How to choose a tattoo machine?

By Vlad Barikhin, Vlad Blad Irons CEO
April 20, 2024
Table of contents:
Choosing the right tattoo machine is a key aspect for every tattoo artist, as the quality of work and customer satisfaction depend on it. Regardless of whether you are a beginner or a professional, the right tattoo machine will allow you to implement the most complex projects.
Before making a choice, it is important to determine what type of tattoo you plan to do most often, how often you will use the machine, and what budget you are willing to allocate for its purchase. It is also worth considering the ergonomics of the device, because your comfort when working for long hours depends on it. No less important parameters are the reliability and serviceability of the selected model.
«Let's say these are recommendations from an artist to other artists. Let's start with the classics.»
Vlad Barikhin
Vlad Blad Irons CEO
Main types of tattoo machines
There are two main types of tattoo machines on the market: rotary and reel-to-reel. Each type has its own unique characteristics and suits different tattoo styles.

Rotary tattoo machines

Rotary machines work thanks to a motor that rotates a mechanism that drives the needle. They are characterized by smooth running, quiet operation and less vibration compared to reel machines. This makes them an ideal choice for detailed work and fine line work. Rotary clippers are also easier to set up and maintain, making them a good option for both beginners and experienced DIYers. However, they can be more expensive compared to reel-to-reel models.

Reel tattoo machines

Reel-to-reel tattoo machines are the classic and oldest type of machine. They operate thanks to electromagnetic coils that create the movement of the needle. Such machines are suitable for working with large areas and filling with color, since they have high power and are able to work with large groups of needles. They provide the artist with the opportunity to fine-tune the depth and force of the blow, which is important when performing complex tattoos. But they also create more noise and vibration, which may be less comfortable for some professionals and clients.

Each type of machine has its own advantages and disadvantages, so the choice should be based on your individual preferences and professional needs.

Determining the type of machine, you need

The choice between a rotary and reel tattoo machine should be based on several criteria that will help determine the most suitable tool for your tattoo practice.

Tips for choosing a machine:

  1. Rotary clippers are ideal for precise and detailed work such as fine lines and shading. Reel machines are better suited for working with large areas and filling with color;
  2. Rotary clippers are easier to set up and use, making them preferable for beginners. Reel-to-reel machines require more careful setup and more experience to use effectively;
  3. Rotary clippers usually work faster and quieter, which can be important in a salon environment.

The choice of machine type directly affects the quality and style of the tattoo. For example, if you specialize in portraits or microrealism, a rotary machine may be a better choice due to its ability to produce delicate work with high precision. For traditional tattoos with bright, rich colors, a coil-over machine is a better choice due to its power and ability to effectively fill large areas of skin.

Factors influencing the choice of machine

Workmanship and reliability

A well-made machine will not only provide excellent tattoo results, but will also last a long time, minimizing the need for frequent repairs or replacement. The reliability of the machine depends on the materials from which it is made and the quality of the assembly.

Price and budget restrictions

The price of a tattoo machine can vary significantly. It's important to set a budget and stick to it, but don't skimp on quality. Investing in a more expensive but high-quality machine can pay off in the long run due to its durability and quality of work.

Ease of use and ergonomics

The convenience and ergonomics of the machine are critical, especially if you spend a lot of time working. The machine should fit well in the hand and not cause fatigue or discomfort during operation.

Machine weight and size

The weight and size of the tattoo machine affect the comfort and control while working. Lightweight clippers are easier to handle and can reduce hand fatigue. But in some cases, heavier machines can provide more stability when performing certain types of tattoos.

Advantages and disadvantages of different models

It is important to choose between rotary and reel tattoo machines based on their characteristics and features. Each type of machine has its own strengths and weaknesses, which can significantly affect the tattooing process.

Comparison of rotary and reel machines according to various parameters

  • Performance
    ● Rotary clippers provide a smoother, quieter operation, making them ideal for fine work and detailing.
    ● Coil machines can be more powerful, which is good for filling larger areas of skin and working with thicker lines.
  • Ease of use
    ● Rotary clippers are lighter and smaller, which makes them easier to handle and reduces fatigue during long-term work.
    ● Reel clippers are heavier and may require more force to operate, especially in long sessions.
  • Settings
    ● Rotary clippers usually require fewer settings, making them accessible to beginners.
    ● Reel-to-reel machines provide more options for customization, but require certain knowledge and skills.
  • Durability
    ● Rotary clippers often have fewer wear parts, which increases their service life.
    ● Reel-to-reel machines may require more frequent replacement of parts due to mechanical complexity.

Features of setup and operation

Setting up a tattoo machine may seem complicated, but a few basic steps will help beginners quickly master the process:

  1. Needle selection. It is important to choose the right type and size of needle depending on the style of tattoo;
  2. Adjusting the needle depth. The depth to which the needle enters the skin should be sufficient to apply the dye, but not too deep to avoid damaging the skin;
  3. Speed adjustment. Rotary clippers often have a speed control on the body, while for reel clippers, the speed may depend on the voltage settings.

Tips for operation and maintenance

  1. After each use, thoroughly clean the machine, removing any remaining paint and disinfecting the working surfaces;
  2. Monitor worn parts of the machine, such as needles and springs, and replace them if necessary;
  3. Regularly lubricate the moving parts of the machine to ensure its smooth and uninterrupted operation;
  4. Make sure all cables and connections are in good condition to avoid short circuits or loss of power during operation.

Following these recommendations will help ensure reliable and long-term operation of your tattoo machine, and will also improve the quality and safety of the tattoo process.

Accessories and additional equipment

The correct choice of accessories and equipment plays an important role in the tattooing process, increasing the efficiency and comfort of both the artist and the client.

List of necessary accessories for work

  1. Tattoo needles, the choice depends on the style and technique of the tattoo;
  2. Tips and grips that provide ease of holding the machine and precision movements;
  3. Power supplies. High-quality power supplies guarantee stable operation of the machine,
  4. Pedals and wires that are necessary to control the speed of the machine,
  5. Tattoo inks. The choice of paints must meet safety and quality standards;
  6. Disinfectants and protective agents ensure sanitary and hygienic safety of the process.

The choice of accessories should be based on their compatibility with the model of your tattoo machine. Make sure that the tips and grips are suitable for the type of clipper you have. The needles must match the type of machine and the desired style of tattoo. For power supplies, it is important to check whether they are suitable for voltage and power. When choosing paints, consider their composition and certification to avoid allergic reactions and other skin problems.

The importance of manufacturer and brand

The choice of tattoo machine brand should be based on its reputation in the market. Reviews from other masters and users can greatly help in this matter. A manufacturer's reputation is often associated with product quality and the level of customer support, which is especially important in the event of technical problems.

Brands with an established reputation usually provide high quality of their tattoo machines, which guarantees durability and reliability in operation. Investing in products from trusted brands can eliminate the need for frequent repairs or replacement of equipment. In addition, leading manufacturers often offer extended warranties and better service, which is important for professional use of a tattoo machine.

Places of purchase and product verification

It is best to purchase a tattoo machine through trusted platforms that guarantee the quality and authenticity of the products. These platforms include specialized online stores for tattoo artists, official websites of manufacturers, and large reputable trading platforms such as Amazon or eBay, where you can read customer reviews.

Before purchasing a tattoo machine, it is recommended to check the following:

  1. Make sure that the kit contains all the necessary accessories;
  2. The packaging must be reliable and undamaged, which indicates the manufacturer's concern for the safety of the goods;
  3. Availability of operating instructions and warranty card;
  4. If possible, ask the seller to show the operation of the machine before purchasing;
  5. Check the machine for defects or damage.


Choosing the right tattoo machine is key for every tattoo artist who strives for high quality work and customer satisfaction. It is important to consider the type of machine depending on your preferred tattoo styles, pay attention to the quality of workmanship, ease of use and reliability of the device. You should not skimp on tools, as quality equipment is an investment in your skills and professional development.

Choosing the right tattoo machine not only increases the level of comfort at work, but also ensures the durability of your equipment, helps to avoid frequent breakdowns and the need for additional costs for repairs or replacements. A careful approach to choosing a machine and accessories allows you to maximize your creative potential and achieve high results in the art of tattooing.
Understanding the different types of tattoo machines is crucial for every artist aiming to excel in this field. The journey of exploration doesn't stop here; in the next article, we will delve deeper into the realms of tattoo machine performance and reliability, aiding artists in making informed decisions for their craft.
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