Types of tattoo machines

By Vlad Barikhin, Vlad Blad Irons CEO
March 21, 2024
Table of contents:
Why will this be of interest to beginners?
This article will help beginning artists understand what tattoo machines exist and what they are needed for.

Because the question of choosing a typewriter arises acutely at the very beginning of a creative career, and then goes into the jungle of the development of personal taste, style and technology.

Remember and carry one simple principle through all your work: the tattoo machine should match and complement your drawing style. It should not interfere, but only help create masterpieces on the skin.

The author's experience and opinion may not coincide with the opinions of the "old school" and techies. The article will help protect beginners from most of the typical mistakes when selecting starting equipment - without delving into the basics of theoretical mechanics and electrical engineering.
«Let's say these are recommendations from an artist to other artists. Let's start with the classics.»
Vlad Barikhin
Vlad Blad Irons CEO
Induction machines
The patent for the first induction tattoo machine was received on January 30, 1929 by Detroit tattoo artist Percy Waters. As wel, first rotor tattoo machine was invented by Master Samuel O'Reilly of New York.
Photo of an induction tattoo machine
The principle of operation is as follows: the induction mechanism transmits a forward impact movement using an electromagnet through a bar to the tip of the needle. The function of an electromagnet is performed by coils.

Therefore, you can easily distinguish these machines by the absence of a motor, loud sound and the presence of coils. To begin with, this is enough to understand.


  • The undoubted advantage of such a tool for a beginner is the clear division of machines for specific subtasks, as well as stable settings. Liner is for contouring, Shader is for coloring.
  • Induction is still considered the best when working with contours, bold lines and huge blackworks. This is especially true for beginners.

Of the minuses:

  • Quite heavy weight and strong vibration compared to other types. For a beginner who has just switched from pencils and markers, this can be an insurmountable barrier. Tip: use big heavy grip to make your balance better.
  • The inability to set up the machine yourself without certain technical knowledge. Tip: ask your coil working friend to teach you. With help it will be easier to start. If you don't have any friends or trainers, but already have coils, contact us via Instagram for help and giving you some tips.
  • High demands on the power source. You will have to forget about low-power units even in force majeure situations.
  • A lot will depend on your skill. This is especially true for work that has already healed. The ease of working with this machine and your drawing skill are critical to the final result.
  • A huge number of builders on the market. Due to the fact that the architecture of the machine is not the most complex, many builders have appeared - so much so that they are no longer associated with the names of famous tattoo artists and custom items. Therefore, buy the machine only from trusted, large stores.
  • Induction machines are an excellent tool that work reliably in the right hands. And if you find THE SAME one, you won't exchange it for anything. Verified.
Rotary Tattoo Machines
So, if you do not find the presence of coils on the tattoo machine, you are holding a rotor in your hands . The second sign is the presence of a motor. There are a great variety of rotary machines; we will further divide them into groups. The main difference lies in the methods of transmitting power from the motor.
Photo of an rotary tattoo machine
So, if you do not find the presence of coils on the tattoo machine, you are holding a rotor in your hands . The second sign is the presence of a motor. There are a great variety of rotary machines; we will further divide them into groups. The main difference lies in the methods of transmitting power from the motor.

To begin with, let's describe the common features that are characteristic of everyone:
  • The force for inserting and withdrawing the needle in the rotors is the same. The movement is monotonous "sewing", not striking.
  • Most machines are "universal". With a certain skill and configuration, they are suitable for any purpose.
  • Large serial manufacturers compete in the market through systematic development and patents for new machine components, as well as high-quality service.
  • The rotor is less traumatic, but it can greatly overload the skin - especially if you often return to the places you have covered.

Direct-drive (twist)
Transmits force from the motor directly to the needle or cartridge rod. The motor spins and creates a rotational motion, causing the bar to constantly oscillate.

To reduce horizontal deviations and prevent spontaneous removal of the rod from the landing pad, it is pressed with rubber bands.

Such machines consist of a motor and a frame. There are no fundamental differences in production and operation, which is why they are produced by almost all serial manufacturers and builders.
Slider (twist with slide)
Transmits rotational movement to the bar via a longitudinal connection rod . This makes the needle movement closer to impact and reduces lateral vibrations. The bar must be controlled, but for a bar that moves in a straight line, many models have a clamping mechanism consisting of a lever and a wheel.

The machines are less dependent on the power (but not the quality) of the motor, they are less heavy and work on any blocks.
Features and Mechanisms
Rotary tattoo machines operate through an electric motor which smoothly rotates and drives the needle. Known for their quiet operation and less skin irritation, these machines are a choice of many professional tattoo artists.
Suited Tattoo Styles and Techniques
With their steady needle movement, rotary machines are ideal for both lining and shading work. They excel in creating realistic tattoos and are also suited for fine-line or detailed artwork.
A machine that looks like a pen. It uses a more complex transmission mechanism designed to unique ergonomics.
Photo of an pen tattoo machine
The model runs only on cartridges, and is also very demanding and expensive to maintain due to its complex internal architecture. This architecture makes the machine ideal for soft painting, but far from the best for contour work.

Convenience/inconvenience, pros/cons are determined only by the architecture and ergonomics of such equipment.
Coil Tattoo Machines
The coil tattoo machine uses electromagnetic coils to move the needle. The buzzing sound of coil machines is iconic in the tattoo industry. They offer a high level of precision and can be customized to a great extent, suiting the artist's needs.
Best Practices and Popular Styles
Due to their precision, coil machines are often used for intricate designs and traditional tattoo styles. Understanding the tuning and maintenance of coil machines is essential for optimal performance.
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.
What is the most beginner-friendly tattoo machine?
If you are learning from a tattoo artist, choose the equipment he uses and learn from it. Master the skill of the teacher and then you will find your way. If you are self-taught, we recommend the wireless Pen, it is the easiest to use.
Are coil tattoo machines suitable for all tattoo styles?
While highly versatile, coil machines excel in traditional and intricate designs thanks to their precision and customizability. Coils also the best choice for contour, bold lines, ornamental style tattoos and huge blackwork.
Can I switch between different types of tattoo machines?
Absolutely! Many artists use different types of machines for different tattooing techniques to achieve the desired results.
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