How Does A Tattoo Machine Work?

tattoo gun


Have you ever wondered how tattoo machines work? Or better yet, how do they achieve to make a permanent body mark? Well, let’s find out! Typically, tattooing is a form of art that has existed since the birth of humanity.

That has driven innovation leading to different types of tattoo machines. With that in mind, today, we’ll look at different types while highlighting the best tattoo machines for professionals. That said, let’s get started, shall we?


So, Exactly How Does a Tattoo Machine Work?

If you’ve taken the time to observe a tattoo artist in action, you’re probably curious about exactly how the gadget works. The drill-like object you see is an electric tattoo machine with a needle that pricks the skin about 100 times per second to deposit ink into your dermis. It makes thousands of tiny wounds on your skin, pushing your immune system into overdrive.

That may sound appalling, but don’t worry; the needle doesn’t go that deep. It only has to penetrate about a millimeter into your skin to deposit a bead of insoluble ink colors of your choice. The point of depositing the ink into your dermis is that it has more stable cells that envelope the ink particles than the epidermis. And as a plus, the dermis doesn’t peel off, so the tattoo will become permanent and slowly fade over time.  

The sterile needle on the tattoo machine connects to a tube that draws ink with an electric motor. The tattoo artist controls it through a foot pedal like the ones we usually see on sewing machines. Notably, the core technology of tattoo machines hasn’t changed much since the 1800s. Now, with that out of the way, let’s explore the different types of tattoo machines we have today.


Types of Tattoo Machines

Each type of tattoo machine has a unique take on the tattooing process. That’s why it’s crucial to understand and list the different tattoo machines available today. Typically, there are three main types of tattoo machines which include:

  • Coil tattoo machines
  • Rotary tattoo machine
  • Pneumatic tattoo gun


1. Coil Tattoo Machine

The coil tattoo machine is the item that comes to mind when anyone thinks of tattoo machines. That’s because of its popularity. These machines use electric-magnetic waves, inevitably causing movement in the needle.

The coil tattoo machine has an intense current typically controlled by a foot pedal. Additionally, you have different devices to do various works on the tattoo. Therefore, you will need to switch up from one coil machine to another if your session moves from lining to shading.

However, even the best coil machines are loud and heavy. More importantly, mastering this machine takes a bit longer than usual, but with patience and practice, it’s achievable. But if you are looking for the best affordable tattoo machine, the coil takes the win.

2. Rotary Tattoo Machine

Compared to the coil machine, the rotary tattoo requires less setup time. On top of that, you don’t necessarily have to switch guns whenever you want to change the needles. The rotary tattoo is considerably lighter and quieter, allowing easier usage and grip. That reduces the effects of excess vibrations and noise on the artist that are known to cause back, arm, and hand injuries.

Several customers confess that these tattoo machines are also smoother and less painful to the skin. On top of that, rotary devices are designed to give tattoo artists the best work experience. Typically, the machine features an ergonomic high-pressure design that makes it easy to use.


3. Pneumatic Tattoo Machine

The pneumatic machine features different elements than the above two items. This machine uses compressed air to function, taking its price tag through the roof. With that in mind, pneumatic tattoo machines rank as the most expensive on the market. They are easy to clean, smooth, and quiet and work well when creating intricate designs.


What Tattoo Machines do Professionals Use?

Professional tattoo artists usually have an arsenal of tools at their disposal. Therefore, we can’t quite say there are universally applicable tattoo machines. For instance, a tattoo artist will use a traditional set of coil tattoo equipment for lining and shading and a rotary tattoo machine to ink colored tattoos.

On the other hand, a tattoo artist who’s always on the go might prefer a small tattoo pen machine or a wireless, battery-operated one. The bottom line is; technical traits, equipment, and personal sensations are the key factors to consider when selecting a tattoo machine. Tattoo artists must remember that their comfort and that of their clients must always come first, as that largely influences the quality of the experience and outcome.

Prophet T100 : The Best Tattoo Machine

The PT1 Prophet Tattoo machine takes the crown regarding the best wireless rotary tattoo machine. This exceptional device is equipped with advanced configurations and stylish designs at nearly half the price.


Moreover, this device lasts up to 12 hours, making it an excellent choice for a tattoo machine on the go. The PT1 is the perfect blend of technology and art packed in a small package for novice and pro tattoo artists.



Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Rotary vs. coil tattoo machine?

A: Rotary tattoo machines are typically lightweight and less noisy. In contrast, the coil tattoo machine is a bit bulky and loud. However, the coil tattoo works well when it comes to defining those intricate lines, but that requires a high skill level. The noise and vibrations could, unfortunately, have long-term effects on your back, arm, and hand. On the other hand, rotary machines are loved for their fast needle movement and low maintenance.

Q: Do Rotary tattoo machines hurt more?

A: Contrary to popular belief, rotary tattoo machines are less painful than others. That’s because rotary tattoo machines create less vibration, which in turn causes less skin irritation.

Q: Why do tattoo artists wrap their machines?

A: Tattoo artists wrap the machines in plastic during the entire tattooing process. Besides this being an industry standard, it helps to keep the devices sterile and to prevent cross-contamination between clients. That’s because the tattoo machine is the one piece that directly interacts with the client’s skin. There are other alternatives to plastic wrap, but they all ensure the safety of both clients and tattoo artists.

Q: Which tattoo machine is for beginners?

A: As a novice tattoo artist, you’ll need a machine that’s easy to use, doesn’t produce distracting noises, and has an ergonomic finish—the rotary tattoo machine ticks all these boxes. On top of that, the rotary machine is lightweight, so you can easily design any art without the machine’s weight hindering your craft. More importantly, it will positively impact your artistic designs by making it easy to finish your work on time and effectively.