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4 Tips for Choosing the Right Tattoo Machine

illustrated traditional flowers with a hand holding playing cards that has a tattoo machine on its face

As a tattoo artist, there is no tool more important than your tattoo machine. It’s the heart of your trade and typically one of the most expensive single pieces of equipment you’ll buy, so it’s worth it to do your research and make sure you’re getting the right one for you. If you’re in the market for a new machine but aren’t sure where to start, we’ve outlined a few questions below to help you make this important decision.

Do You Want a Rotary or Coil Machine?

There’s been controversy over this question for years, with some artists extolling the virtues of newer rotary machines and others staying “loyal to the coil.” But it’s important to understand that the differences between both types of machines give each their own strengths and drawbacks. Which type suits you will be a matter of personal comfort, preference, and tattooing style.

Today’s popular rotary machines are lighter, quieter, and more ergonomic than traditional coil machines. However, most of the popular brands are fairly expensive, and in general rotaries can be more difficult to shade and create color gradients with than coil machines.

Traditional coil machines often have more versatility and customizable settings, but they’re also larger, heavier, and louder than rotary machines.

This is one of the most essential and important questions to answer when you’re looking for a new tattoo machine, so if you’re still not sure and want even more information on the coil vs rotary debate, check out our in-depth article on the subject.

Are You Concerned About Your Wrists?

If you’re tattooing for hours every day, the buzz and vibration of a coil machine might wear on your wrist over the course of months or years. While today’s coil machines are smaller, lighter, and gentler than coils of the past, a supremely lightweight and ergonomic pen-shaped machine like the Cheyenne Hawk or Spektra Xion from FK Irons is the best defense against overuse injuries.

What Accessories Do You Plan to Use It With?

While many machines accept a variety of power supplies, needles, and cartridges, some don’t. Before you commit to a new tattoo machine, make sure that it will be compatible with other equipment you plan to use it with.

What’s Your Tattooing Style?

While many of today’s rotary and coil machines can achieve a range of styles and effects, if you’re an experienced artist with a defined style, you might be looking to add a machine to your workbench that will fill a particular role. For example, Bishop Rotary offers a specialized Packer Wand machine for artists seeking bright, bold color fills, or a Shader Wand for those artists whose signature is smooth black and grey work.

There’s a universe of tattoo machines out there, and these questions will only start helping you narrow your choices. Find out more about the various styles of machines and high-quality tattoo machine manufacturers for sale in our store before you commit.