The battle between the types of tattoo machine isn’t a new affair. Both rotary and coil tattoo machines have been head to head for as long as current artists can remember, but is it a war that can be won by either one? Both of these reputable and popular types of tattoo machine have their own set of benefits to flaunt that have attracted tattoo artists to make them their most critical part of their everyday toolkit.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that these are the only types of tattoo machine, though, there are others out there. Pneumatic tattoo machines are another tattoo machine on the market; a lightweight machine that uses compressed air to move the needle and tempts tattoo artists with the promise of being entirely autoclavable. Despite its attractive upsides, this tattoo machine has never quite made it into the mix and is yet to come into real popularity in tattoo studios the world over. So, it seems that the debate really is between whether a rotary or coil tattoo machine is better, but what exactly defines ‘better’? There are a whole host of factors that can help to weigh up which tattoo machine might champion, let’s take a look at some of them and how each tattoo machine fairs.

What’s The Difference In The Inner Workings?


Which kind of tattoo machine the tattoo artist opts for arguably won’t be determined by the technical details of how it works internally, but it is pretty interesting stuff. Both rotary and coil tattoo machines have competing ways of creating the same outcome and embedding ink into the skin. Both of these types of tattoo machine utilise ways of making the needle move as it needs to that could not be further apart.

A coil tattoo machine uses an electromagnetic current that passes through two coils that enable the armature bar to move. This, in turn, creates a hammer-like motion which is exactly what pushes the needle of this tattoo machine up and down to pierce the skin again and again. Now for the other contender in the ring; rotary machines are the originals in tattoo machine technology. These machines feature a slick electric motor that makes use of a cyclical motion to move the needle nice and smoothly. Whilst the artist might not be swayed by the mechanism, their decision will come down to what the movement of the mechanism means for all of the subsequent factors.

What’s All The Buzz About?


It’s safe to say that the sound that most people would associate with a tattoo studio is that recognisable buzzing sound. That all too familiar noise comes from the belly of the coil tattoo machine. In contrast to this, the rotary tattoo machine is noticeably quiet when being used by an artist. Whilst this peacefulness might not make a difference to the tattoo artist, it might to the customer. For some, the noisier machine might conjure fond memories of previous sessions in the chair, but this won’t be the case for everyone who walks through the studio door. It’s well worth considering that an inexperienced customer, who might even be arriving for their first inking, might find the relentless buzzing of a coil tattoo machine off-putting or even intimidating. Any reputable artist will endeavour to put their customers at ease and help them to feel comfortable throughout the tattooing process, but it is true that the quiet nature of the rotary machine could make for a calmer experience that the customer can take in their stride.

How Do They Handle?


The vast differences in how a tattoo machine produces its power will without a doubt affect how they act and feel for the artist using it. Coil machines aren’t necessarily user-friendly, to understand why it helps to take a deeper look at how the mechanism works. When the armature bar touches the coils, the electromagnetic field is broken for a fraction of the time to then be almost instantly re-established when it lifts back off. This constant disconnection and reconnection of power is what makes the needle move, but it is also what opens the potential for the motion to judder. On the other hand, rotary tattoo machines are much smoother. With an electric motor, the movement keeps its consistency. That’s not the only way that rotary machines have a greater ease of use, either. This type of tattoo machine is loads lighter than coil machines, a factor that can make a huge difference. By being lighter to use, this tattoo machine allows the artist to happily tackle longer sittings than they ever could with a coil machine without fear of hand cramps. Let’s not forget that this ease of use will be reflected in the quality of the tattoo being created.

Versatility Is Vital


This consideration when choosing a tattoo machine perhaps depends on the artist’s preference for convenience. As effective as coil machines might be, they are a little lacking in the versatility department. An artist will need to make a changeover to a separate coil machine to suit the type of work that they are creating, but why is that? Liners and shaders are two variants of coil tattoo machine that are there for the artist to make use of. Shaders are much more heavy duty than liners so that they can really pack a punch when called on to add ink and depth to larger areas. Rotary machines, however, don’t require a machine change when swapping styles; this tattoo machine has the capability to handle multiple styles. With a wider range of abilities all in one machine, the artist is free to move from creating crisp, sharp line work to producing shading that has true depth and detail.

There might be a myriad of factors that can be used to establish whether coil or rotary machines are better, but these can only act as guidelines. Ultimately, the type of tattoo machine that an artist should use is the one that best suits them. Taking the time to sit and consider the type of work that the artist regularly produces and how they do so with their own unique style will reveal which tattoo machine is the right one for them. We stock a range of both coil and rotary tattoo machines at our Nottingham store. Visit us to make your selection or place your order online for delivery across the UK: