This is one of the most necessary tools of the trade if you are a tattoo artist, and you should therefore be extra picky in which one of these you get. While some of this will depend on your own preferences, there are a lot of things that you can look at to help you decide which one might be best for you.
In order to make the best decision possible, you should read up and get informed as to what you need to look for and what might be more optional. However, one of the most common debates that you need to know about is if rotary or coil tattoo machines are better.
The first thing that you should know about these two options is that they work differently. There are also a wide variety of pros and cons to each type of machine. There are tattoo artists who swear by each kind, so let’s take a look at each.
What Are Coil Tattoo Machines?
The first thing that you should know about rotary tattoo machines is how exactly they work. Even though both types of machines achieve the same goal of getting the ink into your client’s skin, that is where the likeness ends.
As the name suggests, coil machines use coils in them and most of the time they use two coils in them. These coils have electromagnets in them and, when a current flows through them, it makes a magnetic field inside.
This magnetic field pushes down what is called an armature bar which is what the needle is attached to. Inside there is also a contact screw and a spring. When the armature bar is pushed down, it breaks its contact with the screw.
It is the spring that makes the needle go up and down. As it does this it makes a fairly loud buzzing noise that you usually expect when you are going to get a tattoo. Some of these can be noisier than others, but sometimes the buzzing noise is not too bad.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Coil Tattoo Machines
This is in a way neither an advantage or a disadvantage, but it is important for you to know that there are actually two different kinds of coil machines. Some have thick barrels and heavier coils to push more ink into the skin for shading. Meanwhile, others have thin barrels and coils for making your lines with.
When it comes to disadvantages, these would not be complete without mentioning the noise. While it sounds like a buzzing noise, it is actually a really fast clicking of the armature working with the spring. True, this is not a big deal, but it can be annoying, if not to you then to your clients.
The fact that the noise is made due to clicking in the machine also means that there is a noticeable amount of vibrations in the machine. This can wear on your hand after a while when you are trying to hold it still so you can work.
What Are Rotary Tattoo Machines?
The rotary machine works quite differently in order to get the ink into the skin. When the power gets into the machine it goes into the motor where it rotates a cam wheel. This circular motion is why this type of tattoo machine is called a rotary machine.
Attached to the cam wheel is the needle bar which takes the circular motion and turns it into linear motion that goes up and down. Due to how simple this design is, there are fewer parts to this type of machine. It is also a lot quieter and easier to use since all you have to do is to attach the ink cartridge, plug it in, and then start working.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Rotary Tattoo Machines
Since rotary tattoo machines do not have the spring, their needle goes in and out faster and with more regularity than the needle from a coil machine does. There is also a bit more in the way of versatility here.
While there are two different types of coil machines for lining or for shading, there is only one type of rotary machine that you can actually use for both these things. This can save you money since instead of having to buy two machines you only have to buy one that does it all.
On the downside of this, the fact that it is made to do both means that it doesn’t do as well at either when compared to coil tattoo machines that are specifically made for one or the other. So this is something you should keep in mind. All in all, rotary machines tend to do slightly better with the lining than with the shading, being slightly on the thinner side.
However, the main advantage of rotary machines lies in how quietly they work. While there is still a little noise when you are using them, this noise is more like a soft hum instead of the loud buzzing of the coil machines.
Since there is no clicking in the machine, this also means that there are fewer vibrations, helping you to work longer before your hand starts to cramp up on you. Finally, all of this works together to make this option cheaper both to purchase and to maintain.
As you can see, both types of machines have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Which one is right for you is something that only you can answer, but at least you know what you are looking at now.
You may very well decide that you would rather buy one rotary tattoo machine that does both shading and lining, and this can save you money. However, getting a coil machine for the lining and another for the shading may result in slightly better shading and better lines because it will be specifically made for one or the other.
While the amount of noise that a tattoo machine makes is not really a big deal, it can be helpful for nervous clients. This is because the quieter noise is more calming and potentially less irritating. When people hear a loud noise, they can potentially tense up. This is something that you want to avoid since if they do tense up then the needle will hurt a little bit more.
Besides which, if you have more than one tattoo artist working at the same time in a small shop you may find that you have to talk loudly in order to be heard if another customer walks in. This can be a turn-off to people who might have otherwise been interested in looking around and maybe getting a tattoo.
Finally, since there are fewer parts in the rotary tattoo machines, this helps it to weigh less than the coil kind. Having a machine that is lighter in weight will help you to keep working for longer and still be able to hold your hand steady.
Key Things To Look For
While your biggest decision will likely be deciding if you are going with a coil tattoo machine or a rotary tattoo machine, there are a few other things that you can consider to help you make your final choice.
Quality And Price
This is an area where there will be some give and take. You should try to stick with manufacturers that are well known and are known to produce quality machines. Part of the quality is how long it will last you, which is another consideration.
Generally, some of the better quality ones will also cost more and you want to avoid the cheapest ones since they are likely cheap for a reason. Therefore, you should try to get one that is somewhere in the middle of the price range.
Finally, be sure to ask around and see what other people think about a certain tattoo machine and read any reviews that you can find on it online. This will help you to know if there are any common problems with it and what people think about it.
Try to find ones that have a guarantee or warranty of some kind. This is something that will add to the price a little, but if you are not sure if you will even like it or not then it can be well worth the price.
There are some tattoo machines that either come with extras or for which you can purchase add-ons later on if you want to do so. While not necessary, these can be very useful to have. As a general rule, coil machines are easier and have more options when it comes to customizing them.
However, there are some rotary machines that have stackers that are interchangeable. This allows you to have one rotary tattoo machine with two different specialties: one option for lining and one option for shading.
#1. Dragonhawk Mast Pen Rotary Tattoo Machine
This tattoo machine by Dragonhawk is a rotary option that is on the top of this list for good reason. Dragonhawk is a fairly well-known name in the tattoo world, and this is one of their best machines.
The frame is made out of aluminum and uses a powerful motor inside it. In addition, the design is perhaps one of the most similar in form to a pen that you write with. All of this works together to make the tattoo machine as comfortable for you to use as possible and to give you the precision that you need to make art.
Thanks to the frame and design, it is really lightweight, coming in at just 120 grams. This, and the fact that the motor is designed to be as quiet and as vibration-less as possible for a coil tattoo machine to be, helps your hand to work longer before cramping up.
Even better is the fact that it comes with two different cams so that way you can have one that is specifically for lining, and the other one which is for shading. These are easy to change out by simply unscrewing the top of it.
This saves you money since you do not have to buy two different machines. However, it does not come with its own cable or any cartridges, so you will need to buy these things separately. Still, those things are not as expensive as buying a whole second machine, and switching out a part is simple and quick to do while you are working.
All in all, it is a well-rounded tattoo machine that gives you good accuracy and precision. It works best with a voltage of between 6V–9V and it is compatible with almost all cartridge needles types.
#2. YILONG ‘L’ Rotary Tattoo Machine Tattoo Gun
This tattoo machine is another great option that you should look more closely at. The frame is made out of premium grade aluminum, making it not only lightweight but also very durable so that it will last you for a long time.
In fact, this machine weighs only 115 grams and it is one of the more stable tattoo machines out there. The fact that it is a rotary machine helps it to be quiet, and it is very reliable. So reliable, in fact, that you should be good to use it for 8 continuous hours if your hand can hold out that long.
The shape is designed to be as comfortable as possible in your hand to help you keep going as long as possible, copying the shape of a pen that you write with. This helps this tattoo machine does a great job of moving the needle exactly where you want it to go.
It comes with the tattoo pen, a connection line, and one needle cartridge to get you started so, basically, everything that you need so that the moment you get it you can get to work. This machine’s working voltage is 6V-9V.
Finally, as an added bonus, it comes in black, sky blue, grey, a lime-green color, and red so that you can match whatever theme you have going on in your shop. It can be used with a variety of cartridges, so get whatever ones you want to use with it.
#3. Getbetterlife Danny Robinson’s Tattoo Machine For Lining
Another great tattoo machine, this option is a coil tattoo machine. The frame is made out of pure copper with the spring contact and the wing nut being made out of copper as well. The thumb nut screw is made out of brass instead of copper.
All in all, this machine is made specifically for lining jobs, and it does a fantastic job of doing this. However, it can be used some for shading as well, helping you to really get your money’s worth when you go with this option.
This is good because it is a little higher priced than some of the other options. The brass and copper that it is made with make it very durable though, so you will not need to replace it anytime soon. On the other hand, this does add to the weight as well.
This means that even though it can run for hours and barely get warm, your hand might not be able to keep going for as long. It does run very smoothly for a coil tattoo machine and it runs on between 7V-8V for the best results.
Finally, the Getbetterlife brand has a great reputation and equally good customer service. They are so confident in their products that they offer a lifetime warranty, which is definitely a huge plus when you are looking to by a tattoo machine for any reason.
#4. STIGMA Professional Rotary Slider
This tattoo machine by Stigma is made using high-quality zinc and aluminum alloys. While not as lightweight as some of the other options, it is still only 214 grams, making it not nearly as heavy as some of the other tattoo machines out there.
It comes with its power cord which is 1.8 meters long. This is nearly 6 feet and it is more than enough room to reach to where you need it to without having your customer too close to the wall. In addition, it can be used for quite a while before it gets hot so that you won’t have to pause unless your hand cramps up on you.
It is compatible with most tattoo needles, and it works best if the voltage is kept under 9V at the most. Finally, it also comes in four different colors for you to choose from: black, silver, red, and blue. All in all, this option is definitely one that you should look closer at if you are looking for a tattoo machine.
#5. 1TattooWorld New Cast 10
This tattoo machine by One Tattoo World is specifically made for lining and is a new and improved version of one of their most popular tattoo machines. It is made to not only be a good tattoo machine but to look beautiful as well.
It has a very special surface treatment to make it shine for a long time for you even after you have been using it for a while. This is because most of it is made out of a low-carbon steel, while other parts are made out of pure iron and brass.
While it does so better as a liner, being made for that, it can also be used as a shader if you need it to, saving you money if you can only afford to get one machine. It is a coil type tattoo machine, but it isn’t as loud and it does not vibrate as much as many other coil machines do.
It also stays cool for a good amount of time and is quite affordable yet it is really durable. Its one downside is possibly the fact that it does weigh more due to what it is made out of. Yet this is what makes it so durable too, so this is something that you will have to decide for yourself if it is worth it to you.