Cartridges, cartridges, cartridges..

EZ Disposable Cartridge Grips with Plunger
EZ Disposable Cartridge Grips with Plunger

By now you can’t order supplies without knowing about cartridges and how every supplier and manufacturer has clambered onto the new market.  I was pretty late into the cartridge game, they’re a far cry from the days of making your own needles and I thought I’d let things ride out a little before I changed things in my setup.

I’m probably wrong but up until a number of years ago the Hawk seemed to be the only cartridge bearing machine, I’d never used one and so never known much about cartridges, it peeked my interest but everyone using the Hawk back then seemed to be more into colour realism which I don’t really have much to do with.

Coming from knowing nothing, researching cartridges was a pain in the ass.  Things like, does this supplier cartridge fit that suppliers disposable grip?  What’s a plunger?  Do I need a plunger for this machine?  Oh so this plunger has a weird rubber grommet and only works with this cartridge grip?  Can I use a coil machine with it or does it have to be a rotary?  and more..

After using cartridges here’s a few things you might want to consider when looking at cartridge grips and needles followed by some links to videos you might find interesting

  • not all disposable cartridge grips are created equal, buy cheap and it’ll make things more difficult for you, cartridges don’t always fit snugly.  If you really want to give cartridges a fair chance, invest in some mid to top of the range grips and needles.
  • It’s like starting tattooing again, you’ll need to try a few different cartridge suppliers to find the types of needles you like, you might like mags from Sabre but liners from Elite
  • It makes your set up more expensive, the needles and grips and definitely more expensive than the classic setup.
  • It’s quicker to set up and break down with cartridges.
  • You can use one machine with a cartridge grip and just interchange different cartridge needles, so you could set up one machine and have 3-4 different needle cartridges that you swop throughout the tattoo, this is totally dependent on your set up of machines though, I didn’t end up doing this too often which negated the whole ease of use, minimal setup thing.
  • You can use coils when using a cartridge grip, cartridge needles and a plunger.
  • Every cartridge needle and grip I came across were using the same dimensions ie you could interchange different supplier needles and grips, there seems to be standard measurements they’re all working too.  Having said this, the cheaper grips and tips had movement in the cartridge at times which really fucks things up and you end up putting a new grip and cartridge in!
  • In terms of the environment it’s worse, there’s a lot of plastic involved and it seems to have added more packaging to a normal setup.  You may not have to do any sterilising if you’re totally disposable but there’s still a lot of waste with each tattoo.
  • The cartridges have springs in so changing suppliers doesn’t only mean changing the needle, there’s also a different feel/hit/spring/smoothness to each suppliers cartridge.
  • Just because a lot of people are using them doesn’t mean they’re going to suit your tattooing, a lot of the time they take adjusting and I found that it really slowed down my black and grey tattooing (maybe it’s a good thing?)
  • After using them I’m still on the fence, I’ll give them another shot in a few months.

Below is a list to some videos on cartridges, if you’re new to the whole system it might be worth a glance through a few of them before you make your choices.

10 Tips for Cartridge Tattooing


Intro to Tattoo Needle Cartridges | Fireside Technique | EP 10

Cheyenne Hawk Tattoo Machine Disposable Needle Cartridges

How they’re made

Using T Tech cartridge needles with a Hawk Pen



Cartridge Review – audio in Spanish(I think) but subtitled and pretty comprehensive