Rotary vs. Coil Tattoo Machine: What Are the Differences?

Perhaps you stumbled across a rotary tattoo machine and had no idea what it was. Maybe you’ve been tattooing for a long and want to explore how a rotary tattoo machine compares to the coil tattoo machine you’ve always used. In either case, you’ve arrived at the perfect location! Even though they are vastly different, they both end up at the same place–a finished tattoo. It will be up to you as an artist to decide whether you want to use a rotary or coil tattoo machine.

What Is a Coil Tattoo Machine and How Does It Work?

When you think of a tattoo machine, you probably think of a coil machine. A coil tattoo machine works by passing an electromagnetic current through the coils, which causes the tattoo machine’s armature bar to pull and release in a hammer-like effect.

The armature bar’s hammer-like impact allows the needle to tap into the client’s skin, depositing the ink in the dermis. The armature bar is subsequently raised by a spring, reestablishing the electromagnetic field, which then flows through the coils, releasing the armature bar once again. This cycle is then repeated indefinitely.

For most tattoo artists, coil tattoo machines are the most popular option. They come in several configurations, ranging from one to three coils, but a double coil system is the most popular.

What Is a Rotary Tattoo Machine?

A rotary tattoo machine works on completely different scientific principles than a traditional tattoo machine. The needle is moved up and down by little electric motors–much easier, right?

The needle moves with an extremely smooth sensation thanks to the fluid action of the electric motor.

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In recent years, the rotary machine has progressed. You may now obtain them with an armature bar, a feature borrowed from coil machines, to boost efficiency. They’re also available with pneumatic motors, which run on compressed air rather than electricity.

Weight of Rotary vs. Coil Tattoo Machines

Coil tattoo machines are substantially heavier than rotary tattoo machines because they employ massive coils supported by iron bars. Rotary tattoo machines require a tiny electric engine. Some individuals appreciate a coil’s weight, but if you’re tattooing all day, a lesser weight machine might assist relieve some of the tension on your arm.

Noise: Coil machines make a loud buzzing noise that you’re probably familiar with if you’ve ever gone to a tattoo business. The coil machines are rather noisy due to the continual clicking created by the hammer-like action of the released armature bar. The rotary machine, on the other hand, is quieter due to its simpler construction.

One of the major benefits of rotary machines over coil machines is that they can do both lines and shading on the same machine.

With a tube stem, all you have to do is modify the needle depth; however, with a coil machine, you’ll need two machines: shading and lines. There isn’t a coil machine on the market that can do both.

Needle Movement: The breaking and reestablishing of the electromagnetic field method used by the coil machines make for much rougher needle movement when compared side-by-side with the rotary machine with a constant flow of power, creating a very smooth needle movement.

It’s great to figure out which machine best fits your personality, but there’s no reason you can’t use both!