Needle and Cartridge Basics

Needle and Cartridge Basics


Knowing the basic form and function of each is an important step in perfecting your craft. This guide can help you learn about the different types of tattoo needles and cartridges and when to use them.

Needle and Cartridge Basics
Tattoo Cartridges
Tattoo Cartridges
Tattooing is one of the oldest art forms in history. However, the equipment has changed dramatically over time. Today, tattoo artists can choose from hundreds of different tools and supplies to develop their creations. Before considering the color and style of the artwork, the tattooist must choose the right equipment. There are several tattoo machines on the market that can be equipped with a variety of needles.

Needles come in many different shapes and sizes. Keeping them straight can be challenging if you're a beginner. Knowing the basic form and function of each is an important step in perfecting your craft. This guide can help you learn about the different types of tattoo needles and cartridges and when to use them.

What Are Tattoo Needles?

Tattoo needles have a unique structure compared to other types of needles. Instead of having a single point like a sewing needle, they contain a series of points called needles. Pins come in a variety of sizes and tapers and can be combined in different ways to create a range of tattoo pins.

The process of joining the pins to the metal alloy is called soldering. The number and configuration of needles determine the needle style. Each has unique properties for creating impressive tattoos.

While there are many different needle styles, they all fall into four basic categories:

1. Round Needle

Round needles consist of multiple pins arranged in a circle around the center of the weld. They can be tightly connected or more loosely connected for different results. There are two types of round needles used for different purposes:

- Lining: Tight round linings packed closely together, making them suitable for detailed technical work and lines. A slightly looser round liner is for thicker lines, often found in Japanese or vintage tattoos.

- Shaders: Circular Shaders spread farther out, great for color fills and basic shading.

It is important to know the product label to determine the exact round needle you need. For example, trying to understand a needle labeled 1205RS can be challenging at first. Round needles are labeled RS for shaders and RL for liners. The pointer marked 1205RS represents the number 5 circle shader.

The 12 indicates the size of the needle, specifically the diameter of 0.35 mm, which is one of the largest needles on the market. The number five means there are five pins in a circular configuration. Fewer needles will produce a thinner thread, and more needles will produce a thicker thread.

Round needles use the same size barrel. For example, a size 5 round liner (5RLT) requires size 5 round tubing.

2. Flat Needle

The flat needles are welded together in a straight line to the needle bar. These needles are ideal for lining because they are able to hold more ink and drive sharp, dark lines into the skin at one time.

They also come in different lining and shade styles. Lots of flat stitches are available for color fills and thick lines in one go. Flat pins are labeled FL for Flat Liner and FS for Flat Shader. Just like round needles, flat needles use the same size tube as the needle gauge. 7FL or size seven flat liners will use 7F tubing.

3. Universal Needle

Magnum needles are the most commonly used shading needles. This style of needle set holds the most ink. Hence, they easily transfer and fill in a lot of color into the skin.

A single pass can distribute more ink on the skin to cover large areas quickly. You can apply color faster and with less damage to your skin. Covering more skin with fewer passes also makes the tattoo less painful for the client.

Three different magnum needles give each tattoo a different effect:

- Weaving: These stitches are welded like flat magnums, but have a second row of alternating stitches on top, similar to how you stack a pile of wood. Braided magnums are loosely packed so there is a small amount of space between the needles. This spacing holds more ink and allows the artist to cover more skin at once. Large bottle needles for knitting are always grouped in odd numbers and marked M1. Therefore, the 9M1 needle will be the set of nine bottles for knitting.

- Stacked: This style of magnum stitch has the same shape and grouping as the knit, except the stitches are joined closer together. This type of stitch is great for more intricate shading and adding color to smaller areas. Like the braided version, they are manufactured in odd-numbered groups, but they are marked M2. Thus, the 9M2 would be a nine-stacked magnum needle configuration.

- Round or Curved: Round pins are also known as curved pins. The pins are arranged in an arch so the tip sticks out farther in the center. They were developed with the idea that the arch is closer to the skin, resulting in consistent lines and better ink distribution. This configuration causes less damage to the skin and can be used to create softer shadows. Round magnum marked with stitch number followed by RM. Thus, the 9RM would be a nine-round magnum needle.

Depending on your tattoo machine, you may need tattoo cartridges instead of standard needles. Cartridges can be mounted to rotary or coil tattoo machines if the handle is compatible. Rotary machines are made to accommodate cartridges, but you may need to purchase special handles to accommodate coil machines. There are pros and cons to using cartridges and regular needles, and you can use either depending on your preference.

What is a Tattoo Cartridge?

Needle barrels come in all the same styles as regular needles. They are more expensive than regular needles but are very versatile. With a traditional needle setup, you need to have multiple tattoo machines ready to switch between needle configurations. With tattoo cartridges, you can simply replace the tips on one machine.

The cartridges are disposable, so when you're done with your tattoo, you can throw them away with minimal cleanup. Standard needles also only work once, but they often allow more ink and buildup to collect on the handle of the tattoo machine. Standard needles require more cleaning with an autoclave machine.

With cartridges, you can skip tedious cleaning and switch settings quickly and easily. A tattoo machine is configured with a tube, tip, handle, and needle. Determining the best configuration for your kit takes time and practice. Cartridges come with built-in tips so you always have the perfect size for your needles.

They have two types of hints:

- Open Tips: These tips are open at the top, exposing the entire shaft of the needle. This type of housing is ideal for artists who frequently switch between colors, as the exposed needle makes it easier to clean the paint.

- Enclosed Tips: These tips are completely enclosed around the needle shaft to help increase needle stability. They catch more ink, but maintain a steady flow for more control. The closed nib is great for black and gray work and shades.

6 Tips for Cartridge Tattoos

If you're just starting out, you probably don't have much experience with cartridge needles. They come in many different sizes and configurations. No matter which brands you choose, high-quality needles are essential for creating high-quality tattoos. Here are six tips for choosing the right cartridge and configuration.

1. Check the Quality of the Needle

There are many different cartridge manufacturers that produce similar needle configurations. As with anything else, products will vary slightly by brand. Check the needle and make sure it is securely locked into your tattoo machine. Choose the configuration you are comfortable with.

2. Check Needle Stability

When you receive a new batch of syringes, you can check for stability by wiggling the back of the needle. The tight-fitting needle also reduces rattling for quieter tattoo application.

3. Check the Needle Tip

Depending on the brand, the shape of the tip of the cartridge around the needle may vary slightly. Of course, you can choose between open or closed tips, but thickness and design may also vary.

Over time, you may develop a preference for tip styles that use different needle configurations. Check to make sure you are comfortable tattooing with that particular nib.

4. Check the Membrane

The membrane prevents ink and blood from backing up into the handle of the tattoo machine and causing cross-contamination. This makes it much easier to sterilize the grip between tattoos. Check to make sure the cartridges you buy have membranes that actually work. The diaphragm also reinforces your configuration, reducing vibration and improving stability while you work.

5. Check Every Needle in the Box

If you're trying a new brand for the first time, make sure to check every needle before you start tattooing. Occasionally, a new product will have inconsistencies within the same pack of needles. Check each needle you open to make sure it's not defective.

6. Measure Price Versus Quality

There are countless brands that make syringes at various price points. Price doesn't always match quality.

The above introduces the basic knowledge of needles and ink cartridges, if you want to know more or you want to buy PMU or tattoo ink cartridges, please contact us.

Charming Tattoo is a leading custom PMU tools and ink manufacturer. Our R&D engineers have 20 years of experience in developing permanent makeup inks and micro-scratch pigments. We have professional production equipment and a 100,000-class dust-free workshop that meets ISO9001 standards. We provide professional product, packaging, post-design, and professional pigment knowledge support.
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