The Best Tattoo Machine For Beginners [2024 Guide]

There are a ton of tattoo machines on the market, and it can be hard to figure out which one will work best for you, especially if you’re trying to buy your first tattoo machine.

We’ve tried some of the most popular “beginner machines” ourselves and have made a list of our favorite beginner-friendly machines that keep cost, quality, and ease of use in mind. 

In this article, we’re breaking down the best tattoo machines for new artists, including:

  • Our favorite coil, pen, and rotary tattoo machines for new artists
  • Ease of use - both when setting them up and while tattooing
  • Quality and price of each tattoo machine

Pro Tip: 

Experienced artists do not use the term “tattoo gun.” Referring to tattoo machines as “tattoo guns” will point you out as a new artist.

Our Top Pick: The Inkjecta Flite Nano Lite Rotary Tattoo Machine

A bit more expensive than most beginner options, this is a great machine for people who know they want to become a professional tattoo artist in the next few years.
rotary tattoo machine with semi rigid tattoo needle bar

*At the time of publishing, the price was $494.99.

Precision of a Rotary with the “Give” of a Coil Tattoo Machine

Most of the time, rotary machines have a “direct drive,” which means if you go a little too deep into the skin, the machine won’t back off at all. But this Inkjecta uses a semi rigid needle bar, so it’ll bend just a bit and give you that little bit of room for error like a coil machine would.

Other Reasons Our Professional Artists Love It

  • The body of this machine is ultra-light.
  • Easy to tell which type of cam you’re using because it’s clearly listed on the top of the wheel.
  • Almost no noise

In our opinion, it’s worth the investment for people looking to go pro.

Extra Purchases Needed

cam wheels for rotary tattoo machines
grips for tattoo machines
  • Different stroke cam wheels
  • Power supply (wireless battery recommended)
  • Disposable grips and tattoo needles

Our Score

Our Score

9.0/10

GOOD

Price: $494 (8/10)

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High quality tattoo machine and is much cheaper than its competitors, which can cost over $1000.

Quality (10/10)

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No tuning required, but you still get the margin of error most coils have with the semi-rigid needle bars.

Handling (10/10)

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 The Inkjecta is easy to set up and you can quickly change the stroke.

Best Budget Pick: The Dragonhawk Mast Tour Pen

A long-lasting and easy-to-use option that won’t break the bank.

pen / rotary tattoo machine

Made in the USA, this wireless tattoo machine is an easy “plug-and-play” option.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $143.00.

A Rotary Machine in an Easy-to-Handle Pen Casing

The Dragonhawk Mast Tour Pen has a direct drive system (like most rotary machines), which means you never have to tune it. You will, however, need to be mindful of your depth control since direct drive systems have no “give” or “bounce” against the skin.

It has a set 3.5mm stroke, so you can still do line work, packing, and shading, even if you aren’t ready to invest in multiple machines.

Note:

The motor in this machine is not very powerful, so you’ll want to stick to smaller needle groupings, like 3 and 7 Round Liners.

The Best Choice for Complete Beginners: No Knowledge of Tattoo Machines Necessary

This pen’s super-simple setup means you don’t need to know much about how tattoo machines work to start using it. You just twist the grip to change the needle depth and use the button at the top of the machine to change voltage.

Note:

Twisting the grip makes it easy to change the depth on accident if the machine twists in your hand.

Lightweight Tattoo Machine with Long Battery Life

The Dragonhawk Mast Tour Pen is also the perfect weight: heavy enough that you can pull steady lines and light enough that your hand won’t grow tired while packing ink

Our Score

Our Score

8.0/10

GOOD

Price: $143 (9/10)

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The lower price point makes this machine accessible to new tattooers on a budget.

Quality (7/10)

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Machine maintains consistent voltage, doesn’t heat up, and has a soft hit. It can’t handle higher voltages (the motor is very loud above 8 volts).

Handling (6/10)

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Good for linework but it does not have enough power or adjustable stroke for larger needles. 

Runner-Up: The EZ P3 Pro Tattoo Machine

This machine is easy to use, but a little lighter and more expensive.

rotary tattoo machine for a new tattoo artist

We wouldn’t recommend this machine for artists looking to get into American Traditional, but it works well for people looking to get into black and gray.

Buy it for $249.00 from EZ Tattoo Supply

*At the time of publishing, the price was $249.00.

Adjustable Machine

This machine from EZ Tattoo Supply lets you easily adjust your stroke length; ranging from 2.0 to 4.2. This lets you take on a variety of styles, whether you need to layer soft shades or do linework.

You can also change the needle depth. This is important when learning to “float the needle” for better visibility while tattooing linework.

Precision Motor

The heart of the EZ P3 Pro is its precision motor, providing consistent and smooth operation. However, while the motor runs quietly, it is not powerful enough to push thick liners. This makes it a good option for artists looking to specialize in black and gray, but it’s not ideal for artists who are interested in American Traditional or Neo Traditional.

User-Friendly Interface

The intuitive controls and straightforward setup of the EZ P3 make it accessible to artists who are new to the craft. The user-friendly interface minimizes the learning curve, making it easier to “plug and play.”

Our Score

Our Score

8.0/10

GOOD

Price: $249 (8/10)

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The EZ P3 is a budget-friendly machine. It’s a more cost effective option than many of the $1K+ machines on the market.

This machine is best for those first starting out. It’s ideal for black and gray tattooing.

Quality (10/10)

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The EZ P3 is good quality for the money. Its motor isn’t as strong as a professional-grade machine, but it can push small liners.

Handling (8/10)

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The EZ P3 is easy to operate, and you can easily change the depth and stroke. It is compatible with most cartridge brands.

The Upgrade: Bishop Wand

These are our top choice for busy professional tattoo artists. 

Buy the Bishop Wand for $799.99* from Kingpin Tattoo Supply

*At the time of publishing, the price was $799.99

Professional Grade Tattoo Machines

The Bishop Wand tattoo machines are professional-level machines. You can buy any (or all three) of the versions they have. You can rely on them to last longterm due to their high-quality construction.

They have an RCA cord connection, meaning you can use it with an RCA cord and power supply or wireless tattoo batteries.

Specialized Machines

For the Bishop Wand, you can pick which version works best for you: Liner (5.0mm stroke), Shader (3.5mm stroke), or Packer (4.2mm stroke).

The Liner machine has a very hard hit, giving you plenty of power for thick, bold lines. The Packer is a good middle machine. If you’re going to pick just one tattoo machine from the set, we recommend going with the packer.

The Shader machine can be used to get super smooth shades.

These are some of the top tattoo machines are the market. Many professional artists will buy different tattoo machines so that they have one set up for each job.

Disposable Grips

Most tattoo machines found in a beginner tattoo kit do not have the option for disposable grips. The Bishop Wands offer that option, which is important for beginner tattoo artists when they make the jump to tattooing real skin, as well as to experienced tattoo artists who don’t want to have to deal with an autoclave.

Our Score

Our Score

8.0/10

GOOD

Price: $799.99 (3/10)

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This is a higher-priced tattoo machine. However, it is aimed more toward professionals.

Quality (10/10)

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The machine is easy to use, and is made of high quality materials meant to last for long tattooing sessions, day after day.

Handling (10/10)

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The Bishop Wands have options for every type of tattoo style. The Liner comes with plenty of power even for thick lines.

Why You Can Trust Our Picks

Tattooing 101’s instructors (the people who created this list) have a combined 40+ years of tattooing under our belts...and we’ve tried out our fair share of machines. Having been beginners ourselves and now teaching thousands of students at the beginning of their own journeys, we know what features beginners need. 
In short, we’ve tried the cheap machines and have seen what the big-price-tag guys can do. Now, we’re finding the happy medium of reliable machines that don’t drain your bank account.

When You Should Buy a Beginner Tattoo Machine

Odds are, if you’re here, you’ve been interested in tattooing for a while. If you’re ready to take the plunge, then we recommend a beginner machine because they’re budget-friendly while you’re still getting your footing as an artist. 

Of course, you should always spend plenty of time drawing, painting, and practicing on fake skins first (our favorite is ReelSkin) before tattooing anyone - even yourself. 

Note:

It is illegal in most areas to tattoo on human skin without having a BBP (blood-borne pathogen) certification.

How We Picked Our Top Choice

1

Price

We know that the best tattoo machine for a new artist is one that is high-quality, but affordable. If you’re just starting out, you don’t need to break the bank with a super-expensive machine.

2

Quality

It’s hard to tell from a picture what you’re really getting when you order a tattoo machine. So, we looked at online reviews to see which were the most popular and got a closer look ourselves. 

3

Handling

After considering quality and price, our lead instructor Nathan took each of our top picks for a test drive to find the top three recommendations (plus our “Upgrade” recommendation, the Inkjecta). 

Frequently Asked Questions

I heard I should have two machines. Is that true?

Yes...and no. Most tattoo artists use 2-3 machines: one for lining, packing, and shading. These different functions usually call for different strokes. While some machines allow you to adjust back and forth, it can take a while, which ends up wasting a lot of time, especially for busy artists. Having multiple machines ready to go with the right stroke for each job makes the tattooing process more seamless.

If you’re very, very new to tattooing, go with one machine. If you fall in love with the craft and know you want to continue, great! That’s the time to purchase another machine and make that investment in your career.

What is the best style of tattoo machine for new tattoo artists?

Rotary machine. There are a few different types of tattoo machines, but the main two are rotary and coil machines. Rotary machines are newer, lighter, and quieter. However, because most of them move the needle using a direct drive system instead of having the needle “bounce” off a spring, rotary machines don’t offer much “give.” 

In contrast, the armature bar on a coil machine will flex backward on the spring so it doesn’t hack into the skin. This gives you a small margin of error when you go too deep in the skin. However, coil machines are much heavier and need to be broken down and rebuilt regularly.

Note:

Pen machines are a style of rotary machine.

Should I buy a complete tattoo kit instead of just the machine?

complete tattoo kit with tattoo machines and tattoo ink
tattoo kit with rotary tattoo machine and power supply

If you don’t have other tattoo equipment already, buy the kit. Tattoo kits are a great way to get started if you have no tattooing equipment. You’ll get everything you need to go ahead and try it out, and you don’t have to worry about tracking down additional equipment.

If you want to look at our favorites, check out our vote for The Best Beginner Tattoo Kit.

However, tattoo kits tend to come with pretty cheap materials. We do not recommend using tattoo ink from kits on actual people (even if it says it's safe for human skin). Also, the fake skins are usually too thin to get great practice with. (We recommend using ReelSkin instead if you purchase a kit.)

How do I use a tattoo machine?

Glad you asked! We’ve compiled several Tattoo Artist Guides to help you figure out how to pick tattoo needles, which machine stroke you should use, and more!

Learn to Master Tattooing

student tattoos
Getting the right tattoo machine is only the first step on your journey to becoming a tattoo artist. Next, you need to learn how to use it to tattoo perfect lines and do smooth shading.

There’s a ton of information out there that promises to teach you to tattoo, but a lot of it is outdated or incorrect. This is why most tattoo artists trying to learn online pick up bad habits that can take years to unlearn. 

If you want to learn how to tattoo correctly, you can still do it online and at your own pace. All you need is some guidance from professional tattoo artists to make sure you’re learning the right way.

We created the Artist Accelerator Program to give aspiring artists the information they need to progress in their careers without spending their first few years developing bad habits. Instead, the Artist Accelerator breaks down all the lessons and techniques you need into an easy-to-follow roadmap that you can complete in as little as 90 days.
You’ll learn the skills tattoo artists use every day, get personalized guidance from professionals, and put together a portfolio that gets you hired. 
Skip the years of trial and error and start building a career you love today.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
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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