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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.

1) Research Tattoo Machine Materials, Shape, and Weight

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.

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

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.

3) Pick a Tattoo Machine That’s Right for Your Budget

The price of a tattoo machine can vary anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $1,000 or more. How much you should expect to pay for a tattoo machine will depend on what kind you choose or need to purchase and what brand of gun you choose. It’s important that you set a budget and stick to it.

From there the cost will either increase or decrease depending on whether you need all the accessories and supplies to start out or just the standalone gun. Accessories and supplies you will need will include ink, tubes, needles or cartridges, a foot pedal, clip cord, power supply, or battery packs. A lot of these supplies will be a recurring cost especially for supplies like ink or sanitization supplies, like clip cord covers and machine bags, to keep your equipment and space as clean and safe as possible for your clients.

4) Check Your Tattoo Supplies

Unboxing your first tattoo machine can be exhilarating, but can quickly be disappointing if you’ve forgotten to purchase supplies or picked some that don’t work with your new tattoo gun. Not all power supplies and not all tattoo needles are created equal, so make sure you have the right accessories and supplies for the right tattoo machine.

Tattoo machines need more voltage as you increase the coil wraps or the size of the needle groupings, so an inconsistently powered or underpowered machine will struggle to penetrate the skin with the needles, leading to poorly executed tattoos making getting the proper power supply an important factor.

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