Tattoo Artist Must Haves: Everything You Need to Start Tattooing

As a new tattoo artist, you’ll build up your tattooing setup overtime. However, it’s much easier to find good products when you have help from more experienced artists. 

To help, our tattooing instructor, Brandon, put together a list of all his favorite recommendations for new artists so you can find the quality products you need to get started.

In this article, we’ll break down:

  • Products you need to keep your station safe and sterile
  • Favorite tattoo machines and accessories
  • Odds and ends every artist needs while working

Nothing is worse than sitting down to practice tattooing and realizing you’re missing an important part of your setup. Here’s everything you need to start tattooing immediately:

While tattooing, you need to keep everything sterile and clean. This is the most important part of tattooing, because cross contamination of your tattooing setup could lead to infection and issues with bloodborne pathogens.

If you are starting on fake skin, you don't necessarily need to get everything on this list right away to practice. However, we recommend acting like every tattoo on fake skin is for a real client so you can form good habits when it comes to sanitation.

MadaCide and CaviCide

These are the chemicals needed to sterilize your station. They will not sterilize your tubes, grips, etc. You need to go through an autoclave process with those unless you're using disposables. 

Most tattoo shops use disposables because it’s much easier than having to clean your tubes and run them through an autoclave.


Gloves are super important. Lots of tattoo artists like to use the black ones just because it does not show all the blood, plasma, and ink. However, wearing lighter colors (like light blue) can make it easier to tell if there’s a rip in your gloves so you can switch them out.

Clip Cord Covers

Clip cord covers are thin, super long sleeves you can use to protect your clip cords and make sure you're keeping them clean and sterile. 

You could also use these on pen style machines. Just slip it over and wrap it up with sports wrap (grip tape).  


Just using a clip cover and sports wrap is not sterile. The sports wrap is only for comfort. It does not protect your machine from bloodborne pathogens.

Barrier Film

You can put barrier film over your machine, power supply, etc. It sticks very well, and you can kind of stretch it out a little bit.


Some people use spray bottles, but most use squeeze bottles.

We recommend labeling your bottles - you don't want to spray alcohol on a fresh tattoo when you thought it was soap.

Bottle Bags

Bottle bags slide over your bottles to keep them clean and sterile. You can tattoo without having to get blood and plasma over your bottle.

Plastic Wrap

You'll need to put plastic wrap all over your station, wrap it around your armrest, your tray, etc. You can use barrier tape as well to secure the plastic wrap. 

Some artists use other things like dental bibs. However, plastic wrap makes it easier to cover the whole area without worrying that anything is going to get through.

Your machine is the most important part of your setup. Understanding which accessories you need with each type of machine will help you make sure you’re prepared to tattoo correctly.

Power Supply

Your power supply is where you connect your clip cord and foot pedal. Some people don’t use foot pedals. For many power supplies, you can just hit a button to turn it on if you don’t have a foot pedal. 

We recommend going with a power supply that has a digital readout. You can clearly see what speed you’re running your machine on, as well as the voltage.

Clip Cord

If you're using a traditional machine, you need a clip cord to connect it to the power supply. If you’re using a rotary machine, you’ll need an RCA cord if you're using a rotary machine. Some machines will run on a different type of jack that you get with the machine when you buy it.

Machine Styles

There's a ton of different machines out there: traditional, rotary, pen style machines, and wireless pens, etc.  

Some wireless machines can be kind of tricky to learn on because there isn't always a visible voltage readout. You have to go by what your machine sounds like.

Our favorite machine is the Inkjecta. You will get disposable grips to go along with your cartridges. They are sterile and come prepackaged. (If the packaging is ripped at all do not use the grip. It is no longer sterile).

When opening disposable grips, you should always wear gloves. Your cartridge will slide into the grip and tighten down. Disposable grips are single use and should be properly disposed of after each tattoo.

Needle Bars vs. Cartridges

We prefer cartridges over needle bars. There are so many different brands of cartridges out there. Every cartridge should list the needle size, the date it was sterilized, and the expiration date on the back.

When it comes to ink brands, you kind of have to test out to see which one that you like the most. Some popular brands include Fusion, Eternal, and Solid. 

You definitely want to get a lining black (our favorite is Dynamic) and then your colors, if you are doing color. If you're just starting out with black and gray, you could just start out with that and move on from there. 


There are lots of little things that people forget that you need to tattoo. Make sure to grab these extras:

Transfer Paper

This is how you will make your stencil. You could use this with a stencil machine, Thermofax machine, or you could use just a pen and trace over your design to make the stencil. We recommend the Spirit brand transfer paper.

Stencil Primer

Your stencil primer is how you get the stencil onto the skin. We like Green Gold because it’s a bit thicker, however, there’s a lot of different brands to choose from. Stencil Stuff is another popular brand among tattoo artists.


You want to make sure that you shave the area where the tattoo will be - as well as around that area. You don't want hair around your tattoo - especially when you go to take a picture.

Isopropyl Alcohol

Before you do use the razors, you want to make sure that you clean the area with Isopropyl alcohol. You can put it in a spray bottle, spray everything down, then shave the area.

Paper Towels

There's a ton of paper towels out there and they are not created equally. Some paper towels are super thin and they'll rip when you're tattooing. You’ll want to get thick paper towels that aren’t so heavy that they’ll traumatize the skin.

Ink Caps

Ink caps come in huge bags, and there’s a few different sizes. You want to make sure that you're getting a size that will hold your needle. With liners, you could use a small one. However, if you're using different size mags, you want to make sure that they will fit inside your cap. You don’t want to go dip your needle and have it hit the side, because you’ll have to replace your needle in case it leaves a barb.  


To use for your tattoo and to kind of hold down your ink caps, there's a couple different things you could use: A&D, Vaseline, Purple Glide, or Green Glide. You put this down on top of your stencil. It makes it cleaner and easier to pull the ink off the skin. 

Rinse Cups

You'll dip your needle into this, which will clean it off. 

Distilled Water

Whenever you are filling your rinse cups, use distilled water. You do not want to use tap water or even bottled water - all those things contain minerals. Distilled water goes through a process to make it as clean as possible. It is not sterile because of the bottling process, but it is your best option to use with tattooing.

We recommend Reel Skin. This way, you don't have to start on people while you’re still getting the fundamentals down.

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

Stocking up on tattooing supplies is an exciting step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

However, finding the straight-forward information you need to progress is difficult. And with so much out there online, it’s hard to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.

This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to start tattooing full time faster…

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

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
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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