The Evolution of Tattoo Equipment: Tattoo Cartridge

4 min read

Previously, I walked you through the evolution of the tattoo needle and you learned how the needles are soldered together. Now, I’m gonna tell you everything you need to know about cartridges, and you’re gonna learn what is the difference between cartridges and tattoo needles. Let’s get to it!

Tattoo Needles vs. Tattoo Needle Cartridges: What is the Difference?

Tattoo Needles

Traditional tattoo needles are a group of needles that are soldered together with the needle bar. They form a tattoo needle configuration on the bar. 

The full length of this assembly is about 5”. 

There is a loop at the end of the bar which hooks onto the armature bar. In this open configuration, the needle tips are always exposed. This comes with safety concerns and requires a tube, which may be disposable or made of autoclavable stainless steel.

Tattoo Needle Cartridges

The tattoo cartridge is a 2.5” long, assembled mechanism that houses the tattoo needles safely inside. 

This needle configuration is glued into a plastic piece called the plunger. The plunger is hosted in a plastic house which is sealed by the membrane cap. 

The membrane is the mechanism that continuously pulls the tattoo needles back into the housing.

Industry Evolution – The Tattoo Cartridge

Tattooing has seen a huge evolution over the years. Tattoo ink, manufacturing practices, tattoo machines and their functionality have developed a lot, so have tattooing needles. 

As the requirements of safety conditions improved, the demand for safe solutions grew. This resulted in the invention of the cartridge.

The logic behind the operation of the cartridge is that the needle tip is only exposed while the tattoo machine is running. 

The evolutionary development of this module system is that the cartridge interior construction keeps pulling the needle back to the tip, so the tattoo machine pushes the needle out. 

The needle has a housing mechanism. So, when you stop the machine running, the needle retracting mechanism pulls the needle back into the cartridge and keeps the tattoo artist safe from being exposed to the needle tips. 

Safety First

In tattooing, safety comes first, especially as the tattoo artist and the client are also at risk for infections during the tattooing process. 

If the artist is accidentally poked, he can get infected by the client’s potential disease (e.g., HIV, Hepatitis, or any other blood transmitted disease). And this is where cartridges step in.

Working with cartridges, you can only poke yourself when the machine is running. This way, the risk of cross-contamination is drastically reduced, providing the customer with the highest level of safety.

Today, tattoo cartridges are all disposable. We don’t reuse or sterilize cartridges; they’re made for one client only. Also, they have only one needle-type system. 

Cartridge Features

Tattoo cartridges are safe, disposable, and affordable. And they come in various colors, shapes, and materials.

The cartridge structure consists of multiple parts. It has a smart integration for the traditional needle-bar-tube combination, reduced from the bulky 5” size to the thinner 2.5”.

When you work with cartridges, you can count on the…

  • Membrane cup
  • Needle rectracting mechanism (rubber band, spring and most effective and popular: membrane)
  • Plunger assembly (needle and plunger)

Besides, housing plays a crucial role in the effectiveness of cartridges. We distinguish two types of housing:

  • One-piece housing: The cartridge tip does not fall off, but it is quite hard to clean the clogged needles from skin, paper, ink, and so on.
  • Two-piece housing: The tip is removable in most cases, so needles are easy to clean.


The evolution of cartridges has contributed to the development of tattooing to a great extent. And when it comes to functionality, the heart of the product is still the needle and its craftsmanship. Thus, I hope that I could help you level up your artwork by explaining the features of cartridges in this blog post.

To support you with the most reliable and up to date insights, I’ll share more industry secrets with you. Stay tuned!

Caesar The Hun