How To Hold A Tattoo Gun? (Safe Techniques To Follow)

Are you a beginner in the tattoo world and can’t hold the tattoo gun properly? I know it can be hard, but after many years of experience, I’ve discovered how to do it.

Learn these simple techniques to get a pain-free tattoo process. Read and learn!

Make sure to also check our review of the best permanent makeup device.

Does Angle Help You Hold a Tattoo Gun Longer?

Yes, a standard angle allows you to hold your tattoo machine longer and have a smooth tattoo process.

When using your tattoo machine, it’s advisable to hold it at a standard angle of 45 and 60 degrees when putting tattoo ink into the skin. To hold your gun for longer, apply box motion.

lady tattooing the man's arms

The box motion usually works more effectively than circles. Your hand is also more relaxed; thus, you don’t tire before completing the tattoo process.

Note that when you hold your machine at different angles, the tattoo needles will go deeper in some areas than others. This makes you create uneven tattoos, which are not perfect.

Another important thing is that the angle you hold the tattoo machines also determines how deep does a tattoo needle go in the skin surface. Change the angles depending on the level of penetration you need.

Watch this video on the correct tattoo machine holding angle.

CHECK: Budget Tattoo Machines to Try!

Techniques That Help You Hold a Tattoo Gun

Before you even hold your tattoo machine, you need to ensure you are working in a sanitized area. Ensure your area is clean to avoid contaminations during the process.

Avery Osajima, a stick-and-poke tattoo artist based in Seattle, says, “It’s equally important to keep your workspace meticulously clean. When you’re tattooing yourself, you have to treat everything like it’s contaminated.” [1]

Like any other machine, the technique you use to hold the tattoo machine determines your results.

Besides, the technique also determines the experience you and your subject have from the start to the end of the tattooing process. The proper technique leads to high-quality results.

ALSO READ: How to Use a Tattoo Gun

Here are the techniques for holding a tattoo machine.

1. Grip Your Tattoo Gun Tip

You should hold your tattoo gun in a firm grip. The proper technique is gripping its tip using your pointer finger and thumb. With this grip, your needle moves evenly.

Use your ring, pointer, and middle finger as a solid platform pressed against your skin surface. Make sure that your wrist is not pivoting.

This technique allows you to create a constant needle depth and angle of insertion. Avoid irregular grip to get great results since the needle depth won’t fluctuate.

By holding your tattoo machine with this technique, you don’t get pain and create precise lines.

Connect your machine to the power supplies machine and turn it on. Then, insert your tattoo needle into the correct depth.

Guide it through the skin. Create a tattoo with a single smooth stroke from the bottom to the top of the line.

Make sure that you create a tattoo either forward or sideways. Avoid going into the deeper layer of skin. Using a shallow angle, you will create a tattoo on the sweet spot of the skin surface.

Hold the tattoo machine tightly to ensure that the needles don’t wobble in the needle tube, causing repetitive strain injuries or preventing maximum ink flow.

Create the lines slowly and apply a consistent pace.

If you move the machine too fast, you will not get maximum ink flow. If you move too slowly, you may cause skin injuries [2].

2. Hold at 45 Degrees and Move in Circular Motions

This is a tattoo gun holding technique you should use when shading. You need to do the shading by holding your tattoo gun at 45 degrees and using circular motions.

At the same time, control ink with your hand’s pressure. The technique allows you to blend in different shades of your ink.

You can easily control the ink shade when you press the tattoo needle not as much in parts you want to have a lighter tattoo [3].

RELATED: Tattoo Shading Techniques

3. Use the Flicking Wrist Motion

Another great way is using the flicking wrist motion. This technique involves applying more and less pressure at the start of the stroke.

You should either increase or release the pressure throughout the stroke to get varying effects. This allows you to create a more appealing tattoo because of the different effects.

4. Hold the Tattoo Machine like a Pencil or Pen

You can also hold your tattoo gun like a pen or pencil. This way, you will feel comfortable working with the machine. It’s a technique that gives you full control over the tattoo pen.

With this technique, you need to maintain the penetration angle close to 90 degrees. You can maintain an angle between 45 and 90 degrees as you color and shade.

You should never go below 45 degrees so that you don’t shoot the ink underneath the skin surface. Also, take precautions to avoid finger injury.

5. Holding the Tattoo Gun at 90 Degrees

Holding your tattoo machine at 90 degrees is the perfect way to create shaky lines. When using this technique, make sure you keep this angle consistent.

In addition, only move the machine backward and forward in the position. If you want to do a curve, ensure you rotate the gun with the curve. Going sideways can cause a blowout or inked skin.

Watch this video and learn techniques on how to hold a tattoo gun.

READ MORE: Is it Hard to Tattoo Yourself?


How hard do I press when tattooing?

You don’t have to press too hard when tattooing. Just press to ensure that the ink flow gets into the middle skin layer or the dermis for a good-looking tattoo.

How far should a tattoo needle stick out of the gun?

Your tattoo needle shouldn’t stick out of the gun over 2 mm or less than 1 mm.

How many needles are in a tattoo gun?

Depending on your desired effect, you can use several needle groupings to add ink to the skin. A tattoo gun has a needle count of one to 21 needles, depending on its configuration.

Which needle should I use to get fine tattoo lines?

For fine lines, use a single tipped needle. But, make sure you use the right needle technique to get desired results.


As you can see, there are different techniques on how to hold a tattoo gun. The technique you apply during the tattoo process depends on how comfortable you feel holding the machine.

As a professional tattoo artist, you should be able to use different techniques to suit your particular tattoo needs. The most critical thing is to hold the tattoo machine with a firm grip.

Ensure that the tattoo gun is well set up before use for a smooth tattoo process and avoid painful skin piercing. The needles should be sterilized to ensure that the machine doesn’t become a health hazard.

And prior to any of this, make sure that you know how to set up a tattoo gun fully well before executing any of these!

hand holding a tattoo gun

Do you have other tips on how to hold a tattoo gun? Please share below!


  • 1. Denton-Hurst T. How to (Safely and Hygienically) Tattoo Yourself, According to Tattoo Artists [Internet]. The Strategist. 2020 [cited 2022 Mar 9]. Available from:
  • 2. Giulbudagian M, Schreiver I, Singh AV, Laux P, Luch A. Safety of tattoos and permanent make-up: a regulatory view. Archives of Toxicology. 2020;94.
  • 3. Kristensen L. The Technique and Craftsmanship of Tattooing in the Professional Tattoo Parlour. Tattooed Skin and Health. 2015;31–6.
About Sylvia K

Sylvia is one of the most joyful people you’ll ever meet. She is a high advocate of self-love and encourages women to take care of themselves both mentally and physically. She loves girly talks especially salon talks (a little gossip doesn’t hurt) and spends most of her free time on skincare or hair care. READ HER LATEST ARTICLES. Find her on LINKEDIN. Learn more about her HERE.

Leave a Comment