CNC Q2 Tattoo Machine Review

Offering more power than the average beginner tattoo machine, the Dragonhawk Mast Archer Wireless Rotary is a great choice for new artists on a budget.

*at time of publishing

This machine is so light, it feels like you’re tattooing with a pencil. It’s a step up from most beginner machines and is perfect for artists interested in black and gray and realism.

Video Transcription: CNC Q2 Tattoo Machine Review

Hey guys, how's it going? It's Nathan from tattooing101.com, and today we're going to be taking a look at the CNC Q2 tattoo pen kit from CNC tattoo supply. Now, straight out the gate, the CNC Q2 tattoo machine is a little bit further up the shelf in terms of price. This is going to set you back 240 bucks, but there's a lot of things that I really like about this kit that we'll get into just a sec that definitely, I think makes it a strong contender.

So, let's just open it up and take a look inside. Now, straight away, you can see that there's not a ton of stuff in this, right? They give you basically just what you need and nothing else. So, with a lot of these cheaper tattoo kits, one of the things they use to kind of draw people in is making it look like you're getting heaps of stuff.

You know, like I'll give you a foot pedal, I'll give you a clip cord. They'll give you needles, inks, gloves, steel grips, disposable grips - all this extra stuff. Now, the reality is that most of that stuff is going to last for a couple tattoos before it breaks or it's not going to be suitable for tattooing actual people as a tattoo artist. Whereas this tattoo kit pretty much gives you, you know, it's meant for being used on actual human skin.

So, with that in mind, that they've kind of given you just what you need, they've stripped everything else out. So, the first thing that they've got is the pen machine bags. So, this is really cool. In a lot of the cheaper kits, it will just give you one clip cord sleeve. So obviously that you kind of indicating, you know, just use this on practice skin.

But because a lot of professional tattoo artists do use these, these are suitable for people. So, with that in mind, they giving you enough clip cord sleeves to do more than just one tattoo, right? So, you can keep it, you know, nice and hygienic.

This will only cover the machine though by the look of it, not the actual clip cord sleeve, so I’m not a huge fan of that. It'll have to use a clip cord sleeve that I've got, but it's good. They're at least, you know, they give you a bunch of machine bags for multiple tattoos. But if you are using a clip cord, not a battery, then yeah. You'll have to get an additional clip cord sleeve in order to be hygienic.

So that's the machine bags next up, we've got the needles.

The cool thing about the needles with this kit is that they let you choose the needles that you want. So when you purchase the kit on the site, it has three boxes of needles, and there's like a little dropdown menu, and you can just choose what types of needles you want, which is really good because everyone tattoos differently, everyone uses different stuff. If you're doing traditional pieces, obviously you're going to need thicker needle groupings, 14 liner and up, and you you're going to want 12-gauge mags to do that kind of pepper shading. Whereas if you do realistic black and gray, you're going to want 10-gauge curved mags, things like that.

So, these needles are called Quelle premium cartridges. I've never used these things before, so I'm kind of keen to see how they go. I like the cool little image on the packet, which is awesome, but yeah, we'll see how those needles go.

And then finally, they've got the actual machine itself, right. Straight away when you open it, it looks kind of classy. It's like in this cool little pouch, and they've got this nice foam cut-out in the box. And when you look at the machine though, I was actually really surprised when I first opened this, because this is, you know, potentially the smallest machine I've ever used from memory. It’s really light, it's only 108 grams. And, you know, it comes with a 3.5 millimeter stroke, but it is adjustable.

It comes in a 3-millimeter stroke as well. So if you want to do real soft, black and gray stuff, you can change it. It also comes with 3.5, which is a bit of an all-rounder. You can do lining pack and shading with that. I think that on the site they also sell four millimeter strokes. So if you want to do some thicker liner needle groupings, then you can check that out too.

The, the first thing like about this machine as well is that when you adjust the depth, you click the grip. Now a lot of cheaper machines will have a similar kind of mechanism, but instead of having it click and set, it'll just be kind of rotating back and forth and nothing will hold it in place.

So you'll, you'll set the depth right now, put your clip, cord sleeve over it. And then when you start tattooing, if you kind of turn your arm a bit or you have to adjust your machine, or change angles and stuff like that - it can actually change the depth of the machine because the depth mechanism is just floating back and forth. It just rotates. There's no clicking, there's no way to lock in, whereas the CNC Q2 locks in.

So even when it twists, it's super sturdy. That’s not gonna change depth unless I want it to, which is awesome. As well, the top it unscrews. So, the grip can be sterilized. It’s also got an O-ring to prevent ink flow coming back in the machine, which is cool. Most people I'm assuming watching this video won't have an autoclave, but just for future reference.

When you do get into a shop, you know, this is a machine that you can use, not only when you're learning, but also when you start tattooing professionally too. A lot of professional tattooers do usethe CNC machines. So they're quite a reputable brand for tattooing machines.

They're a lot more widely used in the Dragon Hawk and the Wormhole type stuff also as well. I’ll put all the specs in the description, so you can check it out beneath this video, but, it says that it's got a Faulhabor motor. I'm not sure how to pronounce that, but it's like a German motor that a lot of the high end machines also have. So that's really good.

Now it does say that the operating voltage is between 5.5 and nine volts. So straight out of the gate, this is, you know, definitely more of a shader machine - even says in the name- the Q2 is a professional shader machine. So I guess this machine’s kind of more aimed at realistic sort of pieces, like soft black and gray, things like that. But, you know, we'll give it a whirl. We'll see how it goes with liners as well because not everyone does realism. We’ll try it out with lining, packing and shading and see how it goes.

So it comes with a little instruction manual, which is always good. Yeah, of course it basically shows you how the whole machine works and yeah, cool little manual to come with it, which is great.

If you're not super savvy with this type of stuff, and this is all new to then you'll definitely want to check that out. Cool. And it also says don't go over nine volts with the machine, which is important to note. Otherwise, it looks like it'll kind of burn out, so we'll keep it on nice light volts and see how we do. And it also comes with a RCA clip cord that you can attach to whatever power supply you got.

So there’s a lot of stuff that doesn't come with this kit, you know, it doesn't give you inks. It doesn't give you ink caps. It doesn't give you a power supply. It doesn't give you a foot pedal or anything like that. But you know, it kind of gives you sort of the main things that you need to tattoo.

So when, when you do buy this, there are going to be some additional stuff that you're gonna have to buy like a power supply, a foot pedal if you use one, wash bottles, things like that. So it doesn't give you everything. So that's a little bit, it'd be cool to add more stuff in it, but you know, they've tried to keep the price down as much as they can while still giving you an awesome machine that's used by professionals. So, with that out of the way, we're gonna pack this all up. We're gonna set up a tattoo, we're gonna give it a run, see how it goes. And I'm gonna give you my thoughts on how it handles, how it lines packs and shades and towards the end, we’ll have a look at the tattoo that it’s been able to, and I’ll give you my recommendation of whether or not I reckon you should get it.

I’ll leave a link down below so if you wanna check it on the website, you can . With that set, let's get into it.

All right. So I’ve got the CNC Q2 machine wrapped up. Now there's quite a few things that this kit doesn't come with. It’s literally just the machine, the pencil sleeve, the needles, and then the additional stroke bar. And that's it. So we've had to just use some Intenze tattoo inks and some dynamic black. So, we're using an ink that doesn't come with the kit and I'm also using a critical power supply that does not come with the kit, but, you know, we kind of need one to run it anyway. Let's see how it goes.

We'll just do the line work first and then we have to keep it below nine volts. It says in the manual do not run this machine over nine volt. That's probably cause it's a shading machine, but yeah, we'll see how goes with anyway.

Straight away, I like this machine, it barely vibrates at all. It's super light and it feels almost just like you're tattooing with a pencil. So I feel like I've got like a ton of control when I'm using it. It's not awkward at all, which would be awesome for someone that's just starting out.

Cool. So I've done a couple lines, and so far I'm really digging it. It feels like it's really delicate. You know, it doesn't vibrate really much and it's kind of easy to keep it steady along the line, which is really cool. I also like that the needles that they give you with the kit is that it tells you the gauge and what size the needle is on the tip of the cartridge. Not of them do that, which is actually really good. Also, the spring in the cartridge doesn't have a ton of resistance. Some cartridges have a ton of resistance in the spring and needs like a, like a lot of extra power to kind of push them, but these ones are actually pretty nice. So yeah, so far everything's looking good.

All right, cool. So we finished the line work and as it turned out really good and I'm pretty excited about this machine for a couple reasons, right? So not only is it super comfortable, the feels just like, you know, I'm tattooing with a pencil and because of little grooves that it's got on the side of the grip, if you kind of slide your fingers in, in those grooves, it just kinda feels like it makes the machine a lot more stable. And on top of that, it's actually really easy to change the depth when it has a sleeve on it. So a lot of the cheaper machines don't have a locking mechanism when you twist the grip to change depth. But because this one does, you can just keep twisting it and then kind of coming back.

And then when you come back, it's not gonna, um, make it shallow again. It's just gonna keep, it's just gonna keep clicking and clicking, changing the depth, which is really good. The needles are awesome. I opened one just before and they do have a membrane in them, which is really good for hygiene. You always want to use needles to have a membrane, so that's cool. And yeah, as I said before, the spring on the edge of the needles, it's not, you know, super resistant, um, which is great. It doesn't put additional stress on the machine, which is cool, and it doesn't vibrate. You can hold this machine, and it’s so easy to hold it nice, steady, and straight. It makes it a lot easier to do line work and the stroke is interchangeable as well.

So right now, I'm using a 3.5mm stroke, but you can get a four, which would make it even better for lining. You can stick out that needles far enough to float the needle on a nine liner, which is really good. But yeah, anything higher than a nine, I wouldn't really want to use unless I was using a longer stroke. Yeah. The other thing that I'm not liking so far is that it doesn't come with clip cord sleeves. It does come with pen sleeves, which is cool, but you know, for hygiene, you always want to have sleeves for your clip cord here. The other downside is that it doesn't give you everything you need. You know, it is quite a more expensive kit, especially than the really cheap ones. This is probably close to top of the range for actual kits.

When you start getting like the really expensive machines, they don't come into kits or anything like that. But yeah, so far this, this feels like the best machine that I've used out of all the kits that I've reviewed for linework, which is great. I just love that it feels so soft and it's so light, it makes it just kind of really easy to get nice sharp, clean lines. So yeah, so far so good, even though it's meant to be a shader, I like it for line work.

We're gonna put some blacks in now and see how that goes and actually use it what it's meant for which is shading. So we pop at the 10-gauge 11 mag in, and we've reduced to six volts for shading.

All right. So we just finished the design, all the colors been put in, looks like there's still a little bit of the carbon left, since I left the stencil on overnight. So it's pretty much impossible to wipe off at this point.

So my thoughts on the CNC Q2 kit: I really liked that this machine is super beginner friendly. It barely vibrates. It feels like I'm tattooing with a pencil and, you know, it's really comfortable to grip. It is an awesome transition from just drawing on paper to, you know, drawing on skin, because it's so similar to how that feels. It’s obviously more of a shader, since it says that on the site, but it can still do lines.

I was using a nine lineout this whole tattoo. I probably wouldn't go as high as a nine. Again, if I were to use it one more time, I wouldn't go much higher a seven.

I think it's a good machine in terms of price. I'd give it a six. It's a little bit more expensive than the other kits, but you know, you get what you pay for. The quality is a lot higher. In terms of quality, I'd probably give it an eight. It felt really good. The machine feels sturdy, the needles were great quality. The needle carts have the gauge and the number of barbs on the needles. So that's really helpful.

They came with some clip cord sleeves, which is good. The only thing I didn't like is that they don't cover the full clip cord. They only cover, you know, the pen, and not everyone has a wireless battery pack. So that's something to think about.

It didn’t come with inks, foot pedals or power suppliers or stuff like that. But it's kind what everything that they did have in the kit was super good quality, you know? So I would actually use this machine on someone's skin. I'll take this into a shop and tattoo with it.

So, in terms of handling, it was okay for a line. I didn't like it a whole lot. It is a direct drive machine. So if you accidentally push too hard, it's just gonna chew out the skin a whole bunch, which happens a lot when you’re new.

In terms of shading, I found that it hit really soft for shading and it was really good. I turned the volts right down when I was doing the blacks for the tattoo, and I was able to get kind of really nice, smooth peppery shades. And then terms of the color, I didn’t have much trouble getting the color in either, you know, just kept my ovals nice. I had it on seven volts while I was packing the color, not great for a lining. This is definitely more for doing black and gray realism or color realism or something like that. I wouldn't be doing neotraditional with it.

You can't turn the volts up past nine. So, you know, when you are using a 14 liner or a 23 mag, you need those higher volts for those larger needle group.

Otherwise, you've gotta take it really slowly and it can add hours and hours to the tattoo. So yeah, in terms of handling, I give it a seven. I love the way that it shaded and packed color. It even put the highlights in really nice. I wouldn’t really use it for lines, it's way better at shading and packing color. It is very light and the design of the machine's really good as well. It’s super easy to clean. There's no kind of like parts on the machine where bits of ink and stuff are gonna get stuck somewhere you can't reach. You can unscrew the top part and chuck that an autoclave, if you need to, and you can change the stroke and changing the stroke is actually really easy to do.

I don’t like the CNC WE machine where it's got the disc on it, where you have to put it a couple millimeters from like the motor. Because if you misjudge, that changes the stroke length.

I definitely highly recommend getting this machine. If you are new, I wouldn't normally recommend like many tattoo kits for just starting out this, but this is a kit that you could get when you were starting out and you could use all the way up until, you know, practicing the fake skin and then getting onto actual clients and tattooing with this thing every day. So a hundred percent would recommend checking it out and grabbing it. I will leave a link to just down below this video where you can check it out on their website. If you want to have another look at it or purchase it. All in all, it’s a solid machine. Thanks for watching guys. I'll see you in the next review.

Our Score

7.0/10

GOOD

Price: $260 (6/10)

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This is a higher-priced kit. However, it is aimed more toward professionals and has a higher-quality machine.

Quality (8/10)

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The machine is sturdy, easy to use, and comes with high-quality needles. You could use this machine on real skin and get good results.

Handling (7/10)

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The CNC Q2 is a shader machine, and has a soft hit for smooth shading. However, because you can’t put the volts up past 9, it’s difficult to line with. It is also a direct drive machine which can make it easier to chew out the skin by accident.

PROS:

  • Super small and light.
  • Order the machine with a 3, 3.5, or 4mm stroke.
  • Click-grip action makes it easy to maintain correct needle depth.

CONS:

  • This is technically a “kit,” but it does not come with a power supply, ink, etc.
  • Operating voltage cannot go above 9.

Product Details

Weight

108g

Stroke

3.5mm (interchangeable stroke)

Motor

Direct Drive, Precision Faulhaber

Voltage

5.5-9V

Speed

40Hz-160Hz

Length

95mm

Connection

3.5mm jack

Power Intake 

2w

Product Details

Weight

108g

Stroke

3.5mm (interchangeable stroke)

Motor

Direct Drive, Precision Faulhaber

Voltage

5.5-9V

Speed

40Hz-160Hz

Diameter

95mm

Connection

3.5mm jack

Power Intake

2w

CNC Q2 Rotary Tattoo Machine - Our Review:

Possibly the tiniest machine we’ve come across so far, the CNC Q2 is a rotary machine designed for soft shading and color packing.

Because this is a kit, it also comes with clip cord covers, an RCA cord, and three boxes of needles. You can personalize your kit by picking which needles you like while you’re shopping. However, because this is a shader machine and you can only run it at 9 volts max, we wouldn’t recommend going any bigger than a 12-gauge 7 liner for line work.

Professional-Grade Machine

One of the great things about the CNC Q2 is that it’s suitable for new and professional tattoo artists. A lot of the machines in beginner tattoo kits are very cheap, and they’re not reliable enough to use on real people. This machine, however, could easily transfer from practicing on fake skin to working on actual clients in a tattoo shop.

tattoo artist reviewing cnc tattoo machines with a german faulhaber motor on a youtube channel

That being said, the fact that this tattoo kit is for professionals is exactly why it doesn’t come with many bells and whistles.

Most of the cheaper kits try to lure new artists by including inks, fake skins, a power supply, foot pedal, colorful grips, etc. While that can help introduce you to what you need as a beginner, professional artists will already have their favorite inks, a higher quality power supply, and all the other extras they need. So, this kit only gives you the bare essentials to keep costs down.

Not a Great Liner

CNC clearly labels the CNC Q2 as a “shader tattoo machine” for a reason. While it’s perfect for getting smooth and peppery shades, it’s not great for lining. You can’t set the voltage above a 9, and while you can get a 4mm cam wheel (preferred for lining), it’ll be hard to use liners above a 7 round liner with that voltage limitation.

This is where a danger pops up for newer tattoo artists using this machine: if you’re having a hard time getting lines in, it might be tempting to push down harder. However, this machine has a direct drive motor, which means it has no “give” to it. If you don’t control the needle depth perfectly, it’ll be very easy to chew out the skin or even cause blowouts.

Well-Designed Machine with Tattoo Artists in Mind

rotary tattoo machine tattooing at its max operating voltage

The CNC Q2 is designed to make things easier for you as the artist.

It has a “click” grip, which means you won’t accidentally change the depth if you twist or turn while working (this is a big problem for cheaper machines that rotate but have no way to “lock” the grip in place). 

The grip also has grooves in it that are perfectly finger-sized, which makes it really easy to hold the machine.

The grip easily comes off (perfect if you’re in a shop with an autoclave), and it has an O-ring inside to prevent ink backflow, which makes it easier for you to keep things hygienic for your clients. Additionally, the Quelle needles that come with the kit have membranes, also preventing backflow of ink.

Who the CNC Q2 Is (and Isn’t) For:

The CNC Q2 is a professional grade machine that’s also beginner-friendly, making it a great choice for artists at all stages in their tattooing journey. It doesn’t vibrate, and it’s super light.

However, it’s better suited to black and grey shading or realism. We wouldn’t recommend this machine to people who want to specialize in traditional or neotrad, since those tattoo styles require a lot of solid lining.

Get the CNC Q2 Tattoo Machine

short pen tattoo machine
rotary tattoo machine showing mechanical wear
rotary tattoo machine with an rca cord connection

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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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