The 8 Best Tattoo Machines 2019

best tattoo machine coil and rotarybest tattoo machine coil and rotary

As the popularity of tattooing increases, so does the variety of tattoo machines available. Whether you’re brand new to tattooing and are looking for your first machines to see you through your apprenticeship, or you’ve been inking for years and are looking for a new gun for your collection, we’ve picked out eight tattoo machines recommended by renowned artists around the globe.

it’s important to note that it’s not advisable to tattoo anyone without first being properly trained by a professional artist. Taking tattooing into your own hands can have serious safety implications. Scratchers, or untrained at-home tattooers, are more likely to cause infections by failing to keep their workspace clean. Even if a fresh needle is used, it’s all too easy for diseases to be spread if the equipment isn’t properly sterilized and wrapped.

Coil Machines

Adam Ciferri Ghost Dog Shader Hybrid

Workhorse Irons is one of the best-known tattoo supplies vendors around, and their Ghost Dog Shader Hybrid is up there with our favorites.

  • Designed by a pro-tattooer to make tattooing easier
  • Feels like a rotary machine but performs like a coil machine
  • Creates solid lines and makes light work of color-packing

The Ghost Dog was designed by Adam Ciferri, a renowned tattoo artist who’s been building machines for over 20 years. His mission is to make the job of a tattooer easier, and with this powerful yet lightweight unit, he’s achieved exactly that.

The 5.7 oz body is light for a coil machine, giving it more of a rotary feel in the hand. The machine is all-coil in its performance, though, and it packs a big punch for its weight, creating crisp, solid, and single-pass outlines.

Made in the USA from CNC cut iron and standard Workhorse Irons hardware, this machine is built for precision and durability. And, what’s best about Workhorse Irons is that you can only buy machines from them if you can prove that you work for a legitimate tattoo shop, which is a great stand against scratchers.

MICKY SHARPZ TATTOO MACHINE BRASS HYBRID

This smooth-running Brass Hybrid coil tattoo machine from Mickey Sharpz is characterized by its fluidity and sturdiness.

  • Coil design is punchy enough for efficient block coloring
  • Precision engineered to minimize friction and improve durability
  • Fast tube changing reduces downtime

UK-based Micky Sharpz has been supplying professional artists around the world for more than 35 years, and their Brass Hybrid tattoo machine is one of their most popular machines. The coil design is great for accurate and efficient coloring, shading and lining, and the body has a nice balance to it which makes it a pleasure to use.

Made from polished brass, these machines are produced using a dead-mold procedure to keep friction between the components as minimal as possible. This machine comes with Sharpz high-resolution coils and split collet for fast tube changing, meaning less downtime.

Mini Dietzel Powerliner

Using decades of knowledge and experience, HM Tattoo Machines created the powerful and accurate Mini Dietzel Powerliner.

  • Created with the help of over 20 years of experience
  • Perfect for size seven needles and above
  • Strokes are long and powerful,

After Roman of Magic Tattoos started building his own custom machines in the 1990s, he eventually found himself spending more time doing that than tattooing. This dedication led to the creation of HM Tattoo Machines, which is now one of the best-known suppliers in the industry.

The Mini Dietzel Powerliner is perfect for work needing size seven needles and above, and with it, you can expect your line work to be solid, crisp, and accurate. It’s a step up from the Mini Dietzel Liner in terms of power, and the 10-wrap coils deliver fast, hard-hitting long strokes for a powerful and fluid motion.

Made in Spain from a single piece of CNC iron, the body is solid and will serve you well for hours and hours of inking.

BIG SLEEPS X BISHOP COIL MACHINE

Bishop’s special edition Big Sleeps X coil machine is the culmination of decades of tattooing expertize and know-how: and it shows.

  • Created by one of the industry’s most respected artists
  • Designed for larger needle groupings for efficient filling
  • Tall coil delivers more power to your needle for better control

Big Sleeps has been tattooing since the late 1980s and his name commands a lot of respect in the industry. After decades of first-hand experience, he collaborated with Bishop to create this masterpiece.

Designed for bigger needle groupings, this heavy-duty machine makes light work of color-blocking and shading. Or, reduce the voltage and you’ve got a great all-purpose liner instead. The 8 wrap tall coil design gives the needle extra power and the tattooer the extra control needed to create crisp and vivid artwork, whatever you’re using it for.

Beware of imitations: Bishop coil machines are handmade in L.A exclusively for Bishop so you won’t find them anywhere else.

Rotary Machines

Seawolf Rotary Direct Drive 3.0

This multitasking Seawolf Direct Drive 3.0 rotary machine from Vladblad Irons is a one-stop-shop for all your tattooing needs.

  • Can be used for any style and purpose
  • Reduced vibrations increase accuracy and comfort
  • Direct drive design is best for tattooers with experience

Moscow-based Vlad Blad prides themselves on creating solid, reliable machines, and their third-generation rotary machine does exactly that. There’s no fancy futuristic technology, but despite that, it’s one of the most powerful and fast rotaries available.

The Seawolf’s key selling point is that it’s extremely capable of a huge variety of styles and purposes. Artists use this machine for traditional, realism, dot work, or pretty much any other type of artwork you can think of, and with great results. And, the 4 mm stroke also covers you for line work, block color, and shading.

The vibrations of this rotary machine are minimal considering the power it packs in. Vlad Blad ran tests until they found the perfect combination of the motor and form cam to create the ideal needle hit intertia for fluid tattooing.

The Seawolf’s direct drive design requires a specific set of skills to operate so it’s not the best option for rookie artists, but if you’re a pro you’ll love this machine.

This machine can handle any size magnums up to 35 and it doesn’t matter whether they’re cartridges or classic needles, giving you more flexibility in your working style.

Spektra Edge X Black

FK Irons, otherwise known as Fallen King Irons, have developed the first completely versatile rotary tattoo machine with their Spektra Edge X model.

  • MultiVise design eliminates the need for cartridge adapters
  • Adjustable stroke removes the need to switch between different stroke wheels
  • Accurate performance for precise tattoos

Innovation is central to Spektra Edge X’s design, and tattooers love the fact that it takes conventional backstem-style and screw-on style cartridges without the need for additional adapters. There’s also no need for interchangeable stroke wheels when you’re switching between filling and lining, thanks to the adjustable stroke that can be varied from 2.8 mm all the way to 4.2 mm.

The accuracy of this US-made machine is spectacular.

The unique drive-bar and slider reduce friction for smooth performance, and the self-lubricating slider boasts ball bearing stabilization ensures an accurate glide.

This machine is built to last with a body made from a solid piece of 6061 T6 aircraft aluminum, and the patented HexDrive mechanism allows the motor to be detached which reduces the amount of wear and tear.

HAWK PEN

German brand Cheyenne’s Hawk Pen is at the forefront of tattoo machine innovations, offering absolute control, accuracy, and comfort.

  • Innovative, forward-thinking design built for unbeatable precision
  • Ergonomic build prevents wrist fatigue
  • Great for both fine lines and filling

Part of a new generation of rotary tattoo machines, the Hawk Pen is designed to resemble a regular pen and is built with precision and comfort in mind. The low-vibration Precision DC Motor is unbelievably quiet and there are no harsh vibrations which keep fine details nice and accurate. The design also offers complete freedom of movement and prevents fatigue during long tattooing sessions.

The 3.5 mm stroke makes it a great choice for dots and line work, as well as shading and filling, meaning his machine will cover you for pretty much any project imaginable. And, Cheyenne’s patented cartridge technology makes it quick and easy to switch between 56 different needle configurations for minimal downtime.

The anodized aluminum body creates a hygienic surface and the entire unit is easy to clean and maintain. The Hawk Pen is available in six different colors, too, if aesthetics are important to you.

INFINITE IRONS ROLLER

Infinite Irons’ Roller Rotary tattoo machine combines simple rotary engineering with impressive durability.

  • 3.5 mm stroke is perfect for lining
  • Simple design with no intricate parts is easy to maintain
  • The premium motor is designed to last 5,000 hours

Infinite Irons has been operating since 1998 and are renowned for their hand-built, custom machines.

The classic Roller Rotary is 4.2 ounces of pure tattooing efficiency and runs on as low as 4V. Designed primarily for line work, the 3.5 mm stroke is ideal for the precision required for intricate outlines but with the addition of a 4.5 mm stroke, it turns into the perfect tool for smooth shading.

The simplicity of the design makes it easy to clean and maintain, and the lack of intricate parts means there’s nothing to lose or break.

All parts are made in Florida and the frame and hardware are guaranteed for life. The premium MAXON Swiss motor will run for 5,000 hours at maximum vaults which equates to even longer with normal use.

What’s the Difference between Coil and Rotary Tattoo Machines?

Coil and rotary tattoo machines serve exactly the same purpose, in that they insert ink into the dermis below the surface of the skin. But, they work in completely different ways:

Coil Tattoo Machines

The buzzing noise associated with tattoo shops come from coil tattoo machines, as they work by using power to turn their internal coils into an electromagnet. This power is then used to move the armature bar and the attached needle towards the coils which pulls it into the skin. This movement also momentarily breaks the electrical circuit which allows the needle to retract back into the machine. This process is repeated over and over, creating the smooth in-and-out needle motion required for tattooing.

Coil tattoo machines create a hammer effect that drives the needle more forcefully into the skin, and this power is useful for the larger needle groupings needed for shading. Coil machines also give artists more control and are great for intricate line-work, but they require a higher skill-level to operate and are harder to maintain. The extra force with which the needle enters the skin can also be more damaging than rotary machines.

Rotary Tattoo Machines

Rotary tattoo machines operate in a much simpler way and are gentler on the skin. They have their needle bar attached to a nub which sits atop a cylindrical motor, and this motor spins to move the needle up and down so it enters the skin smoothly in a fluid motion. Rotary machines are also much quieter than coil machines and tattoos created with them tend to heal faster.

Rotary machines are easier to use and maintain which makes them especially popular with new tattoo artists, and the consistent needle movement is preferred by many artists for color-work. The less punchy motion makes rotary less suitable for large needle groupings, and shading and precise lines are more difficult to achieve.

Where to buy Tattoo machines

When it comes to vendors, authorized suppliers that only sell to legitimate tattooers are best. Machines are widely available on eBay and Amazon, but it’s difficult to be sure of the authenticity of the products so check reviews before buying.

How to choose tattoo ink

The ink you use matters as much as the machine, and quality colors will result in crisp and vibrant tattoos.

When you’re shopping for ink watch out for fakes of famous brands and buy directly from the manufacturer where possible. Never use inks from manufacturers that don’t disclose their exact ingredients, and try to stick with organic products. Country of origin is also important as you need to know that the manufacturer has complied with health and safety regulations. Also, make sure that USA and E.U regulations are adhered to.

If in doubt, stick to the biggest and most-respected brands such as Kuro Sumi, Intenze, and Bloodline. If the ink is low-priced, chances are there’s a very good reason for that.

Wrapping it up

For a tattooer’s skills to shine, they need the right equipment for the job and their tattoo machine is at the center of this. The gun you go with will depend on your personal preferences as well as the type of artwork you specialize in, but whichever brand and model you go for beware of imitations and always take care to tattoo in a safe and sanitary environment.

Which tattoo machines do you use? Let us know in the comments.

About the author

John Thatch

John Thatcher is a computer science educated artist. He uses technology to solve artist problems. His friends don't like it when he speaks of himself in the third person. But John does it anyway, because he's a rebel.

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