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How to Insert a Needle into a Tattoo Machine

Learn how to insert needles into a tattoo machine from acclaimed tattoo artist James Vaughn in this Howcast video.


My main palette with my needles is a nine liner and an 11 magnum. We went over the magnum as it's stacked like a broom. And my liners, actually I use a large liner which is called an old school nine. I get these from Bicknee. They're a really good product and they give a really, really, really thick outline, like a bold outline, but you can also get tight with it also.

Also, we have a difference between bug pins, which is a 008 and/or a standard taper which is a 12. These two, they may look similar in width, but one of these which actually is the smaller one, is actually a 15 mag and it is the same size - actually a little smaller than my 11 mag. So with bug pins, they're very good for doing very soft portraitistic tattoos.

I use them a lot for portraits or black-and-grey. You can do really soft black-and-grey because what happens is the smaller needle grouping - the needle itself is actually smaller in diameter, so it creates a smaller hole when it punctures the skin. So you can create - like, if for instance you have a stipple effect, you're going to have a lot more smaller stipples with the bug pin rather than the standard taper.

Standard taper is really, really good for color. I use them primarily just for color. You can do it in black-and-grey if it's just more of a loose black-and-grey piece where it's not really, really, really, really soft. They'll work fine, but I really prefer to use bug pins with my softer stuff like portraits. On this one, this is also a nine, which these two are both nines but this one is dramatically smaller and it almost represents a five liner.

It's a really tight grouping, but it's still soldered out long enough where that it still can open up and do a thicker line. It's a bug pin too, so I like to use it for little, small details, which gives a contrast with the other bigger nine. So I'm using two nines, but one is a little bit bigger than the other one.

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