A tattoo power supply sends electricity into your tattoo machine to make it run. It also allows you to control the voltage, which directly affects the speed and power of your machine.
An experienced tattoo artist will adjust their voltage for different clients and for the specific job they are doing, like lining or shading. Today, we’ll go over everything you need to know about tattoo power supplies and share some recommendations with you.
When choosing a power supply, it's important to consider three critical factors:
Each of our reviews is meticulously carried out by professional tattoo artists who test these products 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.
Types of Tattoo Power Supplies
To aid in your decision-making process, being familiar with the different types of power supplies available is essential. Here’s a quick overview:
The most prevalent type is the digital power supply, which comes in various sizes and shapes but always includes a digital display. This display allows for easy readings even from a distance, which makes it easy to change voltages and troubleshoot any issues.
While slightly older in style, analog power supplies have a display that resembles a barometer or compass face. Though visible, you may need to stay close to monitor power levels until you become accustomed to reading them. In the past, an analog tattoo power supply was thought to have a longer lifespan than a digital one, but advancements in digital supplies have substantially narrowed the gap.
Regarding tattooing power supplies, there are two primary types: wired and wireless. Wired tattoo power supplies represent the traditional approach, where a cable connects the tattoo machine to the power supply.
On the other hand, wireless tattoo power supplies operate differently, as they utilize an RCA connection instead of a cable. This RCA connection enables compatibility with most rotary tattoo machines in the current market.
4 Terms You Should Know When Shopping for a Tattoo Power Supply
When shopping for a tattoo power supply, three essential terms can enhance your electrical knowledge and guide your decision:
DC (Direct Current)
Unlike AC (Alternating Current), DC flows in one direction. Every tattoo power supply uses DC to operate your machine. The brick-shaped adapter converts AC voltage from your outlet into DC voltage for the power supply and machine.
Volts measure the strength or pressure of the electrical current, sort of like water flow through a hose. Amps, short for "amperes," quantify the amount of current in a circuit, similar to the rate/amount of water passing through the hose.
Chances are you've heard this term in recent years. Specific rotary machines in the market demand a "start-up" capability, meaning they need a higher power output when you first switch on your power supply. (Basically, you might have the power supply on, but until you reach a certain voltage, the machine won’t start moving - it needs a “kick start.”)
Once the machine is moving, it will stabilize shortly afterward. Knowing if this is a requirement for your machine can save you valuable time and frustration while searching for a suitable power supply.
RCA Connection vs. Clip Cord
Rotary Machine using an RCA Cord.
Coil Machine using a clip cord.
Battery pack with RCA connection for rotary tattoo machines.
Pen tattoo machine with a rechargeable branded battery pack.
Your tattoo machine will need to be powered via clip cord or through an RCA connection. Coil machines use clip cords. The prongs insert into the back of the machine, and the contact with those prongs helps to conduct the electric current through the machine.
Rotary machines use an RCA connection. You can either get a cord that has an RCA connection or you can get a wireless power supply that is RCA compatible.
Pen tattoo machines will use an RCA connection, though most come with their own battery and can be charged directly, so it’ll seem like you’re charging the tattoo machine instead of a separate piece.
Tattoo Power Supply Walkthrough
For aspiring tattoo artists, understanding the purpose and operation of various equipment can be overwhelming. Here's a comprehensive guide to the settings found on your power supply:
As the name suggests, this switch turns your power supply on and off.
Use this dial to adjust the voltage output of your tattoo machine. It can be a rotating dial or digital buttons on some power supplies. We recommend digital buttons. A rotating dial can be harder to cover properly with plastic barriers while tattooing.
This feature shows the voltage output from your machine, allowing you to keep track of the voltage you're using on the power supply. It may be presented on an analog display (compass-style) or digitally (numbers on a screen).
Certain power supplies enable you to connect multiple tattoo machines. The dual switch lets you switch power between the machines as needed.
This only applies to coil tattoo machines. The duty cycle on a power supply indicates the percentage of time the machine is active, meaning how long the needle remains in contact with the skin. This occurs when the contact screw touches the front spring, completing the circuit. Many tattoo artists aim for a 50 percent duty cycle as a standard.
Make Sure You Have the Right Voltage
Tattoo power supplies usually provide a voltage range of 4 to 12 volts, catering to various tattoo machines and styles. The general principle is that higher voltage leads to faster machine performance.
However, it's crucial to consider the specific type of tattooing and the level of detail required, as speed doesn't always mean the best results. Some tattoo machines are mechanically tuned for different speeds, and through experience, you'll discover the ideal voltage for your needs.If you’re not sure where to start with your voltage, start low and then work your way up. Starting off with too high a voltage will tear up the skin. Which voltage is right for your machine will rely on your hand speed. This is why it’s important to experiment and find the voltage that works best for your unique tattooing style and preferences, as there is no “one size fits all” voltage.
What is the foot pedal for? Is it required?
The pedal serves as a switch for your power supply and is directly connected to it.
When you press the pedal, the current activates, turning on the tattoo machine. Releasing the pedal cuts the current, turning off the machine. However, it is possible for artists to tattoo without foot switches. If you opt for a wireless power supply setup, the pedal becomes unnecessary. However, if you use cables, it’s highly recommended.
Nevertheless, some tattoo artists use their tattoo machines without a pedal. In this scenario, the machine remains constantly operational, which may sometimes prove inconvenient. Ultimately, the choice depends on your personal preference. As you gain experience, you will likely discover the method that feels most comfortable and natural to you.
Our Tattoo Power Supply Reviews
Our professional tattoo artists are putting tattoo power supplies 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 power supply’s ability to deliver consistent power. (If the power supply is not consistent, it will show up in your machine’s performance through pauses or uneven movement of the needle.)
Below, you'll find our in-depth reviews, where you can find our ratings on each power supply, as well as key takeaways and whether or not we recommend the machine for new tattoo artists.