How to Set Up a Tattoo Machine for Lining

  • Written By Dan Hunter on March 22, 2023
    Last Updated: April 7, 2023

Tattoos are more popular than ever, and as a tattoo artist, it’s important to have the skills and knowledge necessary to create beautiful and lasting tattoos. One of the most important aspects of tattooing is setting up your machine correctly, especially when it comes to lining.

In this article, we’ll take you through the steps to set up a tattoo machine for lining, so you can create precise and stunning line work for your clients.

Do Tattoo Machines Have to be Set Up Differently for Lining?

Yes, tattoo machines do need to be set up differently for lining than they do for shading. The main difference between the two is the needle depth. For lining, you’ll want to set the needle depth to around 1-2mm to ensure precise and consistent lines. Shading, on the other hand, requires a deeper needle depth to allow for a smoother gradient of color.

Additionally, the type of needle used for lining is different than the one used for shading. A liner needle typically has fewer needles and is arranged in a circle, while a shading needle has more needles and is arranged in a flat or angled shape. It’s important to use the correct needle for the job to ensure the best results.

Setting Up Your Machine for Lining

Gather Your Materials

Before you start setting up your tattoo machine for lining, you’ll need to make sure you have all the necessary materials. These materials include a liner needle, a grip, a power supply, a clip cord, and ink. You may also want to have paper towels and rubbing alcohol on hand to clean your machine and work area.

Assemble Your Machine

Once you have all of your materials, it’s time to assemble your tattoo machine. Start by attaching the liner needle to the grip, making sure it is secure. Next, connect the clip cord to the machine and the power supply. You’ll want to make sure the clip cord is securely connected to both the machine and the power supply.

Adjust Your Needle Depth

Once your machine is assembled, it’s time to adjust the needle depth. This will ensure that your machine is set up for lining rather than shading. You’ll want to set your needle depth to about 1-2mm, which will allow for precise and consistent lines.

Test Your Machine

Before you start tattooing, it’s important to test your machine to make sure it’s running smoothly. This will help you get a feel for how your machine is running and make any necessary adjustments before you start tattooing on skin.

Load Your Ink

Once your machine is set up and tested, it’s time to load your ink. Be sure to use a high-quality ink that is specifically designed for lining. You’ll want to fill your ink cap with enough ink to get started, but not too much that it will go to waste.

Start Tattooing

With your machine set up, tested, and ink loaded, you’re ready to start tattooing! Make sure you have a steady hand and take your time to ensure you’re creating clean, precise lines. Remember to take breaks when needed and clean your machine and work area frequently to ensure a safe and hygienic process.

The Different Types of Liner Needles and How to Choose the Right One for Your Machine

When it comes to lining, using the right needle can make all the difference in the quality of the final tattoo. There are several types of liner needles available, including round liners, flat shaders, and weaved magnums. 

Round liners are the most commonly used needle for lining, as they create crisp and precise lines. Flat shaders are better suited for larger areas of color, while weaved magnums are best for creating smooth, even shading.

When choosing a liner needle, it’s important to consider the size of the needle and the number of needles in the group. A smaller needle will create finer lines, while a larger needle will create bolder lines. The number of needles in the group will also affect the thickness of the lines, with fewer needles creating finer lines and more needles creating thicker lines.

Tips for Adjusting the Needle Depth to the Right Setting for Precise Line Work

Adjusting the needle depth is a crucial step in setting up your tattoo machine for lining. To achieve precise line work, you’ll want to set the needle depth to around 1-2mm. This will allow the needle to penetrate the skin at the right depth, creating consistent and clean lines.

To adjust the needle depth, you’ll need to loosen the needle bar and move it up or down as needed. You can use a depth gauge or simply eyeball it to make sure the needle is at the right depth. It’s important to take your time when adjusting the needle depth to ensure that it’s set correctly before you start tattooing.


Setting up a tattoo machine for lining may seem daunting at first, but with the right materials and a little practice, it can become second nature. By following the steps outlined in this article, you’ll be on your way to creating beautiful and lasting tattoos that your clients will love. So take

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