Rotary tattoo machines were some of the very first automated, powered tattoo machines – and they are still the most popular machine for use with young tattooists and tattoo artists today. They’re dependable, adaptable, and can be used for a whole range of different applications, including lining, shading, and inking.
Because of this, most new tattooists look to a rotary machine or kit to begin their career. If you’re looking to get into tattooing – or just trying to find a replacement for an old tattoo gun – you may be interested in this list of the best rotary tattoo machines on the market.
What to Consider When Buying a Rotary Tattoo Machine
There are several things you’ll want to bear in mind when purchasing a rotary tattoo machine.
- Gripped Or Gripless. Usually, when you buy a rotary tattoo machine, the only thing that comes in the box is the machine itself – that is, the motor and surrounding chassis that powers the rig. Often, grips aren’t included – though tattoo guns all use the same grip format, and you can generally simply swap the grip from your old rotary tattoo machine to your new one.
- Lining Vs Shading. While most rotary tattoo guns can do both lining and shading, you may want a heavier-duty, more powerful rotary tattoo machine if you plan on doing a lot of intensive shading. The faster, more powerful drive of the needles allow for consistent, deep penetration into the dermis, and you can use more needles in your rig, decreasing the amount of time (and pain) necessary for large shading projects.
- Frequency. Generally, a quality rotary tattoo machine has quite high RPM – repetitions per minutes. The main advantage of rotary tattoo machines is that they deliver consistent, extremely fast performance that can help minimize the pain felt by the subject of the tattoo.
Top 6 Rotary Tattoo Machines Table
If you are buying a new rotary tattoo machine, there are several other factors to consider.
- Weight. Heavier isn’t always better when it comes to tattoo guns. The reason is simple: fatigue. Tattoo sessions can run into multiple hours, and when your tattoo gun is weighed down with inks, power cords, and needle rigs, even the smallest weight reduction can be a real benefit when it comes to reducing fatigue.
- RCA Vs. Clip Cord. Power is generally provided to these machines from an external power supply by one of two cords – RCA or clip cords.
Clip cords, as you may have gathered, clip onto the positive/negative connections on a tattoo gun using two wired ends attached to a single cord. Proponents of clip cords say they provide better, more consistent power, as they are a newer technology than the RCA cord – which is over half a century old.
Proponents of RCA cord tattoo guns say that clip cords are inconsistent – due to their bare metal, clipped design, they can change consistency when the machine itself is moved – causing variable performance. RCA cords do not have this issue, as they will not shift in their dedicated socket plug.
Overall, this is mainly a matter of taste – and what compatible power supply you may already have. If you like clip cords, you probably won’t want an RCA gun, and vice-versa – though theres’ something to be said for trying something new.
Top 3 Best Rotary Tattoo Machine Reviews
For the entry level tattoo artist, the Dragonhawk is probably the best rotary tattoo machine to learn with.
It features a lightweight aluminum body and the motor isn’t too noisy, plus for shading and doing color work, you can easily adjust the speeds.
Those who are used to using coil machines are pleasantly surprised when they fire up the Dragonhawk. It runs quite smoothly and it’s quite self-explanatory to use.
Newbies love this machine!
If you have more serious intentions (or if you just need a wider selection of tools at your fingertips), this complete kit from Dragonhawk is definitely for you.
You get 2 machines (one rotary and one for lining), 20 Immortal inks, 50 needles and all of the small accessories that you’ll need to get you through a session.
It even comes with a pieces of silicone “skin” for you to practice on!
You have to remember that at these price points, the quality isn’t going to be as high as some of the professional machines, but in as a starter kit, this has everything you need.
Tough to beat!
Our final suggestion is this rotary machine from SODIAL.
This particular model is favored for lining since the provide you with more consistent hits, allowing the color to saturate more effectively.
Again, this is quite an inexpensive machine (OK, it’s dirt cheap) and you’ll probably have to use some rubber bands as you work in order to keep the needle straight, but the motor on it is quite powerful for the price.
It’s a great investment for any artist since it’s affordable and can always come in handy for certain outlining or shading effects.