How Does A Tattoo Machine Work? Tattoo Knowledge

You may have heard of a few tattoo machines (or tattoo guns in specialized terms), such as rotary tattoo guns, coil tattoo guns, or pneumatic tattoo guns. 

Yet, how can you differentiate one from another, then? What are those differences? How does a tattoo machine work? How can you pick the one that suits your skill, level, and style? To better understand each type of machine, let’s distinguish them in the section below!

How Does A Tattoo Gun Work?

Different Types Of Tattoo Guns

1. Rotary Tattoo Gun

Rotary guns are the top product in the tattoo machine category in the market. This machine has a minimalist design, making it almost noiseless and light. 

Besides, rotary guns work on a motor-driven rotary mechanism that powers the needle’s vertical movement.

Rotary tattoo gun

The outstanding feature of the rotary tattoo gun is its motor. To be more specific, this motor enables the attached needle to move quickly and smoothly. It also withdraws the needles cyclically, fluidly, and evenly, which is very suitable for small tattoos or delicate details.

Read: Best Rotary Tattoo Machine For Lining

2. Coil Tattoo Gun

A coil tattoo gun is the favorite tool of skilled tattooists who love to challenge themselves. 

Unfortunately, the machines are louder than rotary tattoo guns – they’re the famous hum you can hear at tattoo parlors through choppier needle movements.

Coil tattoo gun

The Coil tattoo gun works by an electromagnet generated by a solenoid that powers the machine, passing through the coils and quickly turning the magnet on and off.

The gun’s needle strikes the skin like a hammer, yet it is a very light and intense blow.

If you want to create impressive artwork with this machine, you need to be familiar with or have enough experience moving and controlling a tattoo machine. 

Moreover, it is especially favored for shading in colors and refining lines. Even though the coil machine requires higher demand in maintenance than other types, professional tattooists still prefer it over the rotary for flexible modification. 

Compared to the rotary tattoo gun, the coil tattoo gun is much more difficult to use, but the tattoo results will not let you down once mastered.

Read: Best Coil Tattoo Machines On The Market

3. Pneumatic Tattoo Gun

When it was first introduced in 2000, the pneumatic gun was groundbreaking. The way it worked was what set it apart: the needles were operated by compressed air.

Also, pneumatic tattoo guns are lightweight and simple to use on intricate designs. You don’t need to uninstall the gun after that to sterilize it in the autoclave. Indeed, it is a useful and convenient tool.

Because this gun is the most innovative of all three, it is also the most costly. Tattoo artists may be hesitant to spend money on it due to the cost, but its additional benefits make it desirable.

What Are Tattoo Machine Kits?

Tattoo machine kits

Whether you are new to tattoos or a pro in the tattoo industry, preparing tattoo machine kits can sometimes be a headache. But don’t worry, we will assist you in sorting them out!


The needle will help the tattoo machine push the ink into your skin once it comes into contact. 

Specifically, tattoo needles come in many types and sizes. They are divided into six groups: curved magnum shaders, magnum shaders, round liners, round shaders, flat shaders, and double stacks with sizes from 0.25mm to 0.35mm.

It would be best if you prepared a variety of needles to suit the widest variety of tattoos.


The tattoo tubes secure the needle in the proper position; it hold the needle in place and make skin contact. Undeniably, these small things are essential parts of the tattooing procedure. 

It is preferable to purchase recyclable or disposable syringes and needles.


Tattoo ink is, of course, required for tattooing. Tattoo artists frequently mix ink with a little bit of metal or with so-called carrier fluids such as alcohol or water to transfer pigment from the tattoo gun into the skin.

Alternatively, you can save more money by mixing your colors or purchasing pre-mixed colors from the store.

Power Supplies

An extra tattoo power supply is a must to ensure long working hours, especially in the high season – summer and festival time. 

Usually, the power supply comes with an analog or digital screen that indicates the current load and the status of the control pad. You can freely set the machine to the required frequency this way. 

However, it would be best to choose the power and functionality of the power supply compatible with your machine, skill, and level.

First Aid Kits

Make sure to always bring the first aid kits with you while creating a tattoo for the client! Proper preparation for the worst situation is always better than nothing!

How Does A Tattoo Machine Work?

Based on the principle of the engraving machine invented by Thomas Edison, Samuel O’Reilly has transformed Edison’s machine by replacing the tube system and modifying the rotating electromagnetic oscilloscope to allow the machine to control the needle. The tattoo machine made its first debut since that discovery.

Theoretically, tattoos are created when tattoo artists inject ink into your skin. The outermost tissues on your skin are called epidermal tissues, and the next, deeper layer is the dermal ones. For a tattoo to last forever, tattoo ink must penetrate deep into those dermal tissues.

The tattoo machine is a complicated, high-tech machine

Let’s dive deep into the operation. First, the electric current will start the tattoo machine to move a needle up and down to poke the skin 50 to 3,000 times a minute. Consequently, the needles continuously pierce the skin so that the ink penetrates deep into the dermis.

After each puncture, the needle goes through the skin about a millimeter and seeps a drop of permanent ink into the skin.

At the same time, the artist will step on the pedal when using a tattoo machine, creating an electric current that flows directly to the inner wire core. This movement will turn the tattoo gun into an electromagnet and make it capable of pulling the core to create a movement for the tattoo needle.

When this core rod is lowered, it breaks the circulation of the screw movement, making the spring part elastic and providing energy for the cyclic movement. 

The tattoo artist will repeat the steps until the tattoo is complete.


Through this post, we have finally figured out the answer to “How does a tattoo machine work?”. Just a few simple actions lead to a movement of the machine; a body artwork is created – so amazing, right? 

Besides, you also gain insights about different types of tattoo machines: Rotary, coil, and pneumatic. To make the most out of this tool, you must choose the type of tattoo gun that is suitable for your skills and demands. 

We hope you had a good time reading this. See you next time!

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