The Best Beginner Tattoo Kit [2021 Guide]

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
  • What kits to avoid

A fully-stocked option that doesn’t break the bank.

tattoo kit with tattoo machine for beginner tattoo artist

This kit lets you practice tattooing with an easy-to-use “plug and play” pen machine. Get everything you need for a basic setup in one box. 

*At the time of publishing, the price was $141.99

Quality Machine for a Low Price

A big problem with tattoo kits is that they leave new tattoo artists with a super low-quality machine. 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. 

Note:

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, Wormhole says to buy professional-grade ink instead.

Our Score

Price: $141.99

9/10

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

Quality

5/10

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.

Handling

6/10

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.

tattoo machine for beginner tattoo artist

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.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $249.94. CNC now offers a version of the CNC Q2 kit with a power supply and foot pedal.

High-Quality Machine Professionals Use

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 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

needles for tattoo machines

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). 

Note:

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, ink, gloves, practice skin, etc).

Our Score

Price: $249.94

6/10

This is a higher-priced kit. However, it is aimed more toward professionals and has a higher-quality machine.

Quality

5/10

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.

Handling

6/10

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.

dragonhawk complete tattoo kit with two tattoo machines and tattoo ink

This Dragonhawk Complete Tattoo Kit comes with all the pieces you’d need to do a tattoo from start to finish, 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.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $47.99.

Everything You Need in One Box

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 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.

Note:

Coil machines need tuning on a regular basis. 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 inks and needles might say they’re 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. 

Our Score

Price: $47.99

10/10

You get everything for around $50 - machines, inks, needles, power supply, and more.

Quality

5/10

Inconsistent voltage and the coils got so hot they started melting the plastic on the machine.

Handling

6/10

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.
tattoo cartridges for pen tattoo machines
tattoo inks
tattoo artist wash bottle
practice skin for tattoo artist
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.

Note:

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.

Customize Everything

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, or cheaper needle cartridges that rattle and make it hard to tattoo straight lines...no kit is perfect.

Picking your own supplies lets you avoid buying those cheaper materials.

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. 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.

Note:

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

1

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.

2

Reviews

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.

3

Test Tattoo

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:
snake tattoo done with tattoo kit and tattoo ink
skull tattoo done with coil tattoo machines and tattoo ink
butterfly tattoo done with a tattoo machine kit

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?

wormhole complete tattoo kit for new tattoo artist
rotary tattoo machine kit without power supply for professional tattoo artists

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.

Learn More About the Artist Accelerator Program

Now that you have your materials, you’re ready to launch your tattooing career. 

If you’re not sure where to start - or you want to skip the years of trial and error and start building your skills today - the Artist Accelerator Program can help you go from complete beginner to professional tattoo artist in as little as 90 days. 

Over 2500 students have used our 9-step framework to break into the tattooing industry, several of them have even opened up their own shops and tattoo in studios around the world. 

If you’re ready to see the same success while building an exciting and creative career you love...

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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