A Guide to the Best Tattoo Kits
Tattooing is becoming more and more popular. In 2012, it was estimated that 15% of men and 13% of women in the United States had tattoos. A 2019 survey showed that 35% have tattoos! And many of those people–18% of all Americans–have more than one. With such an increase in demand, there is also a number of different options for applying tattoos. If you’re interested in getting into this art form, there are tattoo kits for beginners that provide all of the tools for getting started: inks, needles, tattoo guns, and more.
There are kits with several types of tattoo guns. As we’ll see, some guns are best for making lines, while others are best for filling spaces and shading. Some kits also provide practice skins with transfer papers. And some kits have a wide variety of needles. The kits also have a power supply, which allows you to control the voltage going to the tattoo gun.
There’s quite a bit to learn before attempting to apply a tattoo to another person (or even on yourself!). As we’ll see, a well-supplied tattoo kit can give you the practice you need to master tattoo art!
Types of Tattoo Kits
There are primarily three different principles of operation of tattoo guns that will come in a tattoo kit:
Rotary guns, which have a gear-driven motor. These can be used for coloring large patches after you have already drawn lines on your subject. But there are rotary guns that work at different voltages for different purposes. For example, the Dragonhawk Extreme Rotary Tattoo Machine runs at 7.5-8.5 volts for color packing and shading, and at 8-9 volts for drawing lines.
Dragonhawk Extreme Rotary Tattoo Machine
Electromagnetic guns: These use electromagnetic coils to move the armature and the needle. These can perform both drawing lines and shading. For example, the Grinder Tattoo Kit includes 4 electromagnetic machine guns.
Grinder Tattoo Kit
You can find kits that will include both rotary guns and electromagnetic guns. An example is the Hildebrandt Professional Tattoo Kit 2. It includes 2 electromagnetic coil machines and 2 rotary machines.
Hildebrandt Professional Tattoo Kit 2
Pneumatic guns, which rely on air pressure from a source of compressed air, instead of a motor. These guns tend to be lighter in weight, so they can perform very fine work. An example is the Yuanjs Dual-Action Airbrush Pneumatic Spray Gun. It’s good for painting nails as well!
Yuanjs Dual-Action Airbrush Pneumatic Spray Gun
Tattoo pens: There are also tattoo pens, such as the Dragonhawk Cartridge Tattoo Machine Kit Pen. You vary the voltage with the power supply, according to whether you’re doing lines or shading, much the same as with an electromagnetic tattoo gun. These pens may be more manageable than the tattoo gun option.
Dragonhawk Cartridge Tattoo Machine Kit
What reviewers say
Here’s what customers say about their choice of tattoo kit:
Permanent and semi-permanent inks: Most kits that we reviewed use permanent ink. But there is also semi-permanent ink, which lasts for around 1.5 weeks before it fades. That might be a good option for practice.
Rubber bands: Many kits also come with rubber bands. These are used in order to stabilize the needles and keep them from moving sideways when applying ink. Not using a rubber band can lead to ink splattering, or what’s called “ink spit back”. Some brands have a membrane on the needles, to prevent ink from spitting back. This is the case for the Dragonhawk Tattoo Pen.
Here are some features of the best tattoo kits, which may help you decide on one model over another:
Transfer paper and practice skin: There are kits that supply you with transfer paper, which can either provide a guide for you when applying the tattoo to someone’s skin or print the tattoo on an art project. Some kits also provide practice skins, which are essentially rubber pads. It’s possible to order these practice skins separately. You can also wrap the practice skin on a person’s arm or leg, to get used to working on contoured parts of the body.
Types of needles: There are kits available with a wide range of needles. For example, the AW Tattoo Machine Kit provides you with 50 different needles! You’ll see markings on the needles that indicate their gauge and purpose. Some of the markings include:
RL– This stands for “Round Liner”, where the needles are arranged in a round pattern. This is best for making bold lines, thin lines, script text, and dot work.
M–This stands for “Magnum”. This stands for standard Magnum, which is for shading and color packing. There are also needles marked CM, for “Curved Magnum”, which is for softer shades. Curved Magnum needles are recommended for shading work. They will also cause less trauma to the skin.
RS–This stands for “Round Shaders”, and is meant for shading small areas and color packing.
FS–Although this isn’t in the AW kit, FS stands for “Flat Shader”, for shading and angling along straight lines.
AW Tattoo Machine Kit
Needle gauge: The gauge of the needle is the thickness of the needle just before it starts to taper off to a point. Gauge 12 means that the needle has a thickness of 0.35 mm, while Gauge 10 = .30 mm, and Gauge 8 = 0.25 mm. A smaller gauge will not only produce a thinner line. It will also do less trauma to the skin and even provide a better ink flow.
Needle taper: Another important factor is the needle taper. That’s the length of the needle from its widest point, to where it narrows to a point. That length can vary between 2 to 5 mm. The 2 mm taper is recommended for lining, while the longer 5 mm taper is for shading. You control the depth at which the needle penetrates the skin by hand pressure.
Practicing technique: Experts recommend that beginners practice on something as simple as an orange! You should practice making straight and curved lines, and connecting points. Once a needle is used on human skin, it should be disposed of. So, it’s important to practice on artificial skin or an orange first, before going to a human subject.
We went through some of the best tattoo kits, noting the different types of guns and pens, as well as other accessories. They should have everything for you to get started, to practice your technique, and even to start experimenting on human subjects! Check out the Best Reviews Guide list of Tattoo Kits, and choose one today!