Types of tattoo machines

What’s the best machine for you?


Have you started tattooing? You must be wondering what machine you should buy.

As you may have noticed, there are many machines with different uses, so it is normal for you to have questions. No worries, in this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to start tattooing with the one that best suits you.

What types of tattoo machines are there?

There are several types of machines to generate different effects. Among the most used ones, we can find coil and rotary machines.

Coil machines

They are perhaps the most common or the most popular, and we can classify them as the classic or traditional ones.

They are made out of electromagnetic coils that, by means of vibrations, move up and down a metal bar with the needle incorporated.

Let's define its characteristics.

  • The needles are welded, and the punch generated by the hammer with the core that drives them produces a constant sound.

  • The sound is recognizable, and it is very loud, so for many people it can be very annoying, it can even put the client off.

  • In addition, these machines are heavier due to the number of components they have. In very long sessions, this can cause pain or discomfort.

  • They are usually used to draw lines, although it depends on the taste of each tattoo artist. They can also be used for shading, but you need to disassemble it and change its mounts, which can slow down the process.

    This is defined by the amount of copper turns in the coils, which is called the wrap. While 8 turns are used for lines, for shading they vary between 10 and 12. The more turns, the more intense the movement of the hands will be.

  • It is said that they damage the skin more, since the puncture is much more powerful.

  • But they are also readily available and cheaper compared to rotary machines because of the materials they are made of.

  • It is necessary to know how to calibrate them and have some machinery knowledge.

  • Its speed can be adapted. This is a great advantage for tattoo artists.

Rotary machines

These are newer machines and therefore, they took a little longer to market than traditional machines. But they are usually the first option for many tattoo artists. We will tell you why.

  • They use interchangeable cartridges instead of soldered needles.

  • They are less noisy, almost silent and this is a great advance because it improves the work space, especially if you tattoo for many hours.

  • They are much lighter, since they do not require so many components.

  • They are versatile and can be used for lines as well as shading and filling. But it depends on the speed and the number and type of needles you use.

  • They can be less damaging to the skin, and for those who do not have much experience in machines, can be of great help.

  • They are more expensive. Despite having many apparent benefits, they cost more than classic machines.

  • It is not necessary to calibrate them, since they have a much simpler internal motor without the electromagnetic mechanism. This is what defines its name, since it does not hit, but it spins, it rotates.

But among rotary machines, we can also find the so-called Pen-type machines. Let’s check them out!

Pen-type machines

They are more pencil-like machines (hence, the name), and many tattoo artists opt for these models. The reason is that they are much more comfortable since it feels more like drawing with a pen on the skin.

These machines are widely used for freehand tattoo artists for its ergonomic possibilities and adaptable designs. In addition, they are very light, which allows you to have more freedom when drawing and working in longer sessions.

It’s a question of preferences, there are no better or worse machines, just designs that are more suitable than others depending on your requirements.

You can adjust the voltage and power according to your needs.

But most importantly, it can be used wirelessly, allowing the tattooist to have more freedom when working and moving around the space without having to disturb the client.

One of the leading brands for this type of machines is Cheyenne, which offers a wide variety of models and has all the necessary information available to be able to choose the one that best suits your needs. Let's see some of them below.

Let's take a look at some of the options on the market...


It was a truly innovative creation that set the trend. Very versatile, its pencil meant a different perspective among professional tattoo artists.

The drawing and tattoo relationship began to be closer with this new possibility, and the results are amazing.

The vibrations are lower, and they have a movement inhibitor for greater control. In addition, it has disposable handles, and they are very easy to protect and cover.

One of its cons is that they do not have an RCA connection, and they require a very high flow of energy to work properly.

HAWK Thunder

A model launched in 2007 is perhaps one of the most used models with pen technology.

It is generally used to make lines and colour fillings, thanks to its more robust anatomy and its technical possibilities. They vibrate less and they are smaller.

In addition, its current connector is rotatable, which allows more freedom.

HAWK Spirit

This model is often said to be ideal for shadows and fillings.

In general, it is very similar to the Thunder model. The only difference is in its stroke.

It is important to point out that all the products in the Hawk are approved and pass the necessary safety standards for their commercialization.

Rocket machines are very popular for their high performance. They are extremely quiet and their vibration, like those of the Cheyenne brand, is almost imperceptible.

Rocket Pen

It is not powered by RCA cables, but rather by Clip Cord. It is made out of aluminum material, which allows its correct sterilization and can be used from 6 to 9 Volts.

Rocket II

Its design is a bit more different than the original pen, it is also powered by a clip cord. When you turn it on, an LED light comes on that indicates when it is working.

It is really practical to work with these machines because they are very light, easy to sterilize and disassemble, and they are super silent and have very little vibration. This helps both the tattooist and the customer.

Finally, we have Mast’s machines by Dragonhawk.

Mast Pen

This machine is of a very advanced technology, made out of aluminum and a custom mast motor.

It allows many techniques to be performed with very good results, and it is designed for maximum precision and control. Also, it is compatible with all cartridge needles.

The reason why they are so popular and sought after in the market is because they have a very high precision rotary system, making each stroke accurate, causing less damage to the skin for a faster healing process.

If you choose them, keep in mind that the price is much higher than the other machines. This may be a drawback.

In any case, the most expensive machine does not define the work of a tattoo artist, but rather, the specific needs are what determine the use of a particular model.

Pneumatic machines

Although less known, it's a hybrid machine that reaches higher speeds thanks to its compressed air system.

They are not classified within the rotary machines or coil machines. In fact, they use a completely different system.

The advantages are many. They can be used by left-handed people without major inconveniences, unlike classic machines.

They use compressed air as their source, but can also be powered by electrical current if you don't have a compressor.

They are usually silent and light, just like rotary machines, which replace the coil system with a pneumatic system. They also have a pedal to regulate the pressure and the calibration.

And it is for this very reason that they do not overheat and have a rear air exhaust to prevent unwanted noise and vibration.

As in rotary machines, pneumatic machines do not cause great damage to the skin either. But one of the cons is that they are typically more expensive than the regular ones.

Machines depend on the tattooist's preferences

Some tattooists prefer to use coil machines because they find them more comfortable and adaptable to their designs, or because they prefer to tattoo with a more traditional method.

Others prefer to work with quieter, lighter and more versatile models, either because they fit better with their style, because they prefer to have more configuration options, or simply because they do well for long sessions.

And of course there are those who prefer a more ergonomic option that gives them a feeling closer to drawing on paper.

Each scenario is as valid and useful as the other, since tattooing is an art that, fortunately, today has many more options than before. And every artist is free to choose what best suits the stage they are at, as well as their style and technique.

Bottom line: no one will know better than you which machine suits you best. That's why the best you can do is to be aware of the alternatives and their different applications and utilities.

So, forget about buying the most expensive machine you can find, because it is not always the best. In fact, with a good technique, even a rudimentary machine can give good results.

And bear in mind that you shouldn't get married to your machine either. Since, you will probably change it countless times throughout your career; because just as you may evolve as an artist, your preferences and needs in terms of materials and equipment may also fluctuate.

We hope this article has encouraged you to buy that so long machine. And if you need further guidance about its features and the optimal use to avoid overly damaging your client's skin while minimizing the risk of hindering the final result, we have the perfect guide for you! Learn from the hand of a professional tattoo Master everything that involves before, during and after tattooing. MasterCourse: Realistic Tattooing, with Coreh López.