extra long taper
- Le Super extra long taper
The different types of needles
There are different types of needles depending on your needs during the tattoo session.
- Round liner (code RL)
- Round shader (code RS)
- Magnum (code M1)
- Round magnum, curved magnum ou soft edge magnum (code RM, CM ou SEM)
- Flat magnums (code F)
Understand the referencing of needles and cartridges
The reference noted on the product packaging is characterized by 3 criteria: the gauge of the needle, the number of needles and finally the type of beam.
So we will have this:
xx|yy|zz → caliber|needle number|beam type
1207RL means needle diameter 0.35mm, 7 needles, Round liner
1015M1 means needle diameter 0.30mm, 15 needles, Magnum
You now have all the cards in hand to decipher needle/cartridge references. All that remains is to find what types of needles suit you in relation to your tattoo style.