How Does a tattoo Machine Work? ( Complete Guide)

How does Tattoo Machine Work

In ancient times before the revolution of tattoo machines, artists used to draw tattoos with the help of hammers, thorns, and some sort of inks and used to poke the needle into your skin. I know right this method was painful as hell and full of suffering.

Moreover, it was not efficient as well. In this article, we will give you a complete guide on how does a tattoo machine work.

Since tattooing has become a part of western culture, every adult or teenager is willing to try and have a tattoo once in their lifetime.

Therefore, tattooing came into a revolution, and yet it’s developing day by day getting more efficient, effective, safe, and less painful as well.

How Does a Tattoo Machine Work?

Since the tattoo machines and guns came into revolution and development, people around every corner of the world have become in this habit of having cool designed tattoos on their skins and overall body since it’s less painful and safe.

After all the development now the people are looking for the best tattoo artist in New York City and the U.S. Oh wait but the question arises how does a tattoo machine work?

Therefore, this blog is all about the working of tattoo machines. However, it’s not something all of you will come across in your everyday life but if you’re interested in tattooing or wanna have one, it might be fascinating for you to know how the tattoo machine works. So keep reading.

 Working on the tattoo machine:

Before we start let me tell you that the tattoo machine comes in different types. No, I’m not talking about the guns but the machine. It’s of 3 types namely;

  • Rotatory machine.
  • Electric coil machine.
  • Pneumatic machine.

So basically, in this article, we are gonna cover up these tattoo machine types and their working as well. So let’s start with a rotatory machine.

Rotary tattoo machine:

If you love art, shallow wounds, and permanence in your art, you might be willing to have a tattoo. Though you are not alone, many adults in the west are wanting to have a tattoo and therefore look forward to safe tattoo machines which are less painful and efficient.

So first of all the rotary machine of New York was patented by technology on the 8th of December 1891.

It’s like a pen design that would punch through the paper to create a stencil of your writing with design. Therefore, the scientist who developed it thought that it could easily punch through the skin to create a tattoo as well. Isn’t it cool?

This machine is a rotary type which means that when the electricity is applied, the flywheel twists a cam, that pushes the follower to convert the spinning movement into a reciprocating linear motion of the needles.

This helps needles move back and forth rapidly and smoothly. Thus, applying the tattoo is more easily and less painful than most tattoo artists could manage as compared to the hammer and poking method. Moreover, the machine doesn’t have a buzzing sound; it works silently and does not disturb the client and the operator.

Electric Coil tattoo machine:

The second machine we’re gonna discuss today is the electric coil machine. Now imagine you are sitting and vibing in a tattoo parlor.

Can you imagine the buzzing sound of the machine in your ears? Yes, that’s the sound of the electric coil tattoo machine. The first artist who developed this machine was Charles Wagner on the 24th of August 1904.

Therefore, he was a famous tattoo artist in New York. This machine is driven by electromagnetic coils. In this method, you attach a couple of needles perpendicular to an armature bar.

Because this bar is spring-loaded so it keeps vibrating up and down. When the bar comes in an up position, it completes the circuit in a machine that sends electricity through the electromagnetic coils that are dual and that’s so simple.

Therefore, that creates an electromagnetic field through which the bar is pulled down which breaks the circuit and releases the bar to its original up position. Thus, this cycle is started over and over again.

Since the needles are attached to the bar, the vibration pushes and pulls the needles up and down. Hence, Lots of innovators have built these machines more precisely, easily, and safely for both clients and artists. Therefore, the coil electric machine is much more common.

Pneumatic tattoo machine:

This pneumatic tattoo machine is a recent innovation in the tattoo industry that was first invented by Carson Hill in 2000. Though it’s a bit expensive but works more effectively and efficiently.

Moreover, this machine is used through the air compressor that is pressurized inside the machine. The air you pressurize will automatically power the machine which will help the needles to move up and down.

Also, you can control the air pressure however you want the needles to move slow or fast it’s up to you; further, it’s quieter and less noisy at other machines.

Another good news is it doesn’t need to attach the electricity or wiring for operating it. Hence, it’s lightweight and safe as well to utilize in an autoclave. If you’re working for long sessions it’s suitable for you to use it without getting tired.

On the other hand, the machine also features the average size of tubes and needles. However, the needles are also featured flat and round which is best for shading and lining and super easy for the artists to look for supplies.

Since the lining is most common so the ink is penetrated deeper into the skin. Therefore, the artist does not need to keep 2 to 3 machines with himself because this machine can operate both the lining and shading. And that’s much cooler, isn’t it?

Needles and tubes :

Basically, the needles are at the end of the armature bar which is connected to the tattoo machine that keeps moving up and down as it is powered on. As the tube is connected with the armature bar that is easy for handling in a grip and keeps the machine in its position.

Some tubes are made with Stainless Steel that needs to be cleaned after every use. However, the artists use different tubes for different reasons like plastic tubes are used for safety purposes as they’re disposable.

Now, these needles are connected in an armature bar as they are of different sizes for details and shading so they keep moving in the skin in up and down motion. As these needles are inside the tube so they keep running in your skin to release the tattoo tint and design your art with lining or shading.

Moreover, the tattoo machine is connected with a power supply cord which has different settings to let the artists adjust the speed of their machine according to their needs. Interestingly, for the ease of artists, this power cord is generated by your foot as it is hands-free. This is a cool feature of the tattoo machine and good news as well simply you gotta stretch your foot activate the machine and the needles will start moving up and down.

Assembling the tube:

To assemble the tube you gotta connect the stem and the tip to the grip. This grip happens to use a set of screws for holding everything jointly.

First, you gotta slide the stem in the back end of the grip and tighten the screws with a wrench to secure them in one place.

Do the same thing in the end. One thing to make sure is the tip is suited to the needle composition in the size you’re using and also insert enough of the stem or tip into the grip to secure the screws in place.

Once you’re done assembling the tube, you next need to install a nipple. It’s a small rubber particle that you need to put on the armature bar before the needle is attached. This keeps the needle eyes snug on a bar. The more flexible the rubber is, the softer the needle hits.

Once you got your rubber now you’re almost ready to place the needle inside the tube. Bending the needle a bit helps equalize the bend applied by the rubber bands you wrap around the needle to help it keep from bouncing around in the tube. If you’re using a plastic tube, don’t put too much bend on the needle as it can create more friction.

Make sure to put the needle with the arrangement underneath the bar. Just carefully put the needle inside and let it sit inside the end of the tip. Once you’re done, pick up your machine and slide the tube with the opening.

Tighten the vice and don’t lift the tube too far up into the vice. Later you’ll be able to adjust things once the needle is attached to a bar.

Lastly, pull the needle up towards the armature bar and stick an eye on it by slipping it over the peg. Now you can adjust the writing depth of the needle accordingly.


What is the proper way to hold a tattoo machine?

Holding a tattoo machine is not a difficult task at all. Just imagine it as a pen and the skin as a paper. Keep your palm on the skin of your client and use the tattoo machine as a pen. Draw with it. While the whole machine is on the back of your hand.

How does a rotary machine work?

It’s like a pen design that would punch through the paper to create a stencil of your writing with design. This machine is a rotary type which means that when the electricity is applied, the flywheel twists a cam, that pushes the follower to convert the spinning movement into a reciprocating linear motion of the needles. This helps needles move back and forth rapidly and smoothly.

Why do you need multiple tattoo machines?

Tattooers prefer to have various types of tattoo machines. As the machines are developing day by day and becoming more safer and easy to use and less bearable. Some tattoo machines are slow in speed while others have such a loud noise. The artist uses the machine according to his needs and designs or detailings.

Do rotary machines hurt more?

No not so. The biggest benefit of this tattoo machine is that it makes less noise which is good news for both client and the artist. It means they both can have long sessions without getting disturbed and in less pain.

How hard do I press when tattooing?

I will prefer that when you’re about to fill ink in your design, start it from the outline of the tattoo and give thin strokes to fill the color. Press gently not so hard at least it may reach deep in your skin for a few millimeters. Be careful, I know it’s a hard task.

Want to know about top-rated rotary tattoo machines, read this.


In the end, we conclude by compiling three types of tattoo machines that we’ve discussed above. These machines are developing day by day and becoming much safer and easy to use. Thus they have become a part of western culture.

Artists love to keep different types of tattoo machines as some are slow while some have different features and pros and cons but all are safer so they use them according to their needs.

Basically, these tattoo machines come with needles that are connected at the end of the armature bar. They work rapidly and as you turn it on by your foot, they start moving up and down. These needles are inserted into a tube which can be of different qualities. Some are disposable while others are made with stainless steel.

Since this article is all about tattoo machines so we’ve also added some highlights and working of the machine. Do check them out and do let us know in the comment section if it helps. Moreover, if you’re having any confusion feel free to write it down as well.


Rosenkilde, Frank. “Tattoo machines, needles and utilities.” Tattooed Skin and Health. Vol. 48. Karger Publishers, 2015. 21-30.

Rosenkilde F. Tattoo Machines, Needles and Utilities. 2015


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