How to Set Up Your Coil Tattoo Machine Like a Pro


If you’re a tattoo artist or aspiring to become one, knowing how to set up a coil tattoo machine properly is essential for achieving outstanding results. The coil tattoo machine, also known as the traditional tattoo machine, is widely used in the industry due to its reliability and versatility. In this guide, we’ll take you through the step-by-step process of setting up your coil tattoo machine like a pro. Let’s get started!

Assembling the Coil Tattoo Machine

To set up your coil tattoo machine correctly, you must first understand its key components. The main parts of a coil tattoo machine include the coils, armature bar, contact screw, capacitor, and springs. The coils are electromagnetic, creating the necessary power for the machine to function. The armature bar, attached to the coils, moves up and down, driving the tattoo needle. The contact screw is essential for adjusting the machine’s give, while the capacitor helps reduce machine noise.

Gather Your Tools and Materials

Before you begin setting up your coil tattoo machine, it’s crucial to have all the necessary tools and materials ready. Here’s a checklist to ensure you’re fully prepared:

Coil Tattoo Machine: Choose a high-quality machine that suits your tattooing style and preferences.

Tattoo Needles: Select appropriate tattoo needles based on your design and technique.

Tattoo Ink: Use professional-grade tattoo ink in various colors for your artwork.

Power Supply: Ensure you have a reliable power supply with stable voltage output.

Foot Pedal: The foot pedal will allow you to control the machine easily during the tattooing process.

Clip Cord: Connect the coil tattoo machine to the power supply using a compatible clip cord.

Tattoo Grip and Tube: Choose a comfortable and ergonomic grip with a matching tube.

Rubber Bands and Grommets: These small accessories help to keep the needle in place securely.

Paper Towels and Disposable Gloves: Maintain cleanliness and hygiene throughout the process.

Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Coil Tattoo Machine

Step 1: Prepare Your Workstation

Creating a clean and organized workstation is vital for a successful tattooing session. Follow these steps to prepare your workspace:

Sanitize Your Hands: Wash your hands thoroughly and put on disposable gloves to prevent contamination.

Clean the Tattoo Machine: Wipe down the coil tattoo machine with a disinfectant to ensure it’s germ-free.

Organize Supplies: Arrange your equipment in a neat and easily accessible manner.

Proper Lighting: Ensure adequate lighting to see your work clearly.

Assemble the Tattoo Grip and Tube: Connect the grip and tube securely to the tattoo machine.

Comfortable Setting: Use a comfortable chair to maintain focus and reduce fatigue during the process.

Step 2: Assemble the Tattoo Machine

Now it’s time to assemble your coil tattoo machine. Follow these instructions carefully:

Check the Frame and Connections: Inspect the frame for any signs of damage or misalignment. Make sure all the components are tightly secured in their proper positions. Loose parts can lead to inefficient performance and potential safety hazards.

Insert Needles: Sterilize and insert the tattoo needles into the tattoo grip, making sure they are secure.

Connect the Clip Cord and Foot Pedal: Plug one end of the clip cord into the tattoo machine’s clip cord connection and the other end into the appropriate outlet on the power supply. Similarly, connect the foot pedal to the power supply.

Attach Tattoo Grip and Tip: Connect the tattoo grip and tip to the front of the tattoo machine.

Adjust Needle Protrusion: Adjust the needle protrusion using the machine’s contact screw to achieve the desired depth.

Adjust the Contact Screw: Use your fingers to turn the contact screw until it is just slightly above the front spring. This initial adjustment will allow for further fine-tuning later.

Step 3: Install the Tattoo Needle

Installing the tattoo needle correctly is crucial for achieving precise and sharp tattoo lines. Here’s how to do it:

Attach the Needle to the Armature Bar: Gently slide the tattoo needle onto the armature bar and secure it with the needle retainer.

Adjust the Needle’s Protrusion: Ensure the needle is properly adjusted and protrudes to an appropriate length.

Check for Flexibility: Move the needle gently to check if it moves freely without any obstructions.

Step 4: Connect the Power Supply

The power supply provides the necessary electrical energy to your coil tattoo machine. Here’s how to connect it:

Plug In the Power Supply: Connect the power supply to a reliable electrical outlet.

Connect the Clip Cord: Attach one end of the clip cord to the tattoo machine and the other end to the power supply.

Test the Machine: Turn on the power supply and test the coil tattoo machine to ensure it’s working correctly.

Step 5: Adjust the Voltage and Speed

Properly adjusting the voltage and speed of your coil tattoo machine is vital for different tattooing techniques. Follow these guidelines:

Voltage Setting: Start with a low voltage setting and gradually increase it to find the optimal level for your tattooing style.

Speed Adjustment: Adjust the speed of the machine based on the intricacy of your design and your comfort level.

Step 6: Load and Prime the Tattoo Machine

Preparing the tattoo machine for ink is a critical step in the setup process. Follow these instructions:

Dip Needles in Ink: Submerge the tattoo needles in your chosen ink color, ensuring even coverage.

Prime the Machine: Hold the tattoo machine over a disposable surface and activate it briefly to prime the needles.

Step 7: Fine-Tune the Contact Screw

To achieve the desired stroke length and hit, fine-tune the contact screw. Turning it clockwise will increase the stroke length, while turning it counterclockwise will decrease it.

Step 8: Perform a Test Tattoo

Before you begin tattooing on a client, it’s essential to perform a test tattoo on practice skin. This allows you to assess the machine’s performance and make any necessary adjustments.

Step 9: Begin Tattooing

Once you’re satisfied with the setup and the test tattoo, you’re ready to start tattooing. Remember these tips:

Work with Confidence: Approach each stroke with confidence and a steady hand.

Clean as You Go: Regularly wipe off excess ink and blood with a paper towel during the process.

Mind Your Technique: Pay attention to your technique and maintain consistent pressure for even lines and shading.

Step 10: Maintain Hygiene and Sterilization

Throughout the tattooing process, maintain strict hygiene practices. Sterilize your equipment, use disposable items when possible, and follow industry-standard sanitary procedures.

Tips for Beginners- Set up coil tattoo machine

If you’re new to tattooing, consider practicing on artificial skin first to familiarize yourself with the machine’s feel. Start with simple tattoo designs before moving on to more complex ones.

Troubleshooting Common Issues when set up coil tattoo machine

If your coil tattoo machine doesn’t start or the tattooing is uneven, check for loose connections, worn-out parts, or improper adjustments.

Recommended Coil Tattoo Machines

Explore some of the top brands and models of coil tattoo machines in the market, as recommended by professional artists.


Setting up your coil tattoo machine is a fundamental skill that every tattoo artist must master. By following these step-by-step instructions and practicing diligently, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a proficient tattoo artist. Remember always to prioritize hygiene, safety, and precision in your tattooing journey. Happy tattooing!


Q: Is tattooing with a coil machine more challenging than using a rotary machine?

The difficulty level depends on individual preferences and experiences. Some artists prefer the traditional feel of a coil machine, while others find rotary machines easier to handle.

Q: How often should I clean my coil tattoo machine?

It’s recommended to clean your coil tattoo machine after each tattoo session to prevent ink buildup and maintain its performance.

Q: Can I use a coil tattoo machine for both lining and shading?

Yes, with proper adjustments and needle configurations, you can use a coil tattoo machine for both lining and shading.

Q: Are coil tattoo machines suitable for beginners?

Yes, coil tattoo machines are suitable for beginners, but they require practice and patience to master.

Q: Can I use a coil tattoo machine for permanent makeup procedures?

Yes, a coil tattoo machine can be used for permanent makeup, but make sure to use the appropriate needle configurations for specific procedures.

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