Tattoo kits are a great way to stock up on tattoo supplies fast - especially if you’re new to the craft and don’t know what to buy. However, it’s still hard to figure out which one you need if you aren’t familiar with tattooing, and it’s even harder to know if the materials inside are good-quality.
By the end of this article, you’ll know the ins and outs of buying tattoo kits, how to decide what’s right for you, and our recommendations for new artists.
In this article, we’re breaking down:
What’s in the top-rated tattoo kits for beginners
How the tattoo supplies in each kit hold up while tattooing
A big problem with tattoo kits is that they leave new tattoo artists with super low-quality tattoo machines. This makes it really hard to learn how to tattoo properly because you can’t rely on your equipment to work well.
While this Wormhole pen isn’t “top of the line,” it’s reliable, easy to use, and is great quality for the price. It has a set 3.5mm machine stroke, making it a good “all-rounder” that lets you line, pack, and shade without having to deal with tuning. The only adjustment you’ll need to make is to twist the grip to change the depth.
The machine goes up to 10 volts, so you’ll want to stick with smaller needle groupings. As you move on to larger tattoos, you’ll need a machine with more power to push larger needles.
The Best Choice for Complete Beginners: Everything You Need to Get Started
Most tattoo kits for beginners come with a lot of items that are low quality. In this kit, you don’t get all the “extras,” but you do get what you need to start tattooing without making a big investment.
Additionally, you don’t need to know anything about tattooing to use this machine. All you really have to do is plug it in, and you’re ready to go.
While this machine is good enough to do small tattoos on people, we do not recommend using the ink in this kit on people. The packaging will say it’s safe, but on their site, but Wormhole’s online instruction manual says to buy professional-grade ink instead.
The lower price point makes this kit accessible to new tattooers on a budget.
The machine is super light, high quality, and quiet. The power supply maintained consistent voltage. However, we don’t recommend using the inks or needles on real human skin.
You can do a bit of everything with this machine. However, it’s best for shading.
The depth control swivels, so if you turn the machine be careful it doesn't change your needle depth.
High-quality supplies, but it’s a bit more expensive and you need some knowledge about needle groupings.
This kit has the essentials with high-quality materials that professionals use. The machine is ultra light and great for shading. However, you need to know a little bit about what tattoo needles you like before purchasing, which can be difficult to know if you’re still new to the craft.
The CNC Q2 is ultra-light, comes with an adjustable stroke (3mm, 3.5mm, and 4mm), and has a Faulhaber direct drive motor. You can easily adjust the depth by twisting the grip, which “clicks” into place instead of sliding, so you can be sure you’re not accidentally changing the depth of your needle while tattooing.
Get Ultra-Light Shading
While you can tattoo lines with the CNC Q2, you are limited in which needle groupings you can use. Because the tattoo machine is not made to run above 9 volts, you’ll need to stick to smaller configurations (like 3, 5, or 7 Round Liners). If you use a large needle (like a 14 Round Liner), the machine won’t have enough power to get the needle into the skin.
This is why it’s considered a “shader machine.” To get the ultra-light shades you see in realism and smooth black and grey, you need a machine that runs on low voltage and can use a 3mm stroke (like this one).
Choose Your Own Needles
This kit gives you three needle cartridge boxes, and you get to choose your favorite configurations. This is great for artists who are familiar with what they like, but it can be a challenge if you’re completely new to tattooing.
If you don’t know what to pick, we’d recommend going with 1207M1 (mag needle), 1207RS (round shader), 1007RL (round liner).
This kit is more geared toward a professional tattoo artist. Because of that, it doesn’t come with the extra things tattoo kits for beginners come with (like a power supply, professional ink, gloves, practice skin, etc.), since artists working in a tattoo studio will already have those items.
This is a higher-priced kit. However, it is aimed more toward professionals and has a higher-quality machine.
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.
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.
This kit is well-loved on Amazon, but we don’t agree with the reviews.
This Dragonhawk Complete Tattoo Kit comes with all the pieces you’d need to do a tattoo from start to finish including rubber bands, clip cord, tattoo machines, power supply, O-rings and more, so you don’t have to worry about grabbing any extra parts. However, the machines are pretty low quality and we don’t recommend using them on a real person.
For people who want to just try out doing a tattoo on fake skin once or twice, it’s a low-cost option. If you’re wanting to build a career, go for something with better quality.
A complete tattoo kit like this one will give you a sampling of what types of materials you need to do a tattoo without breaking the bank, which can be valuable.
However, you get what you pay for. Cheaper tattoo kits don’t give you the quality materials you need to do good tattoos. (Even a great artist will struggle with a cheap machine that doesn’t run well.)
Coil Machines Can Be Harder to Use
Coil machines can be hard to tune. Tattoo artists that use coils will always have one tuned for lining and one for shading to avoid the hassle of re-tuning during a tattoo. The shader coil machine will have a longer front spring, and the liner will have a shorter one.
Our honest opinion? The machines in this kit made it hard to get a good line in, the power of the tattoo machine wasn’t consistent, and the grips provided with the kit were uncomfortable to hold after a few minutes. Additionally, the machines heated up a ton while tattooing, and started to smell like they were burning.
Coil machines need tuning on a regular basis, and they require extra equipment like a power supply, clip cord, foot pedal, rubber bands, and more. We recommend pen machines for new artists because they’re simple to use and are easy to set up.
Only Use on Practice Skin
We don’t recommend using any of the products in this kit on people. The packaging might say it includes sterile tattoo needles and tattoo inks that are safe for human skin, but these tattoo starter kits are produced in regions where safety protocols are not as strict. When you’re ready to do your first tattoo on a person, start with a simple tattoo using Dynamic black ink for black linework and shading.
Also, the machines come with steel grips. Unless you have an autoclave and can properly sterilize the grip between clients, it’s not safe to use them.
You get everything for around $50 - machines, inks, needles, power supply, and more.
Inconsistent voltage and the coils got so hot they started melting the plastic on the machine.
Lining is nearly impossible, and color packing is hard. You can shade with these machines, but the ink in this kit is thick and doesn’t flow well.
Build Your Own: Our Shopping List for Beginner Tattoo Artists
If you want to buy your own supplies separately, we’ve got a full list to help you find great options.
Kits are great for helping you pull together a tattooing setup fast. But if you want to do your own research or make sure all the products you get are high-quality, it might be worth building your own setup.
You can also use our Beginner Artist Shopping List to fill in the supplies a tattoo kit will leave out, like tape, barriers, wash bottles, and more.
With tattoo kits, you don’t get to pick all the materials that come in the box. Whether it’s inks you can’t use on skin, fake skin that’s too thin for good practice, stainless steel tips you can’t use again unless you have access to an autoclave, or even cheaper needle cartridges that rattle and make it hard to do good line work...no kit is perfect.
Picking your own supplies lets you avoid buying those cheaper materials. Even though a kit might seem like a great value for the money, you might not end up using some of the items inside because they don’t work as well. For example, the ink in kits often feels watered down, which makes color packing difficult, and you don’t get radiant colors in the skin.
Bigger Up-Front Cost
Most tattoo kits come with a “sample size” of everything you need. It’s hard to find “just a few” of any item when you’re buying it outside of a kit. (For example, you can get mixed size needle boxes that let you try out multiple types of needles.) However, because you’ll be buying more materials, you’ll be paying more, too
Why You Can Trust Our Picks
As professional tattoo artists who were once beginners ourselves...we know how frustrating it can be to start putting together a tattooing setup. There’s a lot of supplies you need - and not all of them are as obvious as a machine and inks. That’s why we’ve recommended kits that give you as much as possible without a huge price tag.
When You Should Buy a Beginner Tattoo Kit
We’re all about doing your research and drawing a lot before actually tattooing. However, practice is the only way to truly learn this craft. Consider this the push you need to get started.
We recommend doing plenty of tattoos on fake skin before moving onto the real thing. Our favorite fake skins are by ReelSkin.
How We Picked Our Top Choice
Price and Quality
Most people trying out a tattoo starter kit are interested in the industry, but aren’t sure they want to make tattooing their career. Because of this, it wouldn’t make sense to invest thousands into a professional tattoo setup.
To help you get started tattooing, we looked for quality materials that wouldn’t break the bank.
Part of our research was finding the highest-rated kits online this year. After finding the kits that had the best reviews, we decided to test them out to figure out which popular kit had the best performance while tattooing.
We tested each kit by doing tattoos that required lining, shading, and packing to see how they would perform for any type of tattoo.
Here were the results:
Frequently Asked Questions
Are cheap tattoo kits any good?
Probably not. Buying an uber-cheap kit won’t give you a good impression of what it’s like to tattoo with a quality machine or with professional-grade tattoo ink. At best, this can be frustrating. At worst, struggling with your materials might lead you to build bad habits.
How Much is a Tattoo Starter Kit?
This varies a lot. You can find some kits for as little as $20, but they’ll be really difficult to use because they’re low quality. It’s important to remember that, with tattooing equipment, you really do get what you pay for.
What is the best tattoo kit to buy?
The one with the tattoo machine you want. Odds are, you’ll be using the machine far longer than any of the other products you’ll be getting. If a kit has a machine you really want, but it’s missing one or two things; we’d recommend getting that kit and filling in with other products as needed.
Our top picks are in this list, but if you want to keep shopping, we recommend CNC Tattoo Supply.
Can I use this kit on people?
Probably not. Tattoo kits are a great way to start building your tattoo setup, but some of the materials are not safe to use on real people (even if the kit says you can).
A good rule of thumb: Don’t use the tattoo ink or needles on real people. Also, if you don’t have an autoclave, make sure everything you’re using is disposable.
How do I use all this stuff?
Glad you asked! Buying quality tattoo equipment is just the first step…now you need to build your skills.
Just like using the wrong materials puts you at risk for building bad habits, learning from outdated resources or YouTube videos with the wrong information can set your tattooing career back. Once you have those bad habits, it can take years to unlearn them.
Tattoo shops won’t hire artists until they learn to tattoo the right way, which is why a lot of aspiring tattooers get stuck working a job they hate.
Getting help from professional tattoo artists who know the right techniques keeps you from wasting all that time.
That’s why the Artist Accelerator Program breaks down the process of learning to tattoo into 9 easy steps. You can take each module at your own pace, and ask questions and get personalized feedback from pro tattoo artists in our online Mastermind community.
Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program
Getting your tattooing equipment 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…
Join the Tattooing 101 Communitytoday and get free, instant access to tools and resources that take you behind the curtain of all things tattooing. From apprentice to shop owner, we've got you covered.