Beginner's Guide to Tattoo Needles


The number of tattoo needles available is almost infinite, with a range of styles and endless variations. Here at Body Shock, we understand the confusion about needle styles when you're just starting out, so we've put together a beginner's guide that will help you find your feet.

There are several categories of needles and a few key terms you need to be aware of.

Round Needles

These needles are soldered in round patterns centred on a shaft. Used as liners when packed close together, they're perfect for small lines, details, and technical work. Round loose liners can be used for bold lines, like the outlines often used in Japanese tattoos.


Flat Needles

Flat needles are soldered to the shaft in a straight line. They're very popular for lining due to their shape, which delivers extra ink. The result is a darker, more clearly defined line, created with a single stroke. Large flat needles are great for filling in colour.

Magnum Needles

The favoured needle for most shading, a magnum's taper is often longer than those of round shaders. They deliver lots of ink, which makes them the perfect needle for larger areas of colour. They also require fewer passes over an area, which won't damage the skin as much.

Weaved Magnum Needles

Similar to flat needles, weaved magnums are soldered to the shaft on alternating sides, enabling them to cover a greater area.

Stacked Magnum Needles

Each side of a stacked magnum has a double row of needles, positioned very closely together.

Round or Curved Magnums

A newer type of magnum, round or curved needles have a tip that arches at the centre. It's designed this way so that the edge of the needle runs along the skin with more conformity, allowing for better dispersal of ink and a more consistent line. It's also less damaging to the skin.


These are the same as magnum needles but far thinner. A standard needle is 0.30 mm to 0.35 mm thick, while a bugpin is only 0.20 mm to 0.25 mm. Whether or not you use them is down to taste and preference: some artists hate them, others won't use anything else for shading work. Trial and error will tell you if they're for you.

Needle Cartridges

Needle cartridges are a specialty needle only used with certain machines, for example, a Cheyenne Hawk rotary. The benefit is that they're usually easier and faster to set up than regular needles; however, they also cost more and can't be reused.

This beginner's guide to tattoo needles should get you started, but if you've got questions or need advice, simply contact us – we're always happy to help!