How to Choose Best Tattoo Machines for Beginners

How to Choose Best Tattoo Machines for Beginners

So you've decided to take the plunge into the world of tattoos and want to buy your first wireless tattoo pen! As a beginner, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which pen is right for you. There are so many factors to consider from machine type, power supply, needle grouping, grip style, and more. Don't stress! This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to find the perfect wireless tattoo pen to start your tattooing journey.

Know the Different Types of Pen Tattoo Machines

The first step is understanding the two main types of tattoo machine configurations - rotary and coil.

Rotary tattoo machines use a motor and gear system to move the needle up and down. They operate quieter and smoother than coil machines. Rotaries are a great choice for shading and coloring since they can run at lower voltages.

Coil tattoo machines utilize electromagnetic currents to move the needles. They make the distinct buzzing noise you expect from a tattoo gun. Coil machines pack more punch for lining and bold blackwork.

As a beginner, a rotary machine will give you more control and flexibility. But don't rule out coils - many artists use a combination of both machine types.

Know the Different Types of Pen Tattoo Machines

Consider Power Supply - Cordless or Corded

The next decision is whether you want a cordless, wireless tattoo pen or a corded, plug-in model.

Wireless tattoo pens offer total freedom of movement and portability. No cords holding you back. This makes them excellent for festivals, conventions, and mobile tattooing.

On the other hand, corded tattoo machines provide consistent, stable power. No batteries to drain or recharge. They may limit your reach but deliver confident power.

As a new artist, start with a wireless pen for maximum versatility. Then add a corded model down the road for broadening your capabilities.

Choose Number of Needle Groupings

Tattoo machines use needle groupings - anywhere from 1 to 50+ needles attached to one bar. The grouping affects line weight and shading depth.

For lining, a 3 to 5 needle grouping provides the best balance of precision and boldness.

For shading and coloring, higher groups between 7 to 15 needles work well. Wider groupings deposit more ink for vibrant, solid saturation.

As a beginner, a pen with interchangeable needle groupings allows you to play with different effects. Look for at least 3-5 needles for lining and 7-10 for shading.

Consider Adjustable Speed Capabilities

Having control over needle speed is crucial. The speed impacts your precision and the client's comfort.

Rotary tattoo machines offer speed adjustment through voltage - typically between 6 to 12 volts. Lower voltage equals slower needle speed.

Coil tattoo machines adjust speed by altering the power coil configuration. Speed often ranges between 5 to 12 VPS (volts per second).

For versatility, choose a pen with a wide speed range - both slow and fast settings. This ensures you can handle any tattooing scenario as a beginner.

This ensures you can handle any tattooing scenario as a beginner.

Pick a Comfortable, Ergonomic Grip

Tattooing for hours at a time can strain your hands. Finding a pen with an ergonomic grip keeps you comfortable.

L-shaped grips position your wrist neutrally to avoid fatigue. Smooth, molded handles also prevent digging into your fingers.

If possible, test out the grip style at a tattoo convention or shop. Make sure it feels natural before buying. Don't risk developing hand issues from an awkward grip.

Look for Dual Capacitor Setup

Capacitors act like a battery to store and deliver power to the tattoo machine.

Pens with a dual capacitor setup provide more stability and efficiency. The machine pulls power from the first capacitor while the second one recharges. This cycle prevents power fluctuations.

Dual capacitors provide seamless, reliable power - especially important for beginners. So check your wireless pen has this dual capacitor capability.

Consider Adjustable Stroke Length

Stroke length controls how far the needle travels with each oscillation. A longer stroke penetrates deeper into skin. A shorter stroke provides precision.

The ability to adjust stroke length gives you greater command over your line work. Short strokes excel for delicate details. Longer strokes pack more punch for solid fills.

Look for a pen that lets you easily adjust stroke length on the fly. Then you can adapt to any tattoo scenario rather than relying on fixed settings.

Check Tip Style and Grip Width

Grip diameter impacts comfort and control. Look for approximately 10-11mm diameter as a nice medium size.

Tip style comes down to personal preference. But as a beginner, a pen-style tip gives you the most precision. Avoid large tip diameters over 5mm.

Test grip width and tip style firsthand at a shop if possible. Ask experienced artists for advice to find the most comfortable pen design.

Ensure Digital Voltage Control

Manually adjusting machine voltage can be challenging for beginners.

Instead, choose a pen with digital voltage buttons for accuracy and ease. Preset voltages for lining, shading, color packing, etc also help guide your machine settings as you learn.

Digital control prevents frustrating voltage fluctuations during a tattoo session. You can fine tune performance without interrupting workflow.

Check for Backup Batteries

With a wireless tattoo pen, having backup batteries or capacitors prevents interruptions.

Opt for a pen that includes at least one backup battery or set of capacitors. Having replacements standing by means you don't have to cut a session short.

Also look for batteries that provide over 2 hours of continuous running time. And confirm the expected battery lifespan - at least 150 uses is standard.

Fast charge time of 60-90 minutes enables you to get back to work quickly after swapping out dead batteries.

Focus on a Lightweight Design

Tattooing sessions often stretch for hours at a time. The last thing you want is hand fatigue from a heavy machine.

Look for a lightweight pen constructed from aircraft grade aluminum, carbon fiber, or composite polymers. Durable, sturdy materials that still reduce heft.

Aim for a pen under 10 oz including the grips and battery. Test holding different models to compare relative weight and comfort.

Prioritize lightweight pens to avoid cramping or discomfort - allowing you to maintain precision lines throughout long sessions.

Tattooing sessions often stretch for hours at a time.

Stick to Your Budget

As a beginner, avoid breaking the bank on your first tattoo pen. Start with an affordable model to learn the ropes before upgrading.

Set a budget around $100-150 to get a quality starter pen. This invests in core performance without overspending on unnecessary bells and whistles.

As your skills improve, you can always trade up to a more advanced (and expensive) pen. For now, focus budget on the basics.

Key Takeaways for Choosing the Best Beginner Wireless Tattoo Pen

  • Pick either a rotary or coil tattoo machine depending on your artistic needs. Rotaries offer smoother, quieter performance that's ideal for beginners.
  • Consider the pros and cons of cordless wireless versus corded plug-in Wireless pens provide mobility at the cost of battery limits.
  • Look for interchangeable needle groupings with options for both lining and shading. 3-5 needles for lining, 7-10 for shading cover the bases.
  • Opt for a pen with adjustable speed through voltage or coil control. Wider speed ranges let you handle any tattoo scenario.
  • Select an ergonomic grip shape that keeps your hand comfortably positioned during long sessions.
  • Prioritize pens with a dual capacitor setup for power stability and efficiency.
  • Adjustable stroke lengthfor switching between precision and solid packing is a bonus.
  • Test grip diameterand tip style firsthand to find your ideal fit.
  • Digital voltage displayenables easy accuracy compared to manual knobs.
  • Don't forget backup batteries so you can complete sessions uninterrupted.
  • Look for a lightweight but durable pen construction to prevent fatigue.
  • Set a budget around $100-150 to get quality performance without overspending as a beginner.


Choosing your first tattoo pen feels overwhelming but breaking down the key features makes the process more manageable. Test models firsthand whenever possible. And don't hesitate to get advice from experienced artists to dial in the perfect pen to begin your tattooing journey. Happy inking!

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