The Different Tattoo Machine Types Explained

Choosing the right type of tattoo machine is a decision that can make or break an artist's craft. It's a scenario we've all seen too often - a promising tattoo artist, full of ambition and talent, but held back by a machine that doesn't quite match their style or skill level.

The frustration of dealing with ill-suited equipment can lead to subpar work, unhappy clients, and a feeling of being stuck in a creative rut. It doesn’t have to be this way, though.

At FYT Supplies, we understand the intricate relationship between the artist and their tools. That's why we've crafted this comprehensive guide to demystify the different tattoo machine types.

Whether you're a seasoned professional seeking an upgrade or a budding artist looking to make your mark, we will empower you to make an informed choice. With the perfect tattoo machine in your hands, the only limit is your imagination. 

Let's dive in and explore the different tattoo machine types to find the one that will elevate your art to the next level - from pen-style tattoo machines to rotary-style tattoo machines and everything in between!

The Importance of Choosing the Right Type of Tattoo Machine

The art of tattooing is a delicate balance of creativity, skill, and precision. One of the most crucial elements in this craft is the tattoo machine itself. 

Selecting the right type of tattoo machine is more than just a choice - it's a partnership. The machine must resonate with the artist's style, be responsive to their touch, and become an extension of their creativity. Here's why choosing the right type of tattoo machine is so vital:

Alignment With Artistic Style

Every artist has a unique style, whether it's intricate line work, bold shading, or vibrant color. Different tattoo machines are designed to excel in specific areas. By choosing a machine that aligns with your artistic focus, you're acquiring a collaborator that enhances your work.

Comfort and Ergonomics

Tattooing demands prolonged concentration and steady hands. A machine that feels awkward or heavy can cause strain and discomfort, impacting the quality of work. Finding a tattoo machine that fits comfortably in your hand ensures that your creativity flows unhindered.

Efficiency and Precision

Time is of the essence in a tattoo studio. A machine tailored to your needs not only speeds up the process but also ensures the highest level of precision. Whether it's the swift application of a shade or a meticulously detailed pattern, the right machine makes it all achievable.

Longevity and Reliability

Investing in a quality tattoo machine is a long-term commitment. You need a machine that not only performs at its peak but also stands the test of time. Reliability and durability are key factors in ensuring that your machine is always ready when inspiration strikes.

Client Satisfaction

At the heart of every tattoo is a client's trust. They are entrusting you with a piece of art that will be a part of them forever. Choosing the right machine translates to smoother lines, consistent shading, and overall better results, leading to satisfied clients who will return and recommend your services.

Your Reputation as an Artist

In a competitive industry like tattooing, your reputation is your calling card. The quality of your work is often directly linked to the equipment you use. A tattoo machine that complements your skills will help you build a reputation for excellence. 

All that being said, let’s break down the most popular types of tattoo machines currently on the market.

Breaking Down the Different Tattoo Machine Types

There are a multitude of different tattoo machine types, but only one of them is right for you as an artist. We’re going to highlight the 4 most popular types below before helping you choose the style that best suits your artistic preferences and budget.

Coil Tattoo Machines

Coil tattoo machines are traditional and commonly used by artists of all levels. They use electromagnetic coils to move the needles which allows for great control and precision.


  • Control: Allows for excellent control over needle depth and speed.
  • Versatility: Suitable for lining, shading, and coloring.
  • Customizable: Many artists customize coil machines to match their preferences.


  • Weight: Generally heavier than other types, which might affect long sessions.
  • Noise: They tend to be noisier, which might be a concern in some settings.

Rotary Tattoo Machines

Rotary tattoo machines use an electric motor that allows the needle to move in a smooth, continuous motion. This offers a gentle approach and is favored for certain styles, such as shading or color packing.


  • Quieter: Less noise can enhance client comfort.
  • Lightweight: Easier to handle during lengthy tattoo sessions.


  • Less Forceful: Not always the best for bold lines, depending on the design.

Pen Style Tattoo Machines

Pen-style machines look and feel like large pens, as the name suggests. They offer a more intuitive experience and are often favored by artists looking for a natural feel and highly detailed work. If you come from a background in drawing, you’ll likely prefer this style.


  • Ergonomic Design: Mimics the feel of drawing with a pen or pencil.
  • Precision: Excellent for intricate details and fine lines.
  • All-in-One: Often versatile enough for lining, shading, and coloring.


  • Learning Curve: Some artists may need time to adapt to the pen-like feel.

Now, you may find resources telling you that there are other types of tattoo machines - like wireless or hybrid machines. But ultimately, it all boils down to these 4 main styles. 

That being said, let’s help you determine with tattoo machine type best suits your needs as an artist so you can tap into your full potential. 

Which of These Types of Tattoo Machines is Right For You?

Selecting the right type of tattoo machine isn't just about purchasing a tool - it's an investment in your artistry. Now that you know all about the different tattoo machine types, which is ideal for you as an artist? Let's explore the nuances of each factor to consider when making your choice:

Assessing Your Artistic Style

Artistic style is a nuanced spectrum. Every tattoo artist possesses a unique touch and flair, and matching your machine to that can elevate your work.

  • Bold and Traditional Styles: Artists focusing on styles like American Traditional or Tribal tattoos need a machine that can create strong, bold lines that last. Coil machines, with their forceful needle drive, can provide that powerful punch to lay down solid lines and saturated colors.
  • Subtle and Intricate Designs: Delicate work like micro-realism, watercolor, or fine-line tattoos require precision and steady needle flow. Rotary and pen-style machines, due to their consistent needle movement and lack of aggressive punches, are excellent choices.
  • Color Packing & Shading: If your specialty lies in color work, gradient shading, or black & grey, you'll want a machine that's versatile in its hit. Rotary machines, with adjustable give, can be tailored to pack color efficiently or shade softly.

Understanding Your Skill Level

Each tattoo machine has its learning curve and advantages. Thus, you should think about where you are currently in your journey as a tattoo artist and where you want to go.

  • Beginners: For those starting, simplicity is key. Pen-style machines are often plug-and-play. They have a consistent hit, are lightweight, and reduce the variables one has to learn, allowing the artist to focus on technique. But, these days, you can control more with machines like the FK Iron Flux. It’s still plug and play but you can control how hard and soft the needle hits.
  • Intermediate: As artists develop their skills, they start to understand their preferences. Rotary machines, while still straightforward, offer adjustable settings to suit various tasks, from lining to shading.
  • Experienced Artists: Mastery in tattooing comes with understanding the nuances of your tools. Coil machines, with their many components and settings, can be tuned precisely to an artist's preference, but they require deep knowledge to set up correctly.

Budget Considerations

Price is always a factor, but it shouldn't be the only one. You typically get what you pay for, after all. It’s important to look at this purchase as an investment in your career and pay for quality machines you can count on.

  • Initial Investments: If you're starting, it's tempting to opt for the cheapest machine. However, mid-tier rotary machines offer reliability without breaking the bank.
  • Long-term Commitment: Premium machines are precisely that—a premium. They're built to last, crafted for performance, and designed with the professional in mind. Over time, they can offer better value due to their durability and efficiency.

Matching Machine to Your Needs

Above all else, you should consider the practical aspects of your tattooing.

  • Studio vs Traveling Artist: Stationary artists can afford heavier, more robust machines since they won't move them often. However, if you're frequently on the road, attending conventions, or guest spotting, a lightweight, compact machine like a pen-style or modern rotary might be more suitable.
  • Versatility Needs: Some artists enjoy swapping between machines, while others prefer an all-in-one solution. If you lean towards the latter, a rotary machine with adjustable settings can transition between lining, shading, and coloring with a simple adjustment.
  • Endurance: Tattooing can be demanding, especially for time-intensive pieces. Pneumatic machines, known for their lightweight nature and minimal vibration, can reduce hand fatigue, allowing for longer sessions with less strain.

Remember, the right machine melds seamlessly with your hand, serving as a direct extension of your artistic vision. Take the time to evaluate each factor carefully, and choose a machine that complements your unique style and needs.

And, if you still don’t feel confident as to which tattoo machine style is right for you, reach out. At FYT Supplies, we’ve made it our mission to empower artists like you with the tools and information necessary for success.

From Pen Style Tattoo Machines to Rotary Style Tattoo Machines, FYT Supplies Has What You Need!

When it comes to tattooing, having the right tools in hand can make all the difference in achieving your artistic vision. And that's where FYT Supplies comes into the picture. 

We’re the most trusted source for tattoo shop supplies, we have the perfect type of tattoo machine for your unique needs. Our tattoo machine collection is vast, ranging from the ergonomic finesse of pen-style tattoo machines or the versatile elegance of rotary-style tattoo machines.

That includes Inkjecta tattoo machines, which represent a blend of performance and reliability that every professional tattoo artist needs. This brand is known for innovation, and you can’t go wrong with one of these models.

But, we also carry FK Irons tattoo machines, a brand where craftsmanship meets technology. These top-of-the-line coil and rotary tattoo machines don't just perform but excel in delivering what they promise. 

And, we even offer our own in-house lineup of tattoo machines, which offer exceptional value and have been designed and built with your needs in mind. Along with all the different tattoo machine types, we’re proud to offer a full range of tattoo ink, tattoo printers, tattoo grips, tattoo needle cartridges, and more.

We’re a partner in your journey to becoming the artist you were meant to be. Explore our range of machines and let your art speak the language of excellence. And if you want help choosing the right machine, we’re just a click or call away ready and eager to assist you!

Wrapping Up Our Guide to the Different Tattoo Machine Types

The world of tattoo machines is rich and diverse, each type offering something unique to match different artistic styles and skill levels. 

In this guide, we've delved into the intricacies of coil, rotary, pen, and pneumatic tattoo machines, breaking down their functionalities, strengths, weaknesses, and suitability. We hope you have a newfound confidence and clarity as to which type of tattoo machine is right for you after reading along.

If you want to learn more about how to set up a tattoo machine, what speed should a tattoo machine run at, whether you should use a piercing gun vs needle, or anything else related to cosmetic body art, explore our blog. 

Otherwise, it’s time to browse our catalog and get the best tattoo machine for your artistic needs. Remember, choosing among the different tattoo machine types is important - but at the end of the day, your machine is only as good as the artist wielding it!

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