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The Top Machines for Tattoo Artists

woman drawing a purple tattoo on a customer's arm

A tattoo machine is one (if not the most) important part of the tattooing process. It is the handheld device that moves the needle up and down in order to inject the ink or pigment into the lower layer of the skin to create the permanent tattoo. This allows the artist to penetrate the skin without moving their hand. Most tattoo machines also give the artist some degree of control over how deep the needle penetrates and are turned on and off through the use of a foot pedal. There are three basic types of tattoo machines: rotary, coil, and pneumatic. Rotary tattoo machines are powered by a small spinning motor to create an up and down motion; coil machines by electromagnetic currents to pull an armature bar up and down; pneumatic machines by the use of pressurized air compressors that move the needle. Whichever type you prefer, a good tattoo machine is a key part of any tattoo artist’s arsenal.

Picking a Tattoo Machine

Here’s what you may want to consider when buying a tattoo machine:

  • Type: There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the three types of tattoo machines. Coil machines are the classic type and are the best suited to doing intricate lining and shading. Rotary machines are known for having the smoothest and more even injections, as well as causing less noise than other types. Pneumatic tattoo machines offer the advantage of being safe to utilize in an autoclave and for their near weightlessness, which makes them anti-fatigue and easier to handle for longer. Consider what you’re looking for in a tattoo machine and choosing accordingly.
  • Compatibility: If you buy a machine alone rather than as part of a kit, you’ll want to make sure the needles and other tools you use will fit and work together. Most tattoo machines will mention which kind of needles and equipment they’re compatible with, so be sure to check this before you buy. It’s especially important that the power supply and needles are compatible with the machine.
  • Price: The machine is the most expensive piece of tattoo equipment you’ll have to buy. Be prepared to pay more for higher-quality machines.

Top Choice: Solong Rotary Tattoo Machine

black tattoo machine with a charger and other assorted accessories

If you’re a fan of or prefer to use rotary-style tattoo machines while you work, consider this CE certified tattoo machine. Made of aluminum alloy with an anodized finish, this device is strong, stable, and lightweight, so you can draw, line, and shade for longer without tiring. The pen-like shape is meant to feel comfortable and natural in your hand. The machine is wireless, so you won’t need to worry about becoming tangled up by a cord while you work. The 10-watt motor runs nice and quietly with no buzzing or whirring noises and won’t heat up, even for tattoos that take hours to complete. The updated rechargeable battery contains lights that show the charge level, so you’ll never have to wonder how much power is left or when you’ll need to recharge the machine. The tattoo machine charges quickly and will last two to three hours after a full charge. Besides the tattoo machine and battery, you’ll receive 50 cartridge tattoo needles and a connection cord. It will work with all other brands of tattoo power supplies, as the plug adapter is highly compatible with other power supplies.

Top Choice

Solong Tattoo Pen Kit Rotary Tattoo Gun Machine with Wireless Tattoo Power Supply 50Pcs Cartridge Tattoo Needles EM128KITPRD50-1-US

A quiet, lightweight, wireless tattoo machine with a rechargeable battery and highly compatible plug adapter.

Best for Beginners: BMX Rotary Pen Tattoo Machine For Beginners

narrow black tattoo machine with two replacement needles and a charging cable

If you’re just starting off as a tattoo artist, you might feel uncertain where to begin and which tattoo machine to buy. This pen-like rotary machine is one that is designed to be beginner-friendly. With this purchase, you receive your rotary tattoo machine in your choice of black, gold, or red, a DC connecting cord, and three complimentary tattoo cartridge needles. The low noise output and less vibration make it easier for tattoo artists of all levels to keep a steady hand and reduce potential noise distractions. The non-slip handle is a great feature for all artists, and the light aviation-grade aluminum means less fatigue during use. The advanced gear system guarantees reliability and efficiency, while the adjustable knob allows you to adjust the depth of needles with one quick twist, ideal for shifting between lining and shading. The device is compatible with all tattoo cartridge needles, so if you have a different brand you prefer, you can use them in this tattoo machine. And the strong power motor with 4.5 watts allows for higher speed, saving you time and effort in the long run.

Best for Beginners

BMX Rotary Pen Tattoo Machine Cartridge Liner Shader Tattoo Pens for Beginner Tattoo Artists (Black) …

A beginner-friendly tattoo machine that allows for greater control and efficiency with less noise and vibrations.

Best Pen: HAWINK Rotary Short Pen Tattoo Machine

compact rounded black tattoo machine without the needle

Plenty of tattoo artists prefer to use pen-shaped tattoo machines over any other kind. Since so many people are used to the sensation of holding a pen or pencil in their hand, a pen-shaped tattoo machine invokes that same feeling, and a comfortable and familiar sensation allows artists to stay relaxed as they work. This tattoo machine is a reliable pen-shaped option designed to mimic an actual pen as closely as possible. Made of carved aircraft aluminum alloy, it is both anti-fatigue and stable, weighing in at just over 4 ounces. It lacks the buzzing noises of classic tattoo machines and operates soft and smooth to allow tattooed skin to heal that much faster. Operating voltage is between 5 and 10 volts for ideal results and to avoid overheating or mechanical wear. This package includes an RCA connection cord a well as the tattoo machine. An option that includes two needles and white ink cartridges is available at additional cost.

Best Pen

Hawink Rotary Short Pen Tattoo Machine with German FAULHABER Motor CNC-Q2

A smooth-operating tattoo machine designed to be shaped as close to a real pen as possible.

Best Ergonomic Design: Dragonhawk Extreme Rotary Tattoo Machine

black ergonomically shaped rotary tattoo machine

Cramping and fatigue are very real problems that many tattoo artists face on a regular basis. Luckily, this rotary tattoo machine was built as a way to help combat these issues. The ergonomic design and durable, 6-ounce carbon steel frame are meant to feel as weightless and easy to lift as possible, so you can work on tattoos longer without tiring or hurting your hands. This device is well equipped for any and all tattoo work, from light shading to heavy dark lining to color packing and beyond. This is in large part thanks to the fact that you can adjust the machine’s volts depending on the work at hand, 7.5 to 8.5 volts for shading and color packing, or 8 to 9 volts for solid lining. The updated design includes features like an oil-resistant slider for less friction and sound and a strong steel spring for better elasticity, life, and stability. Choose between a black, pale green, or red tattoo machine to better fit your personal or business style.

Best Ergonomic Design

Dragonhawk Extreme Rotary Tattoo Machine Carbon Steel Machine for Tattoo Artists (Black)

A solid carbon steel tattoo machine designed to be light and comfortable and versatile enough to do any and all tattoo work.

Meghan Herlihy Meghan Herlihy
Meghan Herlihy is a full-time writer for LifeSavvy and How-To Geek and has written across a wide variety of topics, genres, and formats, including radio talk shows, local sports journalism, and creative original fiction. She received her bachelor's degree in communications from Ithaca College and a master's in writing from Johns Hopkins University. When she's not writing, you're most likely to find her reading a book, petting every dog within eyesight, and indulging in her love of travel. Read Full Bio »
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