I love nothing more than getting new ink, and I treat my body like the canvas it is. However, I have always wondered how deep does a tattoo needle go in when I’m being worked on.
A tattoo needle can go anywhere from 1.5mm to 3mm deep, which can be interpreted as passing through 1/16th of an inch of your skin. It sounds pretty deep, but it’s only penetrating the top layers of your skin, so there is no need to worry.
Let me take you through everything you need to know – ease your mind and answer your most pressing questions.
Table of Contents
- Tattoo needles come in different lengths, depending on the size and type of tattoo.
- The tattoo needle depth also depends on the tattoo gun or machine used.
- Needles can cause pain and swelling if they’re too deep.
How Deep Does a Tattoo Needle Go In?
When it comes to tattoos, the needle is one of the most IMPORTANT tools. It’s what creates the design on your skin. So how DEEP does a tattoo needle go in?
Most tattoo needles are between 1.5mm and 3mm in length. The needle depth depends on the type of tattoo you’re getting.
Pro Tip: A small tattoo may only require the needle to go in 1.5mm, while a larger tattoo may require the needle to go in 3mm.
In other words, the tattoo needle pierces through 1/16th of an inch of skin. It goes through FIVE sublayers of the epidermis, the dermal layer, and the dermis outer layer (including fat and connective tissue).
Check how to make a homemade tattoo needle.
What Else Impacts the Depth of the Needle?
The depth of the needle also depends on how MUCH tattoo ink is being deposited. A small tattoo may only require a SHALLOW depth, while a large tattoo may require a deeper depth.
Pro Tip: Tattoo needles are designed to penetrate the skin and DEPOSIT ink into the dermis, which is the second layer of skin. The dermis is where the tattoo pigment is held.
The depth of the needle also depends on the types of tattoo machines being used. A rotary tattoo machine utilizes a SINGLE needle that quickly goes in and out of the skin. This type of machine is typically used for small tattoos.
A coil tattoo machine uses MULTIPLE needles that go in and out of the skin slower than a rotary machine. This type of machine is typically used for larger tattoos.
A tattoo machine pushes the tattoo needle into the subcutaneous tissue and ensures the proper tattoo needle DEPTH so that the tattoo heals properly and has the desired results.
You may be wondering what actually happens if the needle doesn’t go in the correct depth. Well, keep reading to find out. You may also check our guide on how to set tattoo needle depth.
What Happens if the Needle is Too Shallow or Too Deep?
If the needle is too SHALLOW, the ink will not be appropriately deposited, and the tattoo will not look good.
If the needle is too DEEP, it can cause excessive bleeding, bruising, and pain. It can also cause nerve damage.
Pro Tip: When getting a tattoo, it is important to ensure that the needle is at the right depth. The artist should be able to adjust the depth of the needle based on the size and type of tattoo being done.
So now let’s find out how tattoo guns actually work. This machine may seem clever and simple, but keep reading to find out more.
How Do Tattoo Guns Work?
While tattoos are an ancient practice spanning THOUSANDS of years, how they work now is much more mechanical than in the past (and safer as a result).
Tattoo guns are designed to deposit ink into the skin. The needles on the gun go in and out of the skin QUICKLY, depositing ink into the dermis.
The depth of the tattoo needle is adjustable so that the artist can CONTROL how much ink is being deposited for the most accurate results.
A skilled tattoo artist will be able to work seamlessly to ensure that the tattooing process runs SMOOTHLY and there is no damage to the dermis layer of the skin.
READ MORE: How to Hold a Tattoo Machine?
Does the Ink Transfer to the Blood Vessels?
No, the ink does NOT transfer to the blood vessels. The ink is deposited into the dermis, the second layer of the skin.
Pro Tip: The dermis is made up of collagen and elastin fibers, which help to hold the tattoo pigment in place.
A vein can get nicked while the artist is working on you, but a professional tattoo artist will be able to guide the needle properly to minimize the risk of this happening.
The good news is that humans have INCREDIBLE immune systems that can handle a small amount of ink, especially since the ink is likely to travel through your lymph nodes any time you get a tattoo.
Are There Any Risks to Using Tattoo Needles?
Yes, there are SOME risks  to using tattoo needles.
The most common side effect is infection. This can happen if the needles are not STERILE or if the artist does not practice good hygiene.
Other risks include:
- Allergic reactions
- Nerve damage
- Excessive bleeding
Pro Tip: To avoid these risks, it is important to make sure that you go to a practiced tattoo artist who uses sterile needles and practices good hygiene.
What Should You Do if You Have a Reaction to the Ink?
If you have an allergic reaction to the ink, you MAY experience the following:
These will all occur at the tattoo site. You should seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY if you experience any of these symptoms.
Pro Tip: If you are allergic to nickel, make sure to let your artist know before they start tattooing you. Some inks contain nickel, and this can cause an allergic reaction.
Can a Tattoo Needle Break off in Your Skin?
No, the needles used for tattoos are designed to be sturdy and not break easily during tattooing. However, if a needle breaks during the tattooing process, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately.
Do Tattoo Needles Go Past the Dermis Layer?
No, tattoo needles typically only go into the dermis layer of the skin. Going too deep can cause nerve damage and excessive bleeding.
The depth of the tattoo needle depends on the TYPE of tattoo you are getting. Most tattoo needles are between 1.5mm and 3mm in length.
A rotary TATTOO machine uses a single needle that goes in and out of the skin quickly, while a coil machine uses multiple needles that go in and out of the skin SLOWER.
It is essential to ensure that the needle is at the correct depth so that the ink is deposited PROPERLY and there is minimal risk of infection or other complications.
I hope this guide has given you a clearer idea of what to expect when you get a tattoo and helped you learn to be cautious when choosing an artist.
So, how far does a needle go in when you are being worked on? Let me know in the comments section!
- 1. Think before you ink: Tattoo risks [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2018. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/tattoos-and-piercings/art-20045067