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Tattoo Styles: Single Needle

With the single needle technique artists are able to use a much greater level of detail, as fine lines allow for more complexity in a smaller space

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Single needle tattoos, also known as single needle black and grey tattoos, are generally tiny, highly detailed and not strictly but generally monochrome, typically formed of light, graphite grey lines and airbrush-like shading.

The precise and detailed appearance is polar opposite to the usual bold lines and bright colors found in the traditional tattoo flash books. Think technical drawing pencil as opposed to thick black sharpie.

The wispy appearance of single needle tattoos is typically achieved thanks to the improvements made with tattoo machines, needles and inks. As the name indicates, a needle with a single tip, such as a one round liner (1RL), is used. This type of needle enables artists to add more precision to their work, and allows for more details in a compacted space.

Single needle style is not to be confused with fine line tattooing. Not every fine line tattoo is done with a single needle, and vice versa. The key is that tattoos done with a single needle create the finest lines there can be.

If there is a tattoo artist who can be called a single needle "living legend", that is Mark Mahoney, proprietor of Shamrock Social Club in Hollywood, CA. In the 1980s, Mahoney (along with Freddy Negrete, Charlie Cartwright and Jack Rudy) was instrumental in being a pioneer in the movement of the single-needle black and gray tattoo throughout Southern California.

Nowadays, the most famous single needle tattoo artist is Brian Woo (aka Doctor Woo), who broke into the tattoo world in 2008 after he was invited to apprentice for Mahoney.

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Visit our single needle tattoo gallery for more.

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