How to Use a Rotary Tattoo Machine?

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A rotary tattoo machine is a device used to place permanent color into the skin, and it’s typically used in the tattooing process. The way a rotary tattoo machine works is by using needles and ink to transfer pigment quickly and accurately.

The needle of the machine will rotate while it punctures your skin, creating what are known as “tracks” in your skin. These tracks are where the needles pierce your skin to deposit ink.

Depending on the machine you are using, and the style of tattoo you are wanting to create, needles will vary in size. The larger the needle, the deeper it penetration and the darker the ink will be. Not all needles sizes nor types are meant for every type of tattoo. In general, if you are looking for a larger ink line, details or a more intricate design, you’ll want to use a bigger needle size. If you’re just looking for something small and basic, like a heart or an anchor on your wrist with an outline around it, then a smaller needle size is fine.

The type of metal used in your rotary tattoo machine is important too. Usually, aluminum or chrome-plated needles are used. If you want to use needles that have a more ‘machinery’ feel to them, like spikes or balls, those can be made from steel and will give your tattoo a much more industrial look.

The type of ink that you use when getting permanent color is also important. Unless you are getting a very large tattoo where the style really matters and the lines need to be deep, you probably won’t need as dark of ink as with traditional pencil or marker tattoos. In general, 2-3 shades darker than what you would traditionally pick out using pencils works well.

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The rotary tattoo machine works by using small needles for a very direct line of ink. It’s generally a quick process and it’s best to plan out your design using ‘ink-lines’. The better your line is defined and the smoother you can achieve it, the better the tattoo will look. You may find yourself doing some practice runs with a pencil or marker to get used to what needles feel like and how much ink they transfer. Once you’ve got that down, try filling in your design in different spots and creating some tracks on your skin so you know what areas are good for lining up your lines and where bigger inspiration lines might be needed.

The process of getting a permanent tattoo using a rotary machine is relatively quick. If you’re doing a small design with little details like a script word or some flowers, it should take you less than half an hour. For each inch your design covers, the tattoo will take about 15-20 minutes to complete. It generally takes about 20 minutes per appointment for between 10-20 needles so if you’re getting a greater number of needles put in, you may have to go back for several sessions.

Ready to get started with your new rotary tattoo machine? Do you already have one? Happy Tattooing!