Rotary vs Coil Tattoo Machine

Rotary vs Coil Tattoo Machine for Beginners: Which One to Choose?

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Rotary vs Coil Tattoo Machine

As a budding tattoo artist, selecting the right tattoo machine is a crucial decision that will significantly impact your work. The two most widely used types of tattoo machines are rotary and coil. In this article, we’ll delve into the coil vs rotary tattoo machine debate and provide a comprehensive comparison of their features to help beginners better understand the differences and make an informed choice for their tattooing journey.

Pros and Cons of Coil vs Rotary Tattoo Machines 


Rotary Tattoo Machines

Coil Tattoo Machines




Quiet operation




Less skin trauma




More control




Lower price tag





Less control


Higher price tag


Louder operation




More skin trauma


Rotary Tattoo Machines

Rotary tattoo machines are powered by a small electric motor, which moves the needle in a smooth, consistent motion. This results in less trauma to the skin and a more even application of ink. The main components of a rotary tattoo machine include:

  • Electric motor
  • Needle bar
  • Armature bar
  • Cam

Pros of Rotary Tattoo Machines

  • Quiet operation: Rotary machines are significantly quieter than coil machines, making them more comfortable for both the artist and the client.
  • Versatility: Rotary machines can be used for lining, shading, and color packing, making them a versatile option for artists.
  • Less skin trauma: The smooth, consistent motion of the needle reduces trauma to the skin, which can lead to faster healing times and less scarring.
  • Lightweight: Rotary machines are generally lighter than coil machines, reducing hand fatigue during long tattoo sessions.

Cons of Rotary Tattoo Machines

  • Less control: Some artists may feel that rotary machines offer less control over needle depth and speed than coil machines.
  • Higher price tag: Rotary machines can be more expensive than coil machines, especially for high-end models.

Coil Tattoo Machine

Coil tattoo machines use electromagnetic coils to create a magnetic field, which moves the armature bar and needle in a rapid up-and-down motion. Coil machines are more traditional and have been the industry standard for many years. The main components of a coil tattoo machine include:

  • Frame
  • Coils (usually 8, 10, or 12 wraps)
  • Armature bar
  • Needle bar
  • Springs

Pros of Coil Tattoo Machines

  • More control: Many artists feel that coil machines offer greater control over needle depth and speed.
  • Customizable: Coil machines can be customized more easily than rotary machines, allowing artists to fine-tune their equipment for specific tattoo styles or techniques.
  • Lower price tag: Coil machines are often more affordable than rotary machines, making them accessible to artists on a budget.

Cons of Coil Tattoo Machines

  • Louder operation: Coil machines are generally louder than rotary machines, which can be uncomfortable for clients and artists alike.
  • Heavier: Coil machines are typically heavier than rotary machines, which can lead to hand fatigue during long tattoo sessions.
  • More skin trauma: The rapid needle motion of coil machines can cause more trauma to the skin, potentially increasing healing times and the risk of scarring.

Which Machine is Best for Beginners?

Determining the best coil vs rotary tattoo machine for beginners depends on the individual’s preferences and style. Here are a few considerations to help you decide:

  1. Budget: If you’re on a tight budget, a coil tattoo machine may be a more affordable option.
  2. Technique: If you plan to focus on a particular style or technique, choose a machine that offers the control and customization you need. Coil machines are generally better for traditional and fine-line work, while rotary machines excel at shading, color packing, and realism.
  3. Comfort: If you’re sensitive to noise and weight, a rotary machine may be a more comfortable choice.
  4. Learning curve: Rotary machines typically have a shorter learning curve, making them more beginner-friendly.


In conclusion, both rotary and coil tattoo machines have their unique advantages and drawbacks. For beginners, a rotary tattoo machine might be a better choice due to its versatility, lighter weight, and quieter operation. However, if you’re interested in traditional or fine-line tattooing and require more control, a coil machine could be a better fit.

Ultimately, the best way to decide between a rotary and coil tattoo machine is to try both and see which one feels more comfortable and suits your style. Many tattoo artists end up using a combination of rotary and coil machines throughout their careers, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find the perfect setup for your artistic journey.

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