How To Set Up A Rotary Tattoo Machine

If you’re serious about tattooing, then it’s time to get a rotary tattoo machine. This is the machine that many artists prefer because of its versatility and accuracy inlining. Tuning a rotary tattoo machine for lining takes some patience, but with these steps, your rotary will be ready to go in no time!

This tutorial will show you how to set up a rotary tattoo machine for the lining. Once the steps are completed, your rotary tattoo machine should be tuned and ready to go!

What is a Rotary Tattoo Machine?

A rotary tattoo machine can be defined as a tattoo gun with an electromagnetic coil and utilizes the rotation of a circular metal armature (called a spindle) to stabilize it.

Rotaries are usually preferred by artists for versatility, accuracy inlining, speed, reliability, and durability – which is evident from their popularity with professional tattooists.

Rotaries are the preferred machine for outlining, coloring, and shading tattoos. They can create three-dimensional tattoo effects with their ability to produce smooth gradients from one color or tone to another.

The versatile rotary is also capable of creating fine details in black & grey work.

Why Use a Rotary Tattoo Machine?

To answer this question, we should first look at the advantages of rotary tattoo machines compared to other types of tattoo machines.

Rotary tattoo machines are fast – it’s not uncommon for an artist to use one throughout an entire session. Plus, they’re versatile enough to create any effect that you want: outlining or shading tattoos!

Rotaries also allow for the ability to create finer details in black and gray work. Rotary tattoo machines are versatile enough to produce any effect you want, including outlining, shading, or detailing tattoos!

Things to Keep in Mind Before Starting:

Here are some precautions that you should take before you start tattooing, read them carefully:

  • Rotary tattoo machines have a lot of moving parts, so make sure you take your time and read the instructions
  • Make sure to use high-quality needles that are compatible with your machine
  • Always sterilize all of your equipment before using it on yourself or your clients
  • Be aware of how much ink you’re using – too much will cause clogs in the needle and can lead to infection
  • Keep an eye on the tension when changing needles – if it’s too tight, this can also cause problems down the line 
  • If any part of this process doesn’t feel right for you, ask someone more experienced for help! The last thing anyone wants is an infection because they didn’t know what they were doing!

What Materials do you need to set up your Rotary Tattoo Machine?

Let’s see what all things you require before you can start using your rotary tattoo machine:

  • A rotary tattoo machine with a needle bar and light attached
  • Two 16 oz. disposable cups (or gallon size)
  • Rubber bands or clamps that will fit the shaft of your rotary tattoo machine blade
  • Paper towels
  • Lubricant for threaded needles, such as petroleum jelly, mineral oil, or aloe
  • A power supply, RCA or clip cord, and the footswitch
  • Other Items that you’ll need depend on which type of machine you are using.

How To Set Up A Rotary Tattoo Machine

#Step 1 – 

Start by taking care of sterility: Wash your hands and dip the needle into some alcohol. Clean out the tip of the needle with an unpinched paper towel or cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol before putting it back on the head of your rotary tattoo machine.

You’re doing this to ensure that you’re using a sterilized needle with no ink splatters clogging up at its tip!

#Step 2 –

Adjust the needles: Locate your rotary tattoo machine’s screw-driver in its designated spot on the side of the base, then unscrew it all of the ways until you can see either one or no threads. For lining, you’ll want to have the needles sticking up as high as possible for extra accuracy.

#Step 3 –

Fasten together the holder, the tube, and the tip: Place the holder on top of your rotary tattoo machine’s base with the needle tube facing down. Line up a few inches below where the threads end and tighten it so that you can’t see any space between them.

Place one of your tips over this section with no space in between these two parts either. Tighten it to make sure there is still no extra space, then repeat for each tip!

#Step 4 –

Tie a rubber band around the needle rod and place it on your rotary tattoo machine’s body. Make sure you cover any part that moves to prevent vibration as well!

#Step 5 –

The next steps are also very simple! Plug the rotary tattoo machine in with an A/C adapter. Connect one wire to positive and another wire to negative. Set desired amperage level (usually between 20-25).

You’ll just need to make sure that your rotary tattoo gun has some extra power, which can be accomplished by connecting it through the clip cord with an A/C adapter.

The wire on either side of this connection will provide you with consistent voltage at all times, even if there’s any sudden change in electrical current from another source. After plugging in the correct polarity (positive or negative), set the desired level of amperage.

#Step 6 –

Place a disposable film on the clip cord, pierce it with pins, secure it with a rubber band or tape, connect this to your tattoo machine’s pedal by clipping it onto the foot pedal wing on your body art equipment.

Press down on the foot pedal while checking that everything is connected correctly – if you see power running through all of these connections, then there should be no problem!

Pros and Cons of using a Rotary Tattoo Machine:

  • More accurate line work.
  • Low maintenance.
  • Easier to rotate the needle for shading or outlining.
  • Liner needles are designed specifically for tattooing with rotary machines, leading to a smoother and more consistent line (especially in areas such as around joints).
  • Rotary tattoo machines can work well on larger tattoos because of their faster speed. This means less time is needed under the gun!
  • More expensive than coil setups; $500 – 600 price range is the average expense.
  • Less versatile than other methods, meaning that you need multiple equipment sets if you’re planning on doing different styles.
  • The process required tuning your setup, and it takes some patience before everything starts running smoothly again.

How to Take Care of Rotary Tattoo Machine

The rotary tattoo machine is a delicate instrument that requires some love and care. Here are the steps to take:

  • Keep your rotary tattoo machine clean by wiping it down with an alcohol wipe after each use. This will prevent buildup from ruining the motor or needle.
  • Always change needles between tasks, as they can wear out during long sessions.
  • Store your rotary in its case when not being used for extended periods; this keeps dust off and prevents potential damage.

For further assistance check out this video given below-


After reading this blog post, you should now better understand how to set up your rotary tattoo machine and how the tuning of a tattoo machine for lining is done. But if you still have any questions or want more information on the process, please feel free to comment, and I’ll be happy to answer any other inquiries.

If this post was helpful for you, please share it with friends who may also need help setting up their rotary machines! HAPPY TATTOOING!!

Check out some of other best articles:
How To Use a Tattoo Stencil Machine
Top 7 Best Tattoo Power Supplies
Types of Tattoo Machines: Rotary vs Coil Machine
Best Motor For Rotary Tattoo Machine
How To Setup a Tattoo Machine

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