- 1 Tattoo Machines
- 2 The types of tattoo machines
- 3 Best Tattoo Machines (Our Picks)
When Ed Sheeran toured Manilla last year, the ginger haired ‘Thinking out loud’ singer grabbed more eyeballs for his assortment of colorful tattoos on both arms, than for his dreamy melodies. ‘Sheerios’ as his fans are now called, couldn’t stop drooling over Ed’s new ink art, which according to him, are defining moments of his life and career.
Apart from the global phenomena that he is, Ed is also a tattoo artist’s dream client, isn’t he? From the looks of it, he doesn’t seem to be in any mood to stop his tattoo fascination anytime soon. That brings me to the art of tattooing itself.
Tattooing has exploded as one of the most popular ways of self-expression in the past few years. If you are a budding tattoo artist or even a seasoned professional, then these are exciting times in your career. However, with the growing demand there is also growing awareness about factors that affect the quality of the tattoo, like tattoo machines for example.
You cannot just run a mom and pop outfit and hope to cash in on it anymore. You need to invest in the best tattoo machines that money can buy, that makes the task easier, more productive, does complete justice to your creativity and is safer for the customer. If you are reading this cause you are looking to upgrade your setup, then we have just the right advice for you.
On the other hand, if you are a hobby tattooist looking to hone your skills, then here’s our nifty little guide to help you understand the different jargon that’s commonly thrown around in tattoo land.
The types of tattoo machines
Without getting into overly technical details that can make your head spin, let us quickly explain to you the five different categories of Tattoo machines that you will frequently hear.
The Liner and Shader Tattoo Machine
These guys are Tango and Cash of the tattoo machine world. They are used simultaneously to create a complete portrait. While the liner gun creates the dominant lines, the shader fills it with vibrant shades of color. These are among the most popular types of tattoo machines ever used.
Rotary Tattoo Guns
Rotary Tattoo Machines are the good old tattoo machines of yore that work on an electric motor which drives the needles up and down. The setup can be tinkered with and a few additives can be made to make the machine more efficient.
An armature bar for example will increase the efficiency and the electric motor can be replaced with a pneumatic (gas powered) setup. Not only does it make the machine a lot lighter as compared to its coiled brethren, but it also makes it more customer friendly because the healing time is reduced considerably.
Coil Tattoo Machines
Coil Tattoo guns are the most preferred choice among tattoo artists. These modern machines have a needle grouping that uses an electromagnetic circuit to move, entering the skin when the circuit is completed and retracting when it is broken.
Coil Tattoo machines are available in single coil, double coil or triple helix options. The standard one being the double coiled machine. The coil size also varies from eight to ten wrap options that then controls the power and the speed of the machines. This has a direct effect on the trauma on the skin. One of the caveats of a coil machine is that you will have to dismantle it completely before placing in the autoclave to sterilize it.
Pneumatic Tattoo Guns
These are a more modern variety of tattoo machines that are powered by air. Extremely light weight, they contain an air compressor that powers the needles and makes them go up and down into the skin. One of the advantages of a pneumatic gun over other types of tattoo machines is that you can place them directly in the autoclave.
That’s about it. Now that you know how each machine works and differs from the others, let us check out the best tattoo machines in the market currently for tattoo artists of all skill sets.
Best Tattoo Machines (Our Picks)
#1 – Getbetterlife® Danny Robinson’s 2 Tattoo Machine Gun As Liner and Shader in Beautiful Boxes
Apprenticeship can be a bummer in a tattoo artist’s life. But hey, the good thing is that that’s where you will be learning the finer details. Taking the tattoo machine apart, putting it back together, adjusting the springs, and getting a feel of the actual volts needed. If you are starting out and are looking for an exceptionally good quality tattoo machine that is vetted by one of the pros in the industry, then check out the Getbetterlife® Danny Robinson’s 2 Tattoo Machine Gun.
As the name suggests, this has Danny Robinson’s name attached to it and he’s one of the best ones in the business. The tattoo machine itself is a set of a liner and a shader and the first thing you will notice is how heavy they feel out of the box.
The pure copper and brass components used in the machine make it exceptionally durable and this is designed to last for a few years at least. Do not be thrown off by the low pricing because this one deserves a space in your tattoo arsenal with the most expensive machine you own. It can easily rival a $500 machine and come up trumps. And they come in insanely cool looking boxes.
The Gerbetterlife 2 Tattoo machine gun raises the standards for entry level tattoo machine with an absolutely stellar performance.
Liner: The liner clearly steals the show and it hits real hard at about 5 volts. It doesn’t bog down, doesn’t overheat and the lines really sink in. Clean and crisp. Job done in less time than ever.
Shader: The shader is damn good too but the liner really ups the bar and the shader falls short by a miniscule margin. You will probably have to up the volts a tad and do a bit of tinkering to get the best out of it. It needs around 7 volts or so to get the throw it deserves. But once again, thanks to the solid components of the machine, it performs flawlessly for hours on the most elaborate portrait.
Verdict: While the price tag screams entry-level, this can easily become a backup machine for a professional. It is well built and outperforms most machines at this price point.
#2 – Complete Tattoo Kit 2 Machine Gun 10 Color Inks Power Supply
If you have never held a tattoo gun before and are looking for some hands on practice, then the Complete Tattoo Kit is right up your alley. It saves you tons of time that you would otherwise spend buying out the various components involved and gives you a ready-to-start kit that makes some pretty rad tattoos by the way.
The complete tattoo kit is manufactured by DragonHawk, who have crafted a niche for themselves in beginner tattoo machines and accessories. It contains two tattoo machines for liner and shader, 10 ink bottles that are made in the USA, a practice skin, a digital power supply cord with a foot pedal, sterilized tattoo needles and tips, packed in a heavy duty case. In simple terms, this is all you need to get started with tattooing at home.
The only things that you’ll need to buy other than this is a pair of gloves and some transfer paper.
The tattoo guns in the kit are of good quality and after some practice, you can even use it to make your first ink art. It does not overheat and is extremely light weight too, something that is immensely beneficial for beginner tattooists.
The power supply is stable, which is crucial, as you try and get the feel of the accurate voltage levels needed to get your shades right.
While it is preferred mostly by novice tattoo artists, this complete tattoo kit has also been used by seasoned tattooists with over 8-10 years of experience without any problems whatsoever. That, speaks by itself about its quality. Both the liner and the shader work perfectly. But you need to have realistic expectations. If its practice you are looking for or some casual weekend tattooing, then this is probably a steal at this price.
Complete value for money kit. Includes everything and you can start with your tattooing the same day. Cannot ask for more.
#3 – Yuelong® 2pcs Black&Red Dragonfly Rotary Liner Shader Body Art Tattoo Machine Gun
The Yuelong Dragonfly Rotary Tattoo Machine Gun is a light weight entry-level rotary tattoo machine that manages to surprise you with its fluidity. If you have always wanted to try a rotary machine but were thrown off by the price, then this is the one you are looking for.
Despite having an innocuous appearance, these tattoo machines have a gaggle of impressive features, highlighted by the needle stabilizer, which eliminates the need for rubber bands. That in itself makes this worth a buy. No more replacing loose rubber bands which also bogs down the machine if it’s too tight.
The fine tuning dial really allows you to make the most minute adjustments on-the-go without having to stop and dismantle. This is reminiscent of some of the top end rotary machines and is completely impossible in a coil tattoo machine.
What is impressive about the Yuelong is that it is labelled as an entry-level practice machine. But instead, it comes across as a very smooth running one that offers clean lines and perfect shading with minimal trauma to the skin.
Liner: Boy, does this hit well. Deep and clean lines at just under 6V.
Shader: The shading is clean. It does take some getting used to. You may notice that it is a bit slow while shading. And you may have to cycle the power to wear-in the machine before use. But once you get the feel of the machine, it is effortless.
This is a perfect introductory rotary tattoo machine for anyone looking to get used to it. It can also function as a very effective backup machine in case your primary one develops some niggles. It is light, the motor works perfectly, does not overheat and allows you to really fine tune your art. It does have a few minor faults but they are not deal breakers by a long shot. For the price, this is a great buy.