Different kinds of tattoo machines

Written by paul parsons
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Different kinds of tattoo machines
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Several types of tattoo machines have been developed since the times of sharpened reeds and organic inks. Among these you will find five that have become popular in manufacturing and used within the modern era of tattoo artistry. The different kinds of tattooing equipment today are each differently suited for specific tasks. There is a lot to consider when choosing what the project calls for, or in considering an initial investment in your tattooing career.

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A traditional tattooing gun for detail work is used in inking out the outlines of more complicated tattoos. Liner guns are used in conjuncture with a shader or a shading gun. Coil-driven liner guns deliver ink to the skin through tightly bound needles. The design allows for cleaner, more detailed designs.


Similar in design to a traditional coil-driven liner gun, the shader gun requires looser needle groupings. The difference in needles delivers a broader area of penetration to the skin. A broader area of penetration allows the ink to colour a larger area with less back and forth. Shaders typically provide shading and colour to a tattoos' interior design.

Combination Liner/Shaders

The mechanical similarity of shader and liner guns allow for the manufacturing of these combination devices. The slight difference in design allows for the ability to load either shader or liner needle groups.


This gun is technically also a combination liner/shader. The rotary can typically fulfil either function depending on the model. Unique to rotary tattoo guns, a wheel drives the motion of the attached tattoo needles. Due to this alternate method of operation, rotary machines provide a much quieter process than other types of tattoo equipment.


Pneumatic tattoo guns are a more recent development in tattoo machinery. Pneumatic guns require compressed air to operate, and because of this require ready access to an air compressor. Lightweight, and generally equipped with an electrical option for operating when unable to transport an air compressor, the neumas appeal to the travelling artist.

The differences between shaders and liners, while entirely technical, do not reflect wholly on the full decision between the different types of machines. Choosing a coil- or rotary-driven gun or electric or pneumatic power will come down to user preference. Experience is the essential deciding factor. Also, consider both the type of tattoo and the work environment you will preform in. After choosing a gun, bear in mind that you will also have to supply yourself with different types and colours of inks. Research all your products extensively to get the best for your money and to ensure that all your work will be of the quality that you can deliver and that your client or friend deserves.

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