Tattoo Pen vs Tattoo Gun: Which is the Best Machine for You?

Don’t know which one to choose? To settle the score between tattoo pen vs tattoo gun, I will help you compare these two types of machines as a tattoo artist.

Let’s look at the pros and cons, the price, the material, and their usability. Keep reading to find out!

READ MORE: The Best Permanent Makeup Kit

What is a Tattoo Pen Machine and How Does it Work?

Also known as a tattooing pen or a tattoo needle, a tattoo pen is a handheld device that is used to create light tattoos.

The tattoo pen was invented in 2004 by Scott Ser Tattoos. It is less invasive than using a tattoo gun.

The balanced tattoo machine is often used for cosmetic tattoos, such as permanent eyebrow makeup, lips, and eyeliner.

This video shows how a tattoo pen works. #tattootiktok #tatartist #tattoosetup #tattookit #tattoomachines #tattooproducts #foryoupage ♬ Bad Habits – Ed Sheeran

In 2007, Cheyenne Hawk introduced the rotary pen tattoo machine to the tattoo industry for traditional tattooing, especially color realism and detailed line work.

artist with a tattoo pen under title Tattoo Pen vs Tattoo Gun

The tattoo pen machine was created and developed to provide professional tattoo artists with the advantages of rotary tattoo machines while maintaining the feedback responsiveness of coil tattoo machines.

Tattoo pens are available in a variety of sizes in disposable and reusable varieties. They also come with interchangeable cartridges that you can pop in and out of the unit through a pen connection.

The tattoo pen has three parts: the cartridge, the needle or needle bar and the barrel. The cartridge is filled with ink, the needle pierces the skin, and the ink is injected into the skin.

A pen-style rotary machine is driven by an electric motor. Despite it being a powerful motor, it offers noise-free operations and does not harm the ears.

Unlike the traditional tattoo machines, which use a needle that moves up and down to create tattoos, tattoo pens use a vibrating needle that moves in a circular motion.

This causes less pain and trauma to the skin. Tattoo pens are also less likely to cause scarring than other types of tattoo machines, including tattoo guns.

The needle punctures the skin and deposits ink into the dermis, the layer of skin just below the epidermis, making it semi-permanent.

black tattoo pen under title Tattoo Pen vs Tattoo Gun

A pen-style tattoo machine’s ergonomic design is good support for extended tattooing sessions because it is gentler than coil machines, rotary tattoo machines, and pneumatic tattoo machines.

Tattoo your skin with a tattoo pen to try out new designs, add color to an old tattoo, or draw some artwork on your body that you would like to wear for a short amount of time.

You can use this style for experimenting with different designs and creating temporary artworks.

However, it does not work as well for darker tattoos because it requires more ink and is more likely to wash away over time due to sweat or water exposure.

Don’t forget to check these simple tattoos for beginner artists!

What is a Tattoo Gun and How Does it Work?

A traditional tattoo gun is a handheld device that uses a needle to create tattoos. This machine tattoos through puncturing with a needle depth on the dermis level.

A black tattoo gun under title Tattoo Pen vs Tattoo Gun

It digs deeper down the skin, so tattoos last longer and don’t fade easy.

The most common method for tattooing, the tattoo gun, was first invented in 1891 by Samuel O’Reilly. It is used for both cosmetic and traditional tattoos.

It is a more invasive method than using a tattoo pen and is often used for tattoos that cover a large area of the body, such as arms, legs, and back.

an artist with black gloves drawing a tattoo  under title Tattoo Pen vs Tattoo Gun

Tattoo guns are also popular with people who want to create realistic 3D tattoos and for achieving a complex tattoo design.

Unlike the traditional tattoo machines, which use a needle that moves up and down to create tattoos, tattoo guns use a needle that moves in a straight line.

During the tattooing operation, the entire machine causes more pain and trauma to the skin. thus, more chances of scarring the skin.

What is the Difference Between Tattoo Pens and Guns?

A good machine will help you close great tattoo deals.

There is a lot of equipment designed to help tattoo artists accomplish the finest work possible in today’s field of tattooing.

Many people are confused about the differences between tattoo pens and tattoo guns because of the wide variety of tattoo devices utilized by artists.

They’re both tattooing machines that produce the same result, so they can’t be too dissimilar, right? Let’s not leave the answer to an experienced tattoo artist. Let me tell you more.

To drive the tattoo needle up and down into the skin, tattoo guns employ electromagnetic coils that are pulled and pushed. The needle in a tattoo pen is moved by a motor.

Check out this cool video of how a tattoo gun works.

@interesting_accoun.t How a tattoo gun works #fyp #interesting #viral #tatoo ♬ original sound – interesting_account2

A pen-style machine has an engine motor for quiet operation for it produces nearly no vibrations in the machine. It features adjustable needle depth from 0 to 0.40mm.

What is the difference between a tattoo pen and a conventional tattoo gun?

Basically, tattoo guns and tattoo pens are both used for tattooing the skin, but they have different structures and materials.

The tattoo gun is made of metal, while the rotary tattoo pen machine is made of plastic. Here is a comparison of tattoo gun vs. pen in terms of safety, pain, price, durability, and portability.

Which Tattoo Machine is Safer?

New York City Central Park Study says that “Despite the fact that permanent tattoos are growing more popular, tattoo reactions are common but epidemiological data on adverse tattoo reactions is limited.” (1)

Neither the tattoo gun nor the tattoo pen is completely safe. There is always a risk of infection when you get a tattoo, regardless of which method you use.

Check out how a tattoo gun punctures the skin.


Looks a lot more painful in slow motion?

♬ Paris – Else

However, the tattoo gun is more likely to cause infection than the tattoo pen. This is because the tattoo gun punctures the skin more deeply and deposits more ink into the dermis.

This makes it more difficult for the skin to heal properly and increases the risk of infection.

The tattoo pen is less likely to cause infection than the tattoo gun because it does not puncture the skin as deeply and deposits less ink into the dermis.

This is how a tattoo pen works.

@carolineeycc #tattoos #howtotattoo #lifehack #linework #SFXMakeup #japanesetattoo #art #drawing #painting #howto #pen #ComingOfAge #ThatWitch #FYP #asian ♬ original sound – carolineeyh

The skin heals properly, and there is less risk for infection. However, becoming infected is not only about the tattoo machine.

The right hygiene measures during aftercare play a crucial role in good healing. Infections occur from contaminated machines and needles and poor aftercare. (2)

Here are some TikTok videos on how to avoid contamination and proper tattoo machine wrapping.

@tattoosbytyler_st #elfitup #tattooing #tattooartist #tattooingtip #tattoomachine #fyp #foryoupage #fypシ #tattooideas #PepsiApplePieChallenge ♬ She Share Story (for Vlog) – 山口夕依
@austinchitwood How to PROPERLY wrap a pen-style rotary tattoo machine. ?? #fyp #tattok #tattootips #tattoo #tattooartist #AlSucks #wrapyourmachines ♬ Night Invasion (Cover DMC Maxx Flash) – DMC Maxx Flash

Check out our review of the best tattoo machines for beginners!

Which is More Painful?

In terms of pain, the tattoo gun is more painful than the tattoo pen.

Tattoo artist using a tattoo gun

This is because the tattoo gun reaches the skin more deeply up to the dermis.

ALSO READ: Coil vs Rotary Tattoo Machine

Which is More Expensive?

The tattoo gun is more expensive than the tattoo pen. This is because the tattoo gun requires more equipment, such as inks, needles, and power supplies.

Your tattoo kit will be pricy. It also requires more training to use safely.

Comparing pens vs. tattoo guns check prices on Amazon and tattoo suppliers, gun prices range from $50 to $200.

Tattoo pens are more affordable tattoo machines that typically cost between $10 and $50.

big tattoo gun

Tattoo pens are more affordable tattoo machines that typically cost between $10 and $50.

The additional materials you would use with the tattoo guns, such as power sources and supplies cost more than the tattoo pens.

To put it simply, the tattoo pen is a cheap tattoo machine. To put it another way, it doesn’t require nearly as many gear items, materials, or expertise to utilize securely as other options.

Which is More Durable?

The tattoo gun is more durable than the tattoo pen. It is also more durable than the tattoo pen, making it a more reliable choice for long-term use. It also requires less maintenance than the tattoo pen.

3 tattoo guns and various inks

The tattoo guns are made with materials meant for long-lasting stability.

The tattoo pen is less durable than the tattoo gun as the tattoo pen can only be used to create tattoos that are thin and light. It also requires more maintenance than the tattoo gun.

Which is More Portable?

The tattoo pen is more portable than the tattoo gun. This is because the tattoo pen does not require as much equipment or training to use safely. It is also made with high-quality lightweight material.

small tattoo pen

Because of its weight, it helps with your hands’ excellent stability.

This is why tattoo pens are meant for extended sessions.

Which Produces a Better Tattoo?

When it comes to creating beautiful tattoos, the tattoo gun definitely produces better results than the tattoo pen.

The tattoo gun can create tattoos that are thicker and darker, while the tattoo pen can only create thin and light tattoos.

Tattoo guns are also more popular with people who determine the tattoo’s appearance and longevity than tattoo pens.

Which Tattoo Lasts Longer?

New River Dermatology explained that there are two layers in the skin – the dermis, and epidermis.

If the tattoo is stained on the epidermis (outer layer), it will not last long as the skin cells are continuously generating. You get a brand new epidermis every two or three months. (3)

beautiful tattoo on an arm

With the traditional tattoo gun, professional tattoo artists inject the ink directly into the dermis to make it permanent, where it should endure for about 10-15 years before fading.

However, tattoo pens do not dig into the skin as deep as the gun does. Because of this, your tattoo is more likely to fade away in a short time.

Here is a summary table for better comparison:

Tattoo Pen Vs. Tattoo Gun: What Should I Select?

Tattooing styles would be your main factor when choosing between a tattoo pen vs. gun. Here are more things to consider when selecting yours from the two modern tattoo machines.

Is Tattoo Pen Better than a Tattoo Gun?

According to tattoo artists, the tattoo gun is more versatile than the tattoo pen. The gun can be used for both outlining and shading, while the pen can only be used for outlining and making dots.

In addition, the gun can create tattoos that are up to twice as thick as the pen. The gun is also better at creating darker tattoos than the pen.

Price-wise, the tattoo pen offers an affordable price than the tattoo gun, making it a more affordable option.

The tattoo pen has a wireless tattoo power supply making it more portable than the tattoo gun, and easier to bring with you on trips. It is also made for extended sessions.

However, the tattoo pen does not produce tattoos as thick or dark as the tattoo gun. The tattoo gun on the other hand is more durable than the tattoo pen and can create tattoos that are detailed, thicker and darker.

However, the gun is more painful than the pen and is not as portable.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to use a tattoo gun or a tattoo pen comes down to personal preference.

If you are looking for a durable, portable, and painless machine that can create light and thin tattoos, the tattoo pen is the better choice.

If you are looking for a machine that can create thicker, color packer and darker tattoos, the tattoo gun definitely produces better results than the tattoo pen.


How long do tattoo pens last?

Tattoo pens typically last for around 100 tattoos. This will depend on the type of tattoo you are creating, as well as the care and maintenance you provide.

Are tattoo pens permanent?

No. Tattoo pens are typically not permanent. Because the machines do not reach a deeper level of the skin, the tattoo ink tends to fade away in time and will need an enhancement soon.

Are tattoo guns safe?

artist using a tattoo gun on the lady's back

Tattoo guns are generally safe to use when they are properly maintained. However, there is a risk of infection if the machine is not properly sterilized between uses. Avoid contact with contaminated ink.


So which is the best tool for your next tattoo session? The ideal tattoo machine really depends on what you’re looking for in terms of results, pain, and durability.

If you want a thicker, darker tattoo that will last longer, the tattoo gun is probably the better choice. However, if you’re looking for something more subtle or portable, the tattoo pen is a better option.

Here’s some tattoo advice: Whichever route you choose between a tattoo pen vs. a tattoo gun, make sure to do your research and find the perfect tattoo machine that will help you achieve the look you desire.

May the right tattoo machine give you better days of tattooing ahead.

tatoo artist holding tattoo machines

Which one do you prefer, a tattoo gun or a tattoo pen? Let us know below!


1. Brady BG, Gold H, Leger EA, Leger MC. Self-reported adverse tattoo reactions: a New York City Central Park study. Contact Dermatitis. 2015;73(2):91-99. doi:10.1111/cod.12425

2. Dieckmann R, Boone I, Brockmann SO, et al. The Risk of Bacterial Infection After Tattooing. Deutsches Aerzteblatt Online. Published online October 7, 2016. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2016.0665

3. Our Story. New River Dermatology. Accessed March 29, 2022.

About Edith Russo

Edith is a self-made entrepreneur with a keen business sense that others admire and a total “can-do” attitude. She’s always coming up with new ideas to anticipate her readers’ needs and help solve all their toughest beauty and skincare problems. READ HER LATEST ARTICLES. FOLLOW HER on Linkedin and Twitter. Learn more about her HERE.