The 10 Best Tattoo Machines
This wiki has been updated 15 times since it was first published in February of 2019. Serious artists know how important it is to have the right tools, so we've included high quality tattoo machines on this list, with models designed for shading, lining, and color work. But don't mess around with these unless you're a trained professional in a sterile environment. If you're a beginner, you can still get one, but stick to practicing on melons and grapefruit until you're certified. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 08, 2020:
Tattoo machines are becoming increasingly versatile in terms of the tasks and setups they can handle, not to mention more user-friendly. The FK Irons Spectra Halo 2 is a case in point, capable of pushing both standard needles and cartridges, with a modular vise system enabling you to use either backstem or screw-on grips. You can also adjust both the stroke and give levels to fine-tune how the needle hits, and the machine requires no tools to take it apart for cleaning and maintenance.
The Spectra Halo 2 is taking the place of the Bishop Magi Nikko Hurtado, which is a reliable and powerful tool, but hard to find since it's a limited edition model. It's something of a collector's item, making its value hard to quantify, so we decided to replace it with something that can justify its price based on performance alone. We also swapped out the Dragonhawk Raven Rotary for the new and improved Dragonhawk Raven2 Rotary, which has an updated motor and power supply jack.
We've dropped the Mini Dietzel Power Liner and the Compass Magellan Series, since we couldn't find enough reviews from customers or experts to feel secure in recommending them. On paper they appear to be solid machines, so feel free to try them out if you like the looks of them, but we wanted to limit the list to items with an established track record. Instead, we would recommend the Mast Traditional Handmade for those interested in reliable coil machines. You can get this durable cast-iron model as a combo set including a liner and a shader, or purchase either separately.
Finally, we added the Mast Archer Wireless for those who appreciate the convenience of a machine they can use without plugging in. It has a wide voltage range that can be easily adjusted with the control buttons on its face, and its battery life is quite impressive for its price point. We also liked the clear LCD readout that lets you keep track of how long it's been running - a handy tool for professionals who charge by the hour.
If you're just starting out as a tattoo artist, you might be better served by one of these kits, which include multiple inks and needles as well as handy beginner supplies like guidebooks and practice skins. Or, if you find yourself needing to hide your body art for professional reasons, check out these concealer options.
April 10, 2019:
It's interesting that Dragonhawk ended up with a total of three products on our list, though none of them could break into the top five. Upon close inspection, these turn out to be very good, but somewhat cheaply made compared to many others. This is a category where you'll see brands manufacturing all around the world, like Bishop, whose Magi model at number three is made in the United States, or Cheyenne, whose excellent Hawk Pen is built in Germany. By contrast, Dragonhawk offers very capable models that are made in China, saving you money, but costing you on build quality compared with the more highly rated selections. Some of the decision making for readers will come down to the style with which they feel most comfortable, but there are a pair of capable pen models in our top five not only because they're exceptional machines, but also because their ergonomics make them smart choices for artists at any level of experience.
Workhorse Irons Ghost Dog V3 Designed by renowned artist Adam Ciferri, this hybrid shader has the power and reliability of a coil unit despite being as lightweight as a rotary machine. It's great for laying crisp and solid outlines, or for quick color packing. The Workhorse Irons shop only sells to certified professionals, but if you're a working artist looking to upgrade your gear then you should give this model a look. workhorseirons.com