They say that when it comes to artistry, it’s more about the skill rather than the tool used. If you really have the knack for it, you don’t need the fanciest or some cutting-edge equipment as you have the talent to back you up. While many tattoo artists will agree, most will also say that it wouldn’t hurt to have the best tattoo machines on hand.
With the most reliable tattoo machines, your job as a tattooist can become easier. Your lines and strokes can become more precise, allowing you to create the magical skin art your clients desire. Your tool can also help determine your efficiency in doing your work, so why not choose a great one, right?
To help you out, here’s a lengthy guide and a number of top-notch product recommendations that we guarantee won’t let you down. Check them out below.
Our Top 10 Picks for the Best Tattoo Machines
There are so many amazing, high-quality tattoo machines available in the market today so choosing just one may seem impossible for many. To help you narrow down your options or at least give you an idea on what are considered to be the best products available today, here are 10 top tattoo machines that you can check out:
1. Hummingbird Bronc Pen Rotary Tattoo Machine- Best Apprentice Tattoo Machine
Starting off this list is an affordable pick that has impressed a lot of experienced tattooists. Made to provide a versatile and highly functional tattoo machine, the Hummingbird Bronc Pen Rotary Tattoo Machine nicely executes everything that the manufacturer aimed to offer.
Some may have doubts because of its friendly price but once you tried using this product, you’ll know that the price is actually a great price. It’s proof that great things don’t always have to break the bank as this item performs really well despite being very affordable.
One of the biggest draws to this product is the way it’s constructed. It was made to feel like a regular pen so users will have no issues with its handling. Bronc managed to pull it off nicely. It will feel like you’re just using a somewhat heavier pen type tattoo machine to draw on your client’s skin when using this tattoo machine.
2. Stigma Hyper V3- Best Tattoo Gun for Lining
Being a best-selling pick from one of the most popular brands for tattoo machines, the Stigma Hyper V3 definitely deserves a spot on this list. One look at this device and you’ll know that it means serious business.
While it may seem intimidating at first, you can have it on good conscience that this product is a good fit for both pros and beginners alike. Its innovative design allows it to be easy to maneuver and operate, so even if you haven’t been inking for years, you won’t struggle too much with this particular tool. Since it’s also deemed as the most flexible rotary tattoo machine in the market today, it might really be a good match for lots of tattooists.
Its biggest claim to fame, however, is its claim to be the softest rotary in the market. So even though it also does a great job in lining, you can also count on it to be fantastic at coloring and shading. Switching from one setting to another is also perfectly easy and will only take you a couple of seconds. As a result, you can be quite efficient in completing your work.
3. Cheyenne Hawk Thunder – Best Professional Tattoo Machine
Tattooing can be brutal on an artist’s wrists so a lightweight tool is always welcome. So with the 9.5g of the Cheyenne Hawk Thunder, it might just be one of the lightest options available.
Being spectacularly lightweight is definitely one of the strongest draws of the Hawk Thunder. Not a lot of tattoo machines can promise the same thing without compromising their motor and frame quality. The Thunder gets to balance everything thanks to its great material choices, allowing it to be very light but still powerful and durable.
Despite being light as a feather, no one should doubt the Thunder’s performance. It’s touted as one of the most powerful tattoo machines available thanks to its Precision DC motor. It also makes some of the crispest lines, making it an excellent pick for lining. It can still pack in color and shade, though, so it’s also a versatile device.
4. Dragonfly Authenitc X2 – Best Tattoo Gun for Professional
Another lightweight option that might tickle your fancy is the Dragonfly X2 Tattoo Machine. This bad boy is quite a head-turner, thanks to its appealing design. Some say that it has a ‘badass’ vibe, making it a beautiful addition to many tattooists’ collections.
Aside from its looks, though, this device has a whole lot to offer. For one, it’s very lightweight. It’s lighter than the previous item, so that’s very impressive. It’s also smaller than the other items on this list, so if you prefer such a size, it might be a better option for you.
This item is also popular for its energy-efficiency. Despite their size, tattoo machines can consume quite a lot of power, so this one might be a more practical option for some users.
5. Dragonhawk Essence Pen Rotary Tattoo Machine- Best Liner Tattoo Machine
Not yet ready to splurge on a tattoo machine? Or maybe you just want to try whether a pen-style device is a good match for you? Then Check out the Dragonhawk Essence. This tattoo machine is one of the most affordable options available in the market today so it can be the perfect pick for novice tattooists or those who are just trying to expand their horizons but can’t shell out for a pricey unit yet.
Its price isn’t indicative of its quality and performance, however, as this item has surprised many tattooists – newbies and veterans alike. It performs really well, so with its friendly price, many consider it to be a good buy.
In terms of durability, you can also count on this product to last a while. With its choice of materials and sturdy construction, it promises to handle regular use.
6. BRONC Professional Tattoo Power Supply
While this item is not necessarily the best tattoo gun or even a tattoo machine in itself, the Bronc Professional Power Supply is still an essential purchase to make if you’re going to be a tattooist. With its digital design, it makes monitoring your power supply a lot simpler and more straightforward. There will be no guesswork involved with this accessory and it can eliminate certain complicated steps in executing the tattooing process.
If there’s one thing that should convince you to switch to this device, it should be the fact that everything is nicely labeled. As a result, you can easily control and operate this power supply. You will also get all of the information you need to make the most out of your tattoo machine, so it can definitely boost your performance.
7. Bishop Authentic Rotary Machine- Best Cosmetic Tattoo Machine
Those who want to invest in their equipment should check out the Bishop brand. Widely known for the excellent quality and performance of their products, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’ve included their Classic rotary machines on our list. This is possibly the best representation of the brand as it embodies their dedication to creating the quality products in the market.
While it is quite pricey, this product can be worth every penny because of its sturdy construction, beautiful design, and wonderful performance. It’s versatile, consistent, powerful, and easy to use.
8. Dragonhawk Raven Tattoo Machine- Best Tattoo Stencil Machine
With its injection-molded scratch-resistant ABS frame, the Dragonhawk Raven offers another alternative to tattoo artists. The unique choice of material can be an easy deal-breaker or maker as it has its own pros and cons. This is why you also shouldn’t miss out on what it has to offer.
The Raven may not have a metal body like the items listed above but it has a few things it offers instead. For starters, its One-Touch Technology that makes voltage adjustment a breeze. Its hard plastic frame also allows it to be a lot lighter than lots of other rotary tattoo machines.
What really sets it apart from the other items listed here, however, is its performance. It’s commonly used by tattooists in more delicate areas like the face because it causes minimal skin trauma. As a result, it’s a great all-rounder tool for areas that are most painful to ink.
9. Danny Robinson’s Tattoo Machine- Best Budget Tattoo Machine
When you see a Danny Robinson Tatto Machine for the first time, you will never expect it to be as affordable as it is. With its pure copper frame, you’ll certainly think that it’s a vintage item that costs quite a bit. Surprisingly, this is one of the most affordable picks on this list, so if you’re after a budget option, this might do the trick.
Available in liner and shader varieties, you certainly have a choice when completing your tool arsenal. Both run smoothly and flawlessly, so you can be guaranteed of great results with ample skill.
The only drawback of this item is its heft. Due to its solid construction, it can get tiring to hold for long periods. If you don’t mind beefing up your wrist and forearm, though, this shouldn’t be an issue.
10. Hawink Pen Rotary Tattoo Machine- Best Tattoo Gun for Dotwork
Last but not least is the Hawink Pen Rotary Tattoo Machine. As its name suggests, it sports a pen-style design which makes it very easy to use. Designed to feel as close as possible to an actual pen, this item will free you from the need of getting used to this device if you’re already adept at using a pen rotary tattoo machine for illustrating.
Best Tattoo Guns Buying Guide and Additional Information
The History of Tattoo Machines
Did you know that tattoo machines are pretty much just mods of Thomas Edison’s electric pen? Back in the day, Edison invented the predecessor of printers, allowing people to duplicate and reproduce texts faster. They were called Stencil-Pens and was patented in 1876.
Just a couple of years later, Samuel O’Reilly modified the invention for the purpose of introducing tattoo inks to the skin. With tattooing being an ancient practice, this invention isn’t too surprising. However, the way it was introduced was intriguing, especially since it only took a few days for another similar invention to come out in the form of the single-coil machine. Not long after that was the invention of the double-coil machine.
Tattoo machines today are already very different and refined from the ones invented centuries ago. It was constantly developed by the creative minds of tattoo artists so you’re now bound to see a lot of different varieties in the market.
Types of Tattoo Machines
After getting to know 10 great options for tattoo machines, there’s a good chance that some already caught your eye. However, if you’re clueless as to how each product differs from each other, it’s best to know a few basics about these tools first. Since these items are available in different varieties, you might want to get to know your general options as well.
For this, we’ll break down the different types of tattoo machines to help you tell the difference between your various options:
1. Rotary tattoo machine
Originally, rotary tattoo machines are just modifications of Thomas Edison’s stencil pens. However, through the decades, it was constantly improved upon by tattooists. It wasn’t until 1974 when Manfred Korst updated it to how we know it today. These machines have electric motors to drive the needles. As a result, it’s said to have ushered in a whole new era in tattooing as it provided better control and detailing. Lots of experts prefer this type of machine as they’re more lightweight, less noisy, and highly versatile.
2. Coil tattoo machine
Tattoo parlors have a signature buzzing sound because of these machines. They’re pretty much the most widely used variety out there as they’re highly functional. They’re also very affordable and high-powered, making them the preferable tool for the trade.
Unlike rotary machines, they use electromagnetic circuits to move the needle grouping used to make magic. They also come in a few varieties and are available in different shapes and sizes. You can get them in single-, double-, and triple-coil options, although, the double-coiled ones are considered to be the standard.
Due to the way the coils move, the machine’s movement and power are greatly controlled. As a result, they don’t cause as much trauma skin as other kinds of tattoo machines.
3. Liner tattoo machine
As the name suggests, these machines are made for creating dominant lines in one pass. They’re essential for detailing and are very efficient. Some consider them as a sub-type of coil machines.
4. Shader tattoo machine
Like the liner tattoo machine, this item is also an essential auxiliary tool. As its name suggests, it fills in your body art with black tattoo inks. It’s also often used for sculpting lines and for other lines as it allows retracing without causing a lot of trauma to the skin.
5. Pneumatic tattoo machine
If you don’t mind splurging on a machine for your convenience, check this one out. Since it’s powered by an air compressor, it’s way more lightweight than the others listed above. It’s also a lot easier to maintain as you can place the entire tool in an autoclave for sterilization.
Pros and Cons of the Different Types of Tattoo Machines
Construction of a Tattoo Machine
As the lists above would tell you, there are various kinds of tattoo machines available right now. With this variety also comes their differences in terms of constructions. Otherwise, they won’t really be different from each other, right?
In any case, tattoo machines are generally composed of three general parts: the main body, the sanitary tube, and the end section. The last one is mostly for balance so the artist will have good control of the tool. The main body is where the capacitor is, or the part that generates and transmits power to the needle.
The sanitary tube is where the needle and grip are found. It’s named as such because it’s supposed to be cleaned in an autoclave before use since it’s the section that gets in contact with the skin.
For your reference, note that tattoo machines can also contain these components, depending on the type you’ll get:
- Foot pedal
- Air compressor (for pneumatic types)
- Armature bar
- Armature bar O-rings
- Coil sets and parts
- Frame parts
- Power supply
- Spring saddles and yokes
Understanding How Tattoo Guns Work
Wondering how a tattoo gun works after seeing your different options? It’s actually a rather simple device despite how it appears. In order to push out the needles and ink, the device’s main circuit produces alternating current. For coil tattoo machines, they use electromagnetic coils and a capacitor. For pneumatic tattoo machines, the air compressor produces the energy that is needed to move the needles. Rotary varieties have electric motors that spin clockwise in order to make the needle move back and forth.
Aside from learning how tattoo machines work, you should also pay attention to the crucial operational procedures involved in their use. Master how to set up your device or how to tune a tattoo machine for lining or shading. With such knowledge, you can be sure to make the most out of your tattoo machine.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Tattoo Machine
Since there are tons of options to choose from, finding the best tattoo machines for you can be an overwhelming task. So to help you make it simpler, here are some of the most important factors to take into consideration when choosing a unit to get:
1. Top-notch quality
This should go without saying but just to emphasize the importance of this pointer, we’re still going to mention that you shouldn’t settle for anything less than a high-quality tattoo machine. The absolute best tattoo gun equipment to buy will always be the ones made of high-grade materials and solid construction. They guarantee durability, great performance, and great results. They also will not put your clients in any kind of danger, so you should only opt for such.
2. The right size and shape
In order to get fantastic results from your tattoo machine, you need to be able to wield it effectively. Because of this, you should also be very particular about the size and shape of the unit you’re getting.
Make sure that you can handle the device nicely as it will help you make the strokes and lines you need to make beautiful body art. If you ended up with something that’s too bulky, you might not be able to be precise in your hand movements. This will result in errors and a lot of discomfort for your client.
3. Ample heft
This is quite tricky a lightweight device can be easier to handle and won’t tire you out easily. However, if it’s too light, it might not give you ample resistance which can make your work a bit difficult. Going for something that sits in between is ideal.
4. The right variety
As the list above suggests, there are kinds of tattoo machines meant for specific purposes. Liners and shaders are two very different devices. Pneumatic tattoo machines and some rotary varieties can line and shade, so keep those in mind as well. Choose one that will suit your needs so you can get your desired results.
Consider the type of device as well. Rotary tattoo machine techniques vary from coil machine techniques so you might want to take that into close consideration.
Tattoo Parlor Cleanliness
Another important point that’s worth emphasizing is the tattoo parlor’s cleanliness. Due to the nature of the business, keeping things sanitary is crucial. It will ensure the safety of everyone, so make sure to strictly adhere to hygiene protocols and regulations. Make sure to teach everyone how to clean a tattoo machine properly and ensure that your staff observes the local health code regulations that apply to your business.