Taper vs. Bugpin: What is the Difference?

4min read

Though taper and bugpin are essential bits of the tattoo equipment, their terms are often mixed up when it comes to cartridges. I think it is crucial for tattoo artists to understand the difference between taper and bugpin, so in the article, I’ll walk you through their features to clear up any misunderstanding related to them. Let’s jump into the middle!

The Frequently Asked Question

At REBEL, we’re often asked whether we have BUGPIN needles. The other day I was at the office and received a call from a fellow artist. 
“Do you have BUGPIN needles?” he asked.
“Yes, we do, in certain configurations and needle categories.” I said. Then I asked him about what he actually meant by BUGPIN. He told me that he believed BUGPIN meant what angle the needle is sharpened.
Sadly, his definition was wrong. So, I corrected him respectfully and explained that what he was talking about was the TAPER of the needle, not the BUGPIN. 


Why is the Difference Not Clear?

To be honest with you, the confusion regarding these two terms is not the fault of tattoo artists. Our industry is a self-regulated one, run by self-taught artists. We don’t have the option to study the vocation via formal learning, so we learn by experience. Thus, we need to pick up pieces of knowledge as we go. 
As tattoo artists, we learn from each other, and it’s my turn now to help you understand the taper-bugpin difference. 

TAPER by the Definition

The definition of taper is a tapering form (noun), something progressively narrowed (adjective), and as a verb it means to diminish thickness toward the end. If you translate these meanings into the language of tattooing, you’ll get the length of the tapering of the steel wire by the end of a point. 
Another definition you need to fully understand the taper-bugpin difference, is the definition of needle. A needle is a device that carries thread and makes stitches. We have all seen a sewing needle for sure, but the anatomy of various needle types is not so obvious. 
In case of medical tools, like hypodermic syringes, needles tend to be hollow. But tattooing needles are the opposite – they are solid. And this is the ultimate difference between the common understanding of needles and tattoo needles.
Based on the solid anatomy of needles, we distinguish four tattoo needle taper variations:
1. Short taper – 2mm
2. Medium taper – 3-5mm
3. Long taper – 5-6mm
4. Extra long taper – 6-8mm
Tattoo Needle Taper Styles - REBEL
The longer the taper, the closer a group of needles can be soldered together.

BUGPIN by the Definition

In tattooing, BUGPIN means the gauge or diameter of the wire the needle is made from. 
Assumably, bugpin in tattooing was named after fine gauge pins that we use for pinning butterflies and various other instincts to display.  
There are 3 commonly used gauges in the industry:
    • .25mm – FINE – #8 is the standard system (US) designation also called BUGPIN.
    • .30mm – NORMAL – #10 is the standard system (US) designation.
    • and .35mm – FAT – #12 is the standard system (US) designation.

All in All…

Knowing the difference between taper and bugpin is crucial in maintaining your professionalism, and I hope I could help you clear up any misunderstanding regarding them. And in case you’d mix them up again from now on, here’s a cheat sheet for you:
taper = the narrowed end of the tattoo needle, reduced in thickness
bugpin = the gauge or diameter of the tattoo needle
To support your artwork with the most reliable and up to date industry insights, I’ll write more blog posts on industry secrets for you. Stay tuned and check out the blog!
Caesar The Hun