Let's talk textured needles...
Posted by @mrlucasford on 2023 May 10th
Textured needles are often overlooked and misunderstood by many. These groupings are a very effective tool in many tattooer's arsenals that, when utilized correctly, effectively maximize saturation and can actually reduce trauma in the tattooing process.
What makes a needle textured?
During the manufacturing process of the individual pins, the stainless wire goes through a long process of stretching and die reduction to reach the required diameter and is then straightened and cut to length. Once cut, the straightened sections of wire undergo a grinding process to create the taper shape required. The needle's taper is a combination of length and shape determined by the intended use of the grouping. Generally speaking, for tattooing, the standard profiles are a smooth bullet shape with a soft shoulder (the point where the taper meets the straight shaft of the pin) or a straight grind with a hard shoulder similar to the profile of a sharpened pencil. The latter is less commonly used.
When the profile is ground onto the pins, there is a rough surface left on the surface of the taper, and the next step is commonly to polish this surface to remove the texture left behind. With Textured pins, this surface can either be left unaltered or lightly polished to reduce the texture allowing some of it to remain. This process differs from manufacturers depending on the spec requirements and preferences of the end user. We prefer ours to be lightly polished to "knock down" a little of the texture on the surface of the taper.
Why use textured needles?
During the tattooing process, one major misconception is that the needles inject or push the viscus pigment into the skin. This is only partially the case. As the individual pins penetrate the skin, they create a vacuum effect every time they enter and exit. Subsequently, the little perforations suck the pigment onto the skin as the needle exits. Taper shape has a lot to do with how effective the physics of tattooing works, and we'll get into that more in other articles.
Introducing a textured surface to the process creates a scenario where the needle carries and deposits pigment into the skin with each perforation. You now have a dual-purpose application. The needle carries some pigment into the perforation on the rough micro ground surface of the pin and also creates the vacuum effect as it exits, sucking the pigment into the tiny void.
Textured needles are excellent for artists who prefer a single-pass application with maximum saturation and minimal trauma to the skin. This does open the door wider for potentially overworking the skin faster than you're used to. However, once you adjust your process to using a textured needle, you will likely be very pleased with how much more quickly you can saturate an area and cause less trauma resulting in a quicker healing process. That said, if you do a lot of blending of colour in the skin where areas are worked over multiple times, you will likely find textured needles are not the correct grouping for you.
Textured needles are generally only utilized in groupings intended for solid colour and shading, as the thinner black inks used for outlining have a smaller physical particle size than most colour tattoo inks. When outlining, there is no real need for a textured surface to reach the same level of single pass saturation effectively.
Do take notice of the difference between the two groupings in the photo. On the left is a textured curved 11 mag, and on the right is a polished curved 15 mag. Both are standard long tapers. Up close, the textured surface is quite visible.