What Is a Rotary Tattoo Machine and How Does It Work?

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Have you heard of the term “rotary tattoo machine” and are curious to know what it is? A rotary tattoo machine is an electric device used in the art of tattooing. It works by driving a needle up and down very quickly to inject ink into the skin. This type of machine is one of the most popular tools used by professional tattoo artists due to its ease of use and reliable performance. In this article, we will discuss the basics of rotary tattoo machines and how they work.


Basics of Tattoo Machines

Basics Of Tattoo Machines

Coil Tattoo Machine

Coil tattoo machines are the oldest-style of tattoo machines available. They use electromagnetic coils to move the needle up and down quickly to create a tattoo. They are usually heavier than rotary machines and use more power. Coil machines typically have a stronger vibration and tend to create a louder sound than rotary machines.

Rotary Tattoo Machine

Rotary tattoo machines are lighter and quieter than their coil counterparts. They use a motor and a set of gears to move the needle up and down. They are less powerful and tend to be more precise. They are also easier to adjust, making them a popular choice for experienced tattoo artists.

The main difference between coil and rotary tattoo machines is how they move the needle up and down. Coil machines use electromagnetic coils while rotary machines use a motor and a set of gears. Coil machines are typically heavier and make more noise, while rotary machines are lighter, quieter, and more precise.

Difference between Coil and Rotary Tattoo Machine

Difference Between Coil And Rotary Tattoo Machine

Coil Tattoo Machines are the traditional type of machine and use electromagnetic coils to move the needles up and down. They are usually louder and heavier, but provide more power for lining and shading.

Rotary Tattoo Machines use a motor to move the needles up and down and are generally quieter and lighter. They are best for lining and shading, but can also be used for coloring.

  • Noise: Coil machines are louder than rotary machines.
  • Weight: Coil machines are heavier than rotary machines.
  • Power: Coil machines provide more power for lining and shading.
  • Versatility: Rotary machines can be used for both lining/shading and coloring.

When it comes to deciding which type of machine is better – coil or rotary tattoo machine – it really depends on the type of work being done and the artist’s preference.

Advantages of Coil Tattoo Machine

Advantages Of Coil Tattoo Machine

  • High Power – Coil tattoo machines are known for their high power, making them great for larger pieces or shading.
  • Excellent Control – Coil tattoo machines also offer excellent control over the needle, making them great for smaller tattoos.
  • Lighter Weight – Coil tattoo machines are usually lighter than rotary machines, making them easier to maneuver for extended periods of time.
  • Less Noise – Coil machines are usually much quieter than rotary machines, so you can work in peace.
  • More Durable – Coil machines are also more durable than rotary machines, making them great for long-term use.

Advantages of Rotary Tattoo Machine

Advantages Of Rotary Tattoo Machine

Advantage Description
Smooth Operation Rotary machines are known for their smooth operation and minimal noise. This makes them perfect for artists who are looking for a quieter tattooing experience.
Versatile Rotary machines are known for their versatility. They can be used to create different styles of tattoos, from traditional to neo-traditional to realistic.
Lightweight Rotary machines are light in weight which makes them easier to manoeuvre and less tiring for the artist. This allows for a more comfortable tattooing experience for both the artist and the client.
Maintenance Rotary machines are relatively easy to maintain. They do not require as much cleaning and upkeep as coil machines, making them a great option for beginners.

Which is better – Coil or Rotary Tattoo Machine?

Which Is Better - Coil Or Rotary Tattoo Machine?

When deciding which type of tattoo machine is best for you, it comes down to personal preference. Both coil and rotary machines have their own advantages and drawbacks.

Advantages of Coil Tattoo Machines

  • More powerful
  • Easier to control line weights
  • Less painful to the client

Advantages of Rotary Tattoo Machines

  • Lighter and smaller in size
  • Quieter operation
  • Better for shading and color packing

Ultimately, the decision of which type of machine is best for you will depend on the type of work you plan to do. If you are looking for a machine that is powerful and easy to control line weights, then a coil machine may be best for you. On the other hand, if you need something light and quiet, then a rotary machine may be the better option.

Maintenance of Tattoo Machines

Maintenance Of Tattoo Machines

Tattoo machines require regular maintenance and upkeep to ensure they are working correctly and safely. Proper maintenance and cleaning will also help to extend the life of the machine. It is important to check the machine before each use, as any loose parts or malfunctioning components can increase the risk of infection or injury.

Cleaning the Machine

Clean the tattoo machine with a damp cloth before and after each use to remove any leftover ink, tissue, or other debris. Do not use any alcohol or harsh chemicals as they can damage the machine. It is also important to clean the needles, tubes, and grips regularly to prevent the spread of infection.

Inspecting the Machine

Check the machine for any loose parts or other signs of malfunction before each use. Inspect the cords and cables for any fraying or damage. Make sure the needle is securely fastened and free of any rust. Inspect the grips for any wear or damage, and replace if necessary. Check the power supply for any signs of damage or corrosion.


Lubricate the machine regularly with a silicone-based lubricant. This will help to reduce friction and wear on the internal components. It is also important to check the tension of the springs, as this will affect the machine’s performance.

Replacement Parts

Tattoo machines will eventually wear out and require replacement parts. Replace worn or damaged components as soon as possible to ensure the machine continues to function correctly. Replace the needles regularly to prevent the spread of infection. It is also important to replace any faulty cords or cables to prevent electric shock.


Store the machine in a cool, dry place. Do not store the machine in direct sunlight or near any heat sources. Make sure the machine is properly insulated and protected from moisture to prevent damage or corrosion.

Task Frequency
Cleaning Before and after each use
Inspection Before each use
Lubrication Regularly
Replacement Parts As needed
Storage Cool and dry place

Cost Comparison

Tattoo machines come in a variety of types and prices. Rotary machines are generally more expensive than coil machines, but they provide smoother lines, less vibration, and a quieter operation. The price of a rotary machine varies depending on the type, brand, and quality. High-end rotary machines may cost up to $500, while lower-end models may cost as low as $50.

In general, rotary machines are more expensive than coil machines, but they offer a variety of advantages that may be worth the extra cost. Coil machines, on the other hand, typically cost between $20 and $200. They are also heavier, louder, and provide a more intense vibration.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Benefits of Using a Rotary Tattoo Machine?

Versatility: Rotary tattoo machines can be used for both lining and shading, making them ideal for a wide range of tattoo styles.

Precision: Rotary machines have a smooth, consistent motion, allowing for more precise lines and details.

Stability: They tend to be quieter and more stable than coil machines, making it easier to focus on your artwork.

Ease of Use: Rotary tattoo machines are lightweight, making them easier to maneuver and use for long periods of time.

Reliability: Rotary machines require less maintenance and are less prone to breakdowns than coil machines.

What type of needles are used with a rotary tattoo machine?

Rotary tattoo machines are designed to use needles with a looped end. This loop helps the needle to move smoothly through the skin without causing damage or irritation. These needles come in different sizes and materials, such as stainless steel and plastic, for a variety of line widths and depths. The needles are also disposable, which means they should be replaced after each session for hygiene and safety reasons.

Is there a difference between a rotary tattoo machine and a traditional tattoo machine?

Yes, there is a difference between a rotary tattoo machine and a traditional tattoo machine. Traditional tattoo machines use electromagnetic coils to move the needle, whereas rotary tattoo machines use a motor to power the needle. Additionally, rotary machines are lighter and quieter than traditional machines, and can be used for a variety of different styles – from shading and lining to colour packing. Rotary machines are also easier to maintain and can produce a more consistent result.

Is a Rotary Tattoo Machine Easier to Use than a Traditional Tattoo Machine?

Rotary Machines:

  • Lightweight and more ergonomic than traditional coils.
  • Quieter than coils.
  • Provide more consistent line work and color saturation.
  • Easier to adjust speed and pressure.

Traditional Coils:

  • Heavier than rotary machines.
  • Noisier than rotary machines.
  • Can be difficult to adjust speed and pressure.

Overall, rotary machines are easier to use than traditional coils. They are lighter, quieter, and easier to adjust. Additionally, they provide more consistent line work and color saturation.

How often should a rotary tattoo machine be serviced and maintained?

Rotary tattoo machines require regular maintenance and servicing to ensure that they are functioning properly and safely. Here are some maintenance tips to keep in mind:

  • Clean the machine and its components thoroughly after each use.
  • Replace the needle, tube, and other consumable parts regularly.
  • Check and lubricate the moving parts at least once every three months.
  • Tighten any loose screws or nuts.
  • Check the power cord and its connection for wear or damage.
  • Have the machine serviced by a professional when needed.

By following these maintenance tips, you can make sure that your rotary tattoo machine is functioning properly and safely.


Rotary tattoo machines are an essential tool for professional tattoo artists. They provide consistent, safe and accurate results, and are generally easier to use than traditional coil machines. The rotary machine is also more durable than other types of tattoo machines, making it a great long-term investment for any artist. With careful selection and proper maintenance, a rotary tattoo machine can be a valuable asset for any tattoo artist.


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