Tattoos are an incredibly popular form of self-expression, to pay tribute to something or display what you like on your body. Tattoos have been happening for hundreds of years and although time has progressed, it seems that tattoos continue to get more popular every single day. Therefore, a lot of artists are starting the profession of becoming a tattoo artist themselves. A major part of becoming a great tattooist is having the right equipment like a high-quality tattoo gun.
Tattoo Machines Now vs. The Past
A tattoo gun or tattoo machine is a hand-held device that is generally used to create a tattoo. A tattoo is known as a permanent marking of the skin with indelible ink. Tattoos have been happening for hundreds of years so as you imagine the way tattoos are done today has slightly changed over the years with technology progressing.
Today, tattoo machines use electromagnetic coils to move an armature bar up and down. This bar is connected to a barred needle grouping which is what is used to push the ink into your skin. You may commonly hear tattoo artists refer to this as the tattoo machine, pen, or even iron. A tattoo gun is also an extremely common terminology as well, but so artists do say that it’s a bit offensive to the work that they do.
In addition to the coiled tattoo machines, there are also rotary tattoo machines that work through a regulated motor versus the electromagnetic coils.
The First Steps
If you’re at the beginning stages of becoming a tattoo artist, it’s not only important to ensure that you have the right type of equipment, but also to understand how that equipment works and how setting up a tattoo gun really works. It’s also really beneficial to understand how a tattoo machine works and operates in helping to determine the right tattoo machine for you and your needs.
To start with understanding how a tattoo gun works properly, you should know the differences between a coil and rotary tattoo machine as well as understand a few other aspects including how liner and shader guns differ from each other. Once you understand how each machine operates and the mechanics of it, you can get a better grasp of the whole setup process it.
Luckily, depending on the type of machine you choose, a lot of popular coil machines or sometimes rotary tattoo machines have general setups that are pretty straightforward and streamline.
- Start preparing the necessary components. Take all the parts you need to assemble to use your tattoo gun including your power supply, clip cord, foot pedal, tattoo machine needles, and armature bar, along with ink caps and the ink itself. A lot of starter kits have everything you need when it comes to the first step of tattoo machines.
- Start preparing your needles. Choose the size of the needle depending on your project.
- Prepare the power supply beforehand and ensure that it’s properly connected to the tattoo machine.
- Assemble the machine and be careful. You definitely want to avoid any unwanted mistakes or injuries from occurring so it’s important to follow the instructions as closely as possible.
How to Prepare Tattoo Needles
Before you get to setting up a tattoo gun, one of the most important parts of using a tattoo gun is preparing the tattoo needles. This step ensures that everything goes correctly when it comes to designing the tattoo. First things first, you need to determine the size of the needle needed. This depends on the job that you’re doing, the detail, and the overall look of the tattoo you’re going for.
It’s great opting for a tattoo needle kit, that way you have a variety of different size needles at your disposal.
When it comes to the size of your tattoo needles it’s important to remember that the smaller the diameter of the needle, the more control you will have. This makes smaller needles great for areas of finer detail and larger or wider needles better for spreading the ink or shading details.
Tattoo needles are normally divided into liners or shaders. The liners are normally used to outline the tattoo while the shaders are, you guessed it! used to fill in the tattoos and do shading. Both types of needles are arranged on a single bar on your tattoo machine. The liner needle sitting close together to form a round tip while the shader needles are placed next to each other in a straight or curved line.
To prepare a needle before you create a tattoo, there’s not much to it. The most critical part, of course, is sterilizing your needle. All needles should come pre-sterilized but just to confirm the quality and the safety of needles, you should definitely make sure to sterilize them prior to using.
You should also make sure there are no flaws on the needle as well including burs, dull tips, or dents in the needles. These impurities can cause scarring, skin damages, or even bleeding. Lastly, where you insert your needle should always be inspected prior as well. All this will help to ensure that you’re needles are working as intended and not causing any damage.
The Difference Between Lining and Shading Tattoo Guns
As we mentioned previously, there is a difference when it comes to lining and shading needles, but what you may not know, is there is actually a difference between lining and shading tattoo guns as well. Different machines are intended for different purposes when it comes to the tattoo industry. Therefore, it’s important that you’re not only using the proper needles, but also tattoo machine as well.
The setup when it comes to lining and shading differs in four major areas
- Power and Speed
- Coil Type
- Machine Weight
When it comes to the needles, you will notice the position being different on the bar as mentioned above. Liner machines usually run faster than shaders but shaders require more power to penetrate the skin and insert lasting color. Shaders are known to produce stronger vibrations compared to liners. Normally higher wrap coils are needed to produce enough power for multiple needles. Therefore a shader requires more than a liner and as you would expect with more power and more coils, the shader machine is a bit heavier than a liner machine.
How to Set Up Your Tattoo Gun & Use It
Now that you’ve learned the difference between the different types of tattoo machines and the needles, it’s now the time to learn all about setting up a tattoo gun. To set up your tattoo machine and assemble it, you need to be very thorough and careful. As we mentioned before, it’s always important to take into consideration hygienic practices and sterilization to avoid any unwanted infections or mishaps. Make sure you have thoroughly washed your hands with anti-bacterial soap prior to assembling your machine.
- Find the contact screw and front spring underneath. This will define your linework.
- Unpack the needle after sterilization and insert it into the tube. Slide the tube into the machine tube slot and semi-tighten the wingnut to fix the tube.
- You should then set the armature bar nipple in place to ensure that your needle is in the correct position. This will ensure that all the detail is precise.
- Adjust the length of your needle. It’s recommended that your needle be sitting between 0.04 – 0.07 of an inch.
- If you use a coil machine, slide two rubber bands around each of the coils to help stabilize it.
- Now connect it to power
After you’re done setting up your tattoo gun, it’s time to consider actually using your tattoo gun, we recommend that you get plenty of practice before attempting to tattoo on yourself or another person. You can practice on apples, oranges, pears, or anything with similar ‘skin’ to human skin. This will also allow you to practice having your machine in the proper positioning, the right depth for your tattoo and not going too deep and eventually get you ready to practice on yourself before tattooing another person.
Now that we’ve gone in-depth all about tattoo machines, it’s now time to get into the best tattoo machines and tattoo gun kit on the market today.
The Best Tattoo Machines Available Today
The Dragonhawk Mast Tattoo Machine
When you think about tattoo machines, Dragonhawk is one of the most popular machines out there. For just over $120 you can get a Mast tattoo machine and a tattoo gun kit with a powerful custom motor and advanced gear system that not only guarantees reliable, quiet operation but without any vibration as well. It works with a high voltage of 6V-9V with a lightweight pen-style machine. It comes with a patent shell design, increase ink storage, and a special silicone rebound membrane. It’s made with medical-grade LG PC and is a popular cartridge with tattoo artists all around the world.
Best o yet, the Dragonhawk Mast tattoo machine is compatible with all cartridge needle types. Making this a universal and excellent machine to have in your kit.
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Solong Tattoo Pen Kit
Another great option is this Solong Rotary Tattoo pen which is CNC-Machined by aircraft Aluminum alloy and then anodized finish. The motor is made with low noise and meant for strong and stable work for long working hours with the 10W. The pen itself is designed to give you the closest feel to an actual pen to get the closest and most precise lines and details possible. The Tattoo Pen can be compatible with other brands of tattoo power supplies so it’s a great thing to add to your collection for sure.
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STIGMA Complete Tattoo Kit
If you’re looking for a complete, affordable tattoo gun kit to start off with, this STIGMA Complete Tattoo Kit comes with a rotary tattoo machine, power supply, color inks, and a case to get you all set up and ready to go when it comes to practicing becoming the next best tattoo artist. The rotary machine is great for shading and lining with a powerful 10W motor that’s easy to control even with a big size needle. This kit comes with 20 different needles in various different sizes and five high-quality popular color inks. It’s CE certified and has a one year warranty as well.
It’s important to note that you can use this tattoo gun to tattoo human skin but the ink that’s included is specifically designed for practice only and if you are planning on using this gun to tattoo on a person or yourself, make sure to buy professional ink when that time comes. Best of yet, this kit is only $51.
4.5 out of 5.0 stars
When it comes to tattoos and tattoo machines, it’s important to take everything really seriously because it’s permanent. There are luckily a lot of amazing quality machines out there that you can purchase for not only an affordable price but also conveniently right online. If you’re looking to start a new hobby or your career as a tattoo artist, all the tips above are not only useful but necessary when learning how to navigate the world of tattoos. We think you will find if you decide to purchase any of the tattoo machines mentioned above, you will be able to practice and perfect your artistry with success!