The most important tool for a tattoo artist is a tattoo needle. The needle is meant to push into the subcutaneous layer of skin with ink to make the tattoo permanent. Linear needles are primarily used for outlining a tattoo. The magnum, curved-magnum and flat needles are used for shading and artistic techniques. The tattoo artist can choose between disposable or regular. Regular tattoo needles need to go through a sanitation process to be used again but disposable needles can just be tossed out after tattooing. Here is some of the different types of needles available to tattoo artist.
Linear or Tight Needles
This type of needle is used for outlining tattoos. These needles points are grouped together tightly to produce a line. Tattoo needles come in a variety of sizes the #12 being the largest. The #12 needle measures .35mm and the list continues from there, #10 is .30mm, #8 is .25mm, #6 is .25mm and the #6 is .20mm.
Rounds or Loose Needles
These needles are used both for shading and for outlining tattoos. If you look straight at the needle it forms a perfect circle. They are available in a single needle or groupings of needles. Another thing to notice about tattoo needle sizes in the taper of the needles or needle point. The taper is just the measurement of the needlepoint. Short taper needles are used more for shading while long taper needle are used more for line work.
Magnum needles are used for shading and filling in solid colour. This apparatus has two rows of needles in two lines placed on top of one another. They can be either regular or double-stacked. The double-stacked are grouped together closely while the regulars are spread out.
The curved magnum needles are also used for filling in solid colour. These needles also have two rows but they have a slight arch. The arch on the needle makes it gentler on the skin while working.
Flat needles are also used to shade a tattoo. The needles are soldered together in a single layer forming a line with space in between each needle. Flat needles work wonders for applying artistic techniques.
How Needles Work
The tattoo machine works similar to a sewing machine. A tattoo artists hits the foot switch to power the tattoo machine. The machine makes the needles move up and down 50 to 3000 times per minute. The needles are dipped in ink which is sucked up through the tubing system in the machine. The needles drive the ink into the subcutaneous layer of skin, which is the second layer of skin, thus making the ink permanent.