What Tattoo Equipment to Use

As a new tattoo artist, the amount of equipment out there can be overwhelming. 

However, without the right equipment, you could be holding yourself back. This can make the learning process way longer.

That’s why Brandon will explain:

  • Which brands he recommends
  • Advice about buying tattoo equipment
  • How to tell when it’s time to upgrade your setup

Tattooing has changed tremendously in the last 5-10 years. New machines are constantly coming out, especially when it comes to wireless machines.

Q: Which Tattoo Machines Do You Use?

Brandon: I started out with a traditional machine. They're just a ton of work to upkeep, learning how to tune them correctly could take a long time.

As soon as rotaries came out, I transitioned into that. The first rotary I used was a regular Bishop machine; it hit like a jackhammer. They have great machines now, like their wands, but I didn't like that machine back then. 

I then switched over to a Spektra Edge X, which was a great machine. 

However, the machine that really changed the way that I tattoo would be the Inkjecta. I loved that I could change the stroke and needle bar on it. It's just a great, well-rounded machine. I actually have two of them that I use for different things. 

I’ve set up one with a light bar on it, so it has some give to it. I use that for black and gray, and this is also set up at a three millimeter stroke. 

I have a second Inkjecta with the hard bar on it, and it’s set up at a four millimeter stroke. I use that for my thick lines and my color packing.

Q: What Do You Think About Pen Machines?

Brandon: Pen style machines are very new. I have a Cheyenne SOL Nova Unlimited. I actually used a Cheyenne SOL Nova for a very long time, but it does require a power supply. 

The Cheyenne also has a setting on it so it has a little bit of give, which is nice because most pen style machines have a direct drive motor that can traumatize the skin. 

The only downside of the Cheyenne is that there's no numbers to know the exact voltage you're using, which makes it tricky to try to learn on one of these. I would definitely recommend something that has a volt meter on it.

Power Supplies

Q: Which Power Supply Do You Use?

Brandon: I started out with a power supply off eBay, and eventually got this one, the critical Atom X. I really liked it, but I wanted something that had a little bit more to give if I wanted to use a foot pedal with it. So, I ended up going with the critical CX-2R. I love this power supply, and I've had it for a really long time. I've traveled with this, and it's always just held up.

Q: Which Ink Brand is Your Favorite?

Brandon: When I first started out, the first ink I actually used was Eternal. It worked really great for me. With that being said, I definitely recommend three different brands: Eternal, Fusion, and Solid Ink. These are the ones that I've used very extensively.

I switched over from Eternal to Fusion, and about two years ago, I got to try out some Solid Ink. For the way I tattoo, that is the best ink for me. The colors stay super-saturated, and the healing is so bright.

Q: Which Brand Do You Recommend for Other Artists?

Brandon: There’s no one ink that will work for everyone, because everyone tattoos differently. Artists have to try out different brands and see what works for them.

Q: Which Cartridges Do You Use?

Brandon: I like T-Tech cartridges. They are not from the United States, so it takes a little bit for them to get here with shipping. 

Another great brand that I love and use all the time would be Kwadron. Their liners are great. 

The next ones would be Black Claw cartridges. They have some great traditional liners that go in the skin super thick. However, they are a little bit more expensive, so if you are first starting out practicing on fake skins, you probably don't want to go that method until you jump onto actual human skin. 

If you are working on fake skins, Prime+ Flex Cartridges from Kingpin are a little cheaper and work really well. I get them in 14 round liners, 18 round liners, and 7 round liners. 

I've also tried Cheyenne Cartridges. They're just not really set up for the way that I tattoo.

Q: Do Cartridges Fit in Every Machine?

Brandon: Most cartridges are compatible with most machines. 

However, if you are using a pen style tattoo machine, you want to make sure that you are getting the cartridges that have the filament that stop backflow into your machine. Ink and blood getting into your machine will ruin it completely.

Miscellaneous

Q: Are There Any Other Important Pieces of Equipment?

Brandon: You’ll need bottle bags, Vaseline, etc. - but all of these extra things are a personal preference. You can pick from several brands. When it comes to Vaseline, I use Green Glide.

Q: Do You Have Any Advice for Buying Tattoo Equipment?

Brandon: I definitely recommend getting a new machine. If you buy a used machine, you don't know how many hours that person put on that machine, or if they were sterile.

If you don't have a ton of money to get a machine, it might be worth trying out a beginner machine like the Mast Archer. If you know you want to be a tattoo artist for the rest of your life, and you have the money for it, go with an Inkjecta. (Just make sure you buy it brand new.) 

When you’re thinking about buying equipment, ask yourself this question: “Is my tattoo equipment able to push me to the next level, or is it holding me back?”

A few problems to look for are:

  • Are you fighting with your tattoo machine the whole way through?
  • Are your cartridges keeping you from tattooing a clean line?
  • Is your machine breaking down halfway through a tattoo?
  • Is your power supply pushing your machine correctly?

These are all things that go into being able to make a perfect tattoo every time. If your equipment is holding you back, then it's time to focus on getting something a little bit better. Higher quality equipment allows you to stop fighting with your equipment and grow faster.  

Q: What About When Your Equipment Does Work For You? When Do You Decide to Try New Things?

Brandon: I tell artists to never be hundred percent stuck on any piece of equipment. 

For example, when I started using an Inkjecta, I said I would never touch another machine again. And then when the Cheyenne SOL Nova's came out, I tried them out and liked them. I now use them for different styles of tattooing that I wouldn't necessarily use the Inkjecta for.

At the end of the day, tattooing is always growing. No matter what, we're always learning new things. The equipment's getting better every single year, so don't hold yourself back. Give yourself the opportunity to grow in this industry with your equipment.

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Getting your tattoo equipment is an exciting step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how many details go into tattooing. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

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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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