Using the Tattoo Machine

Posted by Dragon Tattoo on

A tattoo machine works using a basic principle. Two coils are attached to a spring, and to a power supply. When the gun is in a state with no power applied, a spring holds two contacts together. The lower contact point is also attached to the coils, and the tattoo needle. When power is applied to the circuit, the coils become magnetic, pulling the armature bar and spring down, and this causes the contacts break, opening the electrical circuit.

A tattoo machine is defined as a hand-held device used to create a tattoo, a permanent marking of the skin with indelible ink. The newest and modern tattoo machines use electromagnetic coils to move an armature bar up and down. There is a barred needle connected to the armature bar that pushes ink into the skin. Besides the electric tattoo machines, there are also Rotary Tattoo Machines, which are powered by regulated motors rather than electromagnetic coils.


The electric pen invented by Thomas Alva Edison is the predecessor to the tattoo machine. The pen was patented under the title Stencil-Pens in Newark, New Jersey, United States in 1876. Its main role was to be to be used as a duplicating device, but in 1891, Samuel O'Reilly discovered that Edison's machine could be modified and used to introduce ink into the skin, and later patented a tube and needle system to provide an ink reservoir.

The modern tattoo machines use electromagnets, and the first machine based on this technology was a single coil machine patented by Thomas Riley of London.

Modern tattoo machines these days can control needle depth, speed, and force of application, which has allowed tattooing to become a very precise art form.

Using the Tattoo Machine

Now that you know the background, it is time learn how to use a tattoo machine. If you eventually want to become a great tattoo artist, learning how to use the tattoo machine properly is extremely important.

The first basic step is to learning to hold a tattoo machine. It’s important to make sure you choose a machine you’re comfortable with, because the size and weight of the tattoo machine can make quite a difference.
The proper way to grip a tattoo machine is to grip it around the needle tube. Just hold of the knurled grip much like you would hold a pencil and be sure the open side of the needle tip is facing away from you. It is normal for beginners to take some time to become comfortable with holding the machine as well as to develop the muscles necessary to comfortably hold the machine for hours.

You can start with testing your skills, once you have mastered the endurance required to tattoo and found a comfortable pencil grip.

As in a pencil grip, grab the knurled grip of the tattoo machine and place it comfortably in your hands. Always remember to have the bulk of the tattoo machine over top the back of your hand. Much like the way you would do if you were writing on the customer’s skin with a pen, the palm of your hand should be resting on the surface of the skin then proceed with your art.

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  • William, on the page you specify is worthy of attention only Pirate Face tattoo machine which is not rotary.

    James on
  • Thank you, great article! I think I’ll come in handy! And what can you tell on the choice of tattoo machines? I here found a review I liked rotary. Do they have any advantages over coil tattoo machines?

    William on

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