We know the drill – you’re in the zone, putting ink on skin, and suddenly you run into a problem with your needle. Unfortunately, it happens to the best of us.
Whether it’s issues with needles expiring, needles jumping, or anything in between, it can be tough to know what to do if you are just starting out.
In this post, I’ll answer 6 of the most commonly asked questions around tattoo needle issues.
Why Is My Tattoo Needle Jumping?
I guess a lot of us have experienced tattoo needle jumping at some point. Here are some of the reasons why this could happen:
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Your Machine Isn’t Tuned Correctly
Your tattoo machine should be tuned / adjusted to make sure it’s running smoothly. If not, this can cause the tattoo needle to bounce.
If the stroke length is too long, the tattoo needle can jump or bounce around. But make sure it’s not too short either, otherwise the needle might not go deep enough.
Spring tension also affects needle movement and speed and if it’s too loose, the needle might vibrate and jump. Again, If it’s too tight, it might be hard to control.
Check your contact screw and voltage too, and make sure they are just right.
Loophole On The Wrong Side
The ‘loophole’ is the gap between the tube and needle that holds the needle in place and guides its movement.
Now, if the loophole is on the wrong side for the way you move your hand, it can cause the needle to jump around a bit.
If this is the case all you need to do is reposition the loophole so that it’s on the correct side for your hand movement.
Needle And Tube Aren’t In Sync
If the tube that holds the needle is positioned too far away from the needle or if the needle is too deep or too shallow relative to the tube, it can cause the needle to jump.
Plus, If the needle isn’t straight, it can bend and cause tattoo needle jumping.
The tube needs to be in the correct position relative to the needle in order to prevent this. And if you usually do the “ride the tube” method, aim to have the needle sticking out about 2mm.
Incorrect Machine Angle
If the angle is too steep, it can cause the needle to go too deep into the skin which will result in excessive vibration and jumping.
Try holding the machine at a slight angle, around 30-45 degrees, relative to the skin surface which allows the needle to penetrate the skin smoothly and consistently, without all the jumping and vibration.
Why Does My Tattoo Needle Snag / Get Stuck In Skin?
Tattoo needles getting stuck on skin or snagging is something that a lot of new tattoo artists go through, especially when they are switching from fake to real skin.
There are 3 reasons why this happens – Hand speed, needle depth, and machine tuning.
Faster Hand Speed
If your hand speed is faster than your machine speed it is difficult to control the depth of the needle which can result in the needle getting stuck in the skin or snagging.
Slow down your hand speed and try to find the right balance between speed and control.
Machine Tuning And Needle Depth
If the needle is set too deep, it can get stuck in the skin.
Needle quality can also cause snagging. Poor quality needles can be misshapen, dull, or made from subpar materials, which can cause the needle to snag.
High machine tension can also have an impact. Read how to tune properly here.
How Do Tattoo Needles Hold Ink?
Tattoo needles hold ink by capillary action.
Capillary action is a fancy way of saying that the ink is drawn into the tiny tubes or channels within the needle due to surface tension.
And when the needle is quickly puncturing your skin, it creates tiny channels that allow the ink to be drawn into the skin and deposited in the dermis, creating your tattoo.
Why Is My Tattoo Needle Not Holding Ink?
If your needle seems to be struggling to hold onto the ink, it could be because it’s set too far away from the machine, especially if the ink has a thicker viscosity.
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When the needle is set too far out, it creates more space between the tip of the needle and the tube that holds ink.
More space makes it super hard for the ink to flow through (especially if the ink has a high viscosity). And we all know if the ink isn’t flowing smoothly, the needle can dry out and become less effective at holding ink.
Tattoo needles not holding ink could also be a fault in machine tuning or if you are running the tattoo machine too fast or hand speed / work fast.
Do Tattoo Needles Expire?
Tattoo needles do have an expiry date, but do not technically “expire” in the traditional sense. The expiry date on a tattoo needle actually refers to the date when the sterilization process is no longer considered valid.
While you could re-sterilize the needle, you SHOULDN’T and it’s always better to err on the side of caution and use a fresh one to minimize any risk of infection or contamination.
So, if you have a needle that’s past its expiry date, it’s probably best to throw it away and grab a new, sterilized one.
Tattoo needles are considered single-use items and should be discarded after each use. Over time, the needle can become dull or bent, which can impact its ability to make clean and accurate punctures in the skin.
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That’s why it’s crucial to use only sterilized needles that are in-date, and to follow proper sterilization protocols.
Why Is My Tattoo Needle Spitting Ink?
There are a few possible reasons why your tattoo needle is spitting ink. Some of these are:
High Voltage – Slow Down Machine Speed
If the tattoo machine is running too fast or at a high voltage, it can cause the needle to vibrate excessively, which can result in ink spraying out of the tube.
Reduce the voltage and see if this the reason for ink splatter.
Clogged Needle Tip
Vaseline or other moisturizers on client’s skin can clog up your needle and prevent the ink from flowing smoothly and cause ink spitting.
Clean your needle tips with a paper towel or something if this is the case.
Stroke Too Low
A low stroke on the tattoo machine can also cause the needle to spit ink.
Low stroke = needle moves slowly. This can cause the ink to pool inside the needle. And as a result, causes the ink to spray out of the needle when it’s pushed through the skin.