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While these tools are much newer than that, many have existed in basically the same form for decades. All electric tattoo machines run on DC power, and there are specially made tattoo power supplies with extra controls for voltage, including foot switches for hands-free control. Tattoo needles are what the tattoo machines are made to move, and they come in different arrangements for different tasks. These are the major components involved with actually creating tattoos, but there are, is, of course, a great variety of other equipment you’ll need before you can really be ready to work on a client.
The tools of the trade are, despite some variation, basically the same among all modern tattoo artists. Pneumatic power supplies actually use an air compressor, using forced air to power the movement of the needle.
Tattoo inks are evenly-mixed suspensions of extremely fine pigment powders in a carrier, which usually includes water and either alcohol, propylene glycol, or glycerin. Every tattoo artist needs an autoclave, for instance, for sterilizing reused equipment between clients.
Still, tattooing is relatively simple compared to something like being a mechanic, at least in terms of the tools you’ll need, and the most important technical aspects will be in safety and artistry, not in the particular choices of machine and ink.

Of course, if you were doing traditional tribal tattoos you could use charcoal and a tapper, but this essay will only concern itself with the tools of the modern tattooist.
Many of the classic coil machines come in liner and shader varieties, while rotary machines tend to come as all-in-one, which is an option for some coil machines, too. Coil machines have a much longer history, they are relatively inexpensive, and somewhat more forgiving than rotary machines.
Liners almost always use tight rounds, a circular arrangement of needles often just called liners.
Some of these are known to be toxic, and alcohol can actually increase the rate at which they seep into the body, so it may be a combo you want to avoid. A tattooist really needs everything that a dentist or outpatient surgery room would need to prevent infecting their clients with a blood-borne disease. Also you often feel the needle snag in the skin as it is pressed against the side of the tube tip. However, rotaries are lighter, much quieter, and more consistent and precise in how they move your needles. Wider-spaced rounds are sometimes used for shading or color fills, although usually flats are used for these purposes.

The inks can be bought pre-mixed or, if you want to try your own mixing, you can buy pigments and carriers separately. Rotaries also have the option of working with pneumatic power, which allows for both an unbelievably light machine and greatly simplified sterilization of your machine. The two major types of flats are simple flats, which are arrangement of a single rows of needles, and magnums, which are generally double rows in a staggered arrangement. Pre-mixed inks will generally be pre-sterilized, but when mixing yourself it is essential that you use only sterile components.
You’ll have to decide what works best for your shading and coloring purposes, but the use of tight rounds for lining is pretty much universal.

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