Best Tattoo Machines [Review] in 2021
Last Updated on March 21, 2022
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Are you looking to get your teeth into some tattooing?
Well, welcome to the club. Tattooing is great and whether you’re just doing a tattoo on yourself for fun or are training to become a professional tattoo artist, you’re going to need a good tattoo machine.
And that’s where we come in. If you’re new to the tattoo industry then you may not know where to look for tattoo machines. There are many different things to consider like tattoo machine brands and whether you want a rotary tattoo machine or coil machine.
But don’t let all of that intimidate you,
Because we’ve done all the research for you and have every scrap of info you’ll need so you can become a fully-fledged tattoo machine expert. We’ve compared the power supplies, tattoo needles, motor, gear system, and more all so you can get an accurate list of the best tattoo machines and get well-equipped before you start your journey into inking.
Now, if you want a tattoo machine that’s on the cheaper side but still maintains high standards in its equipment then check out number two, it’s my personal favorite.
Now you know what’s in store, we’ll jump right into the list.
How we came to the conclusion of our top 3:
Best Tattoo Machines
Dragonhawk Mast Pen Rotary Tattoo Machine
Here it is, our top pick and let me tell you something. You’re going to love it.
Nothing quite beats the Dragonhawk. Dragonhawk is a known brand in the tattoo industry so if you see their products then just know you’re in for a treat. And this tattoo machine by them is no different.
This Mast tattoo machine features a powerful custom motor and an advanced gear system that guarantees reliable, quiet operation without any vibration. The Mast machine also has a working voltage of 6V–9V and is an ergonomic, lightweight pen-style machine.
And that’s not all.
This tattoo machine is popular with customers. On Amazon the Draginhawk mast pen rotary tattoo machine has over 3,000 reviews and a 4.5-star rating which is very impressive for a tattoo machine.
One reviewer said, “We own a tattoo shop in upstate NY. This looks cheap and is affordable but ever since I started using the mast my line work has become perfect. The artists that work in my shop used the Cheyenne Hawk Pen but the Mast outlines, shades, and color packs so much better that they bought the Mast as well.”
So, as you can see, even the professionals are using it. On top of this, it allows a tailored tattooing experience to accomplish a wide variety of styles and techniques. It’s a well-rounded rotary tattoo machine designed for the utmost accuracy and control. Plus, it Emulates the grip and feel of an actual pen, so the machine allows for more comfortable and precise tattooing procedures than traditional machines do.
- Powerful custom motor
- A voltage of 6V–9V
- Compatible with all cartridge needles type
- Some found that the foot pedal would stick
Latest deal: Dragonhawk Mast Pen Rotary Tattoo Machine
Dragonhawk Cartridge Tattoo Machine Kit
Coming in at number 2 is a personal favorite. A cheaper alternative that carries the Dragonhawk name and associated high standards.
The Dragonhawk Atom cartridge tattoo machine has a precision DC motor with continuous operation and produces low noise. It’s long-lasting and lightweight which makes it say to handle and proves for a fluid and smooth use. Plus, it’s compatible with all cartridge needles.
The Atom tattoo pen offers you a better user experience. Just rotate the tattoo machine grip to adjust the needle’s depth. With up to 9000 R/Minute, it’s strong and powerful, capable of shading and lining, and has a stable operation between 6-9V with a DC cord connection. This really is a monster of a tattoo machine and well worth considering at the very least.
But what did others have to say about it?
Similar to our first pick, this tattoo machine kit is very popular with customers. It has over 3,000 reviews and is currently Amazon’s choice under the best tattoo machines. One reviewer said, “As an apprentice, I’ve worked with coil & rotary machines. I knew the pen was new and this version is a great starter. It definitely improved my work drastically. I’ve put in well over 10 tattoos with this gun and it’s still going strong. It’s very light and quiet.”
So, this is a great choice for beginners and is going to really help get your skills up to scratch and get a good start on your journey to becoming the best artist in town.
So click the link and have a look. It might be the one for you.
- Perfect for a beginner
- Available for shading and lining
- Low noise and long-lasting
- Ink isn’t high-quality
Latest deal: Dragonhawk Cartridge Tattoo Machine Kit
Solong Tattoo Pen Kit
Coming in at number three is the Solong Tattoo machine and let me just say now, this one is superb!
The tattoo pen machine is designed to give you the closest feel to an actual pen that you can get with a tattoo machine. You can use this pen to do tattooing, permanent eyebrows makeup, lip line, and eye line all in one pen meaning this one has its uses outside of the studio as well as in.
The Solong rotary tattoo machine is CNC-Machined by aircraft Aluminium alloy and has an anodized finish. The motor is 10w, low noise, strong and stable to work, and as if that wasn’t enough it won’t overheat after a long period of use.
But wait, it gets better.
The Solong tattoo machine is compatible with all other brand tattoo power supplies. It comes with a plug adapter to work with any power supply you have. And if you’re still feeling a little skeptical then there’s a one-year warranty thrown in so should your rotary tattoo machine not work you can swiftly get a replacement. This is a piece of tattoo equipment you aren’t going to want to pass up.
Now, to the bit that helps me decide on whether I want to take the plunge and buy a product, the reviews. The Solong tattoo machine has a 4.5-star rating and over 900 reviews making this one of the better models you can find online. One reviewer had this to say: “This thing is smooth. Even with the depth adjustment, there are no clicks. Just smooth and quiet. Hits as hard as you want it.”
Try it today, you won’t regret it.
- Compatible with other tattoo machine brands
- Viable tattoo machine for a beginner
- Multiple uses outside of tattoos
- Some got different cartridges than advertised
Latest deal: Solong Tattoo Pen Kit
Dragonhawk Tattoo Machine Rotary Atom M1
We weren’t kidding when we said Dragonhawk was the go-to for tattoo machines. One search on Amazon will show you that this brand makes up over 75% of the results and are nearly always the best-rated products.
This model isn’t any different either. Coming a part of a kit you’ll get a heap of extra bonuses thrown in. The Dragonhawk Atom M1 tattoo pen machine has an RCA jack, continuous operation, produces minimal noise, and has long-lasting stability. It’s lightweight and compatible with all standard cartridge needles much like its other Dragonhawk siblings.
However, this rotary tattoo machine provides visible needle depth. And on top of this, the Dragonhawk tattoo power supply provides quick and accurate activation/voltage adjustments.
The cartridge needles have high toughness silicone rebound that helps maintain their original flexibility and strength with long-time work. In addition to this, the indentation at the tip enhances ink flow and saturation while the membrane mechanism prevents ink spitback.
On to what others have said, you’ll have 1,000+ reviews to scroll through and a 4.5-star rating to help sway you towards the add-to-basket button. One reviewer praised how easy to use it was: “So glad I chose this over an actual machine. This pen idea is PERFECT! I tattooed a banana then 15 minutes later went STRAIGHT to my skin. I was that comfortable .”
So, put all those worries to bed and end your search by grabbing one of these at checkout.
- Best rotary tattoo machine for a beginner
- Visible needle depth
- Cheaper tattoo kit
- May want to ditch the tattoo ink supplied
Latest deal: Dragonhawk Tattoo Machine Rotary Atom M1
Wormhole Tattoo Kit
Last but not least is a tattoo starter kit that’s going to turn you from a beginner into a certified, expert tattooist.
The tattoo machine pen is made from premium aluminum alloy with fine workmanship and features a powerful motor, with an advanced gear mechanism. You’ll be able to put it through continuous operation without risking it overheating. Oh, and I almost forgot it’s low noise like all the best rotary tattoo machines.
Just rotate the grip to remove it or adjust the needle depth and the grip is safe to be sterilized in an autoclave. This tattoo kit is also compatible with all the standard needles.
You should know by now, there’s more in store.
The Wormhole Tattoo pen kit includes 1 x tattoo pen, 1 x tattoo power supply, 1 x RCA cord, 1 x foot pedal, 20 x tattoo cartridges needles, 50 x ink caps, 20 x tattoo inks, 2 x practice skins, 1 x tattoo gloves, 2 x self cohesive bandage, and 1 x instruction. This complete tattoo kit is a good choice for beginners, starters, and apprentices. As you can see, this is one enormous package for a small price of $92.99.
While there aren’t thousands of reviews for this one, it’s still popular with customers and boasts a 4.5-star rating. However, as with many tattoo kits, the tattoo ink and needles aren’t of the best quality in this kit so you may want to buy these separately.
- Cheaper than other tattoo machine brands
- Comes packed with dozens of items
- Well made and long-lasting
- You may want to ditch the inks
Latest deal: Wormhole Tattoo Kit
Best Tattoo Machines - A Buyer's Guide
If you’re looking to enter the world of tattooing, getting yourself a good quality tattoo machine is a good place to start. A tattoo machine will bring your design on a piece of paper to life, and to create the best pieces, you need the right tools.
Whether you’re an amateur or a newbie looking to get started, getting a tattoo machine that is best suited for beginners is probably your best bet, it includes everything you need to get started and dip your toes into the industry.
With so many brands available, it can be quite difficult to choose the right one for you, especially if you’re new to the field. Some of these tattoo guns won’t live up to the description.
There are some key things to consider before buying a tattooing machine, such as size, shape, adjustability, quality, type, price, and much more. But no need to look at that and worry; I’m here to guide you through all the confusing bits.
Let’s break it all down, shall we?
Rotary Tattoo Machines Or Coil Machines?
You may have noticed that some products have rotary tattoo machines or coil tattoo machines next to them. But what’s the difference between them? And which is better? Let’s have a look.
Coil Tattoo Machine
That buzzing noise you associate with tattoo parlors is the sound of a coil machine at work. But how do they work, and why are they so noisy?
In short, a coil machine consists of two electromagnets (coils), an armature bar (which the needle is attached to), a contact screw, and some springs. To get specific, this is how it works:
- When a direct current passes through the coils, a magnetic field is created.
- This field pulls the armature bar down, breaking contact with the screw and thus collapsing the circuit.
- The spring then pulls the bar back up again, where contact is re-established and the whole process repeats.
- This up and down motion is what pushes the needle in and out of the skin.
This results in a choppy linear motion of the needle, and that sound you hear is the armature bar and screw contacting each other over and over again at a rapid rate. This means that they create more vibration than a rotary machine, so artists have to be careful when using them over long periods of time.
Rotary Tattoo Machine
Rotary machines are a lot simpler. In Layman’s terms, a rotary machine consists of a small motor, a cam wheel, and a needle bar, of course, there’s more to it but these are the fundamental parts. How does it work though?
- When power is fed into the motor, it spins the cam wheel in a circular or rotary fashion (hence the name)
- The needle bar is attached to the cam wheel, converting the rotary motion into a linear one.
- The needle moves in a continuous and smooth backward and forwards motion.
Because of their design, rotary machines are much quieter than coils and more often than not, almost silent. There are a lot fewer parts to deal with too. No tuning, just attach your needle cartridge, plugin, and get to work.
Generally, a coil machine is favored for lining and a rotary tattoo machine for shading. But this is up for debate and many tattoo artists differ in their methods and chosen tattoo pen machine method.
Some prefer coils for linework due to the weight balance and are better for getting bold, thick lines and when doing whipped dots as they’ve got more power for defined dots. Rotaries are usually better equipped for color packing, soft black, and grey, fine lining delicate work, and layering or blending colors.
But ultimately, there’s no clear consensus on which is better, as it does purely come down to the individual artist, their style, and their way of working. There are pros and cons to both machines, so it’s worth learning how to use both and experimenting with them so you can get a feel of them and decide which is best for you.
Liners And Shaders?
It’s easy to forget about the more technical aspects of the tools you’re using, instead, practicing technique and style. The liner and shader tattoo machines each have their own unique technical specifications.
The main difference is the liner forms the outline of the tattoo and completes any blackwork. Whereas the shader adds color and, unsurprisingly, shade to the tattoo. In many cases, the liner is the only machine that comes into play as many have words or named tattooed onto them with no need for shading.
Movement and Strength
When drawing an outline for a tattoo, you’re taught to avoid stopping as much as possible. To accommodate this need for a smooth outline, liners move faster and have less power within them. Having less power isn’t a major drawback as the shader uses its power to flesh the tattoo out later on if necessary. Shaders also need more power to accommodate the larger number of needles. And if it wasn’t as powerful, the colors wouldn’t appear as vibrant and bold as they need to be. Shaders can have up to 100uF capacitors inside of them, whereas liners barely have 25uF capacitors.
The needle configuration, as well as the number of needles, varies between shaders and liners. On a lining machine, there are fewer needles and each is set up for very broad and general work. Liners, therefore, have little use in adding detail to tattoos. Usually, there are a maximum of seven needles and a minimum of one needle that are arranged in a circle formation.
In tattooing, tattooists use coils with a higher wrap for machines with more needles. A shading machine has more needles and therefore uses a higher wrap coil. Usually, this is between a 10 and 12 wrap, but it can depend on the client’s skin and the type of tattoo. Most lining machines work sufficiently well with a weaker eight-wrap coil. The type of coil is of great importance because the number of wraps directly corresponds with the power of the needle, due to the electromagnetic forces working within the machine.
Health And Safety
While Health and Safety probably isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, it is especially important in the tattoo industry. if done incorrectly you can not only face legal repercussions, but your clients have the potential to experience serious health problems. So, it’s vital you know the risks involved and how you can ensure your tattoo studio is a safe and sterile environment.
When you receive a tattoo, a tattoo artist uses a handheld tattoo pen machine with an attached needle to puncture the skin. Every time this device makes a hole, it injects ink into the dermis, your second layer of skin.
Tattoos are a common form of self-expression and have existed for thousands of years, but they also damage the skin and can cause complications. Some of which include:
- An allergic reaction to tattoo dyes, which may develop years later
- A skin infection, such as a staph infection or cutaneous tuberculosis (These aren’t pretty)
- Burning or swelling at the tattoo site
- Granulomas, or nodules of inflamed tissue, around the tattoo site
- Keloids, or overgrowths of scar tissue
- Bloodborne diseases, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, and tetanus. These are usually contracted through dirty or used needles.
Keeping Your Studio Safe And Clean
- Sanitary wipes will be your best friend, wipe down surfaces constantly.
- Wash your hands before and after every procedure and ensure you wear gloves.
- NEVER reuse needles, have a good supply of sterile needles packaged safely, and learn how to sterilize yourself to be extra safe.
- Clean the tattoo site with rubbing alcohol or another disinfectant.
- Equipment and surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned after and before a procedure.
- Make sure you have a license and follow your state laws regarding tattoos as they differ from state to state.
Precautions When Receiving A Tattoo
- Get a tattoo from a licensed, reputable facility. Tattoo regulations and requirements vary by state, so check with your local department of health for the latest safety laws.
- Check to make sure your artist uses a fresh pair of gloves and washes their hands before starting the procedure.
- Make sure you observe your artist removing needles from a new, sealed package. Needles and razors should never be reused.
- The area of skin being tattooed should be swabbed with a disinfectant, such as rubbing alcohol, prior to tattooing.
- Fresh tattoos should be covered with sterile gauze or a bandage. Follow the artist’s instructions for caring for newly tattooed skin and if they don’t give any then simply ask as it’s not always state law to provide aftercare advice.
Things To Consider Before Buying A Tattoo Machine
Before you click to buy any old tattooing machine, you must consider some key things to ensure it meets your requirements. What one machine may work for someone, it may not work for you.
Let’s break it down:
Before you go to buy any tattoo machine, you need to have a sit-down and think about the purpose you’re buying this machine for. If you’re a beginner, you may benefit from a tattooing machine that is fairly cheap and suited for beginners looking to build skill.
If you’ve been in the industry for some time, I won’t need to tell you that quality is so important as you already know, before buying you need to make sure that it suits your style of tattooing snd meets all your requirements.
Once you have an idea of the requirements you want to have out of your tattooing machine, next up is what type are you looking for?
If you’re looking for a tattoo machine to do line work, you should look for a specific liner gun. If you want a machine to shade tattoos, then try a shader. There are different specific purposes for tattoo machines, make sure you choose the right one for you.
Once you’ve distinguished the type of tattoo machine you’re looking for then next up is choosing between a rotary and coil machine (I have compared the two above). They both handle the same work but they have slightly different technologies and mechanisms.
Before buying any machine, check its quality. Always buy a tattoo machine from a reputed brand.
The next priority is quality. Before you buy any tattooing machine, make sure you check whether it is from a reputable brand and of high quality. A good indication of quality along with a reputable brand is the materials used.
High-quality machines are made with durable and high-quality materials such as plastic, aluminum, and other reputable metals.
Quality also comes hand in hand with the price; if your tattooing machine costs less than $50, then I can guarantee you it won’t last you more than a few months– plus, it will do a botched job.
You should determine a budget of what you can afford when buying a tattoo machine, even if you slightly go out of your budget to ensure good quality. It all depends on how much you’re willing to spend on a new tattoo machine.
There are lots of good quality tattoo machines you can get hold of for under $200 that will still do a brilliant job.
Now the weight is unique to you and more of a personal preference to consider; if the tattoo gun is too heavy, it will affect your performance and make your tattoos much more time-consuming.
I would recommend going for a durable yet lightweight material (such as aluminum) that can be held for long periods without getting hand fatigue.
The grip is also another important factor to consider when tattooing, it allows your fingers to sit comfortably on the gun and not cause aggravation during the tattooing process– allowing you to have full focus on your work.
Tattooing machines with fine gripping are brilliant as it won’t disturb the veins in your fingers. Pen shape tattoo guns are also ideal as they provide a more natural feel and grip while tattooing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What equipment do I need as an amateur tattoo artist?
To get started as a tattoo artist, you’ll need a tattoo machine, power supply, and other supplies like needles, grips, tips, tubes, inks, and stencils. Hygienic items like gloves, sterilizing equipment, and disinfectant wipes will also be an important addition to your arsenal. You can purchase most of these products yourself without a license. However, most reputable dealers will require you to present some certification that confirms that you are a licensed tattooist or amateur tattooist before selling you a tattoo machine.
Is it dangerous to tattoo yourself?
Applying tattoos on your own body is not safe as there are high chances of infections if you don’t use the right sanitary gear and sterilization methods to ensure everything is clean. In addition to this, drawing tattoos on your body or your friend’s body is illegal without a license. So unless you’re an established tattoo artist already, we’d recommended getting a tattoo from a distinguished tattoo artist.
Is Dragonhawk a good brand to start my tattooing journey?
Dragonhawk always makes good innovations in tattoo machines and delivers them according to every tattoo artist’s preference. The machines are durable, lightweight, and better than that, the machines are extremely affordable to novices and beginners. This is the go-to brand for beginners and we have some Dragonhawk products in the list above that you can check out.
Why does my tattoo machine keep cutting out?
If your tattoo machine is cutting out in between the tattoo session then it could be down to an oxidized point or contact. If this is an issue, try and clean your clip cord prongs with a piece of sandpaper. Alternatively, if the machine cuts down when you move the tattoo needle then it may be due to poor connection so always check your power supply reading and start again.
How Frequently Should Pen Needles Be Replaced?
Tattoo pen machines come with single-use, replaceable needles, and should be treated as such. No professional tattooist will use a needle twice, or they would lose their tattoo license immediately and risk harming their clients. If a needle is reused then there’s potential for a virus, bacteria, or disease transfer. Reusing tattoo needles could lead to a spread of HIV and hepatitis, as well as other sanitary issues. In some cases, this can lead to fatal results.
So, there you have it, the best tattoo machines available on the market.
Our top pick was the Dragonhawk Mast Pen Rotary Tattoo Machine, a fantastic choice for beginners and the best tattoo machine in our opinion. It has a powerful custom motor and an advanced gear mechanism, with a voltage of 6V–9V and compatibility with all cartridge types. So be sure to click the link and check it out.
Remember, tattooing without a license is illegal and most sellers will require proof that you’re qualified to use a tattoo machine. Bear in mind the risks involved and regulations to follow when tattooing as the potential effects a botched tattoo can have on you or a client aren’t pretty.
Alternatively, if you want to stock up on all the essential tattoo equipment then consider getting a tattoo kit. These come packed with tons of useful things that any beginner or experienced tattoo artist will need. If you want recommendations on the best tattoo kist then our list can be found here.
But regardless of what tattoo machine you decide on, be sure it works for you and leaves you with a lot of happy customers.
Pro tattoo artist
Steven loved art since his early adulthood especially tattoo art. Therefore, he picked up tattooing when he was researching it on the internet. Having experience of around 3 years in the tattoo industry, Steven has a great command over bold, bright, classic, grayscale, and tribal pieces. His passion for tattoo products drove him to do tons of research, etc. so that Tattoo Inksider can offer you the best tattoo products reviews.