Do You Have to Tune a Tattoo Machine?

If you plan to become a tattooist, the first and foremost thing you have to know is how to tune a tattoo machine. The tuning of a tattoo machine will ensure that you will get the best result from it. The hand-held hybrid tattoo guns are ideal for both shading and lining; it is essential to correctly adjust the needle depth. The tuning method of different rotary tattoo machines varies.

While a coil tattoo gun kit can be either shader or liner. Whatever machine you use, the tuning process will be much easier if you know the device components.

This article will give you a clear idea of the question – do you have to tune a tattoo machine. In fact, this is the most searched question by beginners in google.

So, let’s read the detailed answer.

Why do you need to tune a tattoo machine?

Why do you need to tune a tattoo machine

In order to get a significant performance from the beginners friendly tattoo machine, machine tuning is a must. This means you have to tune a tattoo machine following different methods if it is used as a liner or shader.

Moreover, to get a subtler result, the tuning method will change.

The truth is, whatever tuning process you follow, all of them are correct. You can’t tune a rotary tattoo machine following the wrong way. The adjusting method is entirely depending on the artist and the tattooing design. Playing around with multiple machine tuning methods will allow you to determine the required set up of a particular tattoo design. Once you finalize the machine set up for lining or shading, you have to keep it in your memory, and keeping notes will also be beneficial.

Consistency is one of the essential characteristics that you should achieve. And the right machine set up will assist you in gaining consistency.

Below are a few basics of tattoo machine tuning.

Spring Gauges

The spring gauge refers to the metal thickness. Characteristically, your machine will receive a harder hit from a thicker spring. On the other hand, a thinner spring will give a softer hit. These are not the only consideration when tuning a rotary tattoo machine. The spring length also plays a vital role. A longer spring will hit the machine softer compared to a shorter spring.

Placement of the contact point

Contact point placement can easily be adjusted if the machine has a cutback frame. You can speed up the device by moving the contact point towards the rear.

Voltage

Voltage

Without the correct voltage, you will not get the required lining or shading design. So, you can’t avoid tuning the machine to the right voltage. Depending on the used voltage, rotary tattoo machine performance will vary. Make sure you remember which set up and which voltage works best for what you are trying to get out of the machine.

The rule of 90°

You should have your contact point at 90°, and it should meet the front spring. But tattoo machine tuning can be done by adjusting the contact point angle.

With this guide, you will learn

  • The correct way of tuning a liner or shader
  • Slowing down and speeding up of a tattoo machine
  • Adjusting the depth of the needle as per requirement
  • Tuning a rotary tattoo machine

How to Tune a Liner?

Best Handmade Tattoo Machine

A liner hits hard and works faster when tattooing.

Step 01: First, press down the armature bar and measure the gap between the front spring and the contact point.

Step 02: Continue tightening or loosening the screw until the gap is the dime width.

Step 03: Adjust the depth of your needle where the needle is sticking out the tip to the dime’s width. Move the tube stem either up or down to adjust it and give the frame hand tighten.

Step 04: Use a rubber band around the needle and coil. The needle can get slow down if you use the rubber tightly. Use the rubber firmly to hold them in place.

Step 05: Find the best voltage possible in which the tattoo machine delivers the best result. The tattoo machine will operate faster with the high voltage, while low voltage will slow down the machine.

These are the basic setups of a liner that you should learn to grow as a tattoo artist.

While setting up a liner, make sure that the spring is shorter and softer, and the armature bar is lighter. You will have a speedy tattoo machine with both options.

How to Tune a Shader?

Shaders are best at delivering nice gradients and blending. Characteristically, shaders operate slowly, and their stroke is longer compared to liners.

Step 01: First, press down the armature bar and measure the gap between the front spring and the contact point.

Step 02: Continue tightening or loosening the screw until the gap is the nickel width.

Step 03: Adjust the depth of your needle where the needle is sticking out the tip to the nickel’s width. Move the tube stem either up or down to adjust it and give the frame hand tighten.

Step 04: Use a rubber band around the needle and coil. The needle can get slow down if you use the rubber tightly. Use the rubber firmly to hold them in place.

Step 05: Find the best voltage possible in which the tattoo machine delivers the best result.

A heavier armature bar and longer stiffer springs will allow you to control the shader speed precisely.

The essential thing of tuning a tattoo machine is to learn speed controlling. You can make your style if you know when to speed up and slow down.

Process of Controlling the Machine Speed

Machine Speeding Up

You can speed up a machine following the below methods

  • Using a cut back frame
  • Armature bar should not be bulky

Front springs have to be more challenging along with softer back springs

Machine Slowing down

The nickel gap rule is the easiest way of slowing down a machine. Instead of this, other options are

  • Armature bar has to be bulky
  • The back spring should be stiffer, and the front spring has to be softer

The truth is, without practicing, you can’t learn to tune a machine. It is essential to understand the fundamentals. Practice will allow you to develop your style as a tattoo artist.

How to Tune a Rotary Tattoo Machine?

How to Tune a Rotary Tattoo Machine

Tuning the high-end hybrid gun is such a simple task. The unique characteristic of the rotary tattoo machine is you can use them as both liner and shader. All you need to do is adjust the depth of the needle by regulating the tube stem up and down in the frame. You will want to hang a shader for your liner, the length of the dime, and the width of the nickel from the tip while running.

Rotary tattoo machines motor rarely malfunctions. But if it shows problems, you can effortlessly replace them since they are affordable and readily available. The cam is the only component that you can alter to modify a rotary machine – this is when the machine and needle bar loop end is connected. Adjusting its throw is the main reason to alter the cam. When the rotary machine moves, the cam gets a clockwise spiral, which means longer stroke length is confirmed with a longer cam. On the other side, the shorter cam will ensure a shorter stroke length.

Tuning the Power Supply

Power Supply

The power supply controls the voltage at which the rotary machine is running. Rotary machine’s speed can also be controlled with a power supply. But you will face a problem if you control the speed with the power supply. When the machine runs at high speed for an extended period, the machine will get overheated.

In fact, you will never get the answer to the question, “what is the ideal voltage option to run a rotary machine”? It is because an ideal voltage is nonexistent to run a rotary tattoo machine, but the range of ideal voltage is 4 – 12 V.

You will never find similarities between 2 rotary tattoo machines, and the machine tuning plays a vital role in determining the required volts to run the rotary tattoo machine. The thumb rule is, turn the voltage on until you hear a continuous sound.

A few other components of the rotary tattoo machine play a crucial role in supplying the required machine power.

Power Supply Box

The tattoo’s power supply box consists of a meter that will help you take control over volts. This is where you will connect the foot pedal to your device and the power source. Different styles of power supply boxes are available in the market. To access your tattooing equipment, they come with a jack, meters, and dials that share all information.

Leads

Your rotary tattoo machine and power supply box both will come with leads. You will find 2 holes on your machine rear, and these 2 holes are known as leads. You have to connect your machine’s clip cord in these holes, and thus the power supply will transfer power to the machine. The top lead is –ve, and the bottom one is +ve.

The power supply leads will allow you to connect the foot pedal and the tattoo machine. Generally, phone-jack plugs are used to make the connection.

Clip Cord

Clip Cord

The clip cord is responsible for transferring power to your tattoo machine. You will find a phone-jack at one end, and the other end is equipped with a spring. Also, shaped in the right-angled, 2 metal bars are available in it.

Once you place the right-angled metal bars into leads, the machine will get a connection. And it will stay in its place with the spring. Ensure connecting the +ve metal end into the leads positive side and a –ve metal end to the lead’s negative side. The ends are identified with either +ve or – ve symbols or black label.

Foot Pedal

Without making a connection to a power source, you can’t work with your foot pedal. So the foot pedal also has to be connected with the power source. The foot pedal will allow you to control the transferred electricity that transfers from the power supply box to the rotary machine.

Frequently Asked Question

What voltage is required a rotary tattoo machine?

It is essential to keep in mind that; 4 – 12 V is the rotary tattoo machine voltage range. The fewer voltages you use, the more beneficial it is.

What angle should you hold a tattoo machine?

When tattooing, it would be best to hold a tattoo machine between 45° – 60°. This angle will assist you in controlling the device precisely to achieve an awesome tattoo design.

What is the best rotary tattoo machine for beginners?

It is quite challenging to pick the best rotary tattoo machine. However, below are a few characteristics of a top-rated rotary tattoo machine

Is it possible to use the same tattoo gun for both shading and lining?

Yes, you can use a tattoo machine for both lining and shading. All you need to do is simply change the machine settings when using it as per the requirement.

Final Words

The above discussions are the basics of tuning a tattoo machine. We shared the tuning process of both coil and rotary tattoo machines.

But at the end of the day, everything depends on your dedication level. Every successful tattoo artist knows the fundamentals of the tattoo machine. You also can become a successful tattoo artist when you know the basics of tattooing.

Nothing can stop you from reaching your goal if you are determined and love hard work.

Thanks for reading this article!