What Speed Should a Tattoo Machine Run at? Tips for Picking the Ideal Setting

The beauty of being a tattoo artist comes from the wide variety of designs you have the opportunity to create on any given day. Whether you are a black-and-white specialist, a biomechanical whiz, or you love to tackle multiple styles on any given day, each design you craft comes with its own set of challenges.

When faced with so many new challenges in your career, it is important to stop and consider your tattooing setup from time to time. Figuring out the ideal tattoo machine speed for any given design will have a huge impact on the final result. Other factors include the quality of ink used, figuring out what the best tattoo needle cartridges for the job are, and ensuring you are maximizing client comfort during the process. 

So, what speed should a tattoo machine run at for the best results? The answer may wildly vary based on the exact design you are aiming for, along with your machine, so it is important to dive into the details for the best results. In this article, we will explore the dynamics of tattoo machine speed to help you take your ink game to the next level.

Why Tattoo Machine Speed Settings are More Important Than You May Realize

The choice of what speed to set tattoo machines at is a crucial decision that will have a direct impact on the final result for your clients. Using an incorrect tattoo machine speed could lead to uneven lines, discoloration, and even client discomfort during the process. Ideally, the best tattoo machine speed setting is one that allows you to create clean, consistent lines and coloration.

What Happens if You Run the Machine Too Slow?

Slow and steady may be the right technique for a tortoise, but when it comes to tattooing, a slow machine speed can be disastrous for your results. A slow machine can cause broken or incomplete lines, which will greatly hamper the final product. Tattoo machine speeds that are too slow can also lead to uneven shading, due to an inconsistent application of the ink.

In addition to the result of the tattoo, a machine running too slow can cause a negative experience for the client. Slower speeds will require the needle to maintain contact with the skin over a longer duration, leading to more pain during the process. This extended duration can also have long-term effects by way of damaged skin, increasing the risk of poor healing outcomes.

What Happens if You Run the Machine Too Fast?

Speed is amazing for superheroes and cartoon characters, but too much speed can hurt you during the tattooing process. When figuring out what speed to set tattoo machines, it is important to ease into higher speeds to avoid negative outcomes.

Tattoo machines with too high of a voltage can cause excessive trauma to the skin, including bleeding and scarring, causing a very painful experience for your client. Additionally, the result of the tattoo may turn out worse, due to uneven shading. In extreme cases, excess speeds can cause the machine to blow out. Keep a close eye on the results of your tattoos, especially when practicing, to help you determine a precise speed that will not exceed the speed limit.

What are the Factors Affecting Your Ideal Tattoo Machine Speed Setting?

With the dangers of using an incorrect speed established, what speed should a tattoo machine run at? There are several factors to consider, from the differences between coil and rotary machines to the location of the tattoo and the texture of your client’s skin.

Below are some of the factors you should consider when determining what speed to set tattoo machines at.

Tattoo Machine Type

Rotary and coil machines are two of the most common machine types in the industry, and each comes with its own set of speed requirements. Rotary machines tend to feel lighter in your hands and carry a more consistent speed, allowing for a slightly slower setting. 

Conversely, coil machines tend to have some variation in their speed, requiring more experience to fully control. This does enable coil machines to act as a better option for artists preferring higher speeds, so be sure to consider your personal preferences when choosing a tattoo machine type.

Needle Type & Size

The size and configuration of the needle can impact the amount of resistance that the needle encounters as it moves through the skin. For example, a larger needle size comes with more resistance, which can naturally slow your machine down. Adjusting your speed to account for needle changes during the process will help mitigate the risk of poor results.

You will also want to double-check the depth of your needle when altering speed settings. Needles that are set too deep can cause your machine to slow down, so be sure to account for this factor as well.

Tattooing Technique

Every design comes with quirks, and thanks to the wide variety of client skin types and bodily locations, no two tattoos are the same. Tweaks to your technique during the tattooing process should also be paired with adjustments to your machine’s speed. As a golden rule, remember that slower speeds can cause incomplete lines while faster speeds can cause blurry lines, and either result can be used as a guideline to make quick adjustments during the process.

Ink Viscosity

Ink viscosity refers to the thickness of the ink you are using during the process. While you may naturally adjust this during the process depending on a given design, unoptimized viscosity can lead to poor results. Overly thick ink can cause your machine to slow, while ink that is too thick for the needle may unintentionally cause your machine to speed up.

Client Skin Type

The safety and happiness of your client are critical to your success as a tattoo artist, so it is important to take into account their skin type when choosing a tattoo machine speed.

Thicker skin in the area benefits from slower speed to ensure your needle can properly penetrate to the necessary depth. On the other hand, a faster speed lowers the risk of excessive trauma on clients with thin skin.

Darker skin tones also benefit from slower speeds, as fast speeds run a risk of causing scarring on the skin with higher levels of melanin.

Location of the Tattoo

Every client’s body is slightly different, and that should play a key factor in how you set your machine’s speed. Following the rules on skin type, bonier areas of the body with thinner skin such as ankles and the inner wrist benefit from slower speeds to prevent excessive bleeding. On the other hand, thicker-skinned areas like the back, upper arms, or torso require faster speed to secure the proper amount of penetration.

Additionally, the size of the location should also be weighed when figuring out a speed. If you are opting for a very small design, such as just below the ear, a slower speed may be ideal for working with precise, tight lines. Larger designs requiring multiple sessions, such as back tattoos, may be better suited for faster speeds to help you and the client save time.

Your Skill Level & Experience

The best tattoo machines are an extension of your creative skills, and the ideal speed for your machine will directly relate to your comfort level. Beginning artists would benefit from lower speeds around 7 or 8 volts until they can match the pace of the machine’s voltage with their personal hand speed. Conversely, more experienced artists may feel more comfortable working with a faster voltage, allowing them to craft lines quickly.

So, What Speed Should a Tattoo Machine Run at?

There are many factors to choose from when figuring out what speed to set tattoo machines at, but here are a few ground rules which may help you begin to experiment with what works best for you:

  • If you’re a beginner, 7 or 8-volt speeds should pair well with your innate hand speed until you get more comfortable. Advanced artists can begin to raise this baseline speed as they adjust their skills.
  • Take into consideration the area you will be working on. Remember, thick skin and large areas benefit from faster speeds, while thin skin and smaller areas benefit from slower settings to ensure a safe experience.
  • Whether you are practicing on fake skin to refine your technique or in the middle of the process, watch out for key indicators that your machine’s speed is inappropriate for the moment. Blurry lines and excess bleeding can be a sign of excessively fast speed, while incomplete lines are a sign of a machine that is too slow.

For All Your Tattoo Machine Questions & Supply Needs, You Can Count on FYT Supplies!

Here at FYT Supplies, we know the struggles of searching in vain for the perfect setup for your tattooing process. Your tattooing setup should be an extension of your skills, not something that hinders your creative potential.

We are a top-to-bottom manufacturer and supplier of tattooing products. We offer hundreds of high-quality products, from wireless tattoo machines and tattoo cartridges that will optimize your creative process, to disposable tattoo grips and tattoo ink that help you achieve that all-star result. We pride ourselves on an excellent customer service process that is here for you no matter what your business needs are.

Final Thoughts on What Speed Should a Tattoo Machine Run at

Ultimately the tattoo machine speed you choose to use will come down to several factors, from the skin type you are working with, to your own personal skill and comfort level. Be sure to keep in mind key warning signs, such as blurry lines as a sign you need to slow down or incomplete lines acting as a signal to speed things up.

FYT Supplies is the premier manufacturer of tattoo supplies in Canada, offering everything tattoo artists and shops need to run their businesses. We’re here to be your go-to tattoo supplier to help grow your creative potential and increase your profits. Check out our inventory for all of your tattoo supply needs today!

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