Are you wondering about the difference between rotary vs. coil tattoo machines?
I was, too. Now that I’ve done my research, I finally got the answer.
Did you know that the tattoo industry is trendy enough to make $1.37 billion in the market in 2021 alone? (1) Every year, the number of tattoo artists in the US increases by 7.3%.
If you’re joining the 7.3%, better start looking for a tattoo kit! Read on to find out which machine is better for beginners.
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Table of Contents
What Are The Key Differences Between Coil and Rotary Tattoo Machine?
The main difference between the two types of machines is how precisely the tattoo needles are driven into the human skin to create the desired art style.
In coil tattoo machines, the armature bar drives the needle groupings up and down while piercing the skin is controlled by electromagnetic coils.
A professional tattoo artist likes the coil machine because it can make smooth and perfect lines.
Despite being a powerful machine, it is heavy due to its powerful motor. A rotary type is known for its lightweight nature. Moreover, it is readily available at an affordable price.
In a rotary pen tattoo machine, the tattoo needles are drawn and released by a little motor in the rotating tattoo machines.
The machine’s motor is housed within its chassis. When the devices are running, there are very low noise levels.
As rotary tattoo machines have more advantages, many tattoo artists prefer them to coil tattoo machines. A rotary machine makes the process almost painless and extremely smooth.
Both machines say they can do amazing things, but their work is different. People new to the tattoo industry always want to know which machine to use.
Now let’s dive into the 8 key differences between the two machines.
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Difference 1. Machine Weight
Coil tattoo machines are bigger than rotary machines because they contain heavy coils – wrap and copper coils.
The tattoo artist must exert considerable effort to manage to make intricate lines and navigate the instrument over the subject’s skin.
Any mishandling can harm the skin of the person under the needle.
The tattoo artists can operate lightweight rotary machines with greater precision and stable operation.
Artists can work for long periods without becoming exhausted.
Unlike the coil machines, there are far fewer chances of making mistakes while fiddling with the rotary machines to improve the tattoo designs.
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Difference 2. Noise Factor
How noisy could coil tattoo machines be? When in use, this type of tattoo machine’s electric motor produces a consistent buzzing sound that can be heard even outside the tattoo shop.
@elchapoescobar75 I HAD TO PULL OUT THE COIL MACHINES I MISSED THAT BEAUTIFUL SOUND. #tattoo #tattoomachine #blackandgreytattoo #tattooartist #disney #tattoolife #tat ♬ original sound – Friskee
The hammer-like sound is the effect of the armature bar. While the buzz could be satisfying to others’ ears, it could be irritating noise pollution, especially during long tattoo sessions.
A rotary machine does quiet operation as it is designed. Also, less pressure during tattoo apprenticeships.
@tattooromanov Rotary tattoo machine @romanovrotary #tattoomachinesound #tattoomachine #rotarytattoomachine ♬ Cola (Mixed) – CamelPhat & Elderbrook
Difference 3. Precision Level
There are a lot of tattoo experts and fans who think that rotary tattoo machines don’t have as much power as coil tattoo machines because the recoil is so slow.
Because of this, it is hard to work with larger needles, unlike when these are used in coil machines.
The coil tattoo gun produces amazing tattoos because it is more powerful in shading.
Difference 4. Needle Range for Lining and Shading
Both tattoo guns are designed to assist in significant linear motion.
The needle movement on a coil tattoo machine is shaky because the electromagnetic field breaks and reestablishes each cycle.
@inkedmagazine Nick Matic breaks down a coil tattooing machine ? #TikTokPartner #LearnOnTikTok #Tattoo #CoilMachine ♬ original sound – Inked Magazine
The needle movement of a rotary tattoo machine, on the other hand, is smooth because to the steady flow of electricity.
In comparison to coil tattoo machines, rotary tattoo machines allow for smoother lines. However, coil tattoo guns have good shading needle groupings and materials.
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Difference 5. Machine Versatility
The rotary tattoo machine is more versatile than the coil. It comes with interchangeable needle cartridges as shading tools and lining tools.
@scene360 Tattooist YelizGunay using a DragonHawk machine. #tattooing #tattoomachine #rotarymachine ♬ You (Instrumental) – Jonathan Paulsen
Too bad for the coil with only standard needles, you will need two machines – one for shading and one for the lining.
Difference 6. Skill Level Requirement
Which is more beginner-friendly? Since rotary machines have lighter weight, they are easier to adjust for beginner tattoo designs.
A newbie doesn’t need to practice to get used to it to produce beautiful designs.
Coil tattoo machines require expertise to handle as they are heavy and shall be used precisely.
Make sure to check our list of different tattoo machines.
Difference 7. Machine Maintenance
The maintenance costs of the rotary machines are much less than the coil tattoo machines.
Difference 8. Portability
Unlike heavy coil machines, rotary machines are easier to travel with. You can easily slip them into your backpack.
The Key Differences between Coil vs. Rotary Tattoo Machine
|Machine Features||Coil Tattoo Machine||Rotary Tattoo Machine|
|Noise output||More noise||Less noise|
|Precision level||More precise||Less precise|
|Needle Range (lining and shading)||Shakier||Less shaky|
|Versatility||Less versatile||More versatile|
|Skill level requirement||More expertise||Less expertise|
|Maintenance||More costly||Less costly|
|Portability||Less portable||More portable|
Learn more about the tattoo gun anatomy.
Rotary Vs. Coil Tattoo Machine: Which One Should I Choose?
Between rotary vs. coil tattoo machines, rotary tattoo machines are smaller, quieter, and lighter than other tattoo machines.
Working with it over an extended period of time is a breeze with rotary, which is an advantage for both beginner artists and professional artists.
Once the needle is plugged into the proper power source, the machine is ready to use. After a successful tattooing session, cleaning the machine is very simple.
Experienced tattoo artists, on the other hand, prefer a coil tattoo machine because of its precision.
Rotary tattoo machines produce a precise output, but not as well as coil tattoo machines.
The coil tattoo machine is the perfect choice if precision is a top requirement for your tattoo project.
For more reference, here is what the Youtuber tattoo artist Lil B Tattoo has to say about coil vs. rotary machine.
The choice for tattoo artists is rotary machines because the weight makes it better for the long tattooing process.
These tattoo machines are also easy to maintain and are a cheap tattoo machine option over the coil tattoo machines.
Is Coil or Rotary Better For Beginners?
Brooklyn-based renowned tattoo artist and tattoo shop owner Jessa Valentine said she wouldn’t recommend any for beginners.
She advises, “During their apprenticeship, a young artist should use whatever their mentor tells them to use.”
However, self-taught artist Brittany Randell prefers the rotary “because it’s simple to operate and navigate, [especially] when compared to a coil machine because there are less pieces to learn about and maintain.”
If you want a lightweight machine, to begin with, go for rotary.
However, go for the coil machine if you’re up for a little challenge and prefer more precise lines and color packing shades.
Are rotary tattoo machines easier to use?
Yes, because it is lightweight, quiet, and produces less noise. It can be used by any artist regardless of their ability level.
Are Rotary tattoo machines quiet?
Yes. Rotary machines are quieter than coil machines because their inner mechanics are more straightforward.
Do all rotary tattoo machines use cartridges?
Yes. All rotary tattoo machines use cartridges.
There is no right or wrong answer when choosing between rotary vs. coil tattoo machines for beginners.
Choose a machine that matches your tattoo needs while complementing your style. You can even select both machine kinds if necessary.
1. IBISWorld – Industry Market Research, Reports, And Statistics. (n.d.). Tattoo Artists in the US – Market Size | IBISWorld. https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/market-size/tattoo-artists-united-states/.
2. Press, N. (n.d.). Critical Study On Rotary Tattoo Machines Vs Coil — NorCal Press | PRLog. PRLog. https://www.prlog.org/12169656-critical-study-on-rotary-tattoo-machines-vs-coil.html.