A tattoo gun can do both line and shading work, but it is necessary to take the gun apart and change its settings between the lining and shading steps, adjusting to the correct speed and needle depth for better tattooing.
View our top recommendations for the coil tattoo machine
Coil Tattoo Machine Structure
Adjusting the tattoo machine requires understanding and adjusting all the components of the machine
The way a coil gun operates depends on the coils. The coils on these guns are clearly visible. There is an electromagnetic current that circulates through the coils, which moves the other components of the moving needle. The more coils the gun has, the more powerful the gun will be.
Front and rear springs
These springs are what cause the current and movement of the machine. The springs use tension to create an action that affects the movement of the tattoo needles.
This helps to keep the current consistent.
This is what controls the speed of the needle, moving up and down to force the needle to do its job. This is influenced by the contact screw force. Larger rods have more force, but work slower, just like any lever.
How to set up the coil tattoo gun for line work
Adjust the tattoo gun for line work. The lining is usually the first and most delicate step in the tattooing process
Press down on the armature rod - the thick metal rod above the coil - and check the clearance between the front spring of the armature rod and the contact screw. To set the clearance for wire work by turning the contact screw, the front coil and armature rod should be about 1 mm apart. you can use a U.S. dime as a convenient measurement for this distance.
Attach the appropriate needle tube to the tattoo gun. Insert the needle into the tube and place the end ring of the needle bar over the rubber grommet on the armature bar. Adjust the needle tube so that the length of the needle protruding from the tip matches the clearance of the contact screw. Wrap the rubber band around the tattoo gun, around the back of the frame and in front of the needle bar to reduce vibration and lateral movement of the needle bar.
The contact screw controls the smoothness of the machine. Once the needle bar and rubber band are placed on the machine, you only need to adjust the contact screw slightly. Once you are satisfied with the adjustment, then gently tighten the set screw to maintain the setting. Do not tighten too much, as it may eat away at the threads on the contact screw.
Set the speed of the tattoo machine for line work. For machines with a volt speed display function, set the voltage at about 6 volts for the best liner balance speed setting.
Tattoo needles for liner select Round Liner, the spring tension controls your needle stroke. Adjust it accordingly to make longer or shorter strokes. A great way to increase tension is to wrap a rubber band around the needle arm and extend the band to the back of the machine.
When stroking, you should aim for short (but firm) strokes. The curve you make on the needle should point to the machine itself.
Check the needle when the tattoo gun is started. A fast moving needle should look like a solid column one by one. If it looks like multiple columns or you see heavy shadows, tighten the rubber band on the needle bar to reduce or eliminate lateral movement.
As a professional tattoo artist, it is vital that you choose the right tattoo machine. How you adjust your tattoo machine is half the battle. To view more about how to adjust your rotary tattoo machine, please check out this guide: Tattoo Outlining and Line Work Guide