Tattoo machines, recommendations to choose the best one


A tattoo machine is an electro-mechanical device that tattoo artists use to paint on the skin with the help of a needle and some pigment. It could be thought that tattooing is similar to using a pencil, however, its use is not that simple and the technique is more complicated than it seems. 

First of all, quality tattoo work starts with a quality machine and a stable power supply that guarantees that the result will be consistent. 

Since the tattoo machine affects the process and outcome, it’s imperative to look for the right types of tattoo machines that suit your style of tattooing.

The machine is the piece of equipment that costs the most money, and although affordable choices exist, investing in a high-end model is the best decision to ensure that the work will be satisfactory. If you are investing in your first equipment, getting the right machine and power supply is even more crucial because an inconsistent performance of your equipment can’t be compensated by your skills at this point. And even worse, low-quality equipment won’t let you progress at a good pace, and maybe you even come to wrong conclusions about your skills, while the only problem is perhaps due to a weak power supply, or to the excessive jitter of a cheap machine. Remember that in this learning phase you are more vulnerable than ever, so you need all the possible help to reach an acceptable level of proficiency to really start progressing. The faster you get to that point, the better.

Besides, happy clients will love to contact you again if they feel content with their first project.

Broadly speaking, tattoo machines are grouped into 3 major categories by how they work, namely liners, shaders, and color packers.

How a tattoo machine works

The tattoo machine is responsible for moving the needle up and down at a constant frequency. Sometimes referred to as speed, the frequency ranges from 70 up to 140 punctures per second, although not all machines can work on the full range. There are three major types of tattoo machines: 

  • Coil machines
  • Pneumatic machines
  • Rotary machines

Coil machines were the first to appear, and their invention is attributed to Edison in 1876 although, of course, Edison wasn’t after the development of a tattoo machine at that time. Its invention, the electric pen, was repurposed some years after by Samuel O’Reilly for tattooing. Coil machines are widely used and are preferred over any other type by many artists for their precision for lining, and because the result on skin is less traumatic than with other types of machines.

Pneumatic machines were very popular some years ago, but their use dropped abruptly when rotary machines appeared. Pneumatic machines use an air compressor and are known for being very light in the hand.

Rotary machines are the most modern of all and they are characterized by having a motor to move the needle. These machines can be very simple, but we are now in a very fast innovation cycle driven by brands like Musotoku that are paying attention to small but crucial details that helps the tattoo artist to develop his or her skills faster and achieve results that make customers happy.

Recommendations for buying a tattoo machine

When it comes to buying a tattoo machine model, it is necessary to keep in mind what is the style that wants to be performed since not all machines are good for everything. Some other considerations to take into account are:

  • size and weight
  • noise and vibration
  • ergonomics
  • type of connector (RCA, 3.5mm or clipcord)
  • durability
  • compatibility with cartridge needles
  • power and voltage range
  • wireless or not

Types of tattoo machines

While the offer is quite wide, it is best to make sure that you always choose the best. Today, there are hundreds of proposals on the market for this professional sector, but not all serve the same project or have the same characteristics. Although some tattoo artists can work any technique with just one machine, it is most usual to see artists having a wider range of tools to choose from when facing different types of techniques. As the saying goes, a Swiss army knife will work for almost anything, but it won’t excel at almost anything.

Liner machine

The liner’s task is to inject the ink quickly so that it does not have time to flow out. These machines run at the highest speed of all types, and it goes from 120 to 140 Hz (or punctures per second). Thanks to the high speed the tattoo artist can create fine lines. Usually, the liner is a light machine with rigid mechanics. Many tattoo artists that use rotary machines rely on coil machines only for lining, since the performance is outstanding in this technique.

A good power supply is mandatory for these machines since, at this high speed, any voltage fluctuation will ruin the lining work. 

Color Packer machine

The color packing technique consists in putting solid pigment into the skin. In most cases, color packing includes black color. These machines are similar to the shader machines. It is also usual to find coil machines for this technique, but most of the rotary machines that work well for shading will do the job for color packing too. When color packing the power required by the machine will be the highest since it requires more energy to pack solid colors with bigger needle groups into the skin. Make sure that your power supply is up to the task to get the best results of your skills.

Shader machine

These types of machines are used to fill large areas and to create shadows. Shader machines run at lower frequencies, from 60 to 100 Hz, and the mechanics are softer. Rotary machines are very appropriate for this task, although there are specific coil machines to do this job too.

Written by Megan Taylor
Megan is a beauty expert who is passionate about all things makeup and glam! Her love for makeup has brought her to become a beauty pro at Glamour Garden Cosmetics.