Tattoo tubes, tips and grips are core elements in every tattoo artist's toolkit, but with so many options available, how are you supposed to know which ones will work best for you? To help you make an informed decision about which combination of tubes, tips and grips to put in your tattoo toolkit, we've broken down all of your options below and outlined the benefits and drawbacks of each. Once you have a better understanding of which tattoo tip styles are best for which parts of the tattoo process, what the different tattoo tip brands have to offer, which grip and tattoo tube styles are available, and the benefits of autoclavable vs. disposable tattoo tubes, tips and grips, you'll be ready to choose the perfect set of tools.
What You Need to Know About Tattoo Tips
There are 3 primary styles of tattoo tips: round tips, diamond tips and flat tips (which include magnum tips). Different types of tattoo work and needle configurations necessitate different style tattoo tips, as detailed below. You'll need most, if not all, of the three types of tattoo tips at some point while you're tattooing, so it's a good idea to keep a variety of tips on hand at all times.
Diamond Tattoo Tips - Diamond tips are the perfect tool for creating thin, clean, straight lines. The V in a diamond tip cradles the needle and prevents it from wobbling around, which is what makes diamond tattoo tips ideal for finer line work. They're better than round tips when you're working with single needles, 3's and 5 round liner needles, and round shader tattoo needles in particular. They also allow you to see your needle more clearly than round tips will.
Round Tattoo Tips - Round tips are ideal for thicker line work. However, they don't cradle tattoo needles the same way that diamond tips do, so the tips may wobble a bit in a round tip, particularly when you're working around a curve. They better accommodate larger needle configurations than diamond tips do, though. Use round tips with round liner needles, super tight round liners, extra super tight round liners, round shaders, and textured round shader tattoo needles.
Flat Tattoo Tips - Flat tips are meant to be used with flat tattoo needle configurations. Flat needles and flat tattoo tips are the ideal combination to use for things like shading in geometric areas or when creating an avant-garde tattoo like one in the Trash Polka style. Some tattoo artists prefer to do their line work with flat tattoo tips and needles, but you should stick to diamond tips or round tips for lining unless you're an experienced artist and know how to handle a flat tip and needle configuration to achieve clean lines.
Magnum tattoo tips are a wider style of flat tattoo tip that you can pair with larger groupings of flat needles, magnum needles or stacked magnum needles for filling in larger areas, blending and shading. They're the best option for those tattoo techniques because you get maximum ink flow with a flat or magnum needle and magnum tattoo tip configuration. There are two styles of magnum tips from which to choose: open-mouth magnum tips, like the one shown to the left, and closed-mouth magnum tips that have a box-shaped tip.
To learn more about the different types of tattoo needles you can use with diamond tattoo tips, round tips and the various styles of flat tips, check out our Tattoo Needles article or our Understanding Tattoo Needles blog post. If you need guidance about the best tattoo needle and tube/tip pairings, take a look at our Precision Tattoo Tip & Needle Compatibility Chart. It shows the inside diameter of each of our Precision tube/tips, the approximate diameter/width of various needle groupings, and the best tube/tip-needle pairings by tattoo needle size, needle count and tube style.
Tattoo Tip Brands
Since you're likely to need each of the 4 styles of tattoo tips at some point while you're working, the real question when choosing tattoo tips is which brand to use rather than which style tips to purchase. Painful Pleasures carries several of the top tattoo tip brands on the market. Here's a breakdown of the options currently available on Painfulpleasures.com and what each has to offer:
Precision Tattoo Tips - Precision Tattoo Supplies is one of Painful Pleasures' house brands. Like all of our Precision products, our Precision tattoo tips are manufactured affordably without sacrificing quality. We use premium materials and advanced manufacturing techniques to deliver high-performance tattoo tips ranging from disposable tube-tip-grip units to autoclavable stainless steel tips that you can mix and match with your preferred tubes and grips. We also offer tube/tip combo units, to reduce the number of moving parts in your tattoo tube-tip-grip setup. Choose from standard and contoured tips in all 4 tattoo tip styles to find the option that works best in your hands.
Alla Prima Sure Glide Tattoo Tips - Alla Prima's Sure Glide Tips are autoclavable tattoo tips available in flat, round and magnum styles. The patented Sure Glide Tip guides needles perfectly along the tip shelf, eliminating pitch and flutter while you work without you having to adjust rubber bands or add more tension. The tips are roughly 2" long, and they work with most 3-piece grip-tube-tip setups, so you can pop different style tips in and out easily as you work. The natural surface of Alla Prima's tips allow you to see the true color of your ink, and since there's no metal in these tips, you won't have to worry about dulling of white or light colors due to metal flake contaminants that can be present in steel tips.
Kurv Tattoo Tips by Morphix Tattoo Products - Kurv Tips by Morphix are available in diamond and magnum styles, which you can use to do everything from fine line work to filling and blending. Kurv tattoo tips are made from an FDA-approved, biocompatible material for medical devices rather than steel, so they eliminate the potential issue of metal flake contaminants that some surgical steel tips pose. That means your whites will stay light and your light colors bright when you work with Kurv tattoo tips. The material these tips are made from allows the tips to be crafted with ultra-smooth edges, minimizing risk of additional tissue damage as you work. The kurved mag tips allow for easier cornering, too.
Kurv tattoo tips are made in the USA. They hold with very little screw pressure and can be used with most 3-piece tattoo tube-grip-tip sets (preferably with 2-3/4" tattoo tubes). Each tattoo tip measures 1-1/2" long.
If you decide to use either a 2-piece or 3-piece autoclavable tattoo tube-tip-grip set, you have two choices when it comes to the tattoo tubes you use: you can purchase surgical steel tube-tip units, or you can purchase individual tattoo tips and pair them with our Precision surgical steel tattoo tubes. We offer standard steel tubes in several lengths, as well as a mega tube option that's best suited for work with magnum tips and needles.
If you'd rather use disposable parts, then you can choose from a combination of autoclavable grips and disposable tattoo tube-tips or our all-in-one disposable tattoo tube-tip-grip units. Disposable tattoo tubes offer superior convenience, and they're the ideal tool for traveling tattoo artists working the convention circuit or visiting other shops. They're pre-sterilized, so all you have to do is open up a package, use the tattoo tube, and toss it when you're done. If you use disposable tube-tip units with an autoclavable grip, you'll just need to clean and sterilize your grip in between uses. That's fine if you're in a shop environment or somewhere else where an autoclave is handy, but when you're working at a convention, sometimes the all-in-one units are a godsend.
Painful Pleasures' Precision Tattoo Supply line offers 4 styles of all-in-one tattoo tube-tip-grip units presently, so you can choose the best option for your budget and style:
Classic Tube & Grip Sets - Our Classic Tattoo Tube & Grip Sets are high-quality disposable tattoo tubes priced affordably, making them a great option for high-volume shops, busy traveling tattoo artists and new artists on a tighter budget. The Classic's soft rubber, beehive-shaped grip is comfortable to hold, and its slender profile gives this disposable tube set a pen-like feel. The sturdy plastic tube paired with each set is firmly fixed within the grip to prevent unwanted movement. These tube-tip-grip sets are available in 1" and 3/4" sizes.
Vision Tube & Grip Sets - Our second-generation Vision Tattoo Tube & Grip Sets are a clearly-superior option among disposable tattoo tubes. We improved the design by embossing the tubes and welding them inside tighter grips to prevent the tubes from spinning or sliding while you work. The grips themselves are now air-cushioned, which combined with their ringed, textured rubber design makes them super comfortable in your hand even when you're doing marathon tattooing. The clear tubes/tips allow you to easily monitor ink flow and needle movement, too.
Victory Tube & Grip Sets - Ink a winning tattoo every time with our Victory Tattoo Tube & Grip Sets! These disposable tattoo tubes have a lot going for them, including no-slip textured silicone grips that act as shock absorbers and allow you to grasp these tubes loosely while maintaining full control. The Victory's molded-plastic design merges each tube and grip seamlessly, so you'll never have to worry about the tubes moving while you work. Additionally, there's a window in the tube above each clear Victory tip, which together give you an unobstructed view into ink flow and needle movement.
Vortex Wrath Tattoo Tubes - If you're looking for ultimate comfort and control, then our Vortex Wrath Tattoo Tubes may be the all-in-one units for you. The Vortex's wide grip is crafted from a patented gel-like material that provides maximum comfort and shock absorption. Each grip is custom-molded onto the enclosed tube to prevent unwanted spinning during tattoo sessions. The tubes are precisely molded without excess plastic, allowing for maximum ink flow and needle support. They also have a semi-transparent tint, giving a clear view of ink in the tube reservoir while reducing visual ink blots for a cleaner look. The special plastic used to create these tubes allows them to have durable, heat-resistant, thin-profile tips that minimize the distance between needles and skin so you can do more precise work.
Painful Pleasures also offers more than 25 autoclavable tattoo tube-tip-grip sets, for those who want the convenience of all-in-one units but prefer the economy of reusable tattoo tubes.
You have two primary options when it comes to tattoo grips: You can either purchase your grips as part of the all-in-one disposable tube sets or steel tattoo tube sets detailed above, or you can pair an autoclavable grip with disposable tube-tip units or steel tubes and your choice of tattoo tips. If you choose to use an autoclavable grip, you have a number of different style, material and brand options.
Tattoo grips come in a wide variety of shapes, giving you plenty of options so that you can find the style that best fits your hand. If you don't like the way a grip feels by itself, try padding it with layers of cohesive wrap to make it thicker where you need it to be and to make the grip more shock-absorbent. Alternatively, you can purchase rubber or silicone grip covers to pad your autoclavable tattoo grips. Grip covers make it possible to comfortably use even the most bad ass-looking tattoo grips available, like the skeleton-covered Mayan tattoo grips shown to the left.
In addition to the many tattoo grip options Painful Pleasures manufactures, we also carry tattoo grips by some of your favorite tattoo supply brands. Below are a few of the tattoo grip brands available from which you can choose.
Using autoclavable tattoo tubes, grips and tips can save you money over time, but unlike disposable tubes, they require maintenance. You'll need to clean your tattoo tips, tubes and grips well and autoclave them in between uses. Ideally, you should have the following cleaning supplies and tools on hand for maintaining your tubes and related equipment:
- Latex or Nitrile Gloves
- Ultradose Germicidal Disinfecting Solution
- Ink-Out Tattoo Tube Cleaner
- Scrub Brushes
- Ultrasonic Cleaner Detergent like Defend or Alconox
- An Ultrasonic Cleaner
- Sterilization Pouches
- An Autoclave
It's imperative that you thoroughly clean your tools before autoclaving them, since putting dirty tools through an autoclave can damage the machine and bake debris onto your instruments. To clean your tattoo tubes, tips and grips, don gloves, and then rinse your equipment under warm running water. You can give your tools a preliminary scrub with just brushes and water or use a product like Sklar Kleen for hand-washing instruments. Next, soak your tools in Ultradose followed by Ink-Out Tattoo Tube Cleaner, according to the instructions on the 2-step cleaning products' packaging. Alternatively, or as an additional step, you can clean your tools in an ultrasonic cleaner with an appropriate detergent like Alconox. The ultrasonic cleaner will lift any remaining debris and organic matter from your instruments so that they're fully clean and ready to be autoclaved. Any tools with moving parts should be sprayed with Sklar Lube Spray before being placed in autoclave bags and run through an autoclave.
For full instructions on the best way to maintain autoclavable tattoo tools, check out our Proper Tattoo & Piercing Tool Maintenance article.
If you've found this guide to choosing and working with tattoo tubes, tips and grips helpful, you may also be interested in these related articles from our Tattoo Information library and informative posts from our Blog: