What Is a Rotary Tattoo Machine?

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A rotary tattoo machine is a type of tattoo machine. It is the most common type of tattoo machine and can be used to create images, letters, or words. It differs from the other types of machines in that it uses a needle to create designs in ink instead of dots.

A rotary tattoo machine consists of a motor, an armature bar, drive gears, and a needle. The machine is connected to an electrical power source through a switch. The design of the machine is similar to that of a manual electric drill. The needle is attached to the end of the armature bar inside the housing and when power is applied, it rotates at several thousand revolutions per minute (rpm), drawing up ink from a reservoir onto the skin surface via gravity feed. There are three basic types of rotary machines: freehand, dot-matrix, and outline.

The Pros of Rotary Tattoo Machine

  • It provides a steady flow of ink into the skin, rather than the pulsing that comes from a traditional machine.
  • Fonts and patterns offered by these machines are unique and different than what you would find in traditional machines.
  • The needles are significantly smaller which means they can be used on natural skin or even thin paper with no risk of bleeding that can occur with other types of equipment.
  • There is no messy cleanup which means you do not have to frequent the washroom or sanitizer.
  • You can use a rotary tattoo machine with any other equipment like a tattooing kit or ink.
  • Rotary machines are affordable and affordable tattoo machines are available for various price points.
  • You can visit a shop and check out the rotary equipment before you buy, or only see pictures or videos of these machines in action.
  • These machines do not need as much force to work effectively, so many people report that they are easy to use.
  • A rotary machine can be purchased pre packaged with a number of needles and a case to store these needles in, so you can get everything you need right away.
  • These machines are smaller in size, so they are perfect for traveling artists who want to take the tattooing experience with them on the road.
  • The needles do not get damaged from excessive leaning and falling like traditional tattoo machines do.
  • The rotary tattoo machine actually has less vibration because it uses a ball bearing which makes it more comfortable for the artist working on your skin as well as for your body.
  • A rotary machine will not produce a loud clicking sound, which means you will not have to worry about bothering your neighbours if you work inside.
  • The machines are easy to use and the ink can be applied directly onto your skin with no extra equipment like a jar or syringe.
  • Rotary machines do not have a tube which means there is no loss of power as the machine passes over your skin as well as less risk of ink getting stuck in the tube like traditional tattoo machines do.
  • These machines are highly versatile and can be used on paper, canvas, and even metal to create unique art pieces.
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The Cons of Rotary Tattoo Machine

  • It takes longer for ink to flow into the skin, which means larger pieces may take a long time if done by hand and even longer if an electric motor is used.
  • Similar to many other tattoo machines, it uses individual cartridges that need to be replaced regularly; each cartridge costs between $15-$50.
  • As the machine is small it is important to keep it clean and free from dirt, dust and other particles as they can get stuck in the machine.
  • Ink can get trapped in the tiny needles if air bubbles are left in the ink, or if there is too much pressure during application.
  • Depending on your body, you may find that you like something different on the first try than what you expected.
  • It takes some time to adjust to getting a tattoo from a rotary tattoo machine, because of how it works with a needle instead of hands.  Some people do not like this experience.  Others enjoy these tattoos as a result of it being less painful than traditional machinery.
  • Cleaning the rotary tattoo machine is an important part of the process and you will need to do this regularly.  If you do not clean your machine it can start to rust and break down, which means you will have to replace your equipment for more reasons than just tattoos of high quality. -The needles can catch and tear your skin, which may make it less likely for customers to go back to that shop again.
  • The machines are often sold with a kit of needles, but finding extra pieces can be difficult if they are lost or damaged.
  • The tubes used in traditional machines can be replaced, but the tubing on a rotary tattoo machine cannot be replaced, so you will have to buy new equipment if you damage the tubing.
  • A rotary tattoo machine is more likely to break down than a traditional one.  This increases expenses and also makes it more difficult for an artist who is not yet experienced to get started with this equipment.
  • The needles on these machines are so fine that they can lose their shape quickly, which means artists need more equipment to get the job done, which again adds to the expense of using this type of device.
  • The rotary machine uses a ball bearing instead of smooth plain bearings, so the needles are able to move faster.  Some people do not like the feel of the needles moving quickly over their skin.
  • The rotary tattoo machine is more difficult to hold in your hand than traditional tools, which can be uncomfortable for some artists.
  • Rotary machines are sold mostly as a part of a kit, which means you may have to buy additional brushes, tubes, ink and tubing if you want to do your own custom artwork or create your own unique tattoo design.
  • There are not many schools that offer classes on how to use and maintain a rotary tattoo machine either online or through local classes.
  • Some artists find that they can not get as much work done on these machines as they do on traditional equipment because of the needles, which means less money for artists to make a living on.
  • Rotary tattoos take longer to heal and the ink is harder to remove from skin than from traditional machinery so you will have to wait a few days before you take a shower, soak the area in hot water or get out in the sun.
  • Rotary machines are more expensive than traditional tattoo machines and some people might be inclined to treat them as a luxury item, which means the price will drive up the cost of a tattoo for everyone.
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It is important to note that these pros and cons do not apply to every individual who buys or uses a rotary machine. The same can be said about all types of machinery or tools that are used by artists in today’s society.