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Rotary vs. Coil Tattoo Machines – What’s the Difference and Which is Best?

Both types of tattoo machines are amazing for making tattoos, and mutually they have just a few main differences. Below you can find out about them, and choose easier.

Every tattoo artist has several essential pieces of equipment that are indeed crucial for this line of work. Among those is, of course, the tattoo machine. Without a tattoo machine, everything is almost pointless.

How could the artist tattoo his clients without this equipment that inserts the ink under the skin? But, this is not the only dilemma here; there is also the choice and comparison between a rotary and coil tattoo machine, the 2 main types.

If you wonder what is the difference between these, and which one wins, we can help you find out below.

Coil vs. Rotary Tattoo Machines

Rotary Coil Tattoo difference

The main thing that makes the difference between a rotary and a coil tattoo machine is the way the needle operates and inserts the ink under the skin. The main differences are the noise and the needle contact with the skin.

The rotary tattoo machine is incredibly quiet, unlike the coil machine. The motor is smaller, and the needles move in an up-and-down way, providing a smooth, muffled sound and movement.

The coil tattoo machine works with an electromagnetic current that moves through coils, thus it pulls and releases the armature of the machine. The sound is very loud, and the needles punch the skin harder.

Which one is best depends on what you want out of a tattoo machine. If you like it for both shading and lines, the rotary is the right one. If you want to customize the parts and do precise and bold lines, the coil type is better.

What is the other difference between a rotary and coil tattoo machine?

The other factor that makes a difference is versatility. For example, the coil machine cannot be used for the two main tattooing styles – shades and contours/lines. If you choose the coil machine, you have to pick either shades, or lines, but sadly, not both. To create good tattoos, and of course, work properly, you will need to have the rotary machine as well, otherwise, you’ll be limited to only tattooing lines or shades.

On the other hand, the rotary tattoo machine can create both shades and lines, and all you need to do is change the needle for this machine.

Read also: Best Wireless Tattoo Machines

How does a rotary tattoo machine work

How does a rotary tattoo machine work

Let’s repeat, the rotary machine works with an electric motor, and the needle goes smoothly under the skin, with less punch-effect. This machine will leave less trauma on the skin, and it will do this more quietly as well.

Also, this machine is incredibly lightweight and feels a bit more ergonomic, but not in every case. In other words, you as the artist can work with this machine for a longer time without getting tired easily. The needles here move very fast as well, thus the client will not feel them ‘drilling’ under the skin with slow movements. Its best potential, optimal quality is when it’s used with a grouping of smaller needles.

One of the disadvantages is that you might need to go over a line a few times to get the best, vivid and bold result. Since the needles here do not punch too hard and deep, this happens.

You can take care of its maintenance by; lubricating it regularly, cleaning it with good quality cleansers, and check and assemble its parts properly.

How does a coil tattoo machine work

How does a coil tattoo machine work

The coil tattoo machine works with (electromagnetic) currents for the quite drastic movement of needles. The tip has coils inside of it, and they produce and enable the harsh, punch effect of the needles. When the needle goes into the skin, the coils compress, when the needle leaves the skin, the coils release and pull back.

The coil tattoo machine is amazing when it comes to making precise, and very elegant, and bold lines. Also, if you need to make details in between or next to the lines, this machine is good enough. The coil machines also have a very powerful motor, and this is essential for the group of needles. These are the standard, old-fashioned, but classic tattoo machines that will not disappoint, both quality and longevity-wise.

Another perk of the coil tattoo machine is the customization segment. If you want to experiment with various tattoo machine parts, or customize your machine, add or remove parts – this is your go-to choice. You can even build your coil tattoo machine this way!
Plus, you can control the speed quite easily with a coil machine!

The disadvantage though, is the noise factor, precisely, the loudness. Also, the needles will be more ‘felt’ by the customer as well.

Does coil tattoo machines hurt more than rotary tattoo machines

It is a fact that tattoos made with a rotary tattoo machine hurt less than ones made with a coil machine.

The rotary one will just insert the needles under the skin, fast, efficient, smooth, and with less buzz to annoy you. But, be prepared for more repeats over one same line – to get that bold and sharp effect.

The coil machine causes more pain because the needles literally go up and down the skin, mimicking a minor needle-punch, and luckily, there is no need for repeats over one same line here.

Coil or Rotary Machines: Which is the best?

You need to decide what you want exactly from your tattoo machine.

Do you want to be unique and customize the parts, or assemble your tattoo machine? Do you want to finish contours in one go? Then choose the coil type.

But, also, do you want less noise and gentler working? Do you want less wiggling of the customer because he feels pain? Then choose the rotary type


In conclusion, both rotary and coil tattoo machines are amazing and essential, great pieces of equipment to have around. When it comes to choosing which one you need, you have to decide whether you want both shades and lines at once, or one after the other. This will help you decide what tattoo machine type to get.

You need to have in mind the following factors: shading and contouring (one or both), the noise factor, and customization. From there, it is easy to decide what you need and want. Good luck!

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