Tips for Choosing the Right Tattoo Machine for You!

Any good artist understands the importance of using the right tools for the job. A painter who loves creating watercolor landscapes is going to use a different brush from a portraitist who paints in oils. A ceramicist will have a potters wheel, while a mixed media sculptor might need a welding torch. It’s the same for tattooing. Different machines tattoo differently. No matter whether you’re picking your first tattoo machine or adding to your collection, having a good tattoo machine will make it easier for you to create amazing tattoos on your client’s skin.

Research Tattoo Machine Materials, Shape, and Weight

What material is a tattoo machine made of?

The last thing you want is for your tattoo gun to break mid-tattoo and risk damaging your customer’s skin (and your reputation in the process). You need a reliable tattoo machine and be able to trust that it is going to work properly. For this reason you’ll find that the best tattoo machines are made out of iron, steel, brass, bronze, or aluminum. Their strong metal frames ensure a sturdy, durable tattoo machine that you will spend less time setting up, and more time tattooing. Aluminum tattoo machines are more light-weight, with brass being the heaviest and also the most durable.

What should the shape and weight of a tattoo machine be?

As tattoo artists you will spend your career applying your beautiful designs to your customers’ skin, potentially for hours at a time. Using a tattoo machine that is too heavy will tire your hand out sooner, as well as reduce your ability to comfortably apply fine detail and turn to different angles. Using a too-heavy tattoo machine over a period of years could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, which is a surprisingly common ailment in the tattoo world.

No One Size Fits All

There is no ‘one size fits all’ so it is also important to try different tattoo machines and find one which is a comfortable shape to hold. Some machines come with different grip options, so you may find that one machine can give you several different size options. Over-extending your hand, or a shape which you struggle to grip, will have negative effects on how long you tattoo for as well as reduce your ability to make controlled and fine movements, impacting on the quality of the tattoo on your client’s skin.

2) Pick the Tattoo Machine Type That’s Right for You

Rotary Tattoo Machines vs Coil Tattoo Machines vs Wireless

Rotary and Coil Tattoo Machine History

Over 130 years ago, Thomas Edison invented an electric pen to speed up the process of creating duplicates of content. Little did he know that in 1851 Sam O’Reilly would adapt these ‘electric pens’ into the first ink-and-tube system rotary tattoo machines.

Coincidentally, less than a month after O’Reilly’s patent was filed, Thomas Riley patented the first single-coil tattoo machine in London, England. Soon after, Alfred Charles South created the first double-coil tattoo machine that was so heavy it had to be suspended from the ceiling as no one could hold it.

Luckily, the tattoo machine has evolved by leaps and bounds since the 1800’s. Rotary tattoo machines are even more advanced and are considerably quieter and gentler on the skin than their coil tattoo machine counterparts available today.

Coil Tattoo Guns

In the past, traditional coil machines were the industry standard and known by tattoo artists to be “the best tattoo machines,” due to their simple electromagnetic design, easily interchangeable parts, relatively low cost, and ability to handle all types of tattoo needles for both lining and shading. And in most cases, tattoo artists can maintain and tune their tattoo machine, adjusting hit and stroke, with just a few simple tools.

For many tattoo artists who appreciate bold lines, the ability to repair and tinker on their tattoo machine makes them “loyal to the coil.” If you like building things and want to customize every aspect of your own machine from the armature bar, to the o rings, to the springs, and everything in between, this may be the right type of tattoo machine for you.

Rotary Tattoo Guns

Rotary tattoo machines used to be known for only handling smaller groupings of tattoo needles, but recent developments mean this is no longer necessarily the case. More and more tattoo machine builders are offering pen-style rotary machines that are more ergonomic, lightweight, and can handle bold linework.

Though these machines do not allow for tinkering (and their warranties can be voided if an artist opens up the case to look at the motor), some of the newer models allow for adjustments to hit and stroke. They also tend to be pricier and can run two to three times the price of a coil machine.

Wireless Tattoo Guns

With advancements in battery technology, wireless tattoo machines have become not just a viable option to consider as a tattoo artist but also a very popular one. Traditional wired tattoo guns are not without their issues or annoyances particularly with the actual wired part of them. Many artists find that the wires from the clip cord and the foot pedal will get in the way of tattooing and become an obstacle for executing the desired tattoo design often creating a frustrating experience for the artist.

So you can imagine how liberating it can be for a tattoo artist to be able to put ink on the skin of a customer without any physical wires getting in the way or getting tangled up. Wireless tattoo guns have advanced so much these days that they are as full featured as traditional wired machines and can last many hours to accommodate long tattoo sessions.