Subscribe to get our FREE PMU Liner-Shader Guide

What's the difference between a liner and magnum tattoo needle?


Aside from the actual configuration difference and how the needles line up, a round liner and a magnum also give different effects when tattooing. The above photo are seperate examples of a round liner and a magnum used for eyebrows and also used on a practice pad. I've used the same pendulum motion technique and the same machine speed on the practice pad to demonstrate the different effects of these needle configurations.

Liner needles are typically grouped in a circle and the needles are soldered tight together.  When used for a pixel technique they can give a textured effect especially a 3 round liner for example.  A single needle can give texture as well, however depending on the technique used, you can also get an airbrushed effect similar to a magnum from a single needle, it just takes time to build up the color. Liners give you the opportunity to leave untouched skin space where there's no to minimal color deposited in the skin and also are great when you need to add texture to an eyebrow.  I find adding texture helps when the brows are patchy and go from hair to no hair.  The texture helps disguise that there is missing hair.

Magnum needles are made up of 2 rows of needles that are spaced apart. Magnums, because of their configuration with several needles depositing a lot of color at once, will give an airbrushed effect and do a great job when you are trying to achieve a smooth look and want full coverage color coverage. Magnums can achieve a pixel look if the needles are spread enough and you work with a slower machine speed so as not to deposit too much color.  I choose magnums when I want fuller color coverage and  a smooth even background shadow.  They also can fill an area quite quickly.

I enjoy using these needles alone during a procedure and also together.  For example, I might lay in a background  color with a magnum for a smooth finish, then in a darker color use a single needle to give some texture over the top of the smooth color or I might use the liner needle for more of a precision brow where I need to make sure my design edges are perfect.

3 Round Liner


15 Curved Magnum

Side view of magnum

 To your PMU success,

PMU Artist & Needle Specialist
Inside Needle Knowledge

Purchase the I.N.K. Course Now

IG jillhoyer



50% Complete

Liner Shader Guide

This chart helps you pay attention to your hand speed, machine speed, and hand movements when using liners for a liner effect and shaders for a shaded effect.

It also shows how you can use:

  • Liners for a shaded effect 
  • Shaders for a liner effect

A great go-to chart is just the beginning!