Tattoo needles can be completely overwhelming. With so many different sizes, types, pin count, and usages, it can get difficult knowing exactly which one you need for your specific task. While a tattoo gun only runs one needle at a time, it’s important that you learn how to familiarize yourself with standard needles and needle coding.
Table of Contents (clickable)
Understanding Needle Codes
Needle codes are made up of:
- A count that represents how many pins make up the needle
- The usage for this specific needle
- The diameter size of the needle
They will often look like this: 9RL 0.05 which means a 9-pin Round Liner with a 0.05 diameter.
Grouping and Needle Count
The grouping, or the first number in a needle code, tells you how many individual pins or needles make up the entire needle head. For example, if the code is 9RL 0.05, the needle head is made up of nine individual small needles.
Different needle types are usually made up of specific needle counts:
Small - five
Medium - seven to nine
Large - 11 to 17
Small - one to five
Large - seven to 21
Generally seven to nine needles
Generally seven to 11 needles
Stacked needles have the same number on both rows (eg, four needles on top of four, to make a total of eight needles)
Following the grouping number, the type of needle is listed. This tells you what artistry work or usage this needle is ideal for. Common abbreviations are:
- RL - Round Liner
- RS - Round Shader
- FS - Flat Shader
- M1 - Magnum
- M - Stacked Magnum
- M2 - Double Stacked Magnum
- MG - Magnum Shaders
- CM - Curved Magnum Shaders
And some lesser-used types are:
- RLXT - Super Tight Round Liner
- RLXP - Extra Super Tight Round Liner
- T - Textured Round Shader
For a complete understanding on how these types could be used for your specific artistry goals, have a look at our article, Improving Your Tattoo Outlines and Linework: Your Complete Guide.
Tattoo Needle Diameters
Next on our needle code refers to the diameter of the needle. In our code, 9RL 0.05, we are referring to a 9-pin Round Liner with a 0.05 diameter. The higher the number, the larger the diameter, and the more ink flow the needle allows. This enables an artist to select exactly what they require for the work they’re doing, whether it’s small details or large, thick lines.
Our Final Thoughts
While there is no fixed number of needles for each tattoo gun, as you can see, there are multiple needles available that you can work with. Many professional artists grow to develop favorites over time, and it’s just a matter of working with each needle to see if it meets your needs and performs as you hope. Learning needle coding will help you master a tattoo gun in no time.