In 1875, Thomas Edison invented an electric pen to assist businesses who performed a “great deal of reduplication,” like lawyers and insurance companies. Operated by battery, it did not see a quick public acceptance and, by 1880, competitors had developed mechanical pens that required no batteries and were openly welcomed into those businesses. Taking Edison’s electric pen model, Samuel O’Reilly patented a new tool that would change the tattoo process forever by converting it into the first electric rotary tattoo needle in 1891.
O’Reilly’s concept has been improved upon and evolved into more efficient and gentle models that are used today that have a power supply. While there are two different types of tattoo machines—rotary and coil tattoo machines—we are going to focus on rotary tattoo machines. Both operate to achieve the same effect: depositing ink into the second layer of tissue beneath the epidermis (the dermis) by moving a needle in and out of the skin.The difference between coil machines and rotary machines is what drives that needle. The rotary tattoo machine is made of a needle attached to a rotating cylinder. A small motor inside the machine quietly and smoothly moves the needle up and down in a fluid rotation making it ideal for many tattoo artists. This linear motion of the needle pushes in and pulls out of the skin applying ink. While most rotary tattoo machines via a power supply, there have been some newer models produced that operate pneumatically.
Pros and Cons of Rotary Tattoo Machines
- Simple to operate
- Good for filling and color work
- Consistent needle movement
- Less damaging to skin Low maintenance
- Shading and line depth are more difficult
- Not as effective with larger needle grouping
- Full stroke needed to complete rotary motion
- Less responsive to skin tension
Features to Consider in the Best Rotary Tattoo Machine
What machine is best for you will be a personal preference based on your tattooing style. A few of the most universal and most important features you will want to consider are the weight of the machine, how solid the construction is and how reliable the motor inside will be. If you create elaborate and detailed art, you really want to pay attention to the weight of your machine. No one needs their tattoo artist cramping up from working with a gun that is exhausting to hold for long periods due to the sheer weight of it.
Another feature that will become important to you is the grip of the tattoo machine. Often, the rotary machine does not include a grip. Grips are needed when tattooing and are made of any number of different materials, like stainless steel, plastic, and nylon. There are also gel grip covers to add to the comfort of your grip.
The repetitions per minute (RPM) of your rotary tattoo machine is going to help minimize pain and discomfort for the tattoo receiver. Consistent, deep penetration is the mark of a quality machine. You’ll want to look for a system with higher RPMs.
Rotary tattoo machines get their power from an external source. Power is usually supplied by either a clip cord or RCA. Clip cords swing and articulate while you’re working but RCA is generally a more stable connection and doesn’t swing against contacts.
- Reliable motor
- High repetitions per minute
- Power cord
In the end, when comparing different models, it all boils down to your taste and style as a tattoo artist as to which is the very best rotary tattoo machine on the market. This guide also has a good in-depth guide on the best tattoo machines on the market and would be a great read.
Best Rotary Tattoo Machines
|Thunderbolt Force||100g||0-6,000||RCA & Clip Cord options||$$|
|Solong Tattoo Hybrid||0-8,000||DC 5.5 Jack plug cable||$|
|Dragonhawk Extreme||120g.||0-9,000||Clip cord||$|
- 6.17oz. Weight
- Carbon steel
- 3.5mm Stroke
- 7-10 Operating voltage
- 8-9 Lining voltage
- 7-8 Shading voltage
The Dragonhawk Extreme tops the list as the best rotary tattoo machines as it is a lightweight, high-performing machine for skin art. Powerful and quiet, using this machine is more like painting on the body with a brush than with a machine this machine. The Swiss imported motor gives you extra stability. Dragonhawk is one of the better companies with respect to their customer service for all their products.
- Nearly silent
- Runs smoothly
- Great for shading and lining
- Could use more tubes for each size needle
- Aircraft aluminum alloy
- 7-12 Operating voltage
- 0-8,000/min RPM range stitches, 8-800 sec
- 3mm Stroke
- 3.5mm Needle protrusion
- DC 5.5 jack plug cable with adapter
The Solong Hybrid Tattoo Pen is designed to give you the feel of an actual pen for drawing fine lines. The motor is 4.5w which makes it powerful and stable while not getting too hot during long tattoo sessions. With you tattoo pen, you get a connection line, jack plug adapter and needle cartridge. The plug adapter is compatible with most tattoo power supplies.
- Runs smoothly
- Not as light as others
- Not adjustable
- Swiss motor
- Aircraft aluminum
- 4-7.5 Working voltage
- RCA & clip cord power connection
- 0-6,000/min RPM range stitches in 0-100 sec
- 08mm Maximum tube diameter
- 50 Magnum maximum needle size
- 100g Weight
- Available in black and silver
EZ Tattoo’s Thunderbolt Force is designed to give the artist a coil machine’s tension and throw control with the rotary machine’s consistency. Unlike adjustable tension machines, this model does not bind up. With endless options for adjustability, you can use this machine for big color fill or tribal designs. Just play with the adjustments to find your perfect voltage.
- Quality motor
- Works well with traditional needles
- Requires a lot of voltage adjustment
- No instruction manual
- Springs not good over 9v
- 100g Weight
- Aluminum Alloy
- 3.5mm stroke
- 3.5 – 5 V operating voltage
- 3v starting voltage
- 7500R/minute frequency
The Redscorpion Rotary Tattoo Machine gun is one of the best picks for your tattoo shop. This tattoo machine is made of a durable aluminum alloy that is carved for precision matching of CNC which enhances accuracy. It has a beautiful overall look thanks to the silver and black material combinations. The engine mimics Japan technology with low energy consumption and more power. The machine works at uniform speed, forms smooth lines and is easy to use for coloring. It also reduces damage to the skin and is pretty easy and simple to use. The aluminum Alloy material of the machine is incredibly durable and although the machine needs to be cleaned after use, it is simple to keep hygienic. High-temperature use automatically has sterilizing effect. It is the perfect machine for new tattoo artists due to the affordable price and easy use functioning although the machine is preferred by many professional artists as well.
- Nice and quiet
- Affordable price
- Minimal shake
- Clean solid lines
- Stays cool through prolonged use
- Light weight
- Easy to sue
- Can be small for big hands
- 7-9V working voltage
- 0-2mm suspension travel
- 8mm tube diameter
- 2000-2500 round pm rotating speed
- Aluminum alloy
- Green color
The New Star Tattoo dragonfly rotary machine sure is beautiful. It has a chrome green coating and is made of a durable aluminum alloy material. The machine is incredibly lightweight, silent to use and offers low vibrating use. It doesn’t heat up over long hours of use and offers terrific performance. The tattoo machine is terrific for lining, shading, and filling and is pretty stable in the hand. You can use standard needles, tubes, grips and power supplies on this machine. This is the perfect rotary tattoo machine for beginners due to the affordable price but it is also loved by professional tattoo artists because of the ease of use and because it offers such smooth strokes. It is a perfect machine for taking on big tattoos thanks to the simple design and lightweight.
- Light weight
- Beautiful color
- Stays cool while in use
- Uses standard sized accessories
- Smooth lines with low vibrations
- Used for lining, shading, and filling
- Some components are weak
Since Thomas Edison’s electric pen and Samuel O’Reilly’s first tattoo pen, the tattoo machine for perfect skin art has evolved into a much lighter, highly efficient instrument to art the human body. Whether coil tattoo machines or a rotary tool, there are hundreds of different models on the market. Therefore, you want to be sure you’re not only getting the most effective tattoo gun but the one that fits your habits and methods. Armed with the basic features and how they affect your work, you’ll find a machine to fit any budget and any artistic approach.