5RL vs. 7RL: Which Tattoo Needle Do You Need?

5RL vs. 7RL: Which Tattoo Needle Do You Need?

Tattoos are becoming increasingly popular as an expression of art and individuality, but do you know what tools you actually need to create such beautiful body art? Choosing the right tattoo needle doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Knowing the difference between 5RL vs. 7RL needles is essential – when it comes to creating intricate designs or shading large areas, this decision can make all the difference in achieving just the look you want! In this post, we will explore both options and help equip you with all the knowledge needed for selecting waxes that fit your project.

Tattoo Needle Sizes and Uses

RL (Round Liner) Needles

  • 1RL: This needle size is ideal for small, fine lines and detailed work due to the precision it offers.
  • 3RL: 3RL needles are used for outlining and detailed work in smaller tattoos.
  • 5RL: The 5RL needle is versatile, used for medium line work, and shading, and great for intricate designs.
  • 7RL: 7RL needles are ideal for thick line work and color packing in smaller areas. It’s also commonly used for the outline of a design.
  • 9RL: This needle is used for thick line work and filling in small-medium-sized areas with color.

RS (Round Shader) Needles

  • 3RS: Perfect for shading in small areas and adding subtle gradients to designs.
  • 5RS: Often used for color filling and shading in medium-sized designs.
  • 7RS: 7RS needles are excellent for shade work in larger areas and adding depth to a tattoo.
  • 9RS: This size is used for shading, blending, and filling in larger areas.

M1 (Weaved Magnum) Needles

  • 5M1: 5M1 needles are perfect for shading in small to medium-sized areas and provide a softer effect than RL needles.
  • 7M1: Used for color packing and shading in medium to large areas.
  • 9M1: This needle is a go-to for shading and coloring in sizable designs, providing smooth gradients.

RM (Round Magnum) Needles

  • 5RM: 5RM needles are ideal for shading and adding soft gradients to small to medium designs.
  • 7RM: Used for color filling and shading in larger designs.
  • 9RM: This size is typically used for shading and coloring in very large tattoo designs.

Remember, choosing the right tattoo needle size is crucial to achieving the desired outcome in your tattoo design. It affects line thickness, detail, shading, and coloring, so understanding each size and its application will set you up for success in your tattoo projects.

Tattoo Needle Sizes and Uses

Tattoo Needle Codes

Deciphering tattoo needle codes may initially seem complicated, but once you understand their structure, it becomes simple. Tattoo needle codes, like 7RL and 5M1, are composed of two parts: the number and the letter(s).

The number in the code represents the count of needles grouped together at the point of the bar. [1] For instance, a 7RL needle code means there are seven needles grouped together.

The letters in the code signify the configuration and purpose of the needles. Here are some common abbreviations:

  • RL (Round Liner): These needles are tightly grouped together to create a circular formation, used for precision line work and detailed designs.
  • RS (Round Shader): These needles are also arranged in a circular formation, but are more spread apart, making them ideal for shading and color gradients.
  • M1 (Weaved Magnum): The needles in this configuration are arranged in two rows and are ideal for covering large areas with color.
  • RM (Round Magnum): Similar to M1 the needles are arranged in a circular pattern, making them ideal for soft shading and color gradients in larger designs.

The combination of the number and letters lets you know exactly how many needles are present and how they are arranged, which can help you decide the best needle for your application. For instance, a 5RL needle would have five needles set in a round liner configuration, great for medium-line work and intricate designs. On the other hand, a 7M1 needle, with seven needles set in a weaved magnum configuration, would be better suited for color packing or shading in larger areas. Understanding these codes can greatly enhance your ability to create dynamic and detailed tattoos.

Tattoo Needle Codes

Tattoo Needle Diameters

Just as crucial as the needle count and configuration is the needle’s diameter. Tattoo needle diameters vary by size, and this can greatly affect the appearance and healing of a tattoo. The diameter of a tattoo needle is commonly referred to as the ‘gauge’. [2]

Small diameter needles (e.g., 0.20mm – 0.25mm) also known as ‘extra tight,’ are best suited for intricate work as they lay down less ink and cause minimal skin damage. These are typically used for detailed, delicate linework and for tattoos that require high precision.

Medium diameter needles (e.g., 0.30mm – 0.35mm), sometimes referred to as ‘tights,’ are frequently used for linework and shading, offering a balance between precision and ink flow. They reduce the risk of overworking the skin while allowing for strong, clean lines and smooth shading.

Large diameter needles (e.g., 0.40mm – 0.50mm) are often used for color packing and shading large areas. These ‘standards’ or ‘loose’ needles deposit more ink into the skin, allowing for vibrant, saturated colors.

It’s important to note that larger diameter needles can be more painful for the client and may lead to longer healing times due to the increased trauma to the skin. Therefore, they should be used carefully and sparingly, depending on the design and the client’s comfort level.

What is the difference between a 5RL and a 7RL tattoo needle?

The difference between a 5RL and a 7RL tattoo needle lies in the number and arrangement of the needles, which significantly influences the resulting tattoo’s design and details. Both 5RL and 7RL signify that the needles are arranged in a Round Liner (RL) configuration, ideal for precision and detailed line work. However, the numerical value denotes the needle count; a 5RL has five needles grouped together, whereas a 7RL consists of seven.

What is the difference between a 5RL and a 7RL tattoo needle?

In-Depth Comparison

When comparing the 5RL and 7RL tattoo needles, it’s essential to consider the specific use cases and the final effects they produce. A 5RL, with five tightly grouped needles in a round liner configuration, provides thin, precise lines. It’s preferred for delicate, intricate designs and detailed line work, where precision is paramount. The 5RL excels in sketching out the finer aspects of a design, providing an excellent tool for creating the structure of a detailed piece and making it ideal for tattoos with a high level of fine detail. [3]

On the other hand, the 7RL tattoo needle, consisting of seven needles, offers a thicker line. It’s perfect for less detailed work that requires bold, strong lines or for filling in small areas with color. The 7RL is particularly useful for outlining larger designs where the lines can be a little broader. It can also be used for some shading work, depending on the desired effect. The choice between these two needles often comes down to the design’s complexity, the artist’s style, and the desired aesthetic. As an artist, understanding and mastering the use of these different needle configurations will allow you to create tattoos with varying levels of detail and visual impact.


When it comes to configuration, both 5RL and 7RL tattoo needles share the same Round Liner (RL) format, denoting a circular, tightly grouped arrangement of needles. This configuration is known for its precision and ability to produce detailed line work. However, the difference lies in the number of needles used.

The 5RL configuration uses five needles, making it ideal for intricate designs that require a high level of detail, such as fine line work or the creation of complex patterns. It can also be used for small-scale shading, though it’s primarily known for its precision in line work.

On the other hand, the 7RL configuration, with seven needles, can produce thicker, bolder lines, making it more suitable for larger-scale designs or tattoos that require a lot of filling in. The 7RL can also be used for some shading work, especially when the desired effect is a bit broader or softer.



From a usability standpoint, both the 5RL and 7RL tattoo needles have their unique advantages, depending largely on the specific requirements of the tattoo design. The 5RL needle, known for its precision and ability to create thin, detailed lines, is particularly user-friendly for tattoo artists working on intricate designs or those who specialize in fine line work. The smaller needle count allows for greater control and accuracy, which is essential when capturing the refined details of delicate designs.

On the flip side, the 7RL needle, with its larger needle count, is more apt for bold, thick lines and larger-scale designs. It simplifies the process of filling in larger areas with color, making it a valuable tool for designs requiring bold outlines or substantial color work. However, the larger needle count may cause more discomfort to the client and potentially longer healing times.

Line Thickness Of Tattoo:

Line thickness is a critical aspect of tattoo artistry that significantly impacts the final tattoo’s visual appeal and longevity. Generally, a 5RL tattoo needle produces finer lines, while a 7RL needle gives thicker, bolder lines. The thickness of a line can drastically alter the overall design, either by enhancing the intricacy and delicate nature of a design or by asserting its boldness and audacity. 

Fine line work, often achieved with a 5RL needle, is ideal for detailed and complex designs such as realistic portraits, intricate patterns, or small-scale tattoos where precision is paramount. These fine lines can deliver delicate, subtle details that bring an artwork to life. Conversely, thicker lines made by a 7RL needle are perfect for bold designs, traditionally styled tattoos, or where the design calls for a stronger visual impact. The broader lines can offer more contrast and visibility, which can be beneficial for larger tattoos or those with less complexity.

However, thicker lines might also lead to more skin trauma and potentially longer healing times. The choice of line thickness is often a balance between the desired aesthetic effect, the design’s complexity, the artist’s style, and the client’s comfort and healing process. Therefore, the comparison of line thickness between a 5RL and 7RL tattoo needle underscores the importance of understanding and implementing the appropriate needle and technique for each specific tattoo design.

Line Thickness Of Tattoo:

Detail Quality Of Tattoo:

Detail quality is an essential element in tattoo artistry, contributing substantially to the overall aesthetic and visual appeal of the design. It hinges on the apt use of tattoo needles, notably the 5RL and 7RL. The 5RL, with its five closely-packed needles, excels in rendering fine, intricate details, apt for complex and delicate designs. It is the tool of choice for meticulous line work or creating subtle shades and gradations, thereby providing an exquisite level of detail quality. This needle’s precision and control make it possible to capture the nuances and intricacies that help a design come alive with vibrancy and depth.

Conversely, the 7RL needle, with its seven needles, yields a broader stroke, thereby creating bolder, less detailed outcomes. This needle is perfect for larger designs or tattoos requiring less precision and more boldness. While it may not deliver the fine detail quality like the 5RL, it excels in producing strong, visible lines that contribute to the overall visual impact of the design.

Thus, the 7RL can create an appealing level of detail in its own right, especially in designs that call for a bold, assertive aesthetic. In conclusion, the detail quality of a tattoo is significantly influenced by the choice of the needle. A 5RL offers high detail quality for intricate designs, while a 7RL is more suitable for less detailed work requiring bolder, more prominent strokes. The artist’s skill in manipulating these needles can result in a wide variety of detail qualities, highlighting the versatility and artistic creativity inherent in the world of tattooing.

Detail Quality Of Tattoo:

Shading Of Tattoo:

Shading plays a fundamental part in tattoo artistry, enhancing the depth and dimension of the design. Both 5RL and 7RL needles can carry out shading work, albeit with varying results due to the different needle configurations. The 5RL needle, featuring five tightly packed needles, can create fine and soft shades. This is especially useful for intricate designs that need subtle gradations of light and dark to emphasize detail and depth. While it can take longer due to the smaller needle size, the payoff is a complex and stunning shading effect that can add realism and depth to designs such as portraits or nature motifs.

In contrast, the 7RL needle is more adept at creating broader, bolder shading. It covers a larger surface area, thus making it a more efficient tool for extensive shading or filling in large sections of a design. This lends itself well to traditional or bold designs that require strong contrast and less complexity in shades. While the shading produced by a 7RL might be less refined compared to a 5RL, it offers a different aesthetic that can be just as visually impactful.

Pain While Tattooing:

The pain experienced during tattooing can differ significantly depending on the needle used, particularly when comparing the 5RL and 7RL. The 5RL needle is often associated with a lighter touch and less discomfort. The fine lines and detailed work that it enables might cause less skin trauma, potentially leading to a less painful tattooing experience. However, the intricacy and precision required for detailed designs might necessitate slower work and longer session times, which could result in prolonged discomfort.

On the other hand, the 7RL needle can deliver a more intense sensation due to its broader stroke. This needle is used for bolder lines and extensive shading, which might cause more skin trauma and subsequently result in a higher degree of pain. However, it’s worth noting that the larger coverage allows for faster work, which might shorten the tattooing session’s duration.

It’s important to remember that pain is highly subjective and can vary greatly from person to person. Factors such as the tattoo’s location on the body, the individual’s pain tolerance, and the artist’s technique can also play significant roles in the level of discomfort experienced. Regardless of the needle type, it’s paramount for the artist to execute their work with precision and care, ensuring the client’s comfort throughout the process. In conclusion, while there might be a perceived difference in pain between using a 5RL and 7RL needle, the actual experience can depend on a multitude of factors, many of which lie beyond the needle’s size or configuration.

Pain While Tattooing:

Ease Of Use Of The Needle:

When comparing the ease of use between the 5RL and 7RL needles, several factors come into play. The 5RL needle is often described as easier to handle due to its finely tuned precision. Its smaller size allows for more control, which can be advantageous for complex designs requiring intricate line work and subtle shading. Artists often find it easier to produce detailed and refined work with this needle, particularly in smaller or more delicate designs. However, this precision requires a steady hand and patience, as the finer needle size can mean slower work and longer tattooing sessions.

Conversely, the 7RL needle, with its seven needles, is generally seen as more robust and easier to use for broader strokes and extensive shading. Its larger size covers a more significant area, allowing for more efficient work. This is particularly beneficial for larger tattoos or designs requiring less detail and more boldness. However, the 7RL may prove challenging to handle for more delicate and detailed designs due to its wider stroke.


The price of tattoo needles can vary based on the type, brand, and quantity purchased. Typically, a 5RL needle might cost slightly more than a 7RL needle due to the finer precision it offers. For example, a pack of 50 premium 5RL needles might range from $15 to $20, while a similar pack of 7RL needles could cost between $10 to $15. [4] Remember, these are average prices and the actual cost can fluctuate based on where you purchase them.

However, it is crucial to remember that cost should not compromise quality. Skimping on the needle’s price could lead to compromised results and potential health risks. Therefore, whether choosing a 5RL or 7RL, it is important to invest in high-quality needles from reputable suppliers.

Tattoo Needle buying and what to look out for

When choosing tattoo needles, several factors must be taken into account.

  1. Needle Size and Configuration: Consider whether the design requires precise, intricate work (where a 5RL needle would excel), or bolder, less detailed designs (better suited to a 7RL needle).
  2. Quality: Always invest in high-quality needles from reputable suppliers. Cheaper needles can compromise the final result and potentially pose health risks.
  3. Brand Reputation: Research different brands, read reviews, and seek advice from experienced tattoo artists to identify reliable needle manufacturers.
  4. Ease of Use: Depending on your skill level and comfort, one needle may be easier to handle than the other. More experienced artists might prefer the precision of a 5RL, while beginners might find a 7RL more user-friendly.
  5. Price: While cost is a consideration, remember that the price should never compromise quality. Always consider the needle’s quality and safety over its cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you shade with a 7RL needle?

Yes, you can shade with a 7RL needle. The 7RL, with its seven needles, is a versatile tool that can be used for both linework and shading. Its broader stroke covers a larger area, making it particularly useful for extensive shading. However, the results might be bolder and less subtle compared to shading with a finer needle like the 5RL. As always, the results will also depend on the artist’s technique and the specific requirements of the tattoo design.

What do 5RL tattoo needles mean?

The term “5RL” in reference to tattoo needles stands for a five-round liner. This terminology describes the configuration and function of the needle. Specifically, “5” refers to the number of needle points grouped together at the tip of the bar, while “RL” stands for Round Liner, indicating that these needle points are arranged in a round pattern and used primarily for lining. The 5RL needle is known for producing fine lines and intricate details, making it an excellent choice for detailed, precision work in tattoo designs.

What are 7RL tattoo needles used for?

The term “7RL” refers to a seven-round liner in tattoo needles. This configuration consists of seven needle points grouped together at the tip of the bar in a round pattern, hence the name. The 7RL is primarily used for line work in tattooing, but due to its larger size, it is also suitable for shading, bolder strokes, and covering larger areas more efficiently. This makes it a versatile needle choice in the tattooing process, particularly for designs that do not require extremely detailed or delicate work. However, it may not be suitable for intricate designs due to the broader strokes it produces. As is the case with any needle choice, the results with a 7RL will also depend on the artist’s technique and the specific requirements of the tattoo design.

Is 5RL good for stick and poke?

Yes, a 5RL needle can be effectively used for stick and poke tattoos. Given its configuration, a 5RL (five-round liner) needle is capable of creating precise, detailed work, making it suitable for the hand-poke technique. This technique often requires a good deal of precision due to its manual nature. The 5RL can provide clean lines and the degree of control necessary for stick and poke tattoos. However, as always, the success of using a 5RL for stick-and-poke tattoos will also depend on the artist’s technique and the specifics of the design.

Useful Video: Tattoo Line Work With 5RL Needle_Tattoo Real Time


Choosing the right tattoo needle, whether it’s a 5RL or a 7RL, is a critical aspect of the tattooing process. These needles serve different purposes and what works best largely depends on the design, the artist’s skill level, and personal preference. While the 5RL excels in intricate, detailed work, the 7RL offers broader strokes ideal for shading and covering larger areas. Invest in high-quality needles from reputable suppliers, considering not only the price but also the needle’s quality and safety. Always ensure to factor in your comfort and ease of use when making a choice. In the end, the goal is to create beautiful, safe, and quality tattoos that will last a lifetime.


  1. https://www.painfulpleasures.com/community/help-center/tattoo-information/tattoo-needles-codes/
  2. https://www.barberdts.com/uk/advice-hub/tattoo-needle-guide/
  3. https://tattoosight.com/5rl-vs-7rl/
  4. https://tattoosight.com/5rl-vs-7rl/#google_vignette