Hand Speed and Machine Voltage Tutorial

How fast you move your hands while tattooing and how fast your machine should be running are related. If you move too fast for your machine’s voltage, your tattoos won’t look well-saturated. If you move too slow for your machine’s voltage, you’ll cause a ton of damage to the skin.

If you’re not sure how to figure out the perfect combo for you, keep reading.

In this article, we’ll be breaking down how to:

  • Tell whether your voltage and hand speed match
  • Change your voltage for techniques like stippling or bold lining
  • Practice matching up your voltage and hand speed

Hand Speed and Machine Voltage Explained

Signs Your Voltage is Wrong

Your hand speed should be what you’re comfortable with. You don’t need to try to go faster or slower to “match” your voltage. 

Pro Tip:

The goal is not to tattoo as fast as possible just so you can run your machine at a higher voltage. In fact, some machines can’t handle super high voltages. You should be trying to find a perfect balance between your hand speed and voltage so you can do your best work. 

Faint Line = Voltage is Too Low

If you tattoo a line and it looks very faint, then your voltage isn’t high enough to match your hand speed. The machine doesn’t have enough time to put ink in the skin before it is moved. Because there’s too much space between ink deposits, the line looks too light. 

When the line heals, it will come out almost completely because it’s not perfectly saturated. 

For example, in the video Brandon tattoos a line with his machine at 6v. This voltage is too low for his hand speed, so the line looks light. 

Cutting the Skin = Voltage is Too High

If you tattoo a line that looks well-saturated, but it makes a cut in your fake skin, then your voltage is too high. The needle is puncturing the skin too many times before it is moved, which can cause damage to the skin. 

When the tattoo heals, that area could become scarred or blown out. 

For example, most artists do not tattoo fast enough to run their machines at 11v. When you’re first starting out, we recommend lining with ~7v to start, and then move up if it feels comfortable for your hand speed.

Note:

This issue can be difficult to see in fake skins. It will just look like you have a very well-saturated line. To see if you’re running your machine too fast, flex the fake skin. If there’s a cut in the fake skin, you need to lower your voltage.

Pro Tip:

It’s much harder to fix a tattoo with scarring than a tattoo that’s faint. This is why we recommend starting out with a lower voltage and slower hand speed.   

When to Change Voltage

The different styles that you tattoo will affect which voltage you use.

For example, if you are using stipple shading, you will turn your voltage way down and move your hand faster so you can have plenty of space between ink deposits. This is what makes the “peppery” look of stipple shading.

Or, if you’re going to be using a thick lining needle, you need to turn your voltage up and slow your hand speed down. This is because it’s harder for a thick liner to be pushed into the skin. You need that extra power and time to make sure the ink is getting into the skin. 

How to Practice Matching Your Hand Speed and Voltage

  1. 1
    Get a Good Fake Skin

To practice finding the right hand speed and machine voltage, you’ll need fake skins. We recommend Frankenskins or Reelskins. Stencil several straight lines (not a tattoo design) onto your fake skin.

  1. 2
    Start Slow

If you’re new to tattooing, going with a slower hand speed may be more comfortable. We recommend trying out 6v or 7v to get started. From there, you’ll want to make sure you’re moving at a pace where you can get good saturation of your lines.

  1. 3
    Speed Up

If you’re comfortable, you can increase your voltage and hand speed. Every artist is different - some are more comfortable with a slower hand speed, while others think it’s actually more difficult to go slow.

For example, Brandon uses between 8.5-9v for linework, which requires a faster hand speed. 

If you feel uncomfortable with a faster hand speed, move your voltage back down. Usually, if you are having a hard time staying on the stencil or tattooing a straight line, you need to move the voltage down.

If you feel comfortable with the faster speed, it’s still important to check and make sure that your fake skin doesn’t have a slash or cut in it. If it does, you might need to lower the voltage a bit.

Overtime, you will know how fast to move for each voltage.

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

Learning how to match your hand speed and voltage is an important 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.

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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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