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8 Best Tattoo Machines for Beginners
The massive shift in attitudes about tattooing and the surging popularity of permanent body art means more people are willing to pay money to go to a tattoo shop and get inked, pushing “tattoo artist” from a fringe occupation to a potentially lucrative career choice.
More artists are choosing to pick up the tattoo machine and start scratching, but the transition can be daunting: what machine to buy and what ink to use and what needles are best…it’s a lot to take in.
Read on for a selection of tattoo art beginner kit, initial machines and information that will provide new artists with a handy guide to the best gear and tools needed to start their journey towards being a recognized professional tattoo artist.
Best Tattoo Machines
1. Dragonhawk Mast Pen
One interesting development among tattoo machine producers takes and approach that borrows the shape of an actual pen for the design of their machine. The Dragonhawk Mast Pen is one of these machines. Produced by one of the most trusted names in the tattoo machine industry, this sleek machine will not disappoint.
Some people feel that the similarities in shape make this an tattoo design machine for beginners who are more experienced with pen and ink.
A rotary machine that provides novice artists with a more versatile machine than the specialized set ups usually utilized for coil machines: the Mast Pen can be used for line work, shading as well as color work.
The housing is produced in medical grade aluminum making it extremely durable despite its light weight and the variable motor has a range of 6-9 volts providing the artist with a higher level of control while remaining surprisingly quiet.
Perhaps the biggest advantages of the Mast Pen are the price and the fact that it can be ordered as a beginner tattoo kit. A novice tattoo artist will get the Mast Pen machine, a power supply with foot pedal, clip cord and associated cables, 20 needle cartridges, and a carrying case.
While this machine may not be the choice of professional artists that tattoo for hours on end, it is a great beginner kit for anyone interested in getting started.
2. FK Irons Spektra Direkt 2
This is a machine that has made its way to the top of several lists for best beginner/professional tattoo machines, and for good reason.
First off, it is a rotary tattoo gun, which means that is fully capable of shading and lining, making it a great choice for a novice tattooist. The 4.5-watt motor can actually be adjusted from as low as 4 watts, all the way up 9.5 watts providing all the torque and speed an artist might need.
Produced in the USA, the Direkt 2 is made of aircraft-grade anodized aluminum, ensuring durability; and on top of that it has a 1 year warranty. Beyond hygienic practices, maintenance on the Direkt is practically non-existent: the closed system of the motor means that even lubrication isn’t necessary.
This machine will work with a variety of different setups and can be used with all standard needle and cartridge arrangements. The interchangeable stroke caps make this simple machine even more versatile; the Direkt can be used for coloring as well as shading and line work.
The lightweight (the Direkt weighs in at just 2.85 ounces) and ergonomic grip mean that even the newest artists won’t suffer from wrist and hand fatigue commonly associated with tattooing.
The Spektra Direkt 2 is a great machine, for beginners and professionals a like. The only real drawback for this piece is the fact that it is not a kit, meaning that all the other gear associated with tattooing will need to be purchased separately.
The Direkt 2 is the most expensive machine on our list, but it is a high quality, versatile machine that can be used well after an artist has grown out of their “beginner phase”.
3. Solong Tattoo Complete Starter Kit 1 Pro Machine Guns
Solong Tattoo machines have a solid reputation in the industry and their products speak for themselves.
This is the first coil machine we have looked and while they may be a little more intimidating than their quieter, rotary counterparts, there is good reason coil machines are the industry standard. The one downside to this for a beginner is that coil machines tend to be set up as either liners or shaders, so most professionals end up with at least two machines. Solong does offer larger kits that provide two and four machines if you enjoy their product and want to upgrade.
The machine is high-quality and the coils are 10-wraps to provide plenty of punching power for when using bigger needles. The craftsmanship of the machine makes this a durable product, but what sets this piece apart are all the extras that come in the kit.
A digital power supply with an LED display, variable voltage and foot pedal provide an artist with a high level of control. Fifty surgical grade needles of different sizes and arrangements are also included in the kit along with 14 inks for a novice artist to experiment with. All the rubber bands, grommets and Allen wrenches necessary to set the machine up and keep it running smoothly are provided as well as ink caps, and rubber gloves to ensure proper hygiene.
While the Solong kit may not be as versatile as rotary machines, it is a great choice for a beginner that is dedicated to their pursuit of tattooing as a profession. Getting used to coil machines is a good idea for anyone that wants to get into the industry, and this Solong machine is completely capable of transitioning from a beginner’s first machine to a professional’s go-to machine for daily work.
4. Stigma Complete Rotary Tattoo Kit
Here is a great rotary machine produced by Stigma that is a great choice for beginning artists that want the versatility of a rotary machine. The solid construction ensures the durability of the machine and the 10-watt motor provides plenty of power for lining and shading.
While it is not as extensive as some of the other kits, the Stigma package comes with almost everything to get started tattooing. A reliable and variable voltage power source and cables are included, as well as needles, tips, gloves, ink caps and practice skin.
This is great little machine that is perfectly suited to a beginner just getting their feet wet in the world of tattooing. The bang for buck ratio is solid and the only real draw back from the kit is that the inks provided are not suitable for actual use on people and should only be applied to the practice skin. Not a deal breaker, but it will require the artist to buy ink separately.
5. Wormhole Complete Tattoo Kit
One of the least expensive of the kits we have examined, the Wormhole Complete Tattoo Kit provides everything a novice artist needs to get started. Aimed specifically at beginners, the Wormhole kit provides two coil machines, one for shading, one for lining, along with a variable power supply and cables, foot pedal and tools for adjusting the machines.
The iron frames of the machines are durable and ensure that they will stand up to the test of time.
The Wormhole kit also provides everything needed to jump in and start tattooing straight out of the box. Eleven color inks, thirty needles in a variety of groupings and sizes, aluminum grips and disposable tips all make this the perfect introduction for a novice artist. The other accessories include forty ink cups, rubber bands and grommets, Allen wrenches, transfer paper and practice skin.
Overall, the Wormhole Tattoo kit is a great choice for beginners and at such a reasonable price, it is a good option for anyone curious about tattooing that doesn’t want to break the bank on a whim.
6. Pirate Face Grinder Tattoo Kit
Another coil machine kit that is a good option for a novice that is ready to get started tattooing, the Grinder Kit from Pirate Face provides everything needed to apply unique designs on skin.
All packed into a rugged carrying case, this kit comes with four coil machines, providing an artist with all the versatility they need to go from lining, to shading, to color and back again. All the machines use dual 10-wrap coils, ensuring that an artist will have all the power they need, while the reliable and variable power supply guarantees to keep the machines buzzing all day long.
Fifty needles are provided in a variety of sizes and groupings along with disposable tips, 7 different color inks 100, ink cups, gloves and practice skin. Aimed at beginning tattooists, these durable machines are easy to set up and maintain and the Grinder kit comes with an instructional book and DVD to ease new artists into the process of tattooing.
This is a great kit that will last an artist long into their career.
7. Rehab Ink Complete Tattoo Kit
Another reasonably priced kit that provides everything an aspiring artist needs to get started, the Rehab Ink kit is a great choice for beginners.
At the center of this kit are two machines that use dual ten-wrap coils to ensure that each machine has the appropriate punch for lining and shading. Included along with these reliable machines, a variable power supply and foot pedal provide and control the juice to keep the machines buzzing.
Also included in the Rehab kit are seven different inks, ink caps, and an assortment of individually blister packed needles along with the associated tubes. The kit also provides gloves and cleaning supplies to allow an artist to practice safe hygiene habits from the start.
Besides all the equipment, a variety of learning materials are included in the kit that will set novice artists on the right track by teaching them about the process of tattooing, from start to finish. Completing the kit are packets of transfer paper, providing an artist with all the essential elements to start tattooing at a budget friendly price.
8. Dragonhawk Essence Kit
Yet again we have Dragonhawk providing a great option for novice tattoo artists, this time in the form of another rotary pen. This machine is perfect for anyone interested in rotary machines but is looking for something that can help them transition from pen and ink illustration.
The quality of craftsmanship of the Essence lives up to Dragonhawk’s reputation for excellence and this machine is almost professional quality. Along with the machine, produced in lightweight aluminum and powered by a reliable Japanese motor, the Essence kit comes with a power supply, cords and a foot cable.
One drawback to this kit is that, while it does provide needles in a variety of sizes and groupings, it does not come with ink, ink caps or gloves. Given the price and quality of this piece this is far from a deal breaker, but it worth taking note of for anyone expecting to open the box and start scratching.
The only other downside comes in the form of a tendency to overheat during long sessions, making this machine better suited for beginners getting a feel for the process than for professionals who spend hours tattooing day in and day out.
Beginner Tattoo Machine FAQs
How do I choose my first tattoo machine?
With the variety of companies and brands out there producing tattoo machines it can be a bit overwhelming for someone new to the industry. Here are five key factors that can help a beginner choose a machine that is appropriate for their skills and needs.
1. Price is always an issue when commencing your trade, and newcomers are unlikely to want to drop $900 on their first machine.
2. Ease of use is another important factor to consider when looking for a first machine. A beginning artist should be more concerned with getting comfortable with how the machine feels in their hand, the depth of the needles and how the skin reacts to the process and not be preoccupied with the intricacies of a complex machine.
3. Weight and balance are also important elements to account for when considering buying a machine. Tattoos take time and the more comfortable someone is with the machine in their hand the more attention they can give to applying the design. A good tattoo machine should be an extension of the artist’s hand and finding a machine that has proper ergonomics is an important part of the process.
4. Reliability is one of the most important characteristics of a tattoo machine. A machine isn’t much more than a glorified paper weight if it can’t be relied upon to work consistently and not even a brand-new artist wants to interrupt a tattoo because their machine is acting up and messing with the action of the tattoo needle.
5. Versatility is also an important characteristic for beginner tattoo equipment. It is better for an artist that is just getting acclimated to using a tattoo machine to begin with a machine that has a broader functionality instead of one that is specialized for a single task. While most professionals utilize a variety of different machines for different parts of a design, beginners should be more concerned with getting used to the process in general.
Should I buy a kit or equipment piece by piece?
Another element to consider is whether buying different components piecemeal or purchasing a kit is more appropriate for your needs as a burgeoning tattooist.
The growing popularity of tattoo kits is thanks to the way they ease the entry into the industry by providing potential artists with everything they need in one package: tattoo machine, power source, needles and ink are all part of these kits.
Depending where your tattooing area of interest (and budget) lies is the determining factor for whether a cost – effective kit or piece by piece collection is how you go about building your cache of ink slinging gear.
Should I get a rotary tattoo machine or coil machine?
Another common question for those entering the world of tattoo art relates to the two most common types of machines, the rotary machine and coil tattoo gun. For those unfamiliar with tattoo machines the differences between the two may seem obvious, but the different setups have a bigger impact than one would imagine. While they both achieve the same goal-implanting pigment with tattoo needle beneath the skin-they function in two very different ways.
A coil tattoo machine works thanks to two electromagnets, or coils, attached to an armature bar connected to a needle. As electric current passes through the coils they trigger the up and down movement of the bar, which in turn moves the needle.
A rotary tattoo machine on the other hand uses a small electric motor connected to a crank mechanism that is attached to the needle. As the motor turns, the needle is drawn up and then pushed down in a continuous and fluid action.
The main advantages of a rotary tattoo machine is the low noise output, lighter weight, and lower maintenance. Rotary guns are also considered more versatile and are often used for both shading and lining. Some people stand by the belief that rotary machines hurt less than tattoos applied with coil machines, although others suggest this is a psychological effect created by the much quieter rotary machine.
Despite these positive characteristics, the coil tattoo machine remain more popular thanks to the greater “punch” they have which makes them more effective than rotary guns when using large needles. The Coil gun is also popular thanks to the ability to pull exceptionally clean lines and a long stroke length with ease. It is worth noting that a professional tattoo artist deploying the coil gun generally has at least two machines; one set up for shading and one dedicated to line work.
Anyone interested in buying their first tattoo machine kit should do research, talk to artists that use both types of kit, and try to get an idea of what style machine they feel fits their approach to tattooing.
What’s some other essential gear that I need?
Choosing the best beginner tattoo machine is only the first step. Without the other components of a professional tattoo kit set up, even the highest quality machine is basically useless. Besides the machine itself there are several essential pieces of gear that must be procured before you can start scratching.
For the machine to run a power supply is required. The power supply is a small box that converts the electric current coming from the outlet to a usable voltage and amperage that can be better controlled. They usually have two outputs, one to the machine and one to a foot pedal that controls the machine.
Quality power supplies allow the artist to adjust the voltage, altering the force with which the needle penetrates the skin. This variable control is necessary when switching between shading and lining as different needle groupings and size require different voltages.
Other essential elements to a tattoo starter kit setup include:
- Tattoo ink. We recommend a few different types made in the USA that are vegan friendly
- Small ink cup to hold the pigments
- The tattoo tip that guides the needles (at least two are necessary for shading and lining)
- Rubber gloves to ensure proper hygiene
- Rubber band, tattoo grip and grommets to reduce vibration
- Several types and thicknesses of cartridge needles
- Power cables for the power supply, clip cord and foot pedal will usually be included with a machine
These numerous components are another reason why many beginners choose a tattoo starter kit for their first machines, however everything on this list can also be purchased separately from a tattoo supply shop or online provider. Make sure, that when buying sterilized needles and tattoo equipment that safety standards are adhered to.
Did you enjoy this list of best beginner tattoo machines? Looking for more useful information to apply to getting, creating or removing tattoos? Click on the links below for info and ideas to help you out!
- What is Tattoo Ink Made From?
- What is Tattoo Blowout and Can It Be Fixed?
- Why is My Tattoo Raised?
- Can I Use Coconut Oil on my Tattoo?
- How Much Does Tattoo Removal Cost?
- Eyebrow Tattoos: A Guide to Microblading