5 BEST Rotary Tattoo Machines for Making SICKKK Tats! (in 2019)

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Best Rotary Tattoo Machine

Wanna illustrate your creative mind onto human flesh with a Rotary Tattoo Machine? But don't know which is the best for you?

Then continue reading as I did all the hard research for you and found the Top 5 BEST Rotary Tattoo Machines available today, for making the sickkkkest tats!

Plus, I'm including a buyers guide for you beginners reading this....

So whatchya waiting for? 😉 Dive on in Ink Heads....

Best Rotary Tattoo Machines of 2019

Rotary Tattoo Machine Buyers Guide

What is a Rotary Tattoo Machine?

A rotary tattoo machine is simply 1 of 3 main types of tattoo machines... 

What makes the Rotary type unique is that it's needle is powered by a small motor which moves the needle up and down, in and out of the flesh, which is how ink is applied to the dermis (second layer of skin tissue beneath the main surface or "epidermis")...

Rotary machines, driven by their dc motor, have a rotational torque that is quiet & smooth, which then sends energy down it's needle and translates it into a linear motion...

Here's How a Rotary Works...

Pros & Cons of Rotary Tattoo Machines!

Pros of a rotary tattoo machine:

  • Quiet
  • Easy to Use & Setup (Plug & Play | Easy to Tune/Adjust)
  • Consistent, Cyclical Needle Motion
  • Runs Smoothly
  • Low Maintenance
  • Rotary Replacement Parts are Less Expensive than Coil Parts
  • Mainly Only 1 Adjustment Needed! (Needle Depth Via Position of the Tube Grip)
  • Ideal for Coloring & Filling, Thanks to the Needles Fast & Consistent Movement
  •  More Versatile (Rotary Machines Can Be Used for BOTH Lines & Shading)
  • Less Damaging to Skin

Cons of a rotary tattoo machine:

  • Less Durable Than Other Machine Types 
  • Lining is More Difficult On a Rotary than a Coil (You may have to retrace your lines on a rotary)
  • Can't Tune By Ear Like a Coil Since a Rotary Is Quiet
  • Full Stroke Needed to Complete Rotary Motion

High Quality Machines vs. Cheap Ones | The Differences & Why It Matters

High Quality Machines are steadier, put down lines stronger & more consistent so you don't have to retrace lines, and they last longer...

Cheap Machines give a cheap looking tattoo, they're harder to use, plus they break or malfunction easier.

Just like with anything, you get what you pay for...

Quality of Machine matters because you want to create mind-blowing looking tattoos, so the quality of your machine matters, because, without a high quality machine, you won't be giving high quality, sickkkkkkk, tats!

Parts of a Rotary Tattoo Machine

Rotary Tattoo Machine Parts
  • Tube/Tip
  • Grip
  • Tube Vise
  • Cam Wheel
  • Motor Cap
  • Motor Housing
  • Clip Cord Attachments

Setting Your Voltage Properly

Rotary Tattoo Machines come either with a preset voltage or an adjustable voltage (regulated or unregulated).

Setting voltage properly is important for certain techniques, for example, you generally want a higher voltage for lining and a lower voltage for shading...

Higher voltage = faster needle speed & vice versa with lower voltage...

Setting Up A Rotary Tattoo Machine

  1. Sterilize hands and work area
  2. Attach rubber nipple to needle bar pin
  3. Adjust retainer screw to open it and create room for the needle bar and tube
  4. If you have stainless steel needles, bend them lightly in middle and insert them carefully into the tube and put the tube tightly into it's clamp
  5. Fit needle-bar loop to nipple and ensure they come together tightly
  6. Hold the needle-bar pin and press it downwards with the attached needle-bar
  7. Bring the needle-bar into contact with the needle-bar retainer rings by tuning the retainer screw to adjust needle-bar retainer
  8. Tighten till needles are firmly in place and don't wobble
  9. Connect to power source and set voltage, then tattoo away

Watch the video above or read these 9 steps!

NOTE: Video is a setup of a coil machine, a rotary machine setup & tuning is similar but when you purchase your machine, it should come with a manual or guide to tell you how to properly set it up, so don't panic if you're confused!

5 Tips For Beginner Tattoo Artists

Video Summary:

  1. Learn to Draw
  2. Find Guinea Pigs (Volunteers) to Practice On
  3. Learn & Focus on the Basic Fundamentals
  4. Take Pride in Your Work (And Don't Think About Making Money)
  5. Be Sanitary (Deliver a Clean, Safe, Awesome Customer or Client Experience)

Most Important Features to Look For Before Buying

Ask yourself... "What do I need a rotary tattoo machine for?"

  • Lining?
  • Shading?
  • Filling in Colors?
  • Sculpting Lines?

Depending on what you'll be using your rotary tattoo machine for, should influence your buying decision, and here's why...

Liner Tattoo Machines are short-stroke machines that allow tattooists to create solid lines in a single pass!

Whereas Shader Tattoo Machines are long-stroke machines that are best for applying color, shading, and sculpting lines!

Fortunately, Rotary Tattoo Machines can do both lining & shading...

But to improve performance in either technique, adjust your cam accordingly, as explained below....

"The larger the cam, the longer the rotation and the slower the machine. The smaller the cam, the smaller the rotation and the faster the machine. A smaller cam would be more suited for lining. A larger cam would be more suited for shading." - TattooMachineEquipement.com

NOW THEN, Onto the list of the Top 5 BEST Rotary Tattoo Machines Available Today....

5. Dragonhawk Mast (Best Rotary Tattoo Machine Kit for Lining & Shading)

Best Rotary Tattoo Machine Dragonhawk Mast Review

Dragonhawk Mast Review

Dragonhawk's "Mast" model is one of, if not the best, pen styled rotary tattoo machine for lining and shading...

This kit comes with just about everything you'll need (except ink) to get started and it's a phenomenal choice for beginners & experts alike...

Like other Dragonhawk Models, the Mast is pen styled and designed to be compact, lightweight, and to feel like you're holding an ink pen rather than a tattoo machine...

So if you've been using a Coil Tattoo Machine, it may take time to get adjusted to a pen style rotary tattoo machine, simply because of the massive difference in weight and balance...

Mast delivers an exceptional experience for its users so that crafting the most radical tattoos that your creative mind can create is easy and fun...

It's biggest downfall is that it starts to heat up around 45 mins - 1 hour which means you can continuously use this model for long periods of time like other Dragonhawk models...

What You'll Like

  • Compatible Cartridge Needle Types
  • Lightweight & Easy to Use
  • Quiet & Virtually NO Vibration
  • Incredible for Lining and Shading
  • Accuracy & Control that's so good it'll make you Horny
  • Tons of Items in the Kit
  • Easy to Adjust (Plus very little adjustments are needed)
  • Affordable
  • Pen Style
  • Replacement Parts are Cheap

What You'll Dislike

  • You'll need grip tape as it slips through your hands
  • Ink sold separately

Features & Specs.

  • Length: 11.7cm
  • Weight: 120g
  • Interchangeable 3.5mm to 2.8mm stroke length
  • DC Japanese Motor
  • Pen Style
  • Matte Coating

4. Dragonhawk Essence (Best Rotary Tattoo Machine for Beginners | Most Affordable)

Best Rotary Tattoo Machine Dragonhawk Essence

Dragonhawk Essence Review

Best for black & grey work, coloring, and shading...

This is a simple Pen Styled Rotary Tattoo Machine that is incredibly affordable compared to other tattoo machines...

Beginners would enjoy this machine most, considering the facts that its easy to use, has a small learning curve, and is pretty damn cheap for how high quality of a machine it is.....

Is it the best pen style rotary tattoo machine? No.

But is it a great choice for beginners? Most definitely.

It's an inexpensive option that's good enough to get your feet wet with as a new tattoo artist...

And this is good because you don't wanna spend $500 on pro machines, in case you may decide that tattooing isn't for you or you don't have the time for it or something similar arises... Which is exactly why this is one of the best options for beginners...

However, It must be noted that it's performance quality for lining is quite mediocre.. The machines in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd on this list are of a superior quality & versatility....

What You'll Like

  • Very Affordable
  • Best for Beginners
  • Small Learning Curve & Easy to Use
  • Has good performance for Black & Grey Work, Coloring, and Shading but for all else, it performs poorly.
  • Pen Styled & Lightweight
  • Smooth
  • Good for Small Tattoos of 30 - 45 min periods

What You'll Dislike

  • Can't be used for long periods
  • Poor lining performance
  • Ink sold separately

Features & Specs.

  • Space Aluminum Frame
  • Length: 12cm
  • Weight: 140g
  • RCA Cord Connection (Included with Purchase)
  • Voltage: 6v - 9v
  • Compatible with All Cartridge Needle Types

3. Dragonhawk Atom (Best Pen Style Rotary Tattoo Machine)

Best Rotary Tattoo Machine Dragonhawk Atom Review

Dragonhawk Atom Review

Looking for a Rotary Tattoo Machine that feels like an actual pen?

You won't get any closer to an ink pen feel than the Atom by Dragonhawk...

What can be said about this Pen Style Kit?

Nothing besides "HOLY SHIT THIS IS BADASS"....

Because those are the first words you'll say enthusiastically out loud, after creating your first tat with this bad boy...

And Badass it is indeed... 

The Atom is designed tough, which is intended for a long life, but also...

It's designed for long, continuous hours of use so you can keep working with it while your in a highly focused zone without it overheating or needing rest...

What's even more boast-worthy about this tattoo machine geniusness is it's compact & lightweight design...

Which makes it almost feel like you're back in the late 1700's doing tats on Benjamin Franklin with a feather bruh!

The Atom is by far the best pen style rotary tattoo machine available today and the best choice for you if you want a pen style!

NOTE: Use an RL Needle for Lines and RS Needle for Shading with this Rotary Tattoo Machine

What You'll Like

  • Can Operate Continuously for Long Periods
  • Lightweight
  • Quiet
  • Under $100
  • Long-lasting Stability & Durability
  • Easy to Install
  • Less Painful & Safe to Use
  • Easy to Use & Learn
  • Very Little Vibration
  • Mind-blowing Performance that Resembles a Professional Grade Tattoo Machine for a FRACTION of the Cost
  • Great for Beginners & Experts
  • Compatible with ALL Cartridge Needles

What You'll Dislike

  • Ink sold separately
  • Doesn't use RCA power cord
  • Shipping Errors Occured with Previous Customers (If this happens to you, contact Dragonhawks customer service and let the know you want either a refund or a brand new version of the product you bought, reshipped)

Features & Specs.

  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 lbs.
  • Switch frequency: 55-165 Hz.
  • Needle protrusion: 0 - 4.5mm. 
  • Length of the stroke: 3.5mm.

2. YILONG Kit (Best Rotary Tattoo Machine Kit)

Best Rotary Tattoo Machine YILONG Blue kit review

YILONG Kit Review

This kit is a versatile beauty...

The YILONG Rotary Tattoo Machine is a 2-in-1 specialty that allows you to do BOTH, Shading & Lining...

Included in the kit is:

1 X YILONG rotary tattoo machine
1 X tattoo power
1 X tattoo pedal
1 X tattoo line
1 X tattoo power line
50 X blue tattoo needles 1.3,5RL 7.9 RS each 10 pcs

YILONG has a 3.5mm stroke length, which is perfect for clean line work and black and grey shading... But it's also great for filling....

You can choose from three different stroke lengths by simply loosening one screw and twisting the eccentric pin....

And finally, it's easy to switch between standard and cartridge needles with this YILONG Rotary Tattoo Machine Model...

(NOTE: Not the best option for beginners at all so be wary of this option if you're a beginner)

What You'll Like

  • Easy to Use
  • Great for Shading, Lining, & Filling
  • Smooth & Steady
  • Affordable
  • Quiet
  • Easy to Adjust
  • Great Deal with TONS of Items in the Kit
  • Versatile
  • High Quality

What You'll Dislike

  • Ink sold separately
  • Needle Adjustments Design isn't the Best
  • No Instruction Manual
  • Terrible Customer Service

Features & Specs.

  • Length of the stroke: 3.5 mm
  • Weight: 2.4lb
  • Operating voltage: 7-10 V
  • DC Lining voltage: 8V-10V
  • Shading voltage: 7V-8.5V

1. Dragonhawk Raven (#1 Best Rotary Tattoo Machine | Professional Grade)

Best Rotary Tattoo Machine Dragonhawk Raven Review

Dragonhawk Raven Review

Want to perfectly line and pack on difficult skin and areas of the skin?

With the Dragonhawk Raven you can do just that, thanks to it's professional grade design, you can draw precise lines with ease and pack solid color like a pro....

This is the perfect choice for Blackwork Tattoo Artists thanks to it's exceptional performance with black & grey ink...

And it's a great choice for anyone who wants to a tattoo machine that performs like a $600 professional machine....

The Raven is designed to be used with traditional tattoo needles and cartridge grips, but only if you use it with cartridges that require a jump start power supply....

What You'll Like

  • Lightweight
  • One Touch Adjuster Knob to Adjust Voltage
  • Coreless Motor that Increases Torque with Less Voltage
  • Well-Built
  • Smooth & Flawless Running
  • Quiet
  • Under $150
  • Comes With a 304 Steel Tattoo Grip
  • Can Be Connected to a Power Supply Using RCA or a Clip Cord
  • Variable Voltage Range for Personal Preference & the Type of Work/Technique Being Done
  • Special IC Chip to Control More Size of Needles

What You'll Dislike

  • Ink sold separately

Features & Specs.

  • 3.1 oz. Weight
  • Injection Molded Scratch Resistant ABS
  • Hit Adjuster (One Touch Technology)
  • Coreless Motor
  • Includes One 304 Steel Traditional Tattoo Grip
  • Special IC Chip to Control More Sizes of Needles
  • LED Light
  • Stroke Adjustable

FAQ

Why did we include Dragonhawk so many times?

Dragonhawk is a stellar tattoo machine brand...

It has crafted magnificent products for the average person who just wants to make some sickkk tats but at a reasonable price...

We could've included brands like Bishop, but do you really wanna drop $600 just for a tattoo machine??? Especially if you're just beginning?? (Now maybe if you're a professional but it's your first time shopping for a rotary tattoo machine, then ya, maybe consider a Bishop, but honestly, Dragonhawk & similar inexpensive brands can deliver close to the same quality for a fraction of the price!)

How did we determine the rankings of these Top 5 Rotary Tattoo Machines?

Here is what we considered when finding the products for our top 5 rankings:

  • Features
  • Pros of Product (What YOU our Reader will probably like)
  • Cons of Product (What YOU our Reader probably won't like)
  • Previous Customer Reviews & Ratings
  • Price

We didn't want to include expensive products because most of you reading this are probably beginners, so getting a $600 Bishop Rotary Tattoo Machine isn't necessary....

At the same time, we wanted to list the best quality products possible without breaking the bank, which is why we factored in previous customer reviews, pros, & cons of each product we looked at...

The 5 you see on the list, are the best of the best (while not being insanely expensive like professional grade tattoo machines are)...

Our top 5 has the least amount of cons possible, while having the most pros & feature-rich products, all at reasonable, affordable prices!

What are the best inks & aftercare products to use?

We have two separate articles that go in-depth about the best tattoo inks and best tattoo aftercare products to use...

So if you're a beginner and you have no clue about either of those... Check out those articles right now! 🙂

[Recap] Top 5 Rotary Tattoo Machines of 2019
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