rotary vs coil tattoo machine for beginners

Rotary Vs Coil Tattoo Machine: The Right One for You in 2023

Rotary machines excel in providing smoother operation, reduced noise, and suitability for longer sessions. Coil machines, on the other hand, excel in customization options and speed, which may appeal to experienced artists. In case, you are on a limited budget, you should consider coil machines instead of rotary ones.

That is the short version. Read along to learn more about the differences between rotary and coil tattoo machines. And find out which machine is best for your tattooing journey.

Key Takeaways

  • Rotary machines are versatile, and suitable for both lines and shading, whereas coil machines may require switching between machines for different tasks.
  • Rotary machines are lightweight and have quieter motion. Coil machines, with their hammer-like action, can be heavier and produce more noise.
  • Rotary machines offer smoother and less damaging tattooing, while coil machines can work faster but may be rougher on the skin.
  • Coil machines are more challenging and better suited for experienced tattoo artists, while rotary machines are more beginner-friendly.

Rotary vs Coil Tattoo Machine: Quick Comparison

Rotary vs Coil Tattoo Machine

Let’s take a look at the fundamental differences between the two tattoo machines:

CriteriaRotary Tattoo MachineCoil Tattoo Machine
Operation Operates with a needle moving up and downOperates through an electromagnetic current
Weight Lightweight designBulkier design
Needle RangeFluid MotionChoppy Motion
Versatility  Can draw both lines and shadesCan draw either lines or shades
Sound Output Quiet machineNoisy machine
Ease of useEasier to useChallenging to use
Customization Replacing parts is  expensiveReplacing parts is budget-friendly
Tattoo IntensityLess rough on the skinHammer-like punch on the skin
Maintenance Tougher maintenanceEasier maintenance
Price $800$500

Still, deciding on which tattoo machine to choose? Don’t worry. Our detailed sections below will have all the answers you’re looking for.

Rotary Vs Coil Tattoo Machine: In-depth Comparison

This is a detailed comparison between rotary and coil tattoo machines. Read along to find what’s the best machine for your tattooing jobs.


Coil machines use electric currents for rapid needle movement, while rotary machines employ a small motor for smoother, up-and-down needle motion

In coil machines, electricity passes through and causes the needles to move in an uneven, abrupt manner, simulating a hammer-like impact for added force.

On the other hand, rotary machines work smoother inside. It is much more gentle for the artist and client. Tattoo artists can use this machine for a long time during single-sitting.

rotary tattoo machines
Source: Amazon


Rotary tattoo machines are generally known for being lightweight in design compared to coil ones. Thus, it makes them easier to operate for beginner tattoo artists.

Also, the lightweight design of these machines can make them more comfortable to hold steadily, especially for artists working on long tattoo sessions or with wrist or hand fatigue.

Coil tattoo machines are generally known for being larger and heavier than their rotary counterparts. This is due to the powerful motors and heavier materials used in their construction.

The larger size and weight of coil machines can make them more difficult to handle and control, especially for artists working on smaller, more detailed ink designs like tattoos on lips and fingers.

coil tattoo machines
Source: Amazon

Needle Range

Compared to coil tattoo machines, rotary machines offer smoother needle movement because their electric motor runs non-stop. This fluid motion guarantees consistency and reduces skin irritation.

Coil tattoo machines produce a choppier motion as the electromagnetic circuit repeatedly switches on and off. It’s akin to a small hammer punching the needle. This doesn’t imply a less-than-perfect outcome; it just demands more skill.


A coil machine can either draw lines or shade, while a rotary machine can be used for both. Therefore, a tattoo artist using a coil machine may require a rotary machine as a backup.

Rotary machines, on the other hand, offer greater versatility. Tattoo artists can use these machines for lining and also, shading by simply switching the needles. 

However, a drawback of rotary tattoo machines is their reduced adaptability for customized tattoos.

It’s worth noting that an experienced tattoo artist could enhance versatility with either machine.

Sound Output

Coil machines are noisy during the tattooing process while the rotary machine is quieter. These machines produce a clicking sound as they release and retract needles. This sound can be intimidating for some clients, making them nervous and causing involuntary movements.

In contrast, rotary machines operate very quietly because they lack the electromagnetic current found in coil machines. 

The reduced noise level might put first-time clients at ease. Sometimes, less noise can create the impression that the tattooing process will be less painful.

Ease of Use

Both coil and rotary tattoo machines are operated using a foot pedal, but the rotary machine might offer a simpler experience. It’s designed ergonomically, and provides a smoother motion, making it a good choice for beginners.

However, note that a coil machine isn’t difficult to use. It just takes some time to become proficient with it. 

While its weight and motion quality can be more challenging to manage, it does work at a faster pace compared to the rotary machine.


Modifying a coil tattoo machine is more straightforward and more convenient than rotary machines. You can easily switch out its parts to fine-tune power and speed, enhancing your tattooing experience.

In contrast, rotary machines, which tend to be pricier, don’t offer the same level of customization. Replacing parts in a coil tattoo machine won’t strain your wallet because they are budget-friendly.

Tattoo Intensity

Rotary machines offer a smoother and less abrasive tattooing experience than the coil ones on the skin. Many people find that rotary machines are a less painful choice for getting a tattoo.

On the other contrary, coil machines, because of their hammer-like punch, are considered to be rougher and may potentially cause more skin damage during the tattooing process.


Cleaning a coil tattoo machine can be quite time-consuming compared to a rotary machine. Simply spraying it with disinfectant won’t suffice. To clean it properly, you’ll need to disassemble all the components and meticulously clean each one. 

In contrast, rotary tattoo machines are low-maintenance but demand careful handling due to their electric motor. Cleaning still involves disassembling all the parts, but it’s a quicker process. 


Rotary tattoo machines can be more expensive than their coil counterparts. They usually cost around $800. This is because rotary models are often made with higher-quality materials and more advanced technology, which can drive the price.

On the other hand, coil tattoo machines are generally less expensive than rotary tattoo machines. They usually cost around $500. This is because these machines are often made with simpler technology and lower-quality materials, which can make them less expensive to produce and purchase.

The lower price makes them an attractive option for artists just starting out in tattooing or working on a budget.

Which Tattoo Machine Is Better: Rotary Or Coil?

The choice between a rotary and coil tattoo machine depends on individual preferences. 

Rotary machines offer benefits like smoother operation, reduced noise, and suitability for longer sessions, making them a good choice for those seeking a less painful experience. 

Coil machines, on the other hand, excel in customization options and speed, which may appeal to experienced artists. However, they require more meticulous cleaning and maintenance.

Ultimately, the “better” machine is subjective and depends on the tattoo artist’s skill level and the client’s comfort preferences.

Which Tattoo Machine Is Better For a Beginner?

While both rotary and coil machines have their advantages and disadvantages, coil machines are generally better suited for professionals due to the higher skill level required to use them effectively.

On the other hand, a single rotary machine with multiple needles can be quite versatile. It is less harsh on the skin, produces smoother lines, and is easier to handle due to its lighter weight. Therefore, rotary machines are beginner-friendly and may be a good choice for your tattooing journey.

However, you might discover that a coil machine better aligns with your art style or tattooing approach. So, it’s advisable to conduct thorough research on both types of machines and seek advice from respected professionals in the field to make an informed decision.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

How Long Does A Rotary Tattoo Machine Last?

Rotary tattoo machines can last for many years with proper care and maintenance.

However, the lifespan of these machines depends on a number of different factors, such as the quality of the machine, the frequency of use, and how well it is maintained.

Do Tattoo Artists Still Use Coil Machines?

Many tattoo artists continue to utilize coil tattoo machines for precise work. Others use them out of familiarity and habit. Many artists find coil machines well-suited for lining and reserve their rotary machines for other aspects of tattooing.

Is A Tattoo Pen Or Gun Better?

Tattoo pens are quieter, lighter, and produce fewer vibrations than tattoo guns. These qualities provide greater stability for the artist. Also, it reduces strain and enhances control over precise movements and ink placement.


Now you know the differences between rotary and coil tattoo machines. In summary, the choice depends on various factors, including skill level, versatility, maintenance, and personal preference. 

Coil machines require higher skill levels, while rotary machines offer smoother operation and are more beginner-friendly. Each has its unique advantages, and the decision should be made after careful consideration and consultation with experienced tattoo professionals to align with one’s artistic style and needs.

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