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How to Set a Suitable Depth for Tattoo Needles

Updated on January 9, 2011

The depth of tattoo needles will decide both the appearance and attraction of the designs and the level of pain, cleanliness and healing. How to set a suitable depth for tattoo needles is your first lesson if you want to do tattooing.

Here are some initial tips for you.

To know more about tattoo needles is the first thing you should do. The best ways are: learn from the experienced, work an apprenticeship and search the Internet, among which, apprenticing with an experienced tattoo artist is highly recommended as he will teach you how to set the depth of tattoo needles hand by hand and you have more chances to observe each step. What’s more, skills about measuring the layers of the skin will be taught and you can practice under instruction.

Then you should inform yourself of the work of tattoo needles in advance. When do penetrating, tattoo needles are working on the first layer of skin, which is known as epidermis. Remember never let the needles go deeper than the dermis, the second layer of the skin. The depth between the two layers differs according to various persons. To determine the thickness of the skin is very significant. Take out a dime and a nickel to measure the thickness and record that. One-to- two deep between those two is your needed depth. Tattoo needles should stick out of the tattoo gun between 1/16 and 1/32 of an inch. For outlining, the depth of the needles should be 1.22mm, almost the thickness of a Canadian dime, while shading, set that at 3/32" on a 10-wrap tattoo machine, 1/16" on an 8-wrap machine.


The next thing you should do is to test. Unlike experienced tattoo artists who can know whether the tattoo needles’ depth has been properly set, starters should test it on something similar to the thickness of human skin, or you may cause excessive bleeding. I see someone testing on grapefruit. When it shreds, he got the perfect depth for tattoo needles.

Another suggestion from tattoo artist: taking your tattoo machine apart and then put it back together. You should repeat it several times, which helps you know the visual depth and be more familiar with your machine as when tattooing, you can know the proper force to enact, or you will run into troubles even if you’ve set the depth of tattoo needles right.


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      That last tattoo looks f*cked...


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