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Things You Need To Know Before Buying Your First Tattoo Machine


What makes a great tattoo aside from the design, colour and size? No matter how great the design looks, if it's done by someone who doesn't have proper knowledge, experience and the right equipment then the tattoo just won't look great.

As a tattoo artist, you have to invest in your tattoo machine. If you're an apprentice planning on buying your first tattoo machine, here are some guidelines that may help you decide and choose the perfect tattoo machine for you!


Padiy Irons perfect for a first coil tattoo machine


The tattoo machine may be the most expensive thing you buy when you start your career as a tattoo artist, but this is the most important tool. Some start with two different machines, one for outlining, and another one for shading. When choosing a tattoo machine, it's best to ask more experienced tattoo artists for their advice and read reviews about different tattoo machine brands.

The most important thing to consider is the quality of the tattoo machine. Choose tattoo machines that are made of copper, iron, or brass. They may be a bit pricier, but in the long run, you'll realise that you've made the right decision.

Sunskin coil tattoo machines

There are two main types of tattoo machines: Coils, and Rotary machines. Lots of apprentices opt for coil machines when starting out, as this has always been the traditional method of tattooing. Coil machines utilise electromagnetic currents that pass through a pair of coils, triggering a draw and release of the machine's armature bar. It releases the springs causing the armature bar to essentially tap the tattoo needles into the skin at a very fast pace.

Rotary machines on the other hand, are a lot quieter. They contain a small motor that pushes the attached needle or cartridge up and down in a smooth, almost cyclical motion, which moves the needles in and out of the skin more fluidly.

Rotary tattoo machines from FK Irons, Bishop Rotary and Ava
Aside from the tattoo machine, you will also need to buy tattoo needles. There are several different kinds of tattoo needles and configurations available. Smaller needles are usually used to create thin outlines, small tattoos and details, while larger needle groupings are for bold outlines and shading.

In more recent years tattoo cartridges have been developed as an alternative to needles, and a lot of tattoo artists are incorporating them into their tattoo set up. Cartridges can only be used with certain machines, for example the Cheyenne range of machines or any pen-style rotary machine. 

The upside is that setting up cartridges is normally quicker and a lot easier than setting up standard tattoo needles, but they do tend to be quite a bit pricier. Lots of cartridges contain a safety membrane as standard, which prevents the ink from flowing back up the tube to the machine, keeping your set up a lot more hygienic. 

MTS Pro Tattoo Kits for the tattoo apprentice

As well as needles or cartridges, you'll also need to complete the parts of your tattoo machine. You need the power supply, clip cord or RCA, and the footswitch. These parts can be bought separately or as a whole kit. It's important to buy extra parts, so you have back up when needed. The tattoo machine must be compatible with the power supply, so check the specs of the machine to make sure your power supply will run your machine. It is important that each part of your equipment works perfectly together.

Other items you'll need to buy, depending on the type of machine you opt for, are grommets, O-rings, and rubber bands. You'll also need machine bags, tattoo tubes, and will need to decide whether to buy the disposable kind or the reusable ones. You can find the majority of this equipment, including a tattoo machine, in our MTS Tattoo Kits. Providing you with a wide selection of supplies, these kits are perfect for the apprentice looking to get started with their first tattoo machine.

We're pretty sure you have an idea on how a tattoo machine works. But just to be sure, research and try to look for manuals online before purchasing one. That way, you'll have an idea on which one is best for you. Search for guides on how to clean and maintain the tattoo machine as well. 

Gearing up for your tattooing career can be very overwhelming, and with such a huge variety of supplies to choose from and lots of different articles online you can never be too sure which ones are true and which ones are just part of a marketing ploy. Here at Magnum Tattoo Supplies, we're always happy to help and advise you when it comes to making decisions about which supplies to go for. 


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  • Matthew Nelson