How Far Should a Needle Stick Out When Tattooing?

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Tattoo needles are typically anywhere from 1/16″ to 3/8″ long, and the thickness of the needle depends on the size of the needle. The length is determined by how deep you want to place ink in your skin. How far should a tattoo needle stick out? That’s up for debate. Some artists will keep it at about 1/4″, while others will push it all the way out. Choose what works best for you, but make sure your artist is aware of this preference ahead of time!

There are a few reasons why you would want the needle to protrude further than 1/4″. First, if you are going for a realistic-looking tattoo, then it is important that your artist places ink in the dermis of your skin. This layer of skin is located just beneath the epidermis and contains much more color. A longer needle provides a greater depth at which to place ink in this layer. Another reason why longer needles are used is to accommodate larger-sized tattoos. Rather than reflecting on how deep you want your ink placed, think about how large you are thinking about making your tattoo.

There is another reason that longer needles are used and it has to do with experience. Think of it as a trial-and-error situation. Some artists prefer to use a 1/4″ needle because they have so much experience using them, while others find them inaccurate and prefer to use a 3/8″ needle. The question is, where do you stand? Do you want it elaborate and thought out, or do you want your tattoo to be executed as simply and quickly as possible?

Needles used for tattoos range from very thick needles that are almost the size of tweezers to needles that look more like sewing pins than anything else. In some cases, the needle may look like it is meant for piercing through your skin and that’s exactly what it will do. It will leave an indentation behind as though you had been pierced. So, the longer the discolored mark left behind is, the longer the needle went in.

A needle used for a tattoo is not meant to be pushed into your skin and come out as quickly as possible, so keep that in mind when you are choosing to have a tattoo applied using this method. If you have chosen to go with a deeper needle, you are probably not going to want a lot of places where ink is easily visible because there won’t be any color to hide it.

Okay, so you’ve decided that you need a longer needle. Should it be the same length as the chart on the back of the package? My answer is no. The chart generally comes in 1/2″ increments and in order for your tattoo to be fully covered, it is not necessary to have a needle that is 1/2″ long. Artists vary when it comes to how deep they want their ink placed, so your artist should have a better understanding of how far they want to go with this needle than you do, and he or she will know what size needle best fits your skin type and style of tattooing.

It is important to know the difference between flash and flesh. Flash is when your skin stretches after being tattooed. When a needle goes in too deep, it will prick through the top layer of skin and place ink that was not meant for this area of your body. This will cause your skin to stretch as far as it can go. If you have large tattoos, then you may have a large amount of flash, so keep that in mind when picking out a long needle.

If you are looking for a needle that can be pushed all the way out, look for a “bullet tip” (the most popular) or an “all-in-one” needle. That is a needle that is 1/4″ long and has a needle that fits all of the sides, so it will not be a constant struggle to keep the needle from popping out. The all-in-one needle is a little quicker to use since you will not have to go through the process of changing needles, but it can be just as slow. With some practice, they are useful and worth using.

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Long or short? The choice is yours, but it is important that your artist knows which one you prefer, because there are a lot of things that need to be taken into consideration before choosing needles for your tattoo. If you choose a long needle and you have a small tattoo, the artist may have to push the needle into your skin with more force than necessary. This can cause unnecessary pain for both of you. If you decide to go with a shorter needle, you might experience less pain, but the artist will be able to place ink in a deeper layer of your skin.

Before starting the tattoo process, make sure your artist has all of the information he or she needs.

How Far Should a Needle Stick Out When Tattooing?
Photo: How Far Should a Needle Stick Out When Tattooing?

What Is the Correct Needle Depth for Tattooing

The ink is injected into the skin at a depth of 1/4″ to 3/8″ with a single needle pass. Anything deeper will leave a more pronounced scar and anything shallower will not heal as quickly. The length of time it takes to heal depends on many factors including skin type, age, personal health history as well as the care given. In general, if your tattoo heals in two weeks it is healing appropriately with the correct depth of needle placement. It may appear superficially healed sooner but under the surface, it is still healing. If you have a large tattoo that includes flat areas it may be a month before the entire tattoo is completely healed.

Always use new, sterile needles and single-use ink containers. Not only do you reduce your risk of cross-contamination but you also limit your exposure to blood-borne pathogens in case your clients have any type of blood issue or infection. Dispose of everything immediately in an appropriate outside trash container and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water afterward. Do not leave any used needles in a sink or on your work area as this is also a risk of an accidental cut or needle stick injury to you or others.

Tattoo Body Art
Photo: Tattoo Body Art

How Do You Know if the Tattoo Needle Is Too Deep

Some people have a difficult time understanding and considering the amount of pain that goes into tattoos. They are always asking, “how much does it hurt?” Whether you’re getting your first tattoo or another one soon, you may find yourself wondering how deep the needle goes when placed on flesh and how much forehead you can still shave without cutting off too much skin. So in this article, we get to answer these questions and more.

To start things off, here are some things to keep in mind when thinking about the tattoo needle:

  • The deeper the needle penetrates your skin, the more pain you’ll feel. This is due to nerve endings at a certain depth of around 10-26 mm.
  • Pain is subjective. It depends on the person and the situation, but if it’s just a quick inking you’re doing then about 10mm or so should be enough for most people. You won’t feel much discomfort until the needle goes past 26 mm, but it should not get that deep.
  • If you are having a tattoo removal session, your skin will likely be a lot more sensitive than usual when it comes to pain thanks to all of the dead skin cells and inflammation in your skin. This is because of the general healing process that’s going on, which makes your skin more sensitive to pain from any bumps or pushes that may occur because of this process.
  • The needle goes in and out of your skin through a tiny hole. If you feel pain at the very end of the needle, then it’s probably too deep. If your tattoo is just a simple dot or outline, then 10mm should be fine. For many people, 40mm is just about perfect.
  • Change the depth of your tattoo needle after each stroke (whether it’s in 1 or 2 minutes ). You want to make sure that there are no thick bottom layers for you to damage when you’re at the end of a stroke.
  • The skin is not actually punctured. Instead, the needle vibrates at a high frequency which causes the blood vessels to burst. This “bursting” heals into a permanent mark.
  • Since your skin has so many nerve endings, it’s only natural that you feel pain when you are being tattooed. This pain is usually sharp, prickly, and bearable as long as it goes away within a few seconds after the tattoo needle has been removed from your skin (if it does not go away instantaneously). A few people may experience what is known as “general anesthesia” where they feel like nothing at all and have no recollection of the pain for a few moments after the tattooing experience.
  • Some people feel pain from the tiny hole that’s left in their skin. This can be caused by a minute tear in the dermis or if the needle is too high up on the skin (especially when having a small tattoo).
  • The size of your tattoo (the area you are being tattooed on) may determine how deep into your skin you have to progress. If you have an area with more fat tissue, then you will need to find out what depth of needle gives you a good appearance. In most cases, thinner lines and dots do not require as much depth as thick lines and dots.
Needle Work - Tattooing
Photo: Needle Work – Tattooing

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the major considerations for depth?

The skin can only stretch so much. The needle must stop short of popping through the top layer of skin. Skin also has an elasticity to it so if you go too deep, your needle will have nothing to grab onto and might break. The deeper you go, the more nerve endings are present so it may be more uncomfortable for clients who have sensitive skin or low pain tolerance.

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How far out does the needle need to stick?

Depends on the client. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Start at the edge of the tattoo and go from there. If you are at a tattoo shop and someone wants to know, they can always ask their artist what they think would be a good distance. The width of your gauge is also important. A narrow-gauge needle might not be able to get through thicker skin and thus could result in multiple passes (think nicking). Be sure to check with your tattoo artist.

Can we adjust the needle after it’s in?

Yes, but you will want to let the blood flow for a minute or so which could cause smudging.

How should I clean my needles and tubes?

The general rule of thumb is to give it a wipe down with alcohol before reusing it. Never use rubbing alcohol on them because it’s too abrasive and could cut into the material. Some artists use soap and water, others betadine, and some just latex gloves. It all depends on what you are most comfortable with.

What do you think about aftercare products?

Some are better than others and some can be toxic to your skin. Some work better for keeping bacteria out of your pores than others. Do some research on the ones you want to use and make sure they are safe for you. The tattoo still needs to heal, so everything that isn’t band-aid or wet works (tampons, etc.). A good rule of thumb is to try the least expensive first until it works for you.

Final Verdict

Anyone who has ever wondered how far a needle should stick out when tattooing will find this article very informative. We will give you information about how deep to poke the skin, as well as other questions like what design to use and how much blood should be drawn.

Related Questions

How many needles are used for shading a tattoo?

This is not up to me to answer, but there must be something like 5-15 in total. It depends on the size of the tattoo, colors, and shading is done, etc. But most likely about 15-20 in a typical session. And this does not include drawing the design or drawing lines around shapes.

One more thing: These needles are sterile and single-use only! Just using them once means that they may be going in your skin directly and potentially introducing bacteria or other contaminants into your bloodstream if any gets stuck under the skin and then it would have to come out on its own without medical help.

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How deep should a tattoo needle go?

It’s all up to you really – the needle will do what it can. The needle is specifically designed to pierce your skin and inject ink into the dermal layer quickly and efficiently in order to provide a smooth, consistent effect, but there are some things you should keep in mind. Firstly, never go over 3/8″ below the surface, or else you risk damaging blood vessels and creating a painful bruise. Secondly, always make sure that after exposure your tattoo is properly washed off with soap and warm water. The needle is designed to be able to handle a certain degree of pressure through the skin so only pull the needle out if you feel that the need to remove it. Always take care when tattooing with needles.

How often to dip tattoo needle in ink?

Dipping the needle helps transfer pigment from a bottle to your skin. It also sterilizes the needle after it has been dipped into a contaminated pond of water used to dilute color pigments. The best time to dip a needle is before starting on any new project so that there is no chance of contaminating tools or machinery when it comes time for use. For tattoo artists, it helps them keep their tools and equipment clean so that a customer doesn’t become infected. It can also help sterilize the needle between each pass on a client’s skin.

How the professionals do it

Now that we know why dipping your needles into ink is important, let’s find out how professionals do it. The truth is, not many tattoo artists dip their needles into the ink as often as you probably think they do. This is especially true for larger tattoos or tattoos that are in areas of the body that will be exposed to more physical activity and potential contamination (inner arm, thigh, or chest). In these cases, the pigment needs to flow freely for an extended period of time with minimal pressure required from you.

Best tattoo needles?

We would like to start off by saying that the best tattoo needles are important because they have to be durable and long-lasting. This is not a needle that you’ll want to use a few times and then throw out, but one that will be used over and over again, day after day. Our favorite needles all made the list, ranging from very inexpensive to very high-end. You’re sure to find something that fits your budget in this list of best tattoo needles.

Do tattoo artists use a new needle every time?

If your tattoo artist uses an old needle every time he/ she injects ink into the skin, you should ask them to change their needles. If they don’t change them after a certain number of tattoos, this will increase the risk of contracting diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

In the UK, healthcare professionals who carry out tattoo services may be required to have a current enhanced UCRC certificate as part of their registration. However, it is possible that you will wait up to 4 weeks before you receive this confirmation from your tattooist or piercer. If you are booked in for a consultation, ask your artist or piercer when your certificate can be expected and ensure that they will bring it with them for you to sign. Do not sign on the spot without first obtaining the certificate.

Numbing cream for needles?

The numb lotion is a topical cream applied to the skin to temporarily desensitize it. A numb cream will alleviate pain by blocking the sensation of touch from entering your central nervous system. It can be used before tattooing, after a waxing treatment, or just about anywhere you have painful sensations that need to be relieved. The cream doesn’t work for all people and some people experience adverse reactions which include skin irritation and rash. This can occur if an individual is allergic to the ingredients in the cream, or if it is used on an open wound. If you experience these symptoms, stop using the cream and consult a doctor immediately.