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Tattoo tubes cover the tattoo needle during the machine’s operation and, along with the grip and tip, provide the artist a stable point of contact with their machine to ensure maximum control and precision while tattooing. Depending on your machine, your preferences, and your studio equipment, there are many different tattoo tubes to choose from. 

There are different sizes and lengths of tattoo tubes to accommodate different machine setups and needle configurations, so you should consider which needles you use most frequently when purchasing tattoo tubes. The other primary consideration to keep in mind when purchasing tattoo tubes is whether you want reusable stainless steel tubes or disposable plastic ones.

Stainless steel tattoo tubes are a good choice for artists looking to save money over time, since they are reusable. In order to reuse them, however, you’ll need an autoclave and all of the necessary accessories to operate it safely. That means you’ll need to make a fairly significant up-front investment, but as long as you plan on tattooing for a long time, it will eventually be repaid.

Stainless steel tattoo tubes are slightly heavier than disposable ones, which some artists prefer because they feel it provides greater stability in the hand. Stainless steel tubes also offer more flexibility and customization options, since they are sold separately from tips and grips, allowing artists to pair them with the specific tattoo grips and tattoo tips that suit their needs and preferences as an artist.

Disposable tattoo tubes are made of plastic and come individually sealed in sterile bags. While disposable plastic tattoo tubes are much cheaper than stainless steel ones on the individual unit level, you’ll need to regularly purchase new ones since they are not reusable. Because they’re individually sterilized and sealed, however, you’ll never have to worry about whether they’ve been fully and properly disinfected. This makes them an excellent choice for artists without a permanent studio space, or artists who regularly travel for conventions or client appointments.

Disposable tattoo tubes generally combine the tube and tip, or the tube, tip, and grip into a single object, meaning that they are less customizable than stainless steel tattoo tubes. But they’re also light, which some artists find more comfortable, and come in so many different styles that you’re likely to find one that suits your individual needs and preferences.