Top 5 Tattoo Needle Cartridges Ranked | Painful Pleasures Community
 

Top 5 Tattoo Needle Cartridges Ranked

Industry professional Kayleigh Tanthorey rates her top 5 favorite needle cartridges currently on the market. Check out her detailed review of each brand.
by Danny Tress Last Updated: April 18, 2023

When Cheyenne first introduced needle cartridges to the industry, it totally changed the way artists work. Swapping configurations could happen in seconds, and there wasn’t a need for using multiple machines per session (sometimes upwards of 10!) But I don’t think any of us could have predicted how advanced needle cartridges would become.

The variety of cartridges that this generation of tattooers has to choose from is both promising and extremely overwhelming.  As someone who’s “right in the thick of things,” frequently testing cartridge needles for quality and consistency, I figured it’d be useful to share my own personal top 5 list of cartridge needles. Feel free to use this as a reference point the next time you’re thinking of trying out a new cartridge. 

I’ve ranked my top 5 as follows: 

  1. BEST ALL AROUND
  2. BEST-KNOWN NAME BRAND
  3. BEST SLEEPER OPTION
  4. BEST BUDGET-FRIENDLY OPTION
  5. BEST IN INNOVATION

Check out the tea on each ranking below. 

BEST ALL AROUND: PEAK TRITON

Close-up of Triton needle cartridges

High-quality, ultra-stable, and highly versatile, Peak Triton takes the cake for “Best All Around” in needle cartridges.

For one thing, Peak Triton is rocking a highly unique US-patented stabilizer. It keeps your needles on track even when you’re tattooing with your largest mags. You won’t experience any wobbling or inconsistency when you’re working with Triton.

For another thing, Triton cartridges aren’t just consistently stable. You’ll also get consistently razor-sharp needles with superior ink flow in every single box — take it from me, who’s opened more than a few boxes. Peak made sure these cartridges were artist-tested and approved before launch, and during that process, there wasn’t (and hasn’t been) a single reported issue regarding the quality, design, or inner membrane.

Triton is also a highly versatile line, giving you 117+ configurations to choose from. You’ll also get an unmatched variety of diameter and taper options. This huge selection might make Triton a little less approachable for beginners, but pros who’ve been in the game for a while can easily find whatever configurations they’re looking for with Triton, from huge mags to bugpin varieties. Oh, and black and gray artists, rejoice! Triton is one of the few lines out there carrying a variety of #8 mags.

As far as Triton’s bugpin options go, you’ll notice the Bugpin Super Tight Liners are extra fine. I highly recommend them for fine line work. But note: most artists will want to choose a super tight liner that’s 1 to 2 sizes above their standard go-to size since they’re so thin.

And as far as sizes go, Triton also gives you some of the easiest to read size/configuration labeling I’ve ever seen… both on their boxes AND on the cartridge, so you can easily tell the difference between cartridges in your setup. My only complaint here would be that Peak doesn’t label the needle diameter on the cartridge itself, which would be great to see. But it truly is my only gripe. Triton cartridges were truly designed with artists in mind and have all the variety you need to do your best work. 

PROS:

  • Huge variety of configuration options (117+) 
  • Patented stabilizer offers the most stability of any needle tested 
  • Great Ink Flow 
  • Consistent Quality 
  • Easy-to-read labeling 
  • Tattooer-owned & developed 

CONS:

  • Can be overwhelming for beginners 
  • On the pricier side of the needles reviewed 
  • No mags 35+ 

TRITON RANKING: 

  • Available Configurations: 5/5 
  • Stabilizer: 5/5 
  • Membrane: 5/5 
  • Ink Flow: 5/5 
  • Overall Quality: 5/5 
  • Labeling: 4/5 
  • Price: 3/5 

Overall: (Average of Ranking) 4.5/5 

“These are some of the best cartridges that I have found yet. With amazing control, they effortlessly put ink in the skin. There is no doubt that I will continue to purchase these and also will recommend them to everyone I know. Great job, Peak, for making such an outstanding needle cartridge, picking up where others have been lacking.”Mark F. 

BEST-KNOWN NAME BRAND: KWADRON

Close-up of Kwadron needle cartridges

If you’ve been tattooing for any amount of time, someone’s inevitably recommended Kwadron needle cartridges to you… and for good reason! For years, Kwadron was unmatched in terms of quality and consistency. You really couldn’t find sharper, better-made needles out there. 

Since then, plenty of brands have stepped their game up with a focus on quality. Nevertheless, Kwadron still reigns supreme for setting the industry standard for needle quality over the years. You can still count on this brand for extra sharp needles in every box. You can also count on Kwadron for offering a wide variety of diameters and tapers, including large new mags. 

I only have two real complaints when it comes to Kwadron. For one thing, the price is steep compared to other cartridges out there — in fact, Kwadron is the priciest option on this list. For another thing, the needle information is hard to find. It’s not always clear what taper lengths Kwadron offers because they don’t label using millimeters. In fact, millimeter labeling is hard to come by in general (and we see HUGE inconsistencies between brands — some of which label every taper length from 3.5mm to 7.5mm as a ‘super long taper’ needle.) So, I’d like to see Kwadron come up with a better, clearer size labeling system.

Still, I’d recommend these high-quality needles for anyone who can fit them into their budget and has found success with the configurations they offer. Plus, you can’t forget that Kwadron set the bar for needle quality! 

PROS: 

  • Overall Quality & Consistency 
  • Number of configurations  
  • Wide Availability 

CONS: 

  • Hard to find needle info 
  • Lack of on-needle labeling 
  • Priciest of the needles tested 
  • Occasional stock issues 

KWADRON RANKING: 

  • Available Configurations: 4/5 
  • Stabilizer: 5/5 
  • Membrane: 5/5 
  • Ink Flow: 5/5 
  • Overall Quality: 5/5 
  • Labeling: 3/5 
  • Price: 3/5 

Overall: (Average of Ranking): 4.2/5 

“If you want a reliable source of quality lining cartridges, then Kwadron is key. There’s very little room for the needle to wiggle in the cartridge. I’ve gone through many boxes and found no irregular groupings or barbed needles.”Pedro V. 

BEST SLEEPER OPTION: PEAK QUARTZ

Close-up of Quartz needle cartridges

Yup — Peak is coming in hot with a second appearance on this top 5 list!

Peak Quartz needle cartridges have been on the market far longer than their high-end counterpart, Triton needles. But Quartz doesn’t leave much behind in the way of kick-ass features. With a quality membrane for even tension, a built-in radial stabilizer, and 126+ configurations to choose from, Quartz is an amazing line that a lot of artists sleep on.

Peak has really thought through the assortment and labeling for Quartz, even including the diameter and configurations laser engraved on each cartridge. The biggest difference between these and the higher end option (Triton) is the stabilizer. While Quartz cartridges have their stabilizer back near the membrane, Triton’s stabilizer is up toward the solder point of the needle. Despite this placement, the stabilization quality for both cartridges is top-notch.

Although not as “sophisticated” as Triton, the quality on Quartz is great for the price. I wouldn’t say they’re mind-blowing like the Triton cartridges, but they’re nonetheless a killer option for everyday use. They’re certainly a world above some of the cheaper needles we’ve tested.

The biggest con on Quartz needles is they don’t stand up well to more extreme running situations. So, you won’t have an issue with most day-to-day tattooing, but cranking a large mag on a 5mm stroke machine is likely going to pop a Quartz membrane.

But don’t sleep on Quartz if you’re in the market for a reliable, stable everyday cartridge needle.

*Note: Peak notified us they have recently fixed this issue that resulted from a longer than average back stem on their cartridges. We are leaving this in for the sake of transparency, but new cartridges provided and tested did resolve this issue).

PROS:

  • On-cartridge labeling (with diameter) 
  • HUGE assortment (126+ configurations) 
  • Physical stabilizer 
  • Available in large mag sizes

CONS:

  • Membranes break on long stroke machines* 
  • Not available at enough suppliers 

QUARTZ RANKING: 

  • Available Configurations: 5/5 
  • Stabilizer: 4/5 
  • Membrane: 4/5 
  • Ink Flow: 5/5 
  • Overall Quality: 4/5 
  • Labeling: 4/5 
  • Price: 4/5 

Overall: (Average of Ranking) 4.2/5 

“I love the clear tip, smooth movement, and perfectly constructed needles. I would highly recommend!”Tina S. 

BEST BUDGET-FRIENDLY OPTION: PRECISION CARTRIDGES

Close-up of Precision needle cartridges

If you’re looking for a daily workhorse that won’t break the bank, you’ve found it in Precision needle cartridges.

You won’t see convention booths or flashy Facebook ads for this brand, but you will see consistent, reliable, reasonably priced needles. What more could you ask for? With 58 configurations to choose from, Precision doesn’t offer quite as many options as other brands on this list. Nevertheless — even though you won’t find any 45 mags or 111 shaders — you’ll find plenty of daily go-to sizes and configurations.

Overall, Precision cartridges are sturdy with high-quality needles that pass the loupe test. They also have a solid membrane that can last for long sessions on high stroke machines. And at only $20–$25 per box, these cartridges beat out many of the slightly cheaper cartridges tested for quality (including FYT Emalla Dragonhawk/Mast and WJX). And that, my friends, is why Precision makes for the best-quality option on a budget! 

PROS: 

  • Price 
  • Overall Quality 

CONS:

  • Limited configuration options 
  • Few suppliers 
  • Somewhat confusing taper labeling 
  • Snug fit on some machines 

PRECISION RANKING:

  • Available Configurations: 3/5 
  • Stabilizer: 3/5 (no dedicated stabilizer device) 
  • Membrane: 4/5 
  • Ink Flow: 4/5 
  • Overall Quality: 3/5 
  • Labeling: 3/5 
  • Price: 4/5 

Overall: (Average of Ranking) 3.5/5 

“Fan-f*cking-tastic! These cartridges are the bee’s knees. Accurate line weight and super consistent. Stable, no side-to-side wobble whatsoever. Really like everything about them and have no doubts you will too.”Jeremy B. 

BEST IN INNOVATION: CHEYENNE CAPILLARY CARTRIDGES

Close-up of Cheyenne capillary needle cartridges

These cartridges simply had to make the list. Cheyenne delivered the original cartridge needle (and perhaps to some artists the GOAT). It’s been at the forefront of cartridge needles since the beginning.

While many new cartridges have become available in recent years, the OG hasn’t stopped innovating, and the Cheyenne Capillary line is one of the most effective (and coolest) lines we’ve seen come out recently. Advertised as holding up to 10x more ink than a standard cartridge, the unique spiral tip aims to help artists dip less and rip more. The idea is… you get to focus on your work way more than running low on flow. While I can’t say for sure if these cartridges can hold exactly 10x more, they definitely last longer between dips than your average needle… like, a LOT longer.

In terms of quality, the needles and safety membrane are exactly what we’ve come to expect from Cheyenne. So, there isn’t anything noteworthy to say there, positive, negative, or otherwise. The quality is, simply put, run-of-the-mill for Cheyenne.

Nevertheless, the capillary system is definitely an innovative game changer. But the feature that makes these cartridges great is also their biggest downside. While great at holding more ink, these bad boys are hard to clean out. They’re perfect for lining or packing in large areas of color, but since they’re so difficult to clean out, I wouldn’t recommend them if you change your colors frequently (unless you’re willing to dedicate a cartridge per color).

The only other negative I’d point out here is the limited size options. With only 18 configurations available, Cheyenne Capillary Cartridges are difficult to use consistently. I’d love to see more sizes in the near future from this innovative brand.

Overall, I’d recommend you try these needles for select pieces that don’t require a lot of color changes.

PROS:

  • Tattoo for MUCH longer between dipping 
  • Great for lining/ large areas of color 
  • Good quality needles 

CONS:

  • Pricy 
  • Limited configuration options (only 18 options) 
  • Extremely hard to clean between colors 

CHEYENNE CAPILLARY RANKING:

  • Available Configurations: 1/5 
  • Stabilizer: 3/5 (no dedicated stabilizer device) 
  • Membrane: 4/5 
  • Ink Flow: 5/5 
  • Overall Quality: 4/5 
  • Labeling: 3/5 
  • Price: 2/5 

Overall: (Average of Ranking) 3.1/5 

“These mags are really smooth and laid out more ink than the 15s I had been using. I’ll be buying more capillaries. Highly recommend them. They are worth the extra cost.”Jessica S. 

Find the Best Cartridges for You 

If you can afford the best tattoo needle technology… I’d, of course, recommend Peak Triton needles to everyone. But all the cartridges in this top 5 list are amazing options for tattooers of all experience levels and budgets. Moreover, it really is a matter of preference. Make a checklist of the key features you’re looking for in a cartridge needle — especially the configurations you must have in your setup. 

For more information on these needle cartridges, you can check out the product listings on PainfulPleasures, read comments left in the reviews section, and reach out to other artists who might have tried these brands. Let us know what your personal faves are on social media or in the review sections of our product listings! 


Kayleigh Tanthorey is the Senior Director of Marketing at PainfulPleasures. She started her career in the tattoo industry in 2008, working as a shop manager and tattoo apprentice. Eventually, she partnered with FK Irons founder Gaston Siciliano, and worked closely with him on tattoo machine development, which involved testing needle cartridge features and compatibility. At PainfulPleasures, Kayleigh continues to perform hands-on quality and consistency testing for machines, needle cartridges, and other brand-name technology. 

Comments are closed here.

Follow us @ Instagram