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Start Off With Rotary Machine


j-the-rookie

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Hi guys! I am Jan, new to the forum and to the world of tattoos, so I apologise in advance for any mistake in terms of terminology, naivety and typos (English is my second language). I've got a few tattoos and planning to get more, plus I am getting more and more interested in this fascinating world to the point I'd really like to learn how to tattoo. I already work as an illustrator/ web & graphic designer, and at some point in the next years I would love to be able to properly tattoo people.

I have started studying by my self both the technical and artistic sides (type of machines, inks, fake skin, tattoo styles, flesh, etc.) and of course I know there are tons of things to study and learn mainly by getting my hands dirty and working day by day, drawing on paper and fake skin. I have already tried a few times tattooing with a cheap (= bad, I know) coil machine on pork skin (the machine is not mine), as I read lot of people talking about coil machines to get started, but my question is: DO YOU THINK IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO START USING A ROTARY MACHINE AS MY FIRST MACHINE EVER? Or it would be better to start by "studying" coil machines and then eventually switch to rotary types?

I have already read a lot about the pros and cons of both machines, and I am pro-rotary because:
- I like the idea of not necessarily changing machine for lines and colors/shading (please tell me if I got it all wrong...)
- I like the fact rotary machines require very low maintenance
- Coming from the graphic design world, I like the fact they look very similar to a graphic tablet pen and are light and silent

What do you think?

Thank you very much for your answers and advices!
 



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whippet

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Hi Jan and welcome to the forum.

There are some similarities in our background as I've worked in and taught visual communication for many years, and used the odd stylus or two. The reason for saying this is that while the two may look the same, once you are tattooing there is little similarity in a rotary tattoo machine and a digital stylus.

IMO I think rotaries are often seen as a short cut for beginners. Of course there are very experienced tattooers that choose rotaries, I imagine they could explain in detail why they have done this and what advantage it would have to their tattooing - informed choices.

I have returned to tattooing in the past year, and while I know a decent amount about coils and their various tunings and set ups, I still bought four mid-price rotaries, two dedicated liners without give and two for shading / colour, with give (my own short cut). In recent weeks and over my last few tattoos, I am more inclined to go back to coils, as the reality is that these are easier to tattoo with, lining and colour. Shading I'd still happily use a rotary set soft. I've found that coils do the work for you, whereas with rotaries you need to introduce some manual force.

Modern tattoo styles may necessitate you setting up a number of machines for each piece. I watched a shop-based tattooist recently use 6 machines for one tattoo, all doing different things. I think it's worth keeping in mind that different processes / effects in tattooing often demand very different machine settings.

Finally, and this is a personal opinion, I think rotaries can lead you to a false sense of security in the short term, but may hold you back long term.

Finally (#2) I have heard a lot of tattooers saying you have to learn coils first, almost out of respect for the history of tattooing, which I personally dismiss on the basis that we shouldn't ignore technological advances and we should be ready to throw out anything that has become redundant - apologies for my short supply of romantic sentimentalism. BUT I would advise coils because I think they do most jobs better than rotaries do...still. Some here may note a change in my position (true) but this is based on personal experience in recent months, part of which is related to my confidence growing and my tattooing improving...or at least becoming easier for me to achieve.
 
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I agree with whippet, i too have been the coil/rotary route looking for the holy grail and this has been a very expensive journey to arrive at the equipment I use today, many said a certain brand of rotary was the best but what suits one does not necessarily suit another, my weapons of choice now are quite simple, 3 x Micky Sharpz micro dial coil machines (sometimes I need 3 different liner needle sizes on one tattoo) and 2 x Bishop linear motion rotary tattoo machines, one old V5 model in 3.5mm stroke and a new V6 model in 4.2mm stroke (one used for magnum needle groups and one for round groups for tight spots) so I can have 5 machines set up for one tattoo, I intend to replace the V5 Bishop with a new V6 as I am so impressed with them even though they are a lot more expensive than a coil machine, I also have 5 coils set as colour packers and 2 direct drive rotaries which I dont seem to use since getting the Bishop, you have to find what works for you.

EDIT - Just purchased another microdial off ebay this afternoon, was so cheap couldnt refuse it, another one to refurbish, that now makes 6 x micro dials, 4 x T dials and 2 x Paul Rogers, I must seek help for this addiction to Micky Sharpz machines, not good for the pocket lol! ;)
 
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MalligaMallan

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I watched a shop-based tattooist recently use 6 machines for one tattoo, all doing different things.
How many of his 6 machines were coils and how many (if any) were rotaries?
 

whippet

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How many of his 6 machines were coils and how many (if any) were rotaries?
All coils, some at the cheaper end of the market and some at the high end of the market, but all set to do slightly different things.
 
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whippet

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EDIT - Just purchased another microdial off ebay this afternoon, was so cheap couldnt refuse it, another one to refurbish, that now makes 6 x micro dials, 4 x T dials and 2 x Paul Rogers, I must seek help for this addiction to Micky Sharpz machines, not good for the pocket lol! ;)
How do you keep finding em? Whenever I look the price goes up almost to a new machine on a discount code. I'm definitely considering a new micro dial right now.
 
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Ink sponge

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Coils are easier and safer to learn with. I have coils and rotaries and use both for different things.
You can't go wrong with a pair of sharpz coils and can introduce rotaries later.
 

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How do you keep finding em? Whenever I look the price goes up almost to a new machine on a discount code. I'm definitely considering a new micro dial right now.
There is a way that I find them but dont tell anyone ;) I have picked up 3 machines now for no more than £65 each including postage, search gumtree, shpock and ebay for different spellings, Micky, Mickey, Sharpz, Sharps, Microdial, Micro dial, iron tattoo machine and check ebay germany, always a few on there and you wont get hit for import tax ;) Also a machine is worth less if there is no certificate or original box and if there is non standard parts on it or tatty in need of a refurb, make a daft offer but make sure it is a genuine machine, there are a few ways to identify a genuine against a fake, I have posted before on this topic with pictures, if you arent sure then ask me and I can tell you what to look / ask for.
 

j-the-rookie

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Thank you guys for your help, really appreciated!

So in short it looks like it’s advisable to start off with a coil, learn the basics, and later on invest some money trying out different options and see how it goes.

Do you think it is a matter of style, too? I see lots of traditional artist using coil machines, and artist making more realistic tattoos (or anyway with lost of shading/colors) going for a rotary (but again maybe they use both and I’ve just never noticed!)

Another question: what do you think about “Starting Kit”? Didn’t read good things about them, but a friend of mine who is been tattooing for several years told me it could be a good idea to begin with a Sunskin starting kit.

Also, I know the best thing would be to learn by doing and hopefully getting an apprenticeship in a studio, but as I am working full-time at the moment it is not a feasible option for me…So I guess if you can point me to any useful resource to learn some basic stuff about machines and other technical stuff in general (a specific website, book, or similar).

Thanks!
 

deadfrog

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I will add my opinion based on my research and very tiny experience tattooing only pig skin so far. No intention to deny your opinions guys but my point of view different than some sort of "official" advices to newbies regarding machines.

I had similar dilemma and bought only one machine, of course rotary but good quality and quite popular so there is plenty of info about how to use this particular model and did my homework researching what can be done with this machine.

I don't see reasoning behind using coils first then switching to rotary. To me it sounds like everyone is repeating that wisdom but nobody really bothered to check facts.
If you want to tattoo you have to have develop your own ability to manage machine no matter which type so where is shortcut choosing rotary? Cutting out some unnecessary tinkering with tools?
With coils you have so many variables so you are lost between many things to figure out why something works or not.
In my opinion direct drive rotary is simpler. You have two settings to mess around: how much of needle hangs of the tip and how fast needle is moving and the rest is up to you.
Probably it's less forgiving than coil but eventually with coils you have to master that aspect too and they do damage to skin easily too.
You can see many great tattoos done with both types of machines and crap too so I think only people who use them are to blame, not tools.
I'm not against coils, not at all, but I see that dilemma between two types of machines is more like personal preference than superiority of just one. Some people just like to collect tools of trade and continuously tinkering with many variables but others prefer just minimal set up with little variables.
I'm sorry for long post but I had the same question.
 

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No one would get near my 'sensitive bits' with a rotary, i would want that give, bog and weighty stability, in their hand ;):p
Personally, i have played around with both, and to be honest, the coils are much better for so many things, I would still use a rotary, but I think it would only be lining or packing, its a No for shading with me.
 

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No one would get near my 'sensitive bits' with a rotary, i would want that give, bog and weighty stability, in their hand ;):p
Personally, i have played around with both, and to be honest, the coils are much better for so many things, I would still use a rotary, but I think it would only be lining or packing, its a No for shading with me.
I got tattoo inside my arm which is rather painful compared to outside and artist started my tattoo with coil - lining and black fills then a few weeks later on next session colour packing with stigma beast and honestly I can't sense difference, to me pain was at the same level. That is my personal experience.
 

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I got tattoo inside my arm which is rather painful compared to outside and artist started my tattoo with coil - lining and black fills then a few weeks later on next session colour packing with stigma beast and honestly I can't sense difference, to me pain was at the same level. That is my personal experience.
I use a Bishop V6 rotary for colour packing and solid black and it does the job great, not so good for lining even with a 4.2mm stroke cam on it, you are best to just get a rotary and crack on with it and when you are struggling to get a clean solid consistent line we will all tell you to get a fookin coil lol!
 

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I don't see reasoning behind using coils first then switching to rotary. To me it sounds like everyone is repeating that wisdom but nobody really bothered to check facts.
I think you need to read the posts more carefully. I pretty much made this point about some kind of 'paying respects to tradition by using coils., I've got no interest in doing things because 'that's how we always did it', and as I said. I invested in some decent rotaries to try and move forward. In fairness they helped me a bit BUT the more I've tattooed on flesh, the more I see the reason why these old timers, or maybe they're just experienced people, choose coils. I have no plans to sell my rotaries and I may even buy more, use them for certain things, but to a newbie I would say coils make tattooing easier, not harder. The 'variables' you mention exist, but if someone hasn't got the brain matter and/or drive to study a little and work that out, perhaps tattooing will be a little taxing too, it's not as easy as it looks on tattoo fixers.

As for certain 'new' styles (can't remember who mentioned them) but the fact is 'most' of these beautiful soft shaded outlineless tattoos will look shit in around 5 years, and be unrecognisable in 10. Personally I love this style, but the more experience I get the more I try to stay away from it.
 

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Personal preferences have nothing to do with facts.
Could you elaborate a little more about facts. I am asking seriously as I am courious about it. Opinions are very different but how do you explain that some artists use rotary and prefers them and their job is excellent?
 

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Could you elaborate a little more about facts. I am asking seriously as I am courious about it. Opinions are very different but how do you explain that some artists use rotary and prefers them and their job is excellent?
Hopefully there's enough facts in the video link above.
 

deadfrog

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I think you need to read the posts more carefully. I pretty much made this point about some kind of 'paying respects to tradition by using coils., I've got no interest in doing things because 'that's how we always did it', and as I said. I invested in some decent rotaries to try and move forward. In fairness they helped me a bit BUT the more I've tattooed on flesh, the more I see the reason why these old timers, or maybe they're just experienced people, choose coils. I have no plans to sell my rotaries and I may even buy more, use them for certain things, but to a newbie I would say coils make tattooing easier, not harder. The 'variables' you mention exist, but if someone hasn't got the brain matter and/or drive to study a little and work that out, perhaps tattooing will be a little taxing too, it's not as easy as it looks on tattoo fixers.

As for certain 'new' styles (can't remember who mentioned them) but the fact is 'most' of these beautiful soft shaded outlineless tattoos will look shit in around 5 years, and be unrecognisable in 10. Personally I love this style, but the more experience I get the more I try to stay away from it.
I'm reading carefully but didn't answered directly to your post.

Using arguments like "but if someone hasn't got the brain matter and/or drive to study a little and work that out" is a bit below a level of civilised conversation and maybe you should read my post more carefully and answer more about topic.
 

deadfrog

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Hopefully there's enough facts in the video link above.
Seen that video and understand these differences but it doesn't answer my question. What about about tattoos which are done by artists using only rotary and are on very good level.
Just have a quick look here:
 

whippet

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My remark about having the brain power is not a personal attack, it's addressing the argument that rotaries are easier, as they require less learning than coils. Point being, if anyone intends to learn how to tattoo properly then learning to manage the variables associated with coils is just a small part of the equation. It's definitely not a coast home once you master coils, more like the start of an intense learning journey.
 

deadfrog

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My remark about having the brain power is not a personal attack, it's addressing the argument that rotaries are easier, as they require less learning than coils. Point being, if anyone intends to learn how to tattoo properly then learning to manage the variables associated with coils is just a small part of the equation. It's definitely not a coast home once you master coils, more like the start of an intense learning journey.
Ok maybe I misunderstood that as personal. I'm sorry about it.
I agree 100% about mastering skills. But I see it this way: you have two tools which in skilled hands can give the same quality work. I'm not denying coils as a tool but opinions that one needs to master them as necessity in the way of learning tattooing.
So far I can't find hard facts about it.
 

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Adam, if your going to go down a route because its what you think, without gaining any experience to class your opinion on, then you may never truly become a Tattooist in the real sense. You need to get the coils and the rotaries and find what is best, but as I said before, Coils are easier and more forgiving, they have many advantages over the rotary.

At the end of the day, no amount of videos and research can give you the feel for the right machine, that is something you need to find, and if you dont try, you wont know. simple.
 

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