Coil Machine Review Directory

Coil tattoo machines are considered “old school” tattoo machines. They were around before rotary or pen-style machines, and they use electromagnetic coils to move the needle up and down instead of a motor. However, lots of tattoo artists still use coil machines today, appreciating the ability to adjust each part of the machine exactly how they like it.

When choosing a coil tattoo machine, it's important to consider three critical factors:

Each of our reviews is meticulously carried out by professional tattoo artists who test each of these aspects in real tattooing scenarios, ensuring the reviews are grounded in hands-on experience. Our aim is to provide you with the most accurate, practical, and in-depth information possible to help you make your choice with confidence.

Understanding Coil Tattoo Machines

Before discussing specific brands and machines, it’s important to have an understanding of how coil tattoo machines work.

Coil machines work on the principles of electromagnetism. They contain one or two electromagnetic coils, which generate a magnetic field when electricity passes through them. This magnetic field causes a spring-mounted armature bar to move up and down at a rapid rate. Attached to this bar is the tattoo needle, which also moves up and down, driving the ink into the skin to create the tattoo.

Your power supply and clip cord are how electricity moves into the machine and how it maintains a uniform speed, which is why they are an essential part of your setup if you choose a coil machine.

Different Types of Coil Machines

Liner Machine: The front spring (connected to contact screw at top of machine) is shorter.

Shader Machine: The front spring is longer

Lining and Shading Coil Machines

If you’re going to use coil machines, you will actually need two machines: one for lining, and one for shading. A liner coil machine has a shorter front spring, while a shader has a longer front spring. 

While coil machines can be adjusted and taken apart to add a different front spring, it tends to be a major hassle and two machines are recommended. If you’d like step-by-step help setting up your coil machines, check out our article How to Set Up a Tattoo Machine in 9 Steps.

8-Coil, 10-Coil, and 12-Coil Machines

Coil tattoo machines come in different “power levels.”  Because the coils are wrapped with copper wire, the more wire around the coil, the more powerful the machine is. The number (like 8-coil or 10-coil) refers to how many times the wire has been wrapped around the coil. So a 12-coil has much more power than an 8-coil.

Which one you choose will depend on what you want to tattoo - and how much power you’ll need to do it.

For example, to do a fine-line tattoo, you’ll use less power and would choose an 8-coil machine, but 10-coil and 12-coil machines would be more effective color packers.

The Difference Between Coil and Rotary Machines

Coil Tattoo Machine has two coils wrapped in wire.

Rotary Tattoo Machine with a cam wheel and motor housed beneath the red casing.

Weight

It's also important to note that coil machines tend to be heavier than their rotary counterparts. While this might seem like a disadvantage, many artists find that the added weight provides better hand stability during the tattooing process.

Adjustability

Coil machines let you adjust every part of your machine because you can take it all apart. However, learning how to adjust everything to your liking can take time. This is one reason some artists prefer rotary tattoo machines, because they are more of a “plug-and-play” option.

“Give” Against Clients’ Skin

Coil machines give you a tiny margin for error when it comes to needle depth. The machine has some “give” when the needle hits the skin, so resistance from the skin’s surface tension impacts the needle’s travel. A rotary machine has a direct drive motor, which means tattoo needles reach the bottom of the stroke length every time. 

Understanding these nuances can help you choose a coil machine that not only performs well, but also suits your personal style and comfort.

How to Choose the Best Coil Tattoo Machine

When selecting the right coil machine, there are several key factors to consider. Here’s the most important ones to help simplify your decision process:

Reliability 

Your coil machine is an investment. The best coil tattoo machines will come from a reputable manufacturer known for producing reliable, long-lasting machines. Remember, a machine that consistently performs well will ensure the quality of your work.

There is a large selection of machines out there, and you don’t have to go with the highest price, but the coil tattoo machines that come in a beginner tattoo kit won’t be at the quality you need to become a professional tattoo artist.

Adjustability

Different tattooing styles and techniques require different machine settings. An adjustable machine will allow you to control factors such as the needle's depth, speed, and force. This will enable you to fine-tune your machine for lining, shading, and color packing as needed.

Comfort

Tattooing often involves long sessions, so it's essential that your tattoo machine is comfortable to hold. Consider the machine's weight, balance, and grip. Some artists prefer a heavier machine for added stability, while others opt for a lighter one to prevent hand fatigue.

A classic coil tattoo machine tends to be heavier than a rotary machine.

Material & Construction 

The material of the machine affects its durability, weight, and even vibration levels. Machines made of materials like brass or iron tend to be heavier but offer less vibration. Additionally, consider how the machine is put together. A well-constructed machine will run smoothly and require less maintenance.

Some lower-quality machines will be made of plastic. After a while of tattooing, heat will build up which could cause melting or even burn your hand. Your machine needs to be made of the right stuff to help you do your best work and keep you safe.

Price

While you shouldn't compromise on quality, your budget will naturally play a role in your decision. More expensive doesn't always mean better tattoo supplies. Aim for the best machine within your budget range.

By considering these factors, you can ensure that the coil machine you choose will best meet your tattooing needs and personal preferences.

Our Coil Tattoo Machine Reviews

Our professional tattoo artists are putting popular coil tattoo machines to the ultimate test: actual tattooing.

They don't just look at the specs, they complete a full tattoo with the machine, assessing their performance across a range of techniques and skin types. From lining and shading to color packing, we cover it all.

In our reviews, we focus on the key aspects that matter most: reliability, adjustability, comfort, construction quality, and price. We also look at additional features, such as the machine's weight, balance, and noise levels, which can greatly impact the user experience.

Below, you'll find our in-depth reviews, where you can find our ratings on each machine, as well as key takeaways and whether or not we recommend the machine for new tattoo artists.

Note: 

Every tattoo artist is unique, and what works best for one may not work as well for another. Use our reviews as a guide, but always consider your personal preferences, working style, and budget in your decision.

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AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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