Different Types Of Tattoo Machines

guy wearing a beanie tattooing his client

Tattoos have become a significant part of modern culture, with various demographics embracing the art form. According to recent surveys, approximately 40% of the population in 2023 has tattoos, with millennials constituting 41% of all tattooed individuals. This rising popularity is reflected in the global tattoo market’s expected growth from $1.89 billion in 2022 to $3.55 billion by 2029

Central to the practice of tattooing are tattoo machines, hand-held devices designed to create a permanent marking on the skin with indelible ink. Contemporary tattoo machines utilize electromagnetic coils to facilitate the vertical movement of an armature bar. This bar is connected to a needle grouping, which creates openings in the skin for the ink to seamlessly flow into. The machine operates by vertically moving a solid needle, piercing the skin at a rate of 50 to 3,000 times per minute. This precise process facilitates the deposit of ink into the skin, ensuring lasting and vibrant artwork.

Understanding the different types of tattoo machines is crucial, as each type has a unique take on the tattooing process. Doing so lets you better appreciate the art form and make an informed decision when getting a tattoo.

Different Types Of Tattoo Machine Guns

Coil Tattoo Machines

Coil tattoo machines are a classic staple in the tattooing industry. They are renowned for their ability to create bold lines and pack heavy colors. They function by passing an electromagnetic current through coils, creating a magnetic field that moves the armature bar and needle. This mechanism allows the needle to tap into the client’s skin, depositing ink into the dermis. The process repeats many times per minute for the artist to create a design.

One of the exemplary coil tattoo machines is the Dragonhawk Complete Coil tattoo kit, known for its professional-level performances and top-tier build quality. It comes with a set of brass coil tattoo machines and is equipped with a needle bar retainer, among other features. The kit also includes 50 sterilized tattoo needles and offers a money-back guarantee. This kit is ideal for both beginner and mid-level professionals and is praised for its precision in drawing lines comparable to rotary tattoo machines.

Advantages of Coil Tattoo Machines

  1. Versatility: Coil machines are known for their versatility in handling a wide range of tattooing styles.
  2. Punchier Hits: They are often preferred for bolder lines and heavier color packing due to their punchier hits.​
  3. Natural Give: The natural give or resistance created when needles hit the skin is another notable benefit, allowing artists to adjust the machine to have more or less give depending on their needs.
  4. Customizability: Coil machines are highly customizable with different wrap coils, coil sizes, and capacitors, allowing artists to fine-tune the machines according to their preferences​.

Disadvantages of Coil Tattoo Machines

  1. Noise and Weight: They are known to be louder and heavier, which can be cumbersome for some artists.
  2. Need for Multiple Machines: Typically, artists will need two coil machines, one for lining and the other for shading, which could be seen as a disadvantage in terms of cost and space.

Rotary Tattoo Machines

Rotary tattoo machines have garnered popularity for their smooth operation and ease of use, especially among new artists. These machines operate through a motor that rotates a shaft, translating the spinning movement into a back-and-forth motion using a cam. This mechanism rapidly pushes the needle into the skin to create the tattoo. The cycle of up-and-down movements of the rotary machines helps craft a consistent and precise tattoo, with the needle entering the skin in a smooth motion rather than forcefully, as seen in coil machines.

Famous brands and models of rotary tattoo machines include the Dragonhawk Atom, Cheyenne Sol Terra, FK Irons Flux, Dragonfly X2, CNC Hawink Q1, and Ambition Soldier, among others​.

Advantages of Rotary Tattoo Machines

  1. Lightweight: They are generally lighter in design, making them easier to handle, especially for beginners or during long tattoo sessions.
  2. Versatility: Known for their versatility, rotary machines can handle both lining and shading tasks proficiently.
  3. Ease of Use: They are easy on the fingers with a smaller learning curve, making them a good choice for beginners​.
  4. Quiet Operation: Rotary machines operate with minimal noise, creating a more comfortable environment for the artist and client.
  5. Smooth and Consistent Needle Movement: They offer a smooth and consistent needle movement that is less aggressive on the skin, minimizing pain and tissue damage.

Disadvantages of Rotary Tattoo Machines

  1. Power: They are not as powerful as coil machines, which might affect their performance in creating bold lines.
  2. Precision: Not as precise for the lining as compared to coil machines.
  3. Cost: Generally, rotary tattoo machines are higher in price than traditional coil machines​.

Pneumatic Tattoo Machines

Pneumatic tattoo machines are a relatively newer addition to the tattooing industry. They use compressed air as the power source to drive the machine’s armature bar, which moves the needle up and down at high speeds to inject ink into the skin. This mechanism is facilitated by an air compressor connected to the tattoo machine, which supplies the necessary compressed air. The needle is attached to a piston, which is linked to a valve controlling compressed air flow. The tube housing the needle is sufficiently wide to allow the tip to protrude with each downward motion of the armature bar, facilitating the injection of ink into the client’s dermis​. The process initiates once the pressure from the air compressor is released, powering the motor to move the needle up and down to create the tattoo​​.

Unique Features and Use Cases of Pneumatic Tattoo Machines

  1. Silent Operation: Pneumatic tattoo machines are noted for being the most silent among tattoo machines, as there are no electric motors or buzzing coils, thanks to using compressed air as the power source​​.
  2. Lightweight: They are known for being lightweight and ideal for long tattooing sessions.
  3. Autoclave Safe: One of the significant advantages is that they are safe to use in an autoclave, allowing for easy sterilization and ensuring hygiene​.
  4. Adjustable Needle Speed: The needle’s speed can be modified by adjusting the air pressure, giving artists control over the tattooing process​.

Renowned Pneumatic Tattoo Machine Manufacturers

  1. Neuma Tattoo Machines: Carson Hill, a tattoo artist, created Neuma Tattoo Machines when he invented the first pneumatic tattoo machine in 2000. He then developed the original Neuma tattoo machine for several years while maintaining his tattooing career. The electric machine known as ‘Neuma FOUR’ was conceptualized and designed alongside talented engineers and artists, and it hit the market around the New Year of 2020​

Liner vs. Shader Machines

Liner and shader machines are the two main types of tattoo machines, and each has a specific function in the tattooing process. Here’s a breakdown of the two.

Aspect Liner Machines Shader Machines
Purpose – Create outlines of a tattoo – Add shades and colors to a tattoo
– Do blackwork
Needles – Fewer needles (1 to 7) – More needles (pairs, comb shape)
– Round groupings of needles – Wider needle groupings
Needle Movement – Faster movement for smooth lines – Slower movement for shading
Weight – Generally lighter (around 8 ounces) – Heavier (280+ grams)
Strength & Speed – Faster, less power – Slower, more power
Coiling – 8-wrap coil – 10 to 12-wrap coil
Voltage Range – Around 6 volts – 8 to 10 volts

Popular models of liner machines include the Redscorpion Cast Iron Liner, Vlad Blad Delicate Liner, STIGMA Premium Rotary Tattoo Machine Pen, and One Tattoo World OTW-M702. On the other hand, favorite shader machines are Dragonhawk Mast Tour Rotary Pen Machine, Bishop Rotary Fantom NANO Elite Gen 2 Tattoo Machine, and Spektra Halo 2 Crossover Rotary Tattoo Machine.

Wireless Tattoo Machines

Wireless tattoo machines have emerged as a contemporary alternative to traditional wired machines, offering a more flexible and clutter-free tattooing experience. It helps people with needle phobia or anyone getting an anxiety tattoo, as they can move around freely without being connected to a power cord.

It offers several benefits, including improved maneuverability and enhanced control. The wireless tattoo machine’s operation is similar to traditional machines but with a rechargeable battery pack attached to it. Most popular brands are offering wireless tattoo machines as a unique product line, including Stigma-Rotary and EZ Tattoo.

Benefits of Wireless Tattoo Machines

  1. Portability: Absence of cords makes them portable and easier to handle.
  2. Ease of Use: They provide a cleaner workspace without the hassle of wires.
  3. Adjustable Voltage: Many models come with adjustable voltage settings, providing artists with control over the machine’s speed and needle depth.

Limitations of Wireless Tattoo Machines

  1. Limited Battery Life: Artists need to keep an eye on the battery life, which can be limiting during longer tattoo sessions.
  2. Maintenance Cost: Replacement batteries and charging units add to the maintenance cost.

Bottom Line

Tattoo machines have evolved significantly, with innovative designs and mechanisms revolutionizing the tattoo industry. Every machine has unique strengths and limitations that cater to different tattooing styles or personal preferences. Aspiring artists should research and invest in a suitable machine to achieve their desired results. Conversely, clients should be aware of the different types of machines their chosen artist uses and how they could affect their tattoo’s outcome. With the right knowledge, both artists and clients can appreciate the art form even more, leading to a satisfactory experience for all parties involved.

By Mike Smith

Mike Smith, a talented writer and devoted art enthusiast with a deep love for tattoos. As a creative soul, Mike's passion for arts, culture, music, and lifestyle shines through his engaging writing. With a keen eye for detail, he delves into the world of tattoos, exploring their rich symbolism and captivating stories.

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