Discover the Science Behind Tattoos: Uncovering How Tattoo Guns Work

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Do you want to unlock the art of tattooing? Are you curious to know how tattoo guns work? A tattoo gun is a device used to permanently insert ink into the dermis layer of the skin, creating a beautiful and intricate piece of artwork that will be with you for life. In this article, we will explore the anatomy of a tattoo gun and how it functions to create amazing body art. Discover how tattoo guns work and unlock the art of tattooing!


What is a Tattoo Gun/ Machine Called?

What Is A Tattoo Gun/ Machine Called?

Tattoo guns, also known as tattoo machines, are the modern equivalent of the traditional hand-tapping tattooing method. These electric machines are used to create tattoos with precision and accuracy.

Tattoo Guns are the most commonly used tool in the art of tattooing and are referred to by many names, including:

  • Tattoo Machines
  • Tattoo Guns
  • Tattoo Needles
  • Tattoo Pens
  • Tattooing Machines

Tattoo guns are generally made with a few components, including a needle, a tube, a motor, and a foot pedal. The needle is attached to the motor, and the motor is connected to the foot pedal. When the foot pedal is pressed, the motor is activated and the needle moves up and down, creating the tattoo.

The needle is the most important part of the tattoo gun, and it can be adjusted to create different line thicknesses, depths, and patterns. The tube helps to control the flow of ink and also helps to keep the needle from becoming clogged with ink.

How Tattoo Machines Work

Tattoo machines work by oscillating the needle at a very high frequency, up to 3,000 times per minute. The needle is dipped in a small amount of ink, and then the artist moves the needle across the skin in order to create a tattoo.

The speed and pressure of the needle can be adjusted to create different styles and techniques. The artist may also use a variety of shading and coloring techniques to create a unique design.

Tattoo guns are essential tools for any tattoo artist, and they are used to create stunning works of art. With the right knowledge, anyone can become a master tattoo artist by unlocking the art of tattooing with a tattoo gun.

Parts of a Tattoo Machine and What They Do

Parts Of A Tattoo Machine And What They Do


The needle is the most important part of a tattoo machine, often referred to as a “tattoo gun”. It is an open-ended tube with a tiny needle at the tip that vibrates at a high frequency when activated. The vibration of the needle causes pigment to be injected into the skin.


The tube is the part of the machine that holds the needle in place. It is usually made of metal, plastic, or glass and can be made in various sizes and shapes to accommodate different types of needles.


The motor is the part of the machine that causes the needle to vibrate. It is typically powered by electricity and can be adjusted to change the speed and intensity of the needle’s vibration.

Power Supply

The power supply is the part of the machine that provides the electricity needed to power the motor. It is usually a battery or an external power source such as a wall outlet or power generator.

How Does a Coil Tattoo Machine Work?

How Does A Coil Tattoo Machine Work?

A coil tattoo machine, also known as a traditional tattoo gun, is the most commonly used type of tattoo machine. It uses an electromagnetic circuit to drive the needles up and down, creating the tattoo. The parts of a tattoo machine and what they do are as follows:

  • Armature bar: This is the bar that moves up and down, and it’s powered by the electromagnetic circuit.
  • Front spring: This spring is the one that holds the armature bar in place.
  • Rear spring: This is the spring that is attached to the armature bar and provides tension to the armature bar.
  • Tube vise: This is the part that holds the needle.
  • Coils: The coils are the part that create the electromagnetic circuit to power the armature bar.
  • Capacitor: This is the part that stores the energy from the coils.
  • Contact screw: This screw is used to adjust the tension of the armature bar.

When the power is turned on, the coils create an electromagnetic field, which causes the armature bar to move up and down. As the armature bar moves up and down, it pushes and pulls the needle, which then penetrates the skin and deposits the tattoo ink. The capacitor stores the energy from the coils, allowing the armature bar to continue to move up and down at a consistent rate. The contact screw is used to adjust the tension of the armature bar, which determines the speed and power of the machine.

Rotary Tattoo Machine How It Works

Rotary Tattoo Machine How It Works
A rotary tattoo machine is the most commonly used type of tattoo machine. It is a handheld device that uses a power source to drive a needle up and down at a specific frequency to deposit ink into the skin. The power source can be a mains electricity, a battery, or a foot switch. The frequency of the needles is controlled by the speed settings on the machine, and the depth of the needles is controlled by the pressure settings.

The needles move up and down in a circular motion, which is why it is called a ‘rotary’ machine. This circular motion is important as it allows the needles to penetrate the skin more evenly and smoothly. This results in a cleaner and more professional looking tattoo.

The needles are held in place by a tube known as a ‘grip’. The grip is what the artist will hold onto when tattooing. The grip is lined with rubber to make it comfortable for the artist and also to ensure that the ink does not leak from the machine.

The tubes that hold the needles are known as ‘needle cartridges’. These are disposable and come in a range of sizes and shapes. Each cartridge can hold up to three needles, and the artist can choose the size and shape to suit the design they are creating.

The needles and cartridges are connected to the power source by a wire. This wire is called the ‘power cord’ and is usually a thick rubber cable that is plugged into the power source.

The power source then sends an electrical current through the power cord and into the rotary machine. This current causes the needles to move up and down, which deposits the ink into the skin.

The rotary tattoo machine is the most popular type of tattoo machine and is the one that most professional tattoo artists use. It is important to remember that it is called a ‘tattoo gun’, and not what is a tattoo machine called.

How Does a Tattoo Pen Work?

How Does A Tattoo Pen Work?

Tattoo pens are becoming increasingly popular as a way of tattooing. A tattoo pen is a handheld machine with a needle attached to the end. It is used to create small tattoos and is often used by professionals in the tattoo industry. The pen works by vibrating the needle at high speed, which penetrates the skin and injects ink into the desired area.

The needle is attached to the end of a pen-like tube that is connected to a power supply. As the power supply is turned on, the needle will vibrate rapidly, causing it to penetrate the skin. This process is called “tattooing” and is done by an experienced tattoo artist. The needle will inject the ink into the skin, creating a design or pattern.

The needle can be adjusted to vary the depth of the penetration, the size of the needle, and the speed of the vibration. This allows the artist to create a variety of designs and patterns with precision and accuracy. Tattoo pens are also used to create permanent makeup, such as eyeliner or lip color.

The pen is also used for medical procedures, such as skin grafts and scar removal. In these procedures, the needle is used to inject a special solution into the skin that helps to reduce scarring and promote healing. The needle is also used to inject anesthetic to reduce the pain associated with the procedure.

The tattoo pen is an ideal tool for those who want to explore the art of tattooing. It is easy to use and can be used to create intricate and detailed designs with precision. It is also a great way to practice and perfect your art before committing to a larger, more permanent design.

By understanding how a coil tattoo machine works, you can unlock the art of tattooing and create beautiful pieces of art on your own body.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Type

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Each Type

Coil Tattoo Machines – Coil machines are the most commonly used type of tattoo gun. They are balanced, powerful and consistent. They provide a steadier output of power, and have a higher speed range. The main disadvantage of coil machines is that they are loud and can be quite bulky.

Rotary Tattoo Machines – Rotary machines are quieter and more lightweight than coil machines. They provide greater control over the machine and offer a more consistent output of power. The main disadvantage of rotary machines is that they are not as powerful as coil machines and they may require more maintenance.

Pneumatic Tattoo Machines – Pneumatic machines are powered by air and use a piston to move the needle up and down. They are lightweight, quiet and require less maintenance than coil or rotary machines. The main disadvantage of pneumatic machines is that they can be difficult to control and may not provide the same level of power as coil or rotary machines.

Digital Tattoo Machines – Digital machines are the newest type of tattoo gun and offer the most control over the machine. They are lightweight, quiet and provide a consistent output of power. The main disadvantage of digital machines is that they can be expensive and require more maintenance than coil or rotary machines.

Safety Tips

  • Always wear latex gloves to protect yourself and your client from any blood-borne diseases.
  • Only use sterile, single-use needles to reduce the risk of infection and cross-contamination.
  • Dispose of these needles safely in an appropriate sharps container.
  • Keep your work area clean and free of clutter to minimize the risk of infection.
  • Sanitize your tattoo gun with a hospital-grade disinfectant before and after each use.
  • Know how a tattoo gun works to ensure it is properly used and maintained.
  • Be aware of the risks associated with tattooing, such as infection, scarring, and allergic reactions.

Understanding how does a tattoo pen work is an essential part of becoming a successful tattoo artist. From knowing the anatomy of the gun to cleaning and sterilizing it correctly, safety should be at the forefront of your mind when learning the art of tattooing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Components of a Tattoo Gun?

A tattoo gun consists of a few basic components: the power supply, the tattoo machine, the needles, and the tube. The power supply provides the necessary power to the tattoo machine. It is usually an electrical device that can be plugged into an outlet or battery-powered. The tattoo machine is the main component of the gun, and is responsible for controlling the speed and depth of the needle. The needles are attached to the machine and are used to create the design. The tube connects the needle to the power supply, and helps to regulate the flow of the ink.

How do you properly maintain a tattoo gun?

  • Clean the gun regularly: Tattoo guns should be cleaned regularly in order to ensure that they are in proper working condition. This can be done by using a mild, non-abrasive cleaner and wiping down the gun. Be sure to also clean the needles and other parts of the gun.
  • Check the needles: Regularly check the needles to make sure they are in good condition and free from any damage. If any damage is found, replace the needles immediately.
  • Replace parts: Over time, parts of the gun may need to be replaced in order to keep it in good working order. This includes the needles, the needle bar, and the armature bar. It is important to replace these parts as soon as they start to wear out.
  • Lubricate the gun: The gun should be lubricated regularly in order to ensure that it is running smoothly. This is done by using a lubricating oil or spray. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying the lubrication.
  • Store the gun properly: When not in use, the gun should be stored in a cool, dry place. This will help to ensure that the gun is not damaged by high temperatures or moisture.

Is there any special safety equipment needed when using a tattoo gun?

Yes. When using a tattoo gun, it is important to use safety equipment such as protective eyewear, gloves, and a face mask. These items help protect the user from exposure to blood and other bodily fluids, as well as prevent the spread of infection. Additionally, it is important to use an autoclave to sterilize the equipment before and after use.

What are the Different Types of Needles used in a Tattoo Gun?

Needles used in tattoo guns come in a variety of sizes and shapes, designed to create specific effects when used. The most common needles are round liners, round shaders, and magnum shaders. Round liner needles are thin and create precise lines, while round shader needles are thicker and best used for shading. Magnum shader needles feature a unique shape that allows for wider coverage and can be used for both shading and filling. Other types of needles include flat shader needles, curved magnums, and bugpins. Each type of needle is designed to create a different effect, and the right one must be chosen for the desired outcome.

What are the differences between a rotary and coil tattoo gun?

Rotary Tattoo Gun

  • Runs on electric motor to create up-and-down movement of the needle.
  • Uses a single needle which moves up and down at a faster rate, making the process more efficient.
  • Noisier than coil machines.
  • Easy to control and maneuver, used by both experienced and novice tattoo artists.

Coil Tattoo Gun

  • Runs on electric current to make the needles go up and down.
  • Uses multiple needles moving up and down at a slower rate.
  • Quieter than rotary machines.
  • Requires more skill to control, usually used by experienced artists.


Tattoo guns are a fundamental tool of the trade for any tattoo artist. Understanding how they work, how to maintain them and the various types available, is essential for anyone looking to become a professional tattoo artist. With the right knowledge and practice, anyone can unlock the art of tattooing.


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