Getting the best tattoo machine can be quite daunting as there are a lot of brands on the market. So how do you know what tattoo machine to buy? But first, there are three main types of tattoo machines, the coil, the pneumatic and the rotary tattoo machine. The coil and rotary machines are the most common types. These machines are different in style and purpose. The coil machine is the earliest tattoo machine made. It is the producer of the buzzing sound that you hear in a tattoo Parlor. The key difference between a coil and a rotary machine is the mode of operation.
A coil tattoo machine is designed to electromagnetically push a needle vertically through coils which creates an electromagnetic current that moves the armature bar up. When the armature bar touches the contact screw, the current is lost and the bar falls back. In this way, a needle attached to the armature bar injects tattoo ink into the skin when this process is repeated.
Top 10 Best Tattoo Machines
Cheyenne is famous for inventing the first single-use cartridges for rotary machines. They are known for manufacturing grips, needle cartridges with different configurations and other tattoo accessories. The Hawk rotary tattoo machine is high end and an industry favourite. It is famous among professionals and beginners who want to take tattooing seriously. It is compact, well crafted and lightweight.
- It looks a lot like a pen.
- It is compatible with the Cheyenne 21mm and 25mm grip, and the cartridge system.
- It is versatile and puts on a performance that will blow your mind.
- It can run off most power supplies.
- It has an accompanying power cable.
- It does not require a startup facility.
- It is expensive compared to other machines in this review.
- It can only work with other power supply brands using an adapter cable.
This list will not be complete without a bishop. Famous for its creation of interesting looking rotary tattoo machines, the Tattoo giant offers a wide range of quality machines that tattooist and clients alike have come to love. The Bishop Authentic Rotary Tattoo Machine is designed under aircraft industry standards to give you a piece you can trust.
- It is made from billet aluminium
- It is hand polished and crafted on five-axis CNC machines to give ultimate precision
- It weighs only 3.8 ounces
- It is versatile.
- It is made from billet aluminium and is durable.
- It has a balanced weightless feel.
- It is crafted under high standards.
- It is expensive. But it is expected for a tattoo iron crafted from billet aluminium in line with aircraft standards.
If you need a premium tattoo gun for a fraction of the price, then the Thomas 2 piece tattoo kit is a great choice. Made from brass, the coil machine is durable and comes in a pair (Liner and Shader). For a few extra bucks you can upgrade the iron as your skill gets better. It is a great coil tattoo machine for those just stepping into the industry.
- It has 8 Wrap Coils for Liner and 10 Wrap Coils Set Shader
- The Coil Height is 32mm
- The Liner Capacitor is 33UF 50V while the Shader Capacitor is 47UF 63V
- The Tattoo Machine Start Voltage is 4V and works best on 6-8V
- It has a Speed Armature Bar
- The Spring Contact and wing nut is made from Copper while the Thumb Nut Screw is Brass
- It can work for 8hrs without getting hot.
- You get two for one (liner and shader).
- It is much quieter than most coil guns on the market.
- It lays lines and colours smoothly and with less pain than most coil machines.
- You will need to upgrade the coil and springs to get it to work optimally.
This pen-style tattoo iron is perfect for beginners looking to get into the tattoo business. It is cheap and easy to use. Does it offer the same performance as high-end tattoo machines? No, it doesn’t but it is an ideal pick to get you started.
- It weighs 140g and is 12cm in length
- It has a Space Aluminum Frame
- It has RCA Cord Connection which is included in the purchase.
- It works on a voltage of 6v – 9v
- It is compatible with many cartridge needle types
- It can be used for lining, shading and colouring of a large area.
- It is lightweight and easy to use.
- It is affordable and best for beginners as it has a short learning curve.
- It works great for black and grey, colouring and shading.
- It is great for short tattoo sessions of no more than 45 minutes.
- The lining performance leaves much to be desired.
- It cannot be used for long sessions.
- The ink is sold separately.
The German company, founded by tattoo artists with two decades of experience in the business will never let you down. To keep the quality high, Stigma produces tattoo machines in small quantities and each one is well tested before going out. The rotary kit is not any different.
- It comes with everything you will need to start tattooing including the ink
- It uses rechargeable batteries rather than a cord
- Made of Space aluminium frame and DC Japan motor
- It is extremely lightweight and comes with a grip wrap to prevent slippage.
- You can work smoothly without cords getting in the way.
- The batteries run out completely after 2 hours.
- The accompanying needles get dull pretty quickly.
I know what you are thinking but no, we were not paid by Dragonhawk. Dragonhawk is a top-line producer of affordable, high-quality tattoo machines and they have a lot of great products on the market.
Like other Dragonhawk products, the Mast takes the shape and weight of a writing pen. It is lightweight, versatile and comes with everything you will need except ink to start tattooing. It is an excellent choice for beginners and experts alike and this can stay useful to you for a long time. Tattooists who are accustomed to a coil machine will find this piece a little disconcerting due to the marked difference in weight and balance.
- It is 11.7 cm long and weighs 120g
- It has a transposable 3.5mm to 2.8mm stroke length
- It is powered by a DC Japanese Motor
- It has a matte Coating
- It is compatible with cartridge needle types.
- It has virtually no vibration or noise.
- It is great for lining and shading with great accuracy and control.
- Lots of accessories
- Perhaps the biggest drawback of this machine is that it starts heating up after 45 minutes to one hour.
- It tends to get slippery as you work.
- The ink is sold separately.
The Yilong tattoo kit is a great kit to own. It comes with a rotary tattoo machine that is great for lining, shading and filling. It has a 3.5mm stroke length that creates a neat line work and shading in black and grey.
You can adjust the stroke length by loosening a screw and turning the eccentric pin. Switching between a standard and cartridge needle is a breeze.
- Comes with a foot pedal included in the kit
- Weighs 24 lbs with an operating voltage of 7v-10v
- It is versatile and easy to use.
- With a push of the centre button, it runs with a tap on the foot pedal to put it on or off.
- It is not a great choice for beginners.
- Ink is sold separately.
- There is no instruction manual included.
Originally from the United Kingdom, Ego has turned out exceptional tattoo guns that are popular in the industry. The Ego rotary tattoo machine stays true to its name and produces exquisite colours and designs. It doesn’t require a foot pedal to work.
- It comes with Dragonhawk power supply.
- It is made from durable high-quality aluminium.
- It is compatible with most cartridges on the market.
- It is lightweight, doesn’t vibrate and balanced giving you the feel of a drawing pen.
- It has a built-in on/off switch and doesn’t require a foot pedal.
- It is versatile.
- After a while, the power button on the pen pulls off when you unplug the RCA cord.
Solong has made it a point to help tattooist make a great impression on clients. They produce everything from tattoo irons and kits to accessories and necessary supplies.
The Solong complete tattoo kit is perfect for beginners as it comes with a silica gel practice skin that feels like real skin and will get you started quicker.
It comes with four tattoo iron for either lining or shading and each machine has a distinct appearance.
- Kit includes four tattoo guns for either lining or shading
- It comes with everything you need including practice ink and skin
- They are perfect for beginners. The practice ink and silica skin are the best.
- It is affordable, comfortable and easy to use.
- It comes with a 6-month warranty.
- The ink is cheap and you will want to get better ones for serious tattoo business.
Based in Richmond British Columbia, the duo of David and Mark Hildbrandt began creating tattoo machines from their garage in 2004.
The Hildbrandt tattoo kit is a great start-up kit as it is made to accompany lessons from the Teach Me to Tattoo website, Tattoo Supply and Equipment Crash Course 101. It also borrows a leaf from Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo Textbook, visual tutorial of the Hildbrandt Training DVD and the equipment necessary to learn the skill. The package has three tattoo guns, power supply, needles and ink.
- Two machines can run simultaneously on the included digital power supply.
- There are a lot of accessories in the box which ranges from ink cups to gloves and practice skin.
- The kit weighs 8 pounds.
- The package comes with a 6-month comprehensive warranty.
- The instruction manual is loaded with useful information.
- You can have both the liner and the shader going at once.
- You might want to get better tubes if you’re serious about tattooing.
The pneumatic tattoo machine was invented in the year 2000 by tattoo artist, Carson Hill. The pneumatic machine is powered by an air compressor. It uses pressurized air to push the needle up and down. This makes it very lightweight and easy to use. If you love tattoo machines, you’d be interested in waterproof smartwatches, check them out.
Pros of coil tattoo machine:
- It makes the iconic loud buzzing sound associated with tattoo shops. Is it even a tattoo shop without the buzz?
- customizing and changing the parts is quite easy.
- It is easy to regulate power and speed.
- It is heavier, thus adding pressure which aids control.
- It is great for use during long tattoo sessions.
- It creates smoother stronger lines than a rotary machine.
- Some people may not like the loud buzzing noise.
- It requires more adjustments, tuning and maintenance.
- It is not versatile like the rotary machine. One machine can not be used for lining and shading.
- It is less intuitive than a rotary machine and has a bigger learning curve.
- It is not as lightweight as a rotary machine and requires the most amount of skill than the others to be operated. This is not a beginner tattoo machine.
A rotary tattoo machine, on the other hand, has a rotating torque and are driven by a DC motor. This results in the needle going up and down in a linear direction.
In this review, we will be concentrating on the coil and rotary tattoo machines. The choice of machine is highly dependent on individual preferences but we will run through some of the pros and cons of each.
Pros of a rotary tattoo machine:
- It is quiet.
- It is easy to set up and use as well as tune and adjust.
- It has a steady circular needle motion
- It requires low maintenance
- Parts are less expensive therefore easily replaceable
- It needs mainly one adjustment to get to work
- It is perfect for filling and colouring as the needle moves fast and consistent.
- It is more versatile than the coil machine as one can be used for lines and shading.
- It is less likely to cause damage to the skin.
- It is less durable than the coil machine.
- Lining is easier with a coil than with a rotary machine.
- It cannot be tuned by the ear like a coil machine.
- A full stroke is required to complete a rotary motion.
Whatever brand you choose, remember that a tattoo machine is at the centre of a tattooist skill. It is an extension of your personality and would play a huge role in the outcome of your work.