Rotary Tattoo Machines VS Coil Tattoo Machines

The most basic and most important tool of any tattoo master is definitely a tattoo machine. If you’re beginner you may not understand the difference between the types of tattoo machines. Nowadays, the most popular types are rotary and coil tattoo machines.

Rotary Tattoo Machines

Rotary tattoo machines and coil tattoo machines operate two different ways to achieve the same outcome of moving tattoo needles in and out of skin to deposit ink into the dermis with each insertion.


Tattoo machines differ in weight, mechanism, principle of operation and even the sound that they emit during process of tattooing.

Coil Tattoo Machines

Today the most commonly seen and used type is a coil tattoo machine. A traditional coil tattoo machine utilizes electromagnetic current passed through a pair of coils to trigger a draw and release of the machine's armature bar. It's a hammer-like effect, with the release of the springs causing the armature bar to essentially tap the attached tattoo needles into the skin


There are many variations of coil tattoo machines. Some have single coils, others double coils, and others yet even have triple coils. Although many combinations exist, double coil tattoo machines are considered to be the standard for most tattoo artists who prefer coil machines. Despite the foregoing the coil tattoo machines may also vary depending on the type of work: lining, shading or filling.

Please also note that coil machine cannot do both: drawing lines and shading, that’s why most artists usually purchase two coil machines.

Rotary machines move needles up and down using a small DC motor that’s encased in a hard outer layer. These machines are incredibly simple but they are becoming more and more popular in the industry these past couple of years. The weight, noise and versatility are the main advantages why many tattoo artist prefer the rotary machine. With popularity comes diversity and today, there are many different types of rotary tattoo machines available. The main types are the Direct Drive, Armature Bar Guided, Linear Action and Swashdrive.

A rotary tattoo machine can be used as either a liner or a shader, depending on the type of needle bar you select. This means that a tattoo artist can complete an entire tattoo, no matter how complex the design, using only one machine. Even though the most professional tattoo artists use dual coil tattoo machines because they are readily available and relatively inexpensive, some tattoo artists prefer to use rotary tattoo machines instead. Rotary machines offer several advantages over dual coil machines that make them attractive to a growing number of tattoo artists.

The best way to determine which tattoo machine is right for you is to try them out. Getting the right one is an important step in the process of finding your way as an artist.