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Tattoo machine voltage guide: 10 Tips for the Tattoo beginner

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

Greetings, aspiring tattoo artist, to the realm where ink meets skin. As you step into this artistic journey, you'll quickly realize that tattooing is a dance of precision and creativity. Among the many facets you'll encounter, customizing your tattoo gun's voltage and speed stands as a critical element.


The first question I always here is "What voltage should I run my tattoo machine at?"


The simple answer is the ideal voltage for your tattoo gun varies based on factors like the type of tattoo, skin thickness, and your personal technique. Generally, it can range from 5 to 12 volts for lining and 6 to 10 volts for shading.

But wait.......there's more.....


Your tattoo machine is akin to tuning a musical instrument – it's the key to unlocking your creative potential. In this guide, we'll delve into the art of adjusting voltage and speed, offering insights, techniques used by professionals, and the advantages of using tattoo guns with voltage readouts compared to modern pens.



Tattoo machine voltage guide

Getting your tattoo machine voltage and speed correct is the key to great tattoos and great customer experience.

The Power Behind Precision: Customizing Voltage and Speed

How to set up tattoo equipment is important part of tattooing and the ability to customize this lets you be creative and in charge, and it all starts with changing the power and speed. When you ask, "What voltage should I run my tattoo machine at? ", these are the things you can use to make your tattoos and the tattooing experience the best it can be for your customers.

Understanding Voltage and Speed

  1. Voltage: Voltage is the power that fuels your tattoo machine. It determines the depth of needle penetration and the strength of lines.

  2. Speed: Speed dictates how quickly the needles move. It affects the number of punctures per second and influences shading, color saturation, and texture.


Harnessing Customization Techniques:

  1. Start Gradually: As a tattoo beginner, begin with lower voltage and slower speed settings. This approach enhances control and ensures a comfortable experience for your clients.

  2. Experimentation is Key: Tattooing is an art, and customization is your palette. Use practice skins to experiment with various voltage and speed combinations and gauge their effects.

  3. Balancing Pressure: The pressure you apply to the machine impacts your tattoo. Modify voltage and speed based on whether you exert a light or firm touch.

  4. Tailoring to Skin Type: Different skin types react uniquely. Adjust settings to suit thin or thick skin, ensuring both precision and comfort.

Insights from the Pros:

  1. Line Work vs. Shading: Seasoned artists adeptly toggle between line work and shading by customizing voltage and speed. Lower settings are ideal for precise lines, while higher ones offer smooth shading.

  2. Unveiling Color Saturation: Professionals play with settings to control color saturation. Higher voltage injects more pigment into the skin, intensifying colors for vibrant results.

  3. Creating Texture: Speed adjustments contribute to textural variations. Slower speeds yield a pronounced, textured look, while faster speeds evoke smoother finishes.

The Advantage of Voltage Readouts:

  1. Precision with Readouts: Tattoo guns equipped with voltage readouts offer an advantage over modern pens lacking this feature. Voltage readouts provide precise control, ensuring your machine operates at the exact power level you desire.

  2. Real-Time Monitoring: With voltage readouts, you can monitor adjustments in real-time. This is invaluable for fine-tuning your machine's performance, leading to accurate results.

  3. Enhanced Consistency: Voltage readouts ensure consistency across sessions. This is particularly beneficial when recreating a design, maintaining the same power for uniformity.


10 Tips for Troubleshooting your Tattoo Gun Voltage and Speed


While customizing voltage and speed settings on your tattoo gun can open up a world of creative possibilities, it's essential to be prepared for occasional hiccups. Pay attention to the sound and feel of the machine. A buzzing sound without excessive vibration usually indicates that your voltage setting is appropriate. Here are some common issues you might encounter and tips on how to troubleshoot them effectively:


1. Inconsistent Lines or Shading

  • Issue: If your lines or shading appear inconsistent, it might be due to fluctuations in voltage or speed during your tattooing session.

  • Solution: Check the connection of your power supply and ensure it's stable. Avoid overloading the machine by setting the voltage too high, which can cause fluctuations. Make sure your machine and needles are clean, as buildup can affect performance.

2. Needle Sticking or Skipping

  • Issue: Needles sticking or skipping can result in uneven tattoo lines or shading.

  • Solution: Examine your needle configuration for any bent or damaged needles. Replace them if necessary. Lubricate your machine's moving parts regularly to ensure smooth needle movement. Adjust the voltage and speed settings to find the right balance for your technique.

3. Excessive Heat or Noise

  • Issue: If your tattoo gun becomes excessively hot or noisy during use, it could affect both your comfort and the quality of your work.

  • Solution: Check for obstructions in the motor or any loose components. Lubricate moving parts to reduce friction. If the issue persists, consult your tattoo gun's manufacturer or a professional technician for a more in-depth inspection.

4. Ink Flow Problems

  • Issue: If ink flow is inconsistent, it can result in uneven coloring or shading.

  • Solution: Ensure that your ink reservoir is clean and free of clogs. Check the needle depth to make sure it's appropriately set for the specific tattoo you're working on. Adjust the voltage and speed to achieve the desired ink flow consistency.

5. Machine Overheating

  • Issue: Tattoo machines can overheat during extended use, potentially causing discomfort or even damage.

  • Solution: Allow your machine to cool down periodically, especially during long sessions. Consider having a backup machine for complex or lengthy tattoos to prevent overheating-related issues.

6. Machine Not Starting

  • Issue: If your tattoo machine doesn't start when you power it up, it can be frustrating and disrupt your workflow.

  • Solution: Check the power source and ensure that it's functioning correctly. Inspect the power cord and machine connections for any damage. Test with another power supply if available. If the problem persists, consult a professional technician for a thorough examination.

7. Incorrect Ink Saturation

  • Issue: You are not getting a good ink saturation

  • Solution: Monitor the ink saturation as you tattoo. If you notice the tattoo is too light or the ink isn't depositing evenly, consider slightly increasing the voltage.

8. Skin Moisture Levels:

  • Issue: Dry or overly moisturized skin can affect ink absorption.

  • Solution: Ensure the skin is adequately moisturized but not excessively oily. Dry skin can cause the ink to sit on the surface, while overly moisturized skin may reject the ink.

9. Using a foot peddle the voltage drops

  • Issue: Voltage on my tattoo gun keep dropping when I hit the foot pedal?

  • Solution: A drop in voltage when you engage the foot pedal could indicate a power supply issue, loose connections, or problems with your machine's internal wiring. Check your connections and consult a technician if the problem persists.

10. Balance of speed and voltage

  • Issue: Discomfort or fatigue during tattooing can set in

  • Solution: Set voltage and speed at levels that the you finds comfortable to maintain precision and control. Regular breaks can also prevent fatigue.


Customization: An Art in Itself

Changing the power and speed of your tattoo gun is more than just a mechanical process, it's an art form that combines machine and artistic vision. The journey is a mix of different techniques and ideas. Remember that each stroke is a brushstroke and each session is a work in progress. As you walk this road, let your creativity blend with the mechanics to create tattoos that not only look good but also leave a memorable mark on your customers. In other words, happy tattooing!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q. What voltage should i run my tattoo machine at?

  • The ideal voltage for your tattoo gun varies based on factors like the type of tattoo, skin thickness, and your personal technique. Generally, it can range from 5 to 12 volts for lining and 6 to 10 volts for shading.

Q. How do I choose the right voltage for my tattoo gun?

  • Choosing the right voltage involves experimentation and practice. Start with lower settings, gradually increasing until you achieve the desired result. Factors like needle type and skin type also play a role in voltage selection.

Q. What will happen if the voltage on my tattoo gun is too high?

  • If the voltage is too high, it can lead to excessive pain for the client, scarring, excessive bleeding, and ink blowouts where the ink spreads beyond the desired area.

Q. How can I determine the voltage needed for my tattoo gun?

  • The appropriate voltage depends on the tattoo style, needle grouping, and skin type. Practice on synthetic skin or pigskin to get a feel for how different voltages affect your work and adjust accordingly.

Q. Why does the voltage on my tattoo gun keep dropping when I hit the foot pedal?

  • A drop in voltage when you engage the foot pedal could indicate a power supply issue, loose connections, or problems with your machine's internal wiring. Check your connections and consult a technician if the problem persists.

Q. How much voltage does a tattoo gun need on average?

  • On average, a tattoo gun typically operates between 6 to 10 volts for shading and 5 to 12 volts for lining. However, individual preferences and tattooing styles may vary.

Q. What voltage should you have a tattoo gun on for standard tattooing?

  • For standard tattooing, such as lining and shading, most artists find success within the 6 to 10-volt range. However, fine-tuning within this range is essential for achieving the desired effect.

Q. What is the average voltage setting for a tattoo gun?

  • The average voltage setting for a tattoo gun often falls around 8 volts. Still, it's crucial to remember that what works best may differ depending on the artist's technique and the specific tattoo.

Q. What voltage should a tattoo gun run at when shading?

  • For shading, tattoo guns generally run between 6 to 10 volts. However, artists may adjust the voltage within this range to achieve different shading effects.

Q. What voltage should a tattoo gun run at when lining?

  • When lining, tattoo guns are typically set between 5 to 12 volts. Artists may fine-tune this range based on the desired line thickness and style. Your machine will also dictate what your maximum will be.


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