What Voltage Should You Tattoo With?

A lot of new artists feel like picking their voltage is a guessing game. However, if you’re running your machine too fast or too slow, you could overwork the skin or leave a faded-looking tattoo. 

To help, our tattooing instructor, Brandon, explains how to set the voltage correctly for your style of tattooing.

In this article, we’ll break down:

  • What different voltages to use (and why)
  • Which voltage is best if you’re just starting out
  • Power supply recommendations

Some Machines Make Finding the Right Voltage Harder Than Others

If it’s your first time holding a machine, it can be very confusing to figure out which speed to use and knowing what those speeds mean - especially if you're using a pen style machine that doesn't even have a readout on it. 

For example, the Cheyenne Sol Nova unlimited model runs on a battery instead of a clip cord or an RCA cord, and it doesn’t show the voltage. However, machines like the Inkjecta that you can run with an actual power supply let you clearly see the digital readout.

What Voltage Should You be Running Your Tattoo Machine On?

There's a couple different things that go into what voltage you should run your machine on. Are you working on your line work? Are you trying to get clean lines? Are you working more towards realism? 

All of these things can affect the voltage that you're using. 

If you're working on line work, we recommend using about a 4mm stroke and an 8 voltage for a machine like the Inkjecta.

Note:

Some traditional machines run on a super low voltage. For a traditional machine, once you have it tuned correctly, then you're going to start at one volt, and then work it up one at a time until your machine actually starts up. That'll be your base point.

Whatever your machine starts at will be where your starting point is, because the machine won't run on a super low voltage. You can work up from there to get a feel for exactly what you want the voltage to be.

How to Know You’re Ready to Tattoo Faster

Once you get your hand speed exactly where you want it at 8 volts and you’re comfortable going quicker, you can turn your voltage up from there. For example, Brandon usually uses 10 volts for lining.

You will need a slightly higher voltage for a really big liner or a big mag.

Voltage for Realism and Smooth Shading

For a realistic tattoo or smooth shading, you’ll want to use a 3mm stroke and turn your voltage down to about an 8. Running your machine slower will help you get some smooth shading and make sure everything is consistent.

Voltage and Hand Speed

Once you get more comfortable with your machine, you’ll be able to tell the difference between voltages just by the way the machine sounds. However, if you’re new to tattooing, we recommend sticking to 8 volts until you’re comfortable with a quicker hand speed. 

You need to have the fundamentals down before running the machine at a higher voltage, or you’ll be at a higher risk of chewing out the skin. This is why it’s best to practice tattooing on fake skins - because even if you rip up the skin, it’s not causing prolonged damage on a real client. 

A good way to know whether you should move up to a higher voltage is if your linework is crisp. If you are tattooing at the right depth but your lines don’t look as crisp as they should be, your hand speed might be too fast for the voltage you’re using. 

You can either slow your hand speed, or you can try running your machine on a higher voltage to match your hand speed. 

If you are using a new voltage, it’s important to focus on how your tattoos are healing. If they’re scabbing up or if there’s extra trauma to the skin, your machine is running too fast. 

Once you find the sweet spot for your hand speed and voltage, your tattoos will look crisp and heal up perfectly.  

Note:

Some artists have a faster hand speed or a slower hand speed. There’s not a specific number to be aiming for. The goal is to find the hand speed and voltage that you’re most comfortable with so you can do your best work.

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

Finding the right voltage for your hand speed 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.

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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