There is a misconception in the tattoo industry regarding tattoo needles and tattoo cartridges. And to clear up this confusion, we need to go back in time to understand the difference between needles. So I’ll walk you through the evolution of tattooing with a focus on needle sizes.
Let’s start with the history of tattoo needles!
Tattooing started as early as many other forms of ancient artwork. In the times when our early ancestors painted cave walls, they also marked themselves by planting pigments under their skin.
Archaeological discoveries from all around the world found tattooed, mummified bodies dating back to 5,000 years. Tattooed individuals of the ancient times were found in India, Russia, China, Japan, Africa, the Americas, and several other places on the planet.
How Did They Do It?
Primitive civilizations used primitive tools for the tattooing procedure. Scientists think that they used sharp bones, wood, or possibly stones. Later on, they leveled up their artwork with metal tools. And they had different types and styles of needle sizes.
One of the ancient body art forms was scarification. When any sharp tool goes too deep into the skin and reaches certain depths in the flesh, the marks heal into scars.
The difference between tattooing and scarification is that with tattooing, we inject pigment under the skin. With scarification, the art comes by the raised skin pattern and design, rather than the built-in pigment shades and colors that tattooing creates.
As we evolved and moved forward, tattooing equipment followed in trend. First, we had sharp bones, then came primitive metal tools. Then sharp metal tools emerged. As the equipment got finer, so did tattooing artwork.
Although needles originally aimed for the purpose of sewing clothing, their physical properties made them an ideal tool for tattooing. However, these needles were not hollow. They couldn’t hold the ink. Therefore, they needed to be dipped into some sort of color. And that ended up being mostly black liquid pigments.
Today, we call this tattoo ink. After dipping the needle in the tattoo ink, it was manually applied to the skin, poke by poke.
One dip, one poke – because at the time of the first needles, artists were not able to refill them. As time went by, civilizations developed the art of tattooing and tattoo equipment in different ways, based on their different intentions and traditions.
The Next Step
We suppose that the next step was wrapping some fine threads around the sewing needle, a little bit further up from the very tip – this way they were able to “store and supply” ink to last for multiple punctures. But it was still handmade artwork.
In 1800, Italian physicist Alessandro Volta discovered electricity by constructing an early electric battery and creating a steady electric flow.
From this point, various types of electric devices were invented, including the first tattoo machine by Samuel F. Oreilly in 1891.
To operate properly, tattooing devices required newly invented bits that could ensure the proper functioning of the machine. So, the tattoo needle that could be attached to these new electric machines evolved. Artists used soldering to cut short needles onto a metal bar. And this led us to the tattoo needle as we know it today: needles on a bar.
To support your artwork with the most reliable and up to date industry insights, I’ll write about various industry secrets on the blog. Stay tuned!
Caesar The Hun