Are Rotary Tattoo Machines Better?

In recent years there has been a growing debate on which is better? Are the hybrid tattoo gun better than stylus coil tattoo gun? Ask any expert what their opinion is and you’ll get exactly that, a lengthy opinion without debate. Yet in the last 20 years, there has been a resurgence of rotary tattoo machines that are making a comeback. To better help, you understand why this debate is easily answered it all depends on your training as an artist.

This can also help you to understand why your business can increase and the reasoning behind it. It also will define how the control of your tattoo gun is better managed using a rotary machine. Not for solely playing the Devils Advocate, the issue of both machines and their pros and cons will be presented.

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Are Rotary Tattoo Machines Better?

To be perfectly honest, the best rotary machines are more involved to use as a tattoo artist. There are more factors to know about that make using these machines beneficial. There is also a traditionalist renaissance that is returning to tattoo salons once again. But keep in mind that just because it’s old-fashioned, doesn’t make it better. What factors contribute to these qualities are subtle differences in how the rotary machine works. Here are the most common points.

Better Needle Control

Better Needle Control

Rotary needles come with a loop at the top end that is attached to the cam wheel. When you set your grip tube, it needs to be adjusted to the correct height so the needle length can work properly. Your needle also needs the guide to be adjusted so it follows a direct path as it rotates up and down. Newer models will often have a needle bar guide to reduce wobble as it rotates. On the older models, this is why a rubber band was stretched over the needle bar allowed the needle to stay more stable.



Either way, a smoother rotary movement is then achieved. Even with the best coil tattoo machine, there’s no direct return pull on the needle, it’s all spring-loaded. While this does have a nice advantage for speed and ease of scratching lines, the spring-loaded bar is less predictable. This is an issue when gauging the correct depth control. This is important to observe when you’re setting the length of your needle stroke on the rotary gun. The depth control is so you don’t tear up the client’s skin so easily.

Less Noise from the Gun

One of the key features of rotary tattoo machines is how much quieter they are compared to a coil gun. It’s often been mentioned that it makes a first-time client more relaxed when they hear how quiet these machines are. As this might play very-well into a good psychological factor, many people are more distressed with a high-pitch coil buzzing. But as the power is increased for speed on the rotary gun, it never reaches annoying levels. This makes flinching caused by the sound of a coil gun, less likely to happen.

It’s also worth mentioning that the rotary needle needs to be adjusted to different skin thicknesses because it runs smoother. It also is not working like the coil gun since the needle on coil-driven machines is like a mini jackhammer. Rotary has a rounded cam wheel that is considered more of a gentle up and down motion instead. A trained tattoo artist will sense when the speed needs to be increased, so there’s less skin surface resistance. With all the buzzing from a coil machine, it’s harder to tell when thicker skin it being hit.

More Control of Your Line and Depth

Tattoo Line and Depth

In the tattoo world, there is always the issue of ‘The Bog’. Those who prefer using the coil gun will find this problem is more common. Electromagnetic motors are powerful and fast enough but can tear-up the skin all-too-easy by accident. The Bog has everything to do with line control and skin resistance. Knowing what speed to use on your rotary tattoo machine can gently create lines with less skin damage. When depth is a concern, you’ll also hear an audible sound difference that lets you know you’ve reached the bog.

This is another downside to coil guns since it makes hearing your ideal skin depth nearly impossible. Rotary tattoo guns can then adjust speed to move through tougher skin more appropriately. It’s a matter of skill that makes using a rotary gun more satisfying overall. Being able to hear how the needle is impacting the skin is also a better way to listen for resistance. Coil guns often have such a dramatic jackhammer effect that can stab too deep into the skin if the tattoo artist isn’t careful.

Less Skin Damage and a Faster Healing Time

Reaching the optimal skin depth for your scratch lines is one thing, yet having multiple lines can cause skin damage. The reason that coil guns became popular is speed, but that also can lead to mistakes. Retracing a line with these guns can tear-up the skin very easily. This may lead to a client’s skin taking longer to heal. Using the rotary gun, you have more control to touch-up a line or multiple lines that won’t purposely cause more skin damage. It may take longer to draw repeated lines when needed, but the result is faster skin recovery time.

When it comes to shading, this can be a bit more problematic for the rotary gun. Not impossible, but coil guns are generally preferred because of their speed. If shading is done with the rotary gun, this power will need to be set much higher speed depending on the forks that are used. Again it just comes down to experience and preference.

The Weight Difference

One major difference that these two guns share is a noticeable weight difference. A coil tattoo machine is always going to be heavier. This is mainly because it uses an electromagnetic motor. At the end of a session, it will be obvious that handling a heavier gun puts excess weight on your hand and arm. The rotary tattoo machine is much lighter will allow you to have more control for longer periods. Because the vibration is greater in the coil gun, a tattoo artist will be fighting with weight and continual vibration.

This can also affect the arm and hand muscles since the gun needs to be held steady all the time. It can be one of the finer pros’ for the rotary gun since muscle cramps are less likely to happen. Often the weight difference between the coil and rotary gun can be as much as 50 grams heavier on a coil gun. Even though a coil gun may weigh 250 grams, holding it all day long will be a task.

An Excellent Learning Tool

The rotary tattoo machine has long been known to be an excellent practice tool. Not only is it near-silent to use, but it also allows first-timers to practice tattooing on pig skins or bananas. But as time passes by, many amateurs switch to coil guns; forgetting that skill outweighs the rotary as a tool. Since many tattoo businesses are reaching mill-like’ levels, speed is all part of the game. However, the real professionals who stuck with the rotary gun could refine their drawing skills much further.

For this reason, the rotary gun can become a valuable tool that is essential for specific lines and fine detail. Shading is usually better suited from coil guns to finish-off a tattoo once the baselines have healed-up.

Which Rotary Tattoo Machine is Best?

One thing to remember when choosing a rotary gun is finding a reliable machine. It should be made from quality materials that go into the construction too. Many of these guns should be made from solid metal frames that can be easily cleaned and maintained. But the most important is the overall function and ease of handling. How easy is it to hold based on its’ ergonomic design. Here are some of the most important factors to consider.

Off-the-Shelf Factory Models

When choosing a rotary machine, you’ll need to know what is on the market already. Many people hand-craft rotary tattoo guns, and these cost a lot of money. When starting for the first time, it’s better to start with a standard factory model. These are often designed to be a workhorse and some of them may have a factory warranty. Yet when it comes to starting with a first-time tattoo gun you will need something decent to work with. There are plenty of online sites that cater to tattoo supplies too, so be warned about their quality.

Tattoo suppliers may be importing cheaper tattoo equipment that won’t last as long. As any amateur will gain experience, they will learn which equipment works better than others. It might be advised that tattoo expositions will sell quality equipment at a decent price. Many suppliers bring rotary guns because these are not as popular as coil machines. But that doesn’t mean a deal can’t be struck from them. These older rotary models might just be collecting dust on a shelf for too long.

Style or Design

Try to forget about the fancy colors that come with rotary tattoo guns, the first feature should always be function. It can then be easier to determine how easy it is to grip. Some people will enjoy larger grips while others will feel better with slim grips. Always keep in mind that a grip handle can always be switched easily with a rotary tattoo machine. The adjustable attachment bolt that holds the handle and needle are all universally the same diameter.



But the motor and housing should be built to last, at least until there is enough practice completed by an aspiring tattoo artist. Many of these new tattoo guns do not come with a power source or connection cables either. This also applies to the rest of the tattoo inks, needles, and appropriate supplies. It’s seldom that a ready-made kit is available, so additional supplies that go with tattoo gun purchases are typical. Unless you are buying from a respected tattoo supply company, learn about the safety of these products first.

Some Examples of a Great Rotary Tattoo Machine

Dragonfly Rotary Tattoo Machine

Dragonfly Rotary Tattoo MachineAre Rotary Tattoo Machines Better? | image 4


# 1

This little rotary tattoo machine is meant for total beginners who may have small hands. It’s not especially durable for several years of use but the price it a steal. The seller also has power controllers and connector cables. It may also be worth looking at other sellers who have a better power supply and cables. This model will also need a decent handle and a set of tattoo needles. Be sure that any needles and handle fit-to this rotary model. Chances are, the rotary tattoo machine handles all fit with any standard rotary motor.

It weighs just 113 grams, which is as lightweight as it can get. This does come with a refund if you send it back to the seller on time. As with anything cheaper on Amazon, you have to know this is made from aluminium. The motor may get warm after 20 minutes but runs relatively cool otherwise. This is because aluminium tends to transmit heat faster than other metals. Don’t worry about this problem since it takes several minutes for any kind of heat build-up to be noticeable.

Dragonhawk Extreme Rotary Carbon Steel Tattoo Machine

Dragonhawk Extreme Rotary Carbon Steel Tattoo MachineAre Rotary Tattoo Machines Better? | image 6


# 2

This tiny rotary motor-driven machine is an excellent buy for Amazon since this kind is the best rotary tattoo machines for beginners. It doesn’t come with anything except the motor and some machine oil. It does come in three different colors that include metallic black, green, and red. It also weighs only 175 grams and fits into the palm of any hand. What makes this a quality motor is that it comes from Japan and has some special features. The rotary function is designed with an oily slider rail that has an innerspring.

This makes the up and down motion much more fluid and less wobbly than running on a direct cam wheel. This gun can be perfect as a starter but will need additional parts added to work this tattoo gun. It requires a speed controller and connection wires as well. This seller also sells additional parts that can complete a full tattoo gun kit. It comes with a very decent warranty too, so return this machine within the time limit given.

What About the Best Coil Tattoo Machine?

To be fair, some very nice coil guns are well-built and come from a factory. Unlike custom builds, which are very popular at the moment; a factory-made dual coil gun can cost under 20 dollars. There is also the need to buy extra supplies to complete your kit. Here is a typical example on Amazon:

One Tattoo World Dual Coil Tattoo Machine

One Tattoo World Dual Coil Tattoo MachineAre Rotary Tattoo Machines Better? | image 8


# Coil Tattoo Machine

This machine is a decent buy that shows any tattoo beginner that good quality products are available. Many customers who have purchased this gun have remarked it holds up very well for the cost. Considering that weighs 204 grams, it will be heavier once all the added attachments are put onto it. This might be a downside to this model is that it’s very heavy. Aside from that, it might be a good starter model to do shading. This gun is intended for both lining and shading and has up to 2500 repetitions per minute.

It does look like cast iron but is made from low-carbon steel. The textured frames can also scratch easily but holds-up well for an all-steel construction either way. As with any other coil tattoo gun, this needs to be tuned. Depending on the kind of proper training that goes into owning a dual coil gun, this needs tuning before using it. Springs and rear coil washers may be swapped out to get a getter gap. It all depends on the right amount of training to use this coil gun.

What Else to Consider about Rotary Tattoo Machines?

Despite the low maintenance that goes with owning a rotary machine, training on one is a must. With any kind of tattoo usage, it’s highly advised that some kind of certificate training should be completed. This is to have a better understanding of safety, health guidelines, and better knowledge of working on people’s skin. It’s a lot easier to practice on artificial skin, but making mistakes should be avoided through proper training. This can give a better and more fully-rounded education on proper skin depth and hygiene practice.

Learning to draw efficiently is a must for any tattoo artist, so practice it all about effort and skill. Using a rotary tattoo gun can be a rewarding experience if the time is taken to learn about this craft. But as the tattoo craze has reached such a demand, this is still no excuse for lack of experience. One angry customer who is unhappy with the work that is done can cause a lot of fuss. This often leads to the backlash of online backstabbing that can ruin a tattoo artist’s career.

And if the skill wasn’t enough, being professional with a tool of the trade; starts with being an expert using a rotary gun. This means that no matter which type of tattoo gun is used, the skill behind using them is confident. Gaining trust from a client who is used-to the best coil tattoo machine will also a matter of preference. If a client is opposed to the use of a rotary gun, the issue should never be forced. Rather the argument is best-left in showing pictures of the work that can be achieved using a rotary tattoo machine. Here are some reasons why:

Professional Fine Line

Without a doubt, it takes skill to draw a fine line that doesn’t appear stitched using a rotary gun. This is where proper training will make all the difference in how baselines are drawn. This is also one of the reasons why using the rotary tool is an art form. Coil guns simply have more speed and power but with a lack of experience, it can also damage the skin in seconds. There is a huge value in patience when using the rotary machine since this method was invented first. Mastering this gun can contribute to the reputation any tattoo artist is looking to have.

Shading and Filling Work

Tattoo Shading and Filling Work

When it comes to colorwork, a rotary machine is excellent for this purpose. It makes the process of coloration faster and the look is more consistent. But there is something to be said about skill levels. Shading and line depth need constant attention, and this is one skill that a rotary tattoo artist needs to understand. Without a steady hand and the appropriate skills that are needed, a tattoo will lose the visual impact altogether. Those who are passionate about art and making tattoos continually perfect their skills even when they are experts. The real secret to being excellent with a rotary gun is all about always learning something new.

Our Conclusion

With that being said, this helpful info is meant to inspire and encourage the passion for making tattoos. Using a rotary-driven device is not always about using the best rotary tattoo machines. As long as the machine is dependable and well-maintained, the results of a tattoo that is drawn, matter the most. Then again, the techniques in learning proper depth and shading will be a virtue. These values are best learned by using the rotary machine and gradually expanding into using a coil machine.

Clients who are satisfied with the results of how incredible a rotary machine can work will establish a quick artist reputation. It can also help establish any artist who has mastered these old-school skills too.