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How to Set Speed & Depth on Tattoo Machines

Updated April 17, 2017

A tattoo machine is the tool that allows an artist to embed a tattoo on a client. An integral part of a professional tattoo apprenticeship is learning the components of, and how to tune, a tattoo machine. Each artist finds and performs different settings for their personal machine, allowing the artist to feel comfortable using the machine. The type of skin the client has, along with the size or type of tattoo, determines the setting of the machine and the power supply.

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  1. Plug in the power supply and attach the cord to the tattoo machine. Place the tube in the tattoo machine and insert the needle in the tube. Tap the foot pedal to ensure the machine is working.

  2. Adjust the springs on the tattoo machine to control the depth. Apply pressure with the hand that holds the machine, pressing down into the skin for more depth after adjusting the springs.

  3. Turn the voltage of the power supply up to adjust the speed. The more voltage, or higher setting, of the power supply equals a quicker speed. A lower speed is optimal for tattooing bony areas of the body and high speeds for fleshy parts.

  4. Tip

    Pull the skin tight with your free hand when tattooing. Adjust other parts of the tattoo machine, like the armature bar, if the machine is not running to satisfaction after adjusting screws and the power supply.


    Never tattoo someone without completing a professional apprenticeship.

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About the Author

Maude Coffey retired after 10 years working as a professional body modification artist in the tattoo industry. She is certified in principles of infection control and blood-borne pathogens. Coffey received additional training and classes, such as anatomy, jewelry standards and aftercare, from the Association of Professional Piercers. Coffey aims to educate about safe tattooing and piercing practices while writing for various websites.

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