How Many Needles Are There In a Tattoo Gun?

Tattoo guns are the essential equipment for every tattoo artist out there. Learning how to operate and use the tattoo gun is the ultimate challenge for rising tattoo artists as well. If you’re tattooing yourself, you probably know that tattoo guns aren’t as simple as they seem to be.

There are all these kinds of needles tattoo artists use to create different shading, patterns, and overall tattoo designs. This means that, first of all, tattoo guns have more than one needle (for those who are not familiar), and every one of those needles serves a different purpose. Tattoo artists can’t use the same needles for tattoo outlining and tattoo coloring, for example.

So, if you’re new to tattooing, or you simply want to be informed about this interesting topic, you’re at the right place. In the following paragraphs, we’ll talk about tattoo needles and how many there are. So, let’s get right into it!

How Many Needles Are There In a Tattoo Gun?

Let’s just start by stating the obvious; there is never a single needle in a tattoo gun. There are always multiple, tiny needles organized in such a way to create the best effects and provide the best reliability during the very tattooing process, depending on the type of lines, or color shading the tattooist is trying to execute.

Tattoo needles come in groups, and each type of needle group has a different code, used to make the tattoo work a lot easier and more organized. The code also showcases the type of needles, their organization in the group, the effect they’re providing, and so much more. Let’s learn more about it in the following paragraphs.

Needle Codes

Needle codes are the letters found at the end of a needle. The letters refer to the grouping of the needle, the diameter, as well as the effect the needle provides. So, what kind of needle codes do we have?

Let’s take 1207RL as an exemplary code. Now, the first two digits refer to the diameter of the needle. This means the needle is either to provide very fine, medium, or thicker lines. The second two digits refer to the number of needles in the group, and the two final letters refer to the type of the needle groups, or to be more precise, the effect the needles are going to provide in the tattooing process.

So, following the exemplary needle code, we’ll be looking at 7 needles in a group. The needles are 12-diameter (or 0.35mm for our metric-system readers), all gathered in a round liner grouping.

By using the needle codes, it is easier for a tattoo artists to find exactly the needles they’re looking for. This saves time and ensures the best possible outcome. Sure enough, the needle codes don’t reveal whether the needle provides texture, or how long their tapers are, but that’s where the tattooists need to expand their knowledge and constantly learn about the needles through practice and research.

Types of Needles

Types of needles
Credit: @magicmoon_tattoo_supply

There are several types of tattoo needles, with different numbers of needles in a grouping. Let’s see what they are;

  • Round liner needle – this is the type of needle used for extra precise, intricate lining work. The needle can be used for dot work, precise, geometric tattoos, tribal/Samoan tattoos, Japanese designs, as well as lettering. Round liners have a needle code of RL, and the number in front of the abbreviation refers to the number of needles in the group; for example, 9RL means there is 9 needle in the grouping.
  • Round shader needle – this type of needle is similar to the round liner needle. The only difference is the space between the needles in the grouping. Because there’s more room between the needles, they’re used for basic shading and coloring, some line work, geometric and line work, and Japanese and Samoan tattoo design.
  • Magnum shader needle – this type of needle is used mainly for shading. Magnum needles can hold a lot of ink, which makes them perfect for color packing too. They are used for Japanese and traditional tattoos, shading and coloring work, as well as color realism tattoo designs.
  • Curved Magnum shader needle – these needles are used for all types of shading work. They’re excellent because of their slight arc, which allows them to provide comfortable tattooing as well as skin protection. The curved Mangums are grouped in a tight cluster and can have between 7 and 11 needles for the best results. The curved Magnums can also be used for different tattoo work, from color packing to traditional Japanese tattoos.
  • Flat shader needle – this is the type of needle used to create straight, precise lines. The needle provides a clean and clear color payoff, but with each new application, the lines become darker. This makes the Flat shader perfect for black & white work, intricate line work, color realism, shading, as well as for different tattoo designs.
  • Double stack Magnum shader needle – this needle is used for truly intricate work. The pins are packed super tightly, which ensures super precise, intricate shading, and color packing. This needle is generally used to create realistic tattoos, as well as Japanese, tribal, traditional, and neo-traditional designs.

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So, How Many Needles Are There In The Needle Groups?

Finally, we’ve reached the paragraphs you’ve all been wondering about; the needle count. To determine how many needles are there in the needle group, you have to refer to the needle code. Remember the example of the 1207RL needle; this means that there are 07 12-gauge needles grouped in this one. However, the number of needles is never exact; each specific needle has a different amount of pins to ensure specific, desired effects essential for the artist’s vision and execution.

However, specific types of needles do have a basic number of needles for reference. So, let’s take a look at the aforementioned types of needles and the number of pins they often come with;

  • Round liner – as we mentioned, the round liner often has 7 to 9 needles.
  • Round shader – this type of needle generally comes with 1 to 5 pins (for small needle), and 7 to 21 (for large needle).
  • Magnum shader – this type of needle often comes with 7 to 9 pins.
  • Curved Magnum shader – same as the regular Magnum shader, this needle comes with 7 to 9 pins
  • Flat shader – just like the regular shader, this one can have between 7 and 11 pins
  • Double stack Magnum shader – this type of needle has a few more pins than the standard Magnum, often between 11 and 17

As you can see, there is no exact or fixed number of pins in any of the aforementioned needles. The amount of pins changes according to the tattooists’ needs and the desired effects.

There are surely other types of needles we didn’t mention, which can also have anywhere between 5 and 20 needles. For example, the weaved Magnum needle generally has 7 pins, while the stacked Magnum needles can have up to 11 pins.

If you need detailed insight into the needle grouping (number of needles), needle type, and the tattoos/designs it’s commonly used for, make sure to check out the following table;

Needle Grouping Tube Size Used For
4F, 5F 4 – 5 flat Lines and detail
6F, 7F 6 – 7 flat Shading, thicker lines, and color fill
9F 8 – 9 flat Shading and color fill
5M1 4 – 5 flat Thick lines, color fill, and shading
7M1 6 – 7 flat Lines, shading, and color fill
9M1 8 – 9 flat Thick outlines, shading, color fill
11M1 11 flat Color fill and shading
13M1 13 flat Color fill and shading
15M1 15 flat Color fill and shading
5M2, 7M2, 9M2 4 – 5 flat Outlines, lines, detail, and shading
11M2, 13M2 6 -7 flat Thick outlines, thick lines, shading, and color fill
15M2 8 – 9 flat Color fill and shading
5MR 4 – 5 flat Small lines, detail work, and intricate shading
7MR 6 – 7 flat Lines, shading, color fill, and detail work
9MR 8 – 9 flat Outlines, shading, and color fill
11MR 11 flat Color fill and shading
13MR 13 flat Color fill and shading
15MR 15 flat Color fill and shading
1RL, 3RL 1 – 3 round Lines, intricate shading, and fill-in
4RL, 5RL 4 – 5 round Outlines, shading, and fill-in
7RL 7 round Shading and color fill
8RL, 9RL 8 – 9 round Shading, thick outlines, and color fill
11RL, 14 RL 11 – 14 round Shading and color fill
3RS 1 – 3 round Lines and small detail
5RS 4 – 5 round Lines, slim shading areas, and small detail
7RS 7 round Shading, thicker lines, small area fill in
8RS, 9RS 8 – 9 round Shading, thick outlines, and color fill in
14RS 11 – 14 round Shading and color
4F, 5F 4 – 5 flat Lines and detail
6F, 7F 6 – 7 flat Shading, thicker lines, and color fill
9F 8 – 9 flat Shading and color fill
5M1 4 – 5 flat Thick lines, color fill, and shading
7M1 6 – 7 flat Lines, shading, and color fill
9M1 8 – 9 flat Thick outlines, shading, color fill
11M1 11 flat Color fill and shading
13M1 13 flat Color fill and shading
15M1 15 flat Color fill and shading
5M2, 7M2, 9M2 4 – 5 flat Outlines, lines, detail, and shading
11M2, 13M2 6 -7 flat Thick outlines, thick lines, shading, and color fill
15M2 8 – 9 flat Color fill and shading
5MR 4 – 5 flat Small lines, detail work, and intricate shading
7MR 6 – 7 flat Lines, shading, color fill, and detail work
9MR 8 – 9 flat Outlines, shading, and color fill
11MR 11 flat Color fill and shading
13MR 13 flat Color fill and shading
15MR 15 flat Color fill and shading

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