Which are the best tattoo needles for shading?
The answer depends on the type of work you’re doing and your style.
What you use for dotwork may be different than what you need for photorealistic portraits (1).
However, you can make your tattoo shading better by practicing with different types of shaders.
It’s crucial that you understand when it’s time for a round shader, a flat shader, a curved magnum, or a flat magnum. Some of these are also the best needles for color packing.
How to choose the best needles for shading tattoos
Once you’ve finished the outlining, it’s time for shading. Unless you plan to specialize in scripts and stick figures, you’ve got to practice using shading needles. Otherwise, any shadows will look too faint for dead-headed.
If you’re new to tattooing, here the different types of shader needles:
At first, you may have to look closely at round shaders to tell them apart from round liners. You’ll see that the shaders are not placed as closely together. The wider spacing makes them useful for shading and color packing.
As this type of needle is versatile, artists also use round shaders for lettering, tribal, and geometric designs.
This type of shader needle consists of pins soldered in a straight line on a needle bar. They’re handy for broad, dark lines, color filling, and shading. (You’ll see them used for semi-permanent makeup, too).
Explore using flat shaders for geometric, tribal, color realism, and black and gray tattoos. They create whip strokes when used for blending.
Out of all the shader needles, magnums are the most popular because they hold and distribute a lot of ink at once. They are ideal for covering large areas with fewer passes, whether for shading or coloring.
There are different types of magnum shaders, including curved and double stack.
Curved magnums are also known as soft magnums. The pins are arranged in a curve with the longest point in the center. They are suitable for shading in a large area with a single color.
Double-stacked magnums have two lines of pins packed closely together, one on top of the other.
Understanding needle gauge
The most commonly used needle sizes are #8, #10, and #12 gauges.
Eight-gauge needles are sometimes called bugpins. They have a 0.25mm diameter and a slow flow of ink. Use them for detailed work.
Ten-gauge needles are also known as Double Zeros. They have a faster flow than #8 needles.
Twelve-gauge needles have a 0.35mm diameter and a faster ink flow for shading large areas.
What about needle cartridges?
Some types of tattoo machines (we’re looking at you, Cheyenne) require cartridges.
The ones with closed tips are perfect for shading and black and grey work. They store more ink in the tip and have a controlled flow.
Best Tattoo Needles for Shading in 2023
Now, let’s review the best tattoo shader needles.
Wormhole 9MG Tattoo Needles #12 Box of 50 (1209MG)
How do you know if the needles you’re buying are sterile? Wormhole presents a simple solution.
Each needle is individually sealed in a plastic blister pack. Each package bears a blue sticker. This little dot shows you at a glance if the needle is sterile. If it’s red instead of blue, throw the needle away.
They offer a variety of different sizes and configurations of needles for shading. The ones we reviewed here are 12-gauge 9 magnums. There are 9 pins soldered to the needle bar in a flat, staggered configuration. It’s best if you can see the illustration, but just imagine one pin up and the next pin down kind of like a wave.
Reviewers say the soldering is well done and burr-free. Wormhole says they inspect each needle microscopically to ensure perfect craftsmanship.
These are standard length to fit typical tattoo machines and tubes. If this isn’t the size you want, they have other options such as 7MG, 11MG, and so on. You can also get round shaders in common sizes.
Wormhole 9RS Tattoo Needles #12 Box of 50 (1209RS)
Speaking of round shaders, these are made with medical-grade stainless steel. They are sterilized and individually packed with the blue dot indicator. If the dot is red, toss out the needle as it’s not sterile.
These 12-gauge shaders have pins grouped in a round configuration. The three innermost pins are closest together, and the outer six pins have little gaps between them.
You can also get round shaders in smaller groupings, like 3RS, 7RS, etc.
ACE Needles 50 Assorted Tattoo Needles
Here’s a package with ten sizes of round shaders and magnums. Each is made of surgical stainless steel and blister-packed individually.
The packages are marked with the lot number, plus sterilization and expiration date. They all have a blue dot showing indicating sterilization by ethylene oxide gas.
The standard bar length (4.75 inches) fits every brand of tube and tattoo machine. Users say they are correctly soldered and unbent with no visible burrs.
The tip length is 1.2 inches. This is true for each needle, including 3RS, 5RS, 7RS, 9RS, 5M1, 7M1, 9M1, 5RM, 9RM, and 15RM.
new star tattoo Tattoo Needles 50 #12 9F Flat Shader 1209F
This is another lot of fifty needles, but they’re all a single size. All are nine-pin flat shaders in #12 gauge.
Each needle is sterilized by ethylene oxide gas and packed individually. The blister packs show the sterilization and expiration dates.
Autdor Tattoo Needles Set – 50PCS Sterile 7RS
Here’s a brand that offers a wide variety of different sizes. We selected the box with fifty round shaders, but they also have liners and magnums.
Each needle is crafted from 316L stainless steel with clean soldering. They’re all pre-sterilized with EO gas and put in CE-approved individual packaging.
Obviously, each needle has an expiration date, but why? It’s not like the metal’s going to go bad, right?
Well, it’s not the metal that you have to worry about, but rather the sterility. Each needle is pre-sterilized and individually packaged. The packaging is what may go bad, allowing germs to contaminate the needle (2).
Take a look at other sterile items, and you’ll see phrases like “sterility guaranteed unless the packaging is damaged”. These are things that will never “go bad” unless they’re handled roughly. But unfortunately, tattoo needles don’t fall into that category.
Once the expiration date has passed, the needle would have to be re-sterilized and repackaged properly in order to be used.
One Tattoo World 50pcs 7M1 Sterile Tattoo Needles OTW-50-7M1.1
These stacked magnums feature seven pins neatly soldered onto a standard loop bar. They come fifty to a box, with each one pre-sterilized and packed separately.
They should fit all standard tubes and tattoo machines.
Dragonhawk Silver Series Tattoo Needles Assorted Liners and Shaders 50 Pcs
Hong Kong-based Dragonhawk makes their own tattoo machines. But you don’t have to have the same brand to use these tattoo needles. They are constructed from 304L stainless steel and come with a satisfaction guarantee.
Allow us to interrupt your browsing with some information about stainless steel. Throughout the reviews, you’ve seen that some needles are made with 304 and others with 316. Does it matter what type it is if you’re only using the needle for a few hours or less?
Actually, it might matter a lot. Both are high-grade metals used for important functions like surgical and kitchen equipment. But there is a tiny difference between them. 316 steel has slightly more nickel in it than 304. If your client has a nickel allergy, it might be safer to choose needles made from 304 (3).
Anyway, the variety pack includes liners and magnums in popular sizes. For example, the set has 5RL, 7RL, 9RL, 5M1, and 7M1.
Each needle is individually sealed with a strip indicator proving it was sterilized by EO gas.
Youzone 40pcs Round Shader 07 Tattoo Needles and Disposable Tattoo Tube Set
What’s handy about this set is that the needles come with disposable tattoo tubes. The 7RS needles have a 1.18-inch tip length.
Each of the black silica gel tubes is pre-sterilized with EO gas, just like the needles. The grip length is 1.81-inches, and the diameter is 0.79-inch.
If this isn’t the size you want, you can get an assorted pack of needles and tubes. Otherwise, the same manufacturer has other sizes of round shaders and magnums.
If you have a rotary machine that requires needle cartridges, check out the reviews below.
EZTAT2 Revolution Tattoo Cartridges Needles 15M1#10
Get these magnum long tapers for your rotary machine. They are housed in transparent cartridges for excellent visibility. The low-profile setup with the internal safety membrane keeps ink from getting into the tube.
Each cartridge is comprised of medical-grade plastic and 316L surgical stainless steel. They are pre-sterilized and packed separately.
The same manufacturer has other needle cartridges available, like round shaders and curved magnums with different taper lengths.
One reviewer praised the color-coding, which is similar to Cheyenne’s system. It makes it easy to glance and grab the right cartridge.
BIGWASP Professional 7RS Disposable Tattoo Needle Cartridge 20Pcs
These round shader cartridges are compatible with Hawk and other brands of rotary and coil tattoo machines. Each box of twenty is pre-sterilized and blister-packed.
The cartridges are made of medical-grade plastic with 316L surgical stainless steel. You don’t need any tools to swap them.
If you aren’t pleased with this product, the brand offers a full refund.
BIGWASP 50pcs Assorted Disposable Cartridge Tattoo Needles Curved Magnum Mixed
Stock up on curved magnums. These cartridges come in five sizes, including 1207RM, 1209RM, 1211RM, 1213RM, and 1215RM.
They should be compatible with all standard tattoo machines. Moreover, they are designed with a membrane that prevents the ink from flowing back into the tube.
Each cartridge has a transparent tip to help you see the ink level between dips.
Dragonhawk Tattoo 20Pcs Extreme Cartridges Disposable Needles 1017RM Flat Magnums
Dragonhawk’s Extreme Cartridges undergo a thirty-point quality inspection. This ensures that the soldering and pin alignment is perfect.
Look closely at the tips, and you’ll see an indentation. This improves ink flow and saturation. There’s also a membrane inside that prevents spitback – when the ink flows up into the tube.
BIGWASP (3rd Gen) 50pcs Assorted Cartridge Tattoo Needles Curved Magnum Mixed
This latest iteration of BIGWASP cartridges features improvements over previous models. Each one has an anti-spitback membrane as well as transparent tips.
The box includes 1207RM, 1209RM, 1211RM, 1213RM, and 1215RM curved magnums for shading.
Assorted needle packs with shaders and liners
Replenish stock or set up your studio with these variety packs. They include liners and shaders in different sizes.
CINRA Sterile Tattoo Needle Mixed Size 50 pcs
This package comes with round liners and round shaders in three, five, seven, and nine pin configurations. It also has single stack magnums in sizes seven and nine. They are 316L stainless steel with clean welding.
Yuelong Mixed Tattoo Needles (100pcs-mix 2)
Yuelong offers a satisfaction guarantee if you’re not pleased with this assortment of needles. It contains round liners, round shaders, and magnums.
The sizes range from single pin liners to nine-pin magnums. They are crafted from 316 stainless steel and sterilized with ethylene oxide gas.
Pirate Face Tattoo PFT 100 pcs Assorted Tattoo Needles
Here’s a batch of professional-grade tattoo needles. All are #12 in a variety of configurations, including 3RL to 9RL, 3RS to 9RS, 5M1, and 7M1 (flat stacked magnums).
Obviously, they are individually-packed and pre-sterilized. Each has an expiration date stamped on it.
STIGMA 200 Pieces Mixed Tattoo Needles TN03S-200KIT-B
Besides round liners and round shaders, STIGMA’s package includes curved magnums with plenty of pins to cover large areas of skin quickly.
The set comes with 1003RL, 3RL, 5RL, 7RL, 9RL, 3RS, 5RS, 7RM, 9RM, 15RM, and 23RM.
ITATOO 100pcs Assorted Tattoo Tips Tubes
These disposable tubes come in mixed sizes with a variety of tips, including round, diamond, and flat. Each is marked with a size ranging from 3RT to 9DT. However, no needles are included.
As artists, we’re sure you’re picky about the tools you use. We’re glad that you are for the sake of your art and the safety of your clients.
We hope the reviews helped you find the best shader needles today. If you’re happy with what you found, please drop us a comment below.
1. https://www.inkedmag.com/culture/what-is-the-most-pleasurable-style-to-be-tattooed-in updated October 10, 2018, accessed January 18, 2021
2. https://unimaxsupply.com/sitepgs/shelflife.htm accessed January 19, 2021
3. https://www.marlinwire.com/blog/is-316-stainless-steel-worth-the-extra-cost-over-304 by Marlin Steel, published February 27, 2020, accessed January 19, 2021