Finding the perfect PMU needles for any given procedure can be daunting to say the least.
Choosing your own PMU needles requires a little experimentation and a lot of education about how needles work. Factors like diameter, needle type, and taper come in countless options, each producing different effects on your client’s skin. And beyond these factors, there are also so many reputable brands to consider.
But don’t get too overwhelmed. In this ultimate guide, we’ll break down the basics of PMU needles, so you can start shopping for your ideal setup.
Breaking Down the BasicsWe’ll get straight to the point. To start, there are four essential factors to consider when choosing your PMU cartridge needles:
4 Key Needle Factors:
- Needle Size (Diameter)
- Needle Taper
- Needle Count
- Needle Configuration (or Needle Type)
Reading the Needle BoxThese four components make up the ever-mysterious “cartridge needle code.” This code appears on every tattoo and permanent makeup needle box. Moreover, it’s the easiest way to identify what kind of needles you’re purchasing at a glance. Peek at the diagram of a PMU needle box below to see how this code is arranged and how you can identify each factor.
So now you’ve got the “in” on needle code… time to apply it! Every one of these four needle factors has a dramatic impact on how pigment enters your clients' skin.
A Closer LookWe’ll take a close look at each factor so you can confidently explore your needle options the next time you shop.
1. Needle Size # (Diameter)Needle size refers to the diameter of your PMU needles. More specifically, it’s referring to the widest point of your needle before it tapers off to a point (we’ll dig into taper later). In the PMU space, we don’t refer to this size/diameter as “gauge.” That terminology is strictly for people in the piercing profession.
In cartridge needle code, two numbers indicate the diameter of your needles. These two numbers are the leading characters in cartridge needle code.
Below, you’ll find a list of all the most common needle diameters in PMU, measured in millimeters with a corresponding size #.
- Size # 06 – 0.20mm
- Size # 08 – 0.25mm
- Size # 10 – 0.30mm
- Size # 12 – 0.35mm
- Size # 14 – 0.40mm
Anything smaller than a #10 or #12 sized needle is known as “bugpin,” which is a term you’ll commonly hear in both PMU and tattooing.
You’ll also find nano sizes, which refer to needle diameters that are extra small. Here are a few of them below:
Most PMU artists shop for a variety of diameters, since the diameter so directly affects your technique. For example, needles with larger diameters are usually better suited for shading and coloring work. That’s because they have a much freer pigment flow. So, you might find yourself reaching for a wider PMU needle when it comes to blush or full lip color procedures. Utilizing multiple needle diameters can also be helpful.
2. Needle Taper
Needle taper isn’t always referenced in cartridge needle code. So, you might not see it on your PMU needle box.
But that doesn’t mean needle taper is any less important than the other three key factors. The taper refers to the length of your PMU needle’s point. Here are some of the most common taper lengths you’ll find in PMU cartridges:
Choosing Your Taper
Taper largely effects your pigment flow. Moreover, taper affects how much trauma you’re causing to your clients’ skin. So, when you’re selecting your taper length, you’ll want to consider what technique you’re trying to accomplish and the sensitivity of your client’s skin.
Short taper lengths offer:
- More color more quickly
- A larger hole in the skin
- More trauma to your clients’ skin
Medium taper lengths offer:
- A moderate amount of color
- An average-sized hole in the skin
- Moderate trauma to your clients’ skin
Long taper lengths offer:
- Less color (slow color building)
- A smaller hole in the skin
- Less trauma to your clients’ skin
Taper Length Application
Consequently, you might choose a shorter taper needle for faster work that doesn’t require a lot of layering or shading, since your pigment will deliver so quickly. Shorter tapers are also excellent for thicker, more durable skin types.
Conversely, you might reach for a longer taper needle for more detailed, concentrated work that requires more layering and slow building. A longer taper needle is your best friend when you’re trying to build color and shade over time. Longer tapers are more forgiving on fragile, sensitive skin types.
All in all, you might choose a medium-sized taper for moderate pigment delivery on a variety of skin types.
Choosing your needle taper is also dependent on what diameter you’re using. For instance, you may not want to select a short taper when using a large-diameter needle, since a larger-diameter needle will already give you a faster pigment flow.
A Note on Acupuncture Needles
Featuring a short taper and a rounded pen-shaped tip, acupuncture needles are also a common option in PMU. These needles are especially beneficial for working on elderly skin or performing eyeliner procedures on vascular (heavily veined) eyelids. Their rounded, less-sharp tip flows easily over clients’ veins and overall causes less pain during these particularly sensitive procedures.
A Dynamic Duo: Taper Length + DiameterYour cartridge needle's taper length works together with the diameter to achieve different results. This is especially true when it comes to pixel work. For instance, a needle with a thinner diameter and a longer taper will produce smaller dots on the skin. Contrarily, a needle with a thicker diameter and a shorter taper length will yield larger dots.
Your taper length also greatly influences the flow of your pigment. For example, PMU needles that have longer tapers will be a little less free flowing. Consequently, less pigment will come out of your needles overall.
On the flip side, PMU needles that have shorter tapers will insert more pigment into your client’s skin at a faster rate. Therefore, you’ll probably want to grab your shorter taper needles when doing bolder, more colorful work. Longer taper PMU needles are your typical go-tos for more delicate, controlled procedures.
3. Needle Count
Needle count is the second item in cartridge needle code.
When you shop for needles, you’re shopping for groupings of needles. So, the needle count refers to how many needles (or pins) are in one grouping. The more pins you have in one grouping, the larger your needle grouping will be overall.
Choosing a higher needle count means you’ll be inserting more pigment into your client’s skin, and vice versa for lower needle counts.
4. Needle Configuration (or Needle Type)
Choosing your needle configuration is perhaps the most important thing to consider when finding the best PMU needles for you. Needle configuration/type is indicated by one or two letters at the end of the cartridge needle code.
Configuration or type refers to how the needles are arranged or grouped together. Different arrangements have dramatically different effects on your client’s skin. So, let’s take a look at each available configuration:
Round needles are grouped together in a circular arrangement. Here are your options when it comes to round configurations:
Round liners are more tightly grouped together, letting you create crisp or delicate lines. This makes them excellent for things like winged eyeliner and hair strokes.
Round shaders are grouped together more loosely, which makes them more suitable for lighter shading work. Use them for pixelated effects in lip and brow treatments.
Flat needles are grouped together in a flat, straight line. Since flat needles are so precise and straight, they’re perfect for crafting geometric brow frameworks. You also may choose flat needles over round liners for lipliner or eyeliner procedures.
Magnum needles are stacked together in two rows. Thanks to this dual-row formation, magnums are powerful needles for packing in vibrant, rich color. So, if you’re creating a classic bold red lip, a magnum configuration might be your best bet.
Like round configurations, you have a few options when shopping for magnums.
Curved magnums have a distinct curvature that’s optimal for working on the curved features of the face, like with eyelids, brow arches, and lips. Some brands have different naming conventions for curved magnums. For example, top-selling needle brand Kwadron refers to them as soft edge magnums.
Sloped needles are arranged in an angular formation. Sloped configurations are known for their versatility. You can use them for lining, shading, or pixels in a wide variety of PMU procedures. If you find you like sloped-style needles for a lot of your work, choosing a go-to brand will be especially important. There are a few PMU needle brands that don’t offer this configuration, despite their popularity.
But you’ll find sloped needles in all the PMU cartridge needle brands we offer on our Web store.
The Skinny on CartridgesCartridge needles give you the lovely perk of easy transition (swapping easily between your needle groupings mid-session). They’ll also give you plenty of variety, so you can have all the groupings you need for any technique. However, some brands work more optimally for some artists based on design, available features… and even color!
Don’t worry – we’ll dig into all the brands you’ve seen your favorite PMU artists using all over social media.
What You Have to Know about PMU Cartridge NeedlesBut first: a few more technical things to consider when cartridge-browsing. The following items shouldn’t just be on your PMU cartridge “wish list.” They should 100% be must-haves.
Safety MembranesThese membranes work inside your cartridge to prevent blood and tattoo ink from backflowing into your grip. As a result, sterilizing your setup and preventing cross-contamination is much easier when a cartridge membrane is involved. Most top-rated cartridge needles now come equipped with safety membranes. However, there are also cartridge needles that come without membranes, which makes them most suitable for tattooing practice on synthetic skins.
Trustworthy ReviewsWhen choosing your PMU cartridges, take the time to check out real reviews from qualified PMU professionals like you… multiple positive endorsements from several artists are usually a good sign of quality. You can also check out their Instagram. Typically, big brand names like Kwadron and Peak will have a large following of PMU and tattoo artists who leave reviews, thoughts, and feedbacks in the comments. You’ll also find informative posts about new and upcoming products, so you can ready your cosmetic setup for the next big thing.
Proprietary versus Universal PMU CartridgesYou'll find many PMU machines on the market that only work with specific cartridge needles. Those cartridges that are brand-specific are called proprietary cartridge needles.
Universal cartridge needles, on the other hand, are designed to work with a wide variety of PMU machines from different manufacturers. All PMU needles available on our Ultimate Beauty Web store are universal (and tested + approved by professional PMU artists around the globe).
Other Features to Consider
StabilizersA stabilizer keeps your needle groupings on track, so you can keep a steady hand throughout the procedure. This is especially important when working with large magnum groupings, which have a tendency to wobble. It’s also important for keeping you steady and precise when working in concentrated or small areas of the face.
And Color Matters, TooChoosing your cartridge color makes more of a difference than you might think. You’ll find cartridges made of both sheer and opaque plastics. And many cosmetic artists prefer a see-through tip so they can easily see their pigment flow. Seeing your pigment flow is especially beneficial for performing more delicate work, since you’ll want to control the flow of pigment as much as possible.
Color, sheerness, and opacity are all a matter of your own preference. Experiment with different brands to discover which you prefer.
A Beautiful Match: Finding Your Cartridges
Now comes the fun part: finding the right cartridge needles for you so you can create your most stunning work.
These cartridge needles are designed for “discerning” PMU artists. That means if you’re especially particular about your cartridge tips, these might be the ideal match for you. These cartridges feature elongated tips, specifically designed to optimize your vision. These “hummingbird tips” are also super flexible, so you can tackle any fine lining procedure (or other delicate technique) with ease.
Kwadron OptimaKwadron Optima cartridges are known for being ultra-sharp… but also ultra-flexible, able to take on any PMU procedure. You’ll also notice your needles stay on track consistently thanks to Kwadron’s unique stabilizer. Plus, Kwadron Optima has a sheer pink plastic housing, which lets you see your pigment flow (a perk we mentioned earlier).
Try them for yourself here.
Creamy white, opaque, and enclosed, Peak Cerus needles will give you an extremely controlled and steady PMU session. PMU artists who love Cerus needles attest to Peak offering the best angled configurations for brow stroke techniques.
All Peak cartridge needles are available here.
Tina Davies PIXL
See-through with a soft pink finger-ledge, these cartridges aren’t just pretty to look at… they also give you optimal visibility of your pigment flow! Moreover, Tina Davies’ artist-approved cartridges are made with no-drip tips, so your pigment won’t pool during procedures. If you’ve ever experienced pigment pooling, it can cause a lot of visibility problems and muddy up your work.
PMU artists everywhere claim Brow Daddy has perfected the PMU needle tip in his Genie cartridges. They’re made with optimal pigment delivery in mind and overall reduce trauma to your client’s skin, which not only means less pain for them, but typically means better healed results as well. As is typical for Brow Daddy, these cartridges are flashy and eye-catching while also giving you innovative solutions like long, narrow nozzles for optimal visibility.