Advice Hub >Tattoo Apprentice >The Ultimate Tattoo Cartridge Needle Guide
Close-up of Bishop DA VINCI Cartridges.

The Ultimate Tattoo Cartridge Needle Guide

Was this helpful?
Reading Time: 5 minutes

As a tattoo artist, you know that the right tools and equipment can make all the difference in creating exceptional tattoos. One of the most innovative and efficient tools now available in the tattoo industry is the tattoo cartridge needle. This comprehensive guide will explore all the essential aspects of tattoo cartridge needles that every tattoo artist should know, including types, compatibility, needle sizes, and the best options for different tattoo styles.

Understanding Tattoo Cartridges

Tattoo cartridges are an innovative tool that simplifies the process of setting up needles during a tattoo session. They are pre-assembled needle and housing units that consist of a needle bar, needle grouping, and a disposable casing. This all-in-one design eliminates the need for manually assembling and sterilising individual needle configurations.

It’s crucial for artists to understand the strengths and limitations of each needle configuration and choose the appropriate one for the task at hand. Educating yourself on needle configurations and practicing with different types can help artists determine their personal preferences and achieve better results. By selecting the right needle configuration, artists can enhance their artwork, improve their efficiency, and avoid unnecessary frustrations.

Different Types of Tattoo Cartridges

Tattoo cartridges come in a variety of types, each designed for specific tattooing styles and techniques. Understanding the different options available will help you choose the right cartridge for your desired tattoo.

  • **Round Liners (RL)**: Round liner cartridges feature a single needle configuration and are ideal for creating fine lines, intricate details, and precise outlines. They are commonly used for lettering, script tattoos, and any designs that require clean, sharp lines.
  • **Round Shaders (RS)**: Round shader cartridges typically have multiple needles arranged in a circular formation. They are perfect for shading and blending, creating smooth gradients and soft transitions of color.
  • **Magnum (M1 and M2)**: Magnum cartridges are designed for filling larger areas and creating solid color saturation. They feature multiple needles arranged in a flat or stacked formation, allowing for an efficient coverage of larger surface areas.
  • **Curved Magnum (CM)**: Curved magnum cartridges have a curved needle arrangement that follows the natural contours of the body. They are excellent for creating smooth, flowing lines, and provide enhanced control and precision.
  • **Flat (FL)**: Flat cartridges are versatile and can be used for lining, shaping, and shading. They feature multiple needles arranged in a flat formation, giving artists the flexibility to switch between different techniques during a tattoo.

Needle Sizes in Tattoo Cartridges

Tattoo cartridge needles come in different sizes, and the needle size determines the thickness of the lines, or the amount of pigment deposited. Here are some common needle sizes used in tattoo cartridges:

  • #12 (0.35mm needle gauge): #12 needles are thicker and create bold lines. They are commonly used for bold outlines and tattoos that require heavy, solid lines.
  • #10** (0.30mm needle gauge): #10 needles are slightly thinner than #12 and are suitable for general lining work. They are versatile and can be used for various tattoo styles and outlines.
  • #08 (0.25mm needle gauge): #08 needles are even finer and are perfect for creating detailed lines and intricate designs. They are commonly used for fine linework, such as script tattoos and delicate patterns.
  • #06 (0.22mm needle gauge): #06 needles are extra thin and are great for creating very fine lines and intricate detailing. They are often used in highly detailed designs or micro tattoos.
  • #04 (0.18mm needle gauge): #04 needles are the finest and are used for extremely delicate work, such as dotwork or miniature tattoos. They provide the highest level of precision and control.
Close-up of the tip of a tattoo cartridge showing the hole for the needle.

LT (Long Taper) Needles

LT needles are designed with a longer taper, meaning the needle gradually becomes thinner towards the tip. This configuration is ideal for achieving smoother transitions and blending effects in tattoo designs. LT needles are commonly used for shading, solid color packing, and creating gradients. Their long taper allows for better ink saturation and smooth color transitions. However, using LT needles for fine line work may result in less defined lines and slower tattooing speed.

MT (Medium Taper) Needles

MT needles, also known as standard taper needles, offer a balanced configuration between bugpin and LT needles. They possess a moderate taper, making them versatile for various tattooing techniques. MT needles are suitable for both fine line work and shading. They provide a good balance of ink flow and tattooing speed. While MT needles may lack the precision of bugpin needles or the smooth blending of LT needles, they are a reliable choice for many tattoo artists.

Bugpin Needles

Bugpin needles are characterised by their thinner diameter compared to standard gauge needles. This translates to a denser arrangement of needles on the tattoo cartridge, allowing for more detailed and intricate work. Bugpin needles excel in fine line work, realistic color gradients, and subtle shading. However, using bugpin needles for heavy filling or packing can result in slower ink flow and potential needle clogging.

Choosing the Right Tattoo Cartridge

Three different TATSoul Envy Gen 2 tattoo cartridges lying next to each other with several boxes in the background.

Selecting the best tattoo cartridge for your needs depends on various factors, including your tattoo style, technique, and personal preference. Here are some guidelines to help you choose the right cartridge:

  • Tattoo Style: Determine the primary style of your tattoo—whether it’s traditional, realism, watercolor, or something else. Different cartridge types excel in different styles, so choose one that aligns with your desired outcome.
  • Needle Configuration: Consider the specific needle configuration that suits your tattoo style. Round liners for clean lines, round shaders for shading, and magnum shaders for color saturation.
  • Needle Size: Choose the appropriate needle size based on the type of lines or shading you want to achieve. Thicker needles (such as #12) create bolder lines, while finer needles (such as #06 or #04) are used for intricate details.
  • Quality: Invest in high-quality cartridges from reputable brands. Cheaper cartridges may compromise the tattooing experience and result in inconsistent performance.
  • Client Requirements: Consider your client’s skin type and the size, location and complexity of their tattoo. They could have sensitive skin, requiring smaller needles or different configurations. Client requirements are crucial in helping you choose the right cartridge.

Tattoo Cartridges for Beginners

If you’re new to tattooing, starting with the right cartridges is essential. As a beginner, opt for versatile cartridge types that allow you to experiment with various styles and techniques. Round liners and magnum cartridges are great options for beginners, as they can be used for multiple purposes, from lining to shading. When it comes to needle sizes, start with a middle range, such as #10, and experiment from there based on your preferences and the tattoo style you’re aiming for.


Tattoo cartridges are an innovative tool that enhances the tattooing experience and simplifies the process of needle configurations during a tattoo session. Understanding the different types of cartridges available, their compatibility, needle sizes, and selecting the right cartridge for your tattoo style and technique is crucial. Always prioritise quality and work with reputable brands. Remember to consider client requirements where necessary. Consult with fellow tattoo artists for their recommendations, and experiment with various cartridges, needle sizes and configurations to find the perfect fit.

By keeping up to date with the newest innovations in tattoo equipment and tools like tattoo cartridge needles, you can provide your clients with the best possible tattooing experience.

Remember, exceptional tattoos start with exceptional tools. Invest in high-quality cartridges, work with experienced professionals and continue to develop your skills, to produce work that stands out from the rest!

Was this helpful?