If you’re just getting started as a tattoo artist or you’re an established artist considering trying something new, it can be hard to sort through all the options and decide whether autoclavable tattoo tubes, grips and tattoo tips or disposable tattoo tube-tip-grip units are the best choice for you. Tattoo tubes, tips and grips are core elements in every tattoo artist's toolkit, so it's important to choose wisely and pick supplies that are economical without sacrificing quality.
Before you start narrowing down your options, you need to know what your options are as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each. To help you make the best choice, we've provided a general comparison of autoclavable vs. disposable tattoo tube, tip and grip options below, followed by an outline of the most popular autoclavable and disposable products available to you through Painfulpleasures.com.
Pros & Cons of Autoclavable & Disposable Tattoo Tubes, Tips & Grips
There are benefits and drawbacks to using both autoclavable and disposable tattoo tubes, tips and grips. Once you know all the pros and cons, you can make a more informed decision about whether disposable or reusable tattoo tips, tubes and grips are the better option for you.
When you purchase disposable tattoo tubes, everything you need comes in one handy unit, including the grip, tube and tip, whereas autoclavable tattoo tips, grips and tubes are often sold separately. Having to buy separate components may seem like a drawback to autoclavable options, but it can also be a benefit, as we explain below. There are actually several benefits to purchasing reusable tattoo grips, tips and tubes separately that may outweigh the convenience of all-in-one disposable units:
- Minimal Equipment Needed – You need a minimum of one disposable tattoo tube-tip-grip unit for each tattoo you do–sometimes two or more, if you need tubes with different style tips for filling, line work, etc., on the same tattoo–but that isn't the case with autoclavable units. Since they're reusable, you can use one set to ink an almost infinite number of tattoos. That said, you'll want at least a couple sets on hand so you can have one running through an autoclave while you use another to tattoo someone, but you won't need to purchase more than a few tubes and grips, and a couple tips in each style you use when tattooing. Since there are autoclavable tube-tip units available, you can consolidate some of the parts needed by purchasing those elements in combo units, as desired. Or, you can purchase stainless steel combo grips that include all 3 components in one preset unit, if you prefer using an autoclavable all-in-one tube-tip-grip set.
- The Cost Factor – Autoclavable tattoo tips, tattoo tubes and grips may cost a little more per set than disposables, but over time, you can save money. Disposable tattoo tube-tip-grip units can only be used once and then they have to be chucked, which means you're spending anywhere from $0.50 to several dollars on tubes, tips and grips alone every time you tattoo with a disposable unit–on top of the cost of tattoo needles, grip covers or wraps, clip cord covers, gloves, tattoo ink, and all the other tattoo supplies you need to do your job. That cost can add up over time. Autoclavable tubes, tips and grips will pay for themselves after just a few sessions, and then your only ongoing cost is the cost to clean and sterilize them in between uses.
- Customizability – The final factor that sets apart autoclavable tattoo tips, tubes and grips is customizability. When you purchase a disposable tattoo tube-tip-grip unit, the only thing you can do to modify it is to wrap your grip with cohesive tape to pad it. Granted, there are so many different styles of tattoo tip-grip-tube units available that you can easily find one that fits your hand well. However, the tubes/tips are fixed parts of such units, so you can't mix and match parts to suit your style like you can with autoclavable tubes, grips and tattoo tips. Separate autoclavable components allow you to mix your preferred grip with the best style of tattoo tube and tip to get the best combination of tools for a particular type of tattoo work, such as filling versus line work.
After reading all that, you may think that disposable tattoo tube-tip-grip units don't have a lot going for them, but that's far from true. As stated earlier, they're incredibly convenient. They're pre-sterilized, so you can pop open a new unit and get right to work without having to fire up your autoclave first. When you're done tattooing, you simply throw the unit away rather than having to scrub the component parts, run them through an ultrasonic cleaner, and then autoclave them. This is a great perk to using disposable tattoo tube-tip-grip units, particularly for traveling artists visiting other shops or working the convention circuit.
When you add up the cost of cleaners and energy to run an ultrasonic cleaner and an autoclave constantly to keep your reusable tattoo grips, tips and tubes clean and sterilized, and you combine that with the higher initial cost of purchasing reusable tools, disposable tattoo tubes aren't necessarily a more expensive option–particularly if you favor one of the economy styles like Precision Classic Tube & Grip Sets. Disposable tubes are an even more cost-effective option when you purchase them in bulk and as part of larger Wholesale Store or Distributor Store orders.
Since it's debatable which option is really more cost-effective, the most important factors to consider when deciding whether to purchase autoclavable or disposable tattoo tips, tubes and grips are convenience and customizability. Do you want to be able to mix and match component parts on the fly to suit your style and the type of work you're doing at the moment, or do you want the convenience of being able to open a package, get to work, and toss the tattoo tube afterwards?
You might find that it makes sense to have a variety of both disposable and autoclavable parts on hand, so that you can take advantage of one benefit or the other depending on where you're working and the type of tattoo work you're doing. It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing choice! You can also pair disposable tube/tip units with autoclavable grips so you can enjoy the convenience of disposables with the customizability of autoclavable parts.
Tattoo Tube, Tip & Grip Options
You have many choices when it comes to both autoclavable tattoo tubes, tips and grips and disposable tattoo tube-tip-grip units. Here are some of the most popular options available on our site.
Our Classic Tube & Grip sets may be our economy disposable tattoo tube option price-wise, but they feel like high-end tubes in hand. This style tube has a slender, beehive-shaped, soft rubber grip and a pen-like feel. With 2 tube lengths available (1" & 3/4") and the Classic's quality design, it's no wonder that artists return to this disposable tube time and again.
With their next-gen design, our Vision Tube & Grip Sets are clearly a step above the rest. The transparent tubes provide visibility into ink flow and needle movement, and the tubes are embossed and welded inside tightly-fitting grips to prevent unwanted movement. The wide, ringed, textured-rubber, air-cushioned grips allow for a relaxed-yet-secure grasp. These disposable tubes embody comfort and utility.
All of the tube and grip sets in our Precision line of tattoo supplies are top-of-the line tools made to be affordable without sacrificing quality, but our Victory Tube & Grip Sets stand heads and shoulders above the other options. What makes Victory tubes a clear winner? The grips are wide and wrapped in a band of comfortable, textured silicone for a no-slip comfort grip. A window in each tube combined with a clear tip allows you to monitor ink flow and needle movement. Our Victory tubes are lightweight and easy to maneuver, too, allowing you to ink a winning tattoo every time!
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Vortex Wrath Tubes offer tattoo artists a wide variety of benefits. The Vortex Grip is constructed from a patented gel-like material that provides maximum shock absorption and comfort. The grips are custom-molded onto the tubes to prevent spinning. The tubes themselves have a semi-transparent tint that provides visibility into the ink tube reservoir while preventing ink blots for a cleaner look. The Vortex Wrath's smooth contours will prevent your needles from snagging on insertion, and its thin-profile tips maintain exceptional durability and heat resistance. These are presicely-molded disposable tattoo tubes made with no excess plastic, ensuring maximum ink flow and consistent needle support.
All Vortex Wrath Tubes are EO gas-sterilized and packaged separately. They come with your choice of tips.
To learn more about tattoo tubes, tips and grips, including what style tips are best for which types of tattoo work and how best to clean autoclavable tattoo tubes, check out our full-length Tattoo Tubes, Tips & Grips article.