How to Tattoo: Exact Needle Depth for Lining and Coloring a Tattoo

There are various things a tattoo artist needs to keep in mind when tattooing. If done right, the customer gets a beautiful tattoo imprinted onto their skin. However, if done wrong, numerous problems may arise. 

To make the perfect tattoo, you need to know about your needle’s depth and how far into the skin the needle should go. It is also equally necessary to use top equipments for lining tattoos for best results. The needle is only supposed to go through the epidermis and rest in the dermis (1-2 mm into the skin). Discussed below are a few essentials to consider and be familiar with when tattooing. 

How to determine the correct needle depth for lining and coloring a tattoo?

Getting familiar with the human skin

Every individual has a different skin type that plays a vital role in determining how deep the needle should go. As mentioned before, the needle is only supposed to go past the epidermis, which is why you should know more about the layers of the skin to perfect injecting the ink needle. 

  • Epidermis: The epidermis is the layer on the outer surface of the skin (the part visible to us). It consists of 5 other layers that often flake out and then regenerate over time.
  • Dermis: The dermis is an essential layer for tattooing. The needle is supposed to pass through the epidermis and enter the dermis for the ink to stay permanent.
  • Subcutaneous fat: This is the last layer of the skin that attaches itself to your body. It keeps you warm, but the needle should never penetrate this layer; otherwise, it will only feel painful and may lead to further bleeding. To ink a tattoo perfectly, you should always ensure that the needle doesn’t reach the subcutaneous fat layer.

How deep is the dermis?

The dermis of the skin is only between 1-2 mm thick. This is why all tattoo artists should be very skilled in tattooing their customers. There are various other things that a tattoo artist should get familiar with.

They need to know about the skin anatomy and figure out the depth of their needle on various parts of the body. They need to keep in mind that every person’s skin is different, and some people may or may not be allergic to ink. Accordingly, the tattoo artist will need to make sure that their customer doesn’t have any allergies related to ink or needles to create a permanent tattoo properly.

How deep to push the tattoo ink?

In general, the epidermis’ thickness is lesser on the arm compared to that on the abdomen. It may vary between people; however, it remains the same for the majority. When you start becoming a tattoo artist, the first thing you learn about is the epidermis’ depth on different parts of the human body.

When you are about to start the tattoo process, you are supposed to use disposable needles that are sterilized for every customer. You will then need to attach that needle to a bar on your tattoo machine.

Then, you slide the ink reservoir over the tip and attach it to the machine. The needle will go past the reservoir and stick out, but it shouldn’t stick out more than 2 mm. You can adjust how far in the needle will go by tightening the lock that is given on the needle bar.

Adjusting the depth of a needle for different tattooing techniques

Tattoo artists often use numerous different techniques to ink out the design their customer wants. If they are shading the tattoo, they will hold the needle at a particular angle to get other effects.

They may even stretch the skin to ink out a small detail onto the tattoo, but that also affects how deep the needle needs to penetrate the skin. When stretched, the skin’s epidermis becomes thinner, and so, the tattoo artist doesn’t need to push as deep when injecting the ink.


Tattooing is an art that requires a lot of expertise and the best equipment to showcase your skill at its best. The depth of the needle differs from 1mm to 2mm and is switched, depending on the skin’s thickness. No matter what kind of patterns or designs the tattoo artist is inking onto their client’s skin, they will always need to keep their needle between the 1-2 mm line. They can’t go past the dermis, nor can they let the ink remain in the epidermis, or the tattoo won’t be permanent.

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