A lot of tattoo artists will say that holding a tattoo machine is like holding a thick pencil. But the reality is, most new artists find that holding a machine doesn’t feel that natural.
Tattoo grips are wide and your machine vibrates, which makes it hard to figure out where to put each finger to keep your hand from shaking. However, if you don’t hold your machine correctly, it’s impossible to tattoo straight lines or hit the right needle depth.
While every tattoo artist holds their machine a little bit differently, there is one way that works best for most beginners.
But before we dive into that, we need to take a detour to the term “tattoo gun.” No tattoo artist calls their machine a “tattoo gun,” and if you say that in front of a professional, they will not take you seriously.
Now that you know to say “tattoo machine,” let’s take a look at how to:
How to Hold Your Tattoo Machine: Hand Position
As mentioned before, every artist holds their machine differently. You’ll develop a preference overtime as you figure out what works for you.
For the most part, you can hold your machine however it feels most comfortable to you, as long as you’re still able to use the proper technique. However, we’ve found that most new tattoo artists find this method to be the most effective:
Make Contact with the Cartridge
We recommend making sure your middle finger is against the cartridge instead of the grip. If all your fingers are on the tattoo machine’s grip and you’re not making any contact with the cartridge, it will be harder to control, as if you were holding a pencil closer to the eraser instead of the tip.
Coil Tattoo Machines and Machines with RCA Cords:
If you are using coil tattoo machines, the coils will rest on the back of your hand. If your machine has a clip cord or an RCA cord, it should go over your arm instead of under.
Hold Your Machine at the Correct Angle
An important part of holding your tattoo machine is making sure your needles are going in at the correct angle. If they don’t, your lines could look fuzzy (known as a “blowout”), and you could add extra trauma to the skin.
We recommend holding your machine between a 65-85° angle. If you tattoo at too small of an angle, you could snag the skin. However, you don’t want to be at a perfect 90° angle because the tiny spaces between the dots will make your lines look lighter.When you hold your machine at a 65-85°angle, your tattoos look more solid because each ink deposit is oval-shaped and overlapping with one another.
When you’re working with bigger needle groupings, work closer to that 85° angle to make sure the individual sharps are making it into the skin:
How to Hold a Tattoo Machine When Lining
Even if you’re holding the machine correctly, it can still be difficult to get good line work because you have to be very steady, even while the machine itself is vibrating. Using 3 points of contact can help eliminate any extra wobbles.
Use 3 Points of Contact to Tattoo Straight Lines
Anchoring” yourself to three points of contact while you’re lining helps you keep your hand from shaking, even though you’re moving.
Here’s how to create three points of contact:
Because you’ll be relying on this contact to keep you steady instead of just trying to keep your own body still, it’ll be much easier to keep your lines straight.
We recommend putting a tiny amount of Vaseline on the side of your glove to make it easier to glide along the skin. Just be careful not to get it all over your gloves, or it can affect the way you hold your tattoo machine.
Make Holding Your Machine Easier by Wrapping Your Grips
Even though you want a secure hold on your machine, you don’t want to be clenching your fingers tightly around a too-small grip. This will cause your hand to get tired way faster, which you don’t want if you’re planning to tattoo several hours a day.
Using a thicker grip can make it easier to hold your machine comfortably.
Take Your Tattoo Artist Journey to the Next Level
Getting comfortable holding your tattoo machine is only the first step on your journey to becoming a professional tattoo artist. Next, you need to learn how to use your machine to create incredible designs on skin.
There’s a ton of information out there that promises to teach you to tattoo, but a lot of it is outdated or incorrect. This is why most tattoo artists trying to learn online pick up bad habits that can take years to unlearn.
If you want to learn how to tattoo the right way, you can still do it online and at your own pace.
We created the Artist Accelerator Program to give aspiring artists all the lessons and techniques they need in an easy-to-follow, 9-step roadmap that can take anyone from complete beginner to professional tattoo artist in as little as 90 days.
Inside the program, you’ll learn the skills tattoo artists use every day, get personalized guidance from professionals, and put together a portfolio that gets you hired.
Skip the years of trial and error and start building a career you love today.