How Deep Does a Tattoo Needle Go?

How Deep Does a Tattoo Needle Go?

Tattooing is a popular form of body art that has been used for centuries to express individuals’ beliefs, experiences, and identities. While most people are familiar with the concept of tattoos, not everyone knows how deep a tattoo needle goes when it’s applied to the skin. In this article, we’ll answer frequently asked questions about how deep a tattoo needle goes, and provide useful tips to help ensure you get the best results.

What Really Happens When You Get a Tattoo? 

The Needle

When you get a tattoo, the artist will use a machine with a needle attached to it. This needle is used to puncture the skin and inject pigment into the dermis layer of your skin—the same layer responsible for retaining long-term color and shape.

The needles used in tattoos come in different sizes and shapes. In general, the needles used for a tattoo will range from one to five millimeters in length but can be longer depending on the type of design. When it comes to determining how deep a tattoo needle goes, the answer is that it depends on the style of the tattoo and the ink that’s being used.

For example, if you’re getting a tattoo with a single line, the needle will only need to puncture the skin to a depth of one millimeter. On the other hand, if you’re getting a larger design with multiple colors and layers, the needle may need to go as deep as five millimeters in order to inject all of the ink into your skin. [2]

What Really Happens When You Get a Tattoo? 

The Ink 

The type of ink used for tattoos also affects how deep the needle needs to go. Different types of ink have different chemical compositions and levels of pigment, so they need to be injected into different depths in order to achieve the desired look. For example, a lighter-colored tattoo may require less pigment and thus will not need to be injected as deeply as a darker-colored tattoo.

In addition, the type of ink used can also affect how long your tattoo will last. Pigments with higher levels of quality tend to fade less quickly than those with lower levels, so it’s important to choose an ink that will maintain its color for as long as possible. [2]

How Deep Is One Sixteenth?

The needle for a tattoo typically goes in about one-sixteenth of an inch. This is the same level of depth that you would use when taking your temperature or checking your blood pressure.

This may seem like a shallow depth, but it’s actually the perfect amount to deposit ink into the skin without causing any major damage. This helps to ensure that the tattoo results in a clean and crisp look. [3]

How Long Is a Tattoo Needle?

While there are many different types of tattoo needles, the average size ranges from 0.25 mm to 3 mm in length. Generally speaking, the larger tattoos will require longer needles to reach deeper into the skin and create a long-lasting effect. Most professional tattoo artists will use needles between 1mm and 2mm for larger pieces and between 0.25mm and 1mm for smaller tattoos. [3]

The Permanent Level 

When it comes to tattoos, the depth of the needle is crucial. If it goes too deep, there is a risk of causing permanent damage to your skin. On the other hand, if the needle doesn’t go deep enough, the tattoo won’t last as long and could end up fading away quickly.

The general rule for a tattoo needle is to go in deep enough to reach the dermis, which is the second layer of skin. This layer is responsible for providing stability and structure to your skin, so it needs to be penetrated in order for your tattoo to last. The average depth of a tattoo needle ranges from 1/16th of an inch (1.5 mm) to 1/8th of an inch (3 mm). [3]

How Does The Tattoo Needle Work? – Proper Tattoo Needle Depth

The Skin Layers

The tattoo needle is responsible for delivering ink deep into the skin to create a lasting impression. But just how deep does the needle really go and what layers of the skin does it penetrate? To understand this, let’s first take a look at the anatomy of the skin.

The human skin consists of two main layers – the epidermis, which is the outermost layer, and the dermis, which lies beneath it. The epidermis is made up of a few layers itself, but for our purposes here we’ll consider only the top two.

The top layer of the epidermis is known as the stratum corneum and this is where any needles used in tattooing will penetrate. This layer is thin and delicate, but it’s also the most resilient to needle penetration. In fact, this is where the ink of a tattoo will remain permanently after the healing process has been completed. [1]

Where Should The Needle Go?

When it comes to the proper depth for a tattoo needle, the most important thing is maintaining consistent and steady pressure. If the needle penetrates too deeply, there will be more damage done to the skin and it may take longer for the healing process to occur. On the other hand, if the needle does not penetrate deeply enough, then the ink will not stay in place and the tattoo may not look as clear or crisp.

How Does The Tattoo Needle Work? – Proper Tattoo Needle Depth

A good rule of thumb is to use the lower stratum corneum layer as a guide. A needle should penetrate no more than one millimeter into the skin, though some artists prefer to go slightly shallower for added safety. It’s important to note that the depth will vary depending on the type of tattoo, with large-scale pieces needing a deeper penetration than small designs. [1]

What If The Needle Goes Too Shallow/Deep?

If the needle goes too shallow, there is a risk of the ink not taking to the skin and fading over time. On the other hand, if the needle penetrates too deeply, it can cause permanent damage to the skin tissue which can leave scars or even infections. To ensure proper depth, artists should always use a steady hand and take their time when tattooing.

The most important thing to remember is that the needle should never penetrate more than one millimeter into the skin. Doing so could cause permanent damage and may even lead to infection or other complications. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and use a steady, gentle hand when applying tattoos. [1]

Can The Needle Transfer Ink Into The Blood Vessels?

No, the needle should never penetrate deeper than the epidermis layer and should never enter into any of the blood vessels found in this area. Doing so could cause serious complications such as infection or even death. It’s important to make sure that the artist is using a steady hand and taking their time in order to ensure proper depth when applying the tattoo.

At the end of the day, proper depth is key when it comes to getting a good-looking and lasting tattoo. Tattoo artists should always ensure that they are using the right amount of pressure and that the needle isn’t going too shallow or deep into the skin. Taking your time and following these guidelines can help ensure you get a great-looking and long-lasting tattoo. [2]

What Can Go Wrong?

If the Ink Enters the Bloodstream

It’s important to understand that a tattoo needle does penetrate the skin and enters the dermis or second layer of skin. As such, there is a risk of infection when getting a tattoo. The ink itself can also enter the bloodstream if it reaches any blood vessels. This can result in serious infections since bacteria and other microorganisms may be present in the ink and can travel to other parts of the body. [2]

If the Tattoo Needle Goes Too Shallow

Another common fear is that the tattoo needle may go too shallow and the tattoo will not look as good. This can happen if the artist does not have enough experience or is overly concerned about causing pain to the client. The result can be a tattoo that looks faint, blurry, or uneven, especially when viewed up close. [2]

If the Tattoo Needle Goes Too Deep

In extreme cases, the tattoo needle can go too deep and cause what is known as a “blowout.” This happens when the ink penetrates too deeply into the dermis and spreads out in an unintended fashion. It may result in a blurry, smudged-looking tattoo that isn’t very appealing.

What If The Needle Goes Too Shallow/Deep?

Fortunately, these problems are relatively rare, but it’s still important to be aware of the potential risks associated with getting a tattoo. Be sure to research your chosen artist thoroughly and ask plenty of questions before getting started. The right artist will take their time and make sure the needle goes in at the proper depth while taking measures to minimize any pain or discomfort during the process. [2]


How deep should a tattoo needle be?

The answer to this question depends on the type of tattoo and the artist’s technique. Generally speaking, a tattoo needle should penetrate the skin at least 1-2 millimeters deep in order to properly deposit pigment into dermal tissue. For larger pieces, such as an arm sleeve or back piece, it is often necessary for a needle to penetrate deeper, up to 5 millimeters deep in some cases.

Can a tattoo needle hit a vein?

Yes, it is possible for a tattoo needle to hit a vein. It’s important that the artist be experienced and pay close attention while tattooing so as to avoid hitting any veins or nerves. If a vein is hit, the area can become bruised and bleed more than usual during the procedure.

How far does a tattoo needle stick out?

The length of the needle sticking out will depend on the size and shape of the needle being used. A round liner needle, which is typically used for outlining, may have a stick-out length between 1-3 millimeters, while a shader needle, which is generally used for shading and color fill, may have a stick-out length between 3-5 millimeters.

How far does a tattoo needle stick out?

How deep does a tattoo needle go compared to a shot?

The depth of a tattoo needle is much shallower than that of an injection. While shots are typically administered at a depth between 2-3 centimeters, a tattoo needle only needs to penetrate the skin 1-2 millimeters, depending on the type and size of the tattoo being done.

What is tattoo pain similar to?

The pain associated with tattoos is often compared to the sensation of being scratched or stung by a bee. Everyone’s pain tolerance is different, and it may take some time to get used to the sensation of having a needle in your skin. It can help to try deep breathing techniques and take breaks during long sessions in order to better manage discomfort.

What is tattoo pain comparable to?

The pain associated with tattoos is often compared to the sensation of having a rubber band snapped against your skin. Generally, most people find that tattooing is not overly painful, but can cause some level of discomfort depending on the size and amount of detail in the design. It’s also important to note that everyone’s pain threshold is different, so what may be comfortable for one person could be quite painful for another. Additionally, taking breaks during a long session and trying out deep breathing techniques can help to manage any discomfort that may arise.

How can I survive the pain of a tattoo?

There are several things you can do to make the tattoo process more comfortable. Firstly, it’s important to be prepared by dressing appropriately and bringing along snacks and drinks if necessary. Secondly, be sure to communicate with your artist about any areas that are particularly sensitive or that cause a greater amount of discomfort than others so that they can adjust their technique accordingly. Finally, it’s helpful to try out deep breathing exercises and take breaks throughout the session to give your body a rest and manage any pain that may arise.

Does shading hurt more than linework?

Shading does tend to hurt more than linework, as the needles are typically larger and penetrate deeper into the skin. During shading, multiple needles may be used at once in order to deposit a greater amount of pigment into the skin. Depending on the size and detail of your design, it’s important to discuss with your artist what techniques they will use and be sure to communicate any areas of discomfort.

Does shading hurt more than linework?

Where is the most attractive place to get a tattoo?

The most attractive place to get a tattoo will depend on personal preference and the type of design being done. Generally, areas that are easily visible—such as the arms, legs, back, chest, and stomach—are popular spots for tattoos. However, many people also like to opt for more discreet locations such as the feet or hands, which can be covered up if needed. 

Ultimately, where you decide to get inked is up to you, and should take into consideration both the design of your tattoo and any possible future lifestyle changes that could affect the visibility of the artwork.

Useful Video: Tattooing 101 – Needle Depth Visually Explained


At the end of the day, how deep a tattoo needle goes depends on the type of procedure you’re getting and your individual skin type. Factors like the size and shape of the area being tattooed, ink type, and the artist’s skill level all affect how deep a needle should penetrate. Generally speaking, needles should never go deeper than 1-2mm in the skin. Remember to do your research and find an experienced, licensed artist with a good reputation so you can get the best results out of your tattoo!

If you want more information on tattoos and how deep a needle should go, check out our other blog posts or contact us directly for any questions you may have. Thanks for reading!

Good luck with your ink journey. Stay safe and enjoy the experience!