Single Needle Tattoo

Single Needle Tattoos Explained: Meanings, Tattoo Ideas & Artists

Everything you need to know about single needle tattoos.

Single Needle Tattoos

Single needle tattoos consist of a higher level of detail than is found in other tattoo styles and are commonly made up of airbrush shading techniques and thin graphite lines.

For men and women who favor ultra-realism and simplicity, there are few better tattoo styles than single needle tattoos.

This form of tattoo is also the best choice for those who want their next ink to be more discreet yet sophisticated.

Today, we’ll be taking a look at single needle tattoos and we will explore what makes this more simplistic style so popular.

Although this tattoo style is more reserved than some of the more bold styles we’ve discussed in the past, single-needle tattoos have a lot to say in their own way.

If you have decided that a single needle tattoo is the right choice for your next tattoo piece of work by the end of this article, we’ll also include some examples of the best single needle tattoos to give you some inspiration.

Let’s get started!

What is a Single Needle Tattoo?

Single needle tattoos are created by using a different technique than the more mainstream use of a multi-needle machine.

As you are likely able to guess, single needle tattoos are the product of using one needle.

This method results in a tattoo style that resembles a sketchbook design with very fine lines and shading.

These tattoos are minimalist by design but can still be intricately detailed pieces of art.

Single needle tattoos have been growing in popularity in recent years due to the ability to cram a lot of detail into a smaller amount of space.

While these results are awe-inspiring when completed by a skilled tattoo artist, the technique used to create a single needle tattoo leaves very little room for error.

To get the best of both worlds between a bold statement and classy art piece, it’s important to work with an experienced artist that is well-versed with the single needle technique.

It should also be noted that the single needle technique isn’t meant for just any design under the sun.

Single needle tattoos use a very limited color scheme and are usually monochromatic.

There is a big difference between detail and dimension when it comes to single needle tattoos and this style is best suited to very specific types of art.

This is yet another reason why it is important to find a tattoo artist that specializes in this style; they will be able to tell you exactly what options are at your disposal for your very own single needle tattoo.

Single Needle Tattoo vs Fine Line Tattoo

When many people think of single needle tattoos, they may get them confused with fine line tattoos- another emerging trend on the scene.

Fine line tattoos are very similar to single needle tattoos.

They can be very simple and sweet, or a tattoo artist can utilize the techniques to create an incredible level of detail.

Some people even mistake fine line tattoos for “fake” tattoos drawn on the body in pen.

Because they have such a delicate hand-done look, they almost seem like they came directly from a sketch-book in pencil.

The main difference between single needle and fine line tattoos is that in single needle tattoos an artist must only use one needle.

In a fine line tattoo, they may choose to use up to three needles to create shading and dimension.

The result is similarly delicate, but with a little more saturation and detail.

Understanding Tattoo Needles

For someone new to the tattoo world, or someone who has never really thought about the tool behind their art, all this talk of needles can be kind of confusing.

Here’s a beginner course:

Tattoo needles deposit ink into the skin, that much is obvious.

After selecting which needle is appropriate for the work they’re doing, the needle is then inserted into the tattoo “gun”, or machine.

The tattoo machine then works with the needle to puncture the skin just below the surface, about a millimeter.

Each movement of the needle deposits a drop of ink under the skin, and tattoo machines can deposit between 50 and 3000 drops of ink per minute.

This is controlled by the tattoo artist, who uses a foot pedal like a sewing machine to determine how fast or slow the machine moves.

Tattoo needles are not all created alike. There are over 100 varieties of tattoo needles, but they fall into 4 basic categories:

Round Liners and Shaders (RL and RS) are used for basic lining and shading.

The needles will be “bundled” in a circle shape, almost resembling a cartoon flower.

The more needles there are, the thicker the lines they create.

A 1RL has only one needle, and is what an artist will use to create a single needle tattoo.

Flat Liners and Shaders (FL and FS) are needles arranged in a row.

These needles can deposit a lot of ink quickly, so they are great for bold lines and really saturated spots.

This can also be a little easier on the tattoo client, because the artist doesn’t have to do many passes over one area of the skin.

Magnum Needles are the most popular for shading.

They pack a lot of ink into one area quickly, making them even gentler than flat needles.

Magnum needles are basically flat needles with another slightly smaller line of needles stacked on top, to create a kind of pyramid shape.

Bugpin Needles come in many configurations, but are smaller in diameter.

This allows the needles to be packed closer together, allowing for the highest level of saturation available.

Think of pixels- the tighter and smaller they are, the better the picture quality.

Bug-pins are likely used in the highly saturated, ultra bold portrait tattoos that you’ll see on the scene.

These are essentially the opposite of a single line piece.

Can Single Needle Tattoos Be In Color?

You may love the simplicity of a single needle tattoo, but crave the color options of something a little more saturated.

Single needle tattoos are typically black and grey.

In an American traditional tattoo, a black outline would be used to create boundaries and separation between the colors which helps the design retain its integrity over time.

A popular saying among tattooers is “bold will hold”.

This is based on the belief that delicate tattoos may not age as well or last as long as tattoos with bold outlines.

This is a hotly debated topic in the tattooing world as new trends and techniques emerge.

In a fine line or single needle tattoo, the lines are so delicate that people typically stick to black and grey to be safe.

That said, there are always people who are looking to buck the trend!

There are some very attractive ways to incorporate color into your single needle tattoo and an experienced single needle tattoo artist will have some tricks up their sleeve to make your art last.

How to Decide on the Best Single Needle Tattoo Design For You

For those who favor smaller tattoos with a more specific color scheme, single needle tattoos are the best style by far.

This tattoo technique is great for tattoos of a smaller scale and limited color palette, that isn’t to say that these tattoos aren’t bold in their own way.

So how can you go about choosing the best single needle tattoo design for you?

Here are a few ways to start the process!

Tattoo Motif

As mentioned earlier, single needle tattoos are the best style for certain subject matters and not the first recommendation for others.

For this reason, it is important that you have a good idea of the subject matter you want to convey in your single needle tattoo design from the start.

Most single needle tattoos are centered around a single, concrete subject.

While there is room to add intricate detail and boldly represent the concept, a single needle tattoo isn’t necessarily the style to incorporate many different subjects into one comprehensive design.

Decide on a meaningful concept for your single needle tattoo and present it to your tattoo artist at your consultation.

A skilled tattoo artist will then be able to help you form a design around the subject matter that is best-suited for the single needle tattoo style.

Tattoo Placement and Tattoo Size

As with any tattoo, it is important to think about the size and placement of the piece when deciding on a design.

Single needle tattoos are usually small to medium in size.

This is best because the single needle technique is well-suited for smaller designs.

If you’re a man who favors a colorful full back piece, the single needle tattoo may not be for you.

If you, however, want to get some new ink that is as sophisticated as it is simple, you should consider this style.

Most single needle tattoos are displayed with pride in an easily visible area such as the forearm and are small enough to allow room for other tattoos as time goes on.

If you’re a guy who already has his fair share of tattoos and a limited amount of space to add more, a single needle tattoo may be beneficial to you. 

Your Tattoo Artist

Finally, it is vital to take your tattoo artist into consideration when choosing the best single needle tattoo design for you.

It is always recommended to find a tattoo artist that specializes in the particular tattoo style you’re interested in and this is especially true with single needle tattoos.

Due to the fact that single needle tattoos are created using an entirely different form of tattooing technique, you will have the best chances of choosing a design that will turn out beautifully if you’re working with a specialist.

A tattoo artist specializing in single needle tattoos will have a portfolio of work for you to review, minimizing the risk of getting a tattoo you regret in the future.

It is also important to approach your tattoo artist with an open mind during the process of selecting a single needle tattoo design.

By working collaboratively with your tattoo artist, you’ll open the door for suggestions and recommendations from someone who knows the right way to give you the most out of your single needle tattoo.

Though you may have your subject matter and overall concept in mind, a single needle tattoo artist can be very helpful in fully fleshing out your vision.

Dr Woo Single Needle Tattoo
Mr. K Single Needle Tattoo
Alessandro Capozzi Single Needle Tattoo
Carlos Bautistab Single Needle Tattoo
Thommensen Single Needle Tattoo
Jay Shin Single Needle Tattoo
Michelle Santana Single Needle Tattoo

Do Single Needle Tattoos Fade Faster?

One of the most common questions those interested in single needle tattoos have is whether or not this particular style fades faster than other tattoo styles.

While it is true that this technique is slightly more likely to bleed or fade faster, the smaller size of a single needle tattoo reduces these risks.

This is yet another reason that it is highly recommended to find an artist specializing in single needle tattoos.

Experienced single needle tattoo artists know to cut the black ink as stronger pigments are more likely to bleed out.

Many single needle tattoo artists use less or diluted ink to make sure that the fading looks better when it does occur.

All tattoos bleed and fade with time and while it may be a bit more likely with a single needle tattoo design, there are ways to minimize this.

Your tattoo artist will be able to take the necessary precautions to ensure that your tattoo looks great for years and years to come.

How Much Do Single Needle Tattoos Cost?

So how much will your single needle tattoo cost? As compared to larger tattoos that utilize many different colors, single needle tattoos are usually less expensive.

There are a few different factors that go into how much a tattoo costs and you can use these as a guideline when estimating the cost of your single needle tattoo.

Tattoo Artist

Choosing a tattoo artist that specializes in the single needle tattoo technique is important for many reasons, as we’ve highlighted here, but this can also have an effect on overall costs.

Many single needle tattoo artists are in high demand as they’re experts in their field.

When a tattoo artist is in high demand, it is possible that they’re hourly rates may be higher.

This is something to consider when shopping around for your tattoo artist.


Although booking a tattoo artist that specializes in single needle tattoos may increase the price of your tattoo a bit, the factors of size and time it takes to complete your tattoo may reduce costs.

Due to the fact that tattoo artists charge based on an hourly rate, the size and amount of time it takes to complete your tattoo has everything to do with costs.

Since single needle tattoos are generally small tattoos, they shouldn’t take long to complete.


While tattoos in other styles may include various colors, the single needle tattoo design is monochromatic.

This means that it won’t take your artist nearly as long to complete the tattoo.

Though single needle tattoos are detailed and intricate, the fact that colors aren’t used should cut down the time you’re under the needle significantly while also reducing costs.

Single Needle Tattoo Designs

Now that you know everything you need to about single needle tattoos, the technique used in them, and how to select the perfect tattoo design, it’s time to take a look at examples.

Geometric Single Needle Tattoos

Geometric single needle tattoos are the perfect marriage between two of the most popular tattoo styles of today: geometric and single needle.

Geometric Single Needle Tattoo

Geometric concepts are well-suited for the single needle technique as they feature intricate line work that blends together to create a stunning piece of art.

Geometric tattoos also typically use black and grey ink so you won’t have to make any huge sacrifices when incorporating it into your single needle tattoo.

Single Needle Nature Tattoos

Landscape imagery and nature tattoos are a great subject matter for a single needle tattoo design.

This is because sprawling hillsides and towering skyscrapers can be confined to a small space with this technique.

Single Needle Nature Tattoo

Some of the most popular single needle landscape tattoos feature bridges and other architectural wonders.

These subjects are a great use of the fine lines created using this technique.

Single Needle Animal Tattoos

Animal tattoos are also very popular when it comes to single needle tattoos.

Some of the most common types of animals featured in this tattoo style are wolf tattoos and lion tattoos.

Single Needle Whale Tattoo
Single Needle Dog Tattoo

Single needle tattoos are a great way to bring these majestic animals to life in a small space without compromising any of the needed detail.

Single needle tattoos are usually hyper-realistic so your chosen animal will be brought to life on your body. 

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