Rotary Tattoo Machine Reviews and Guide 2021

Which are the Best Rotary Tattoo Machines in 2021?

The rotary tattoo machine configuration is by far the most appealing for artists in the industry.

There are a number of factors that influence their position at the top, including but not limited to:

– They are lightweight.

– Versatile power input.

– More models are becoming affordable, which allow easier access to beginners.

– Last but not least, they now have the possibility to operate wirelessly.


How did we come to the decision of which rotary machine is the best?

Considering the number of options available in the market, it is almost impossible to review them all.


Nevertheless, the best source of information is the public, right?


This list of three (3) best rotary tattoo machines is based on a wide range of tattoo artist comments and experiences.


Bishop Tattoo Machine

Bishop is a well know brand in the industry.

Their main stream is the rotary line with different alternatives such as the Magi and Microangelo models.

In general, their machines are lightweight and versatile, which is great for any shading and lining jobs.

The only downside is the cost. We are talking between prices over $500 dollars.

For a beginner looking to buy one, you will need to save some money beforehand.


Needless to say that the special editions ones are out of most artists reach.


Bishop Microangelo Rotary Tattoo Machine

Bishop MAGI Black Edition - Nikko Hurtado

Fantom rotary by Bishop

Should you buy one of their models? If you have the budget, I would recommend including any of them in your kit.


Cheyenne Tattoo Machine – Hawk and Sol Series

This brand is another reliable and well know manufacturer in the industry.

What makes them great is that they focus on only the rotary configurations.

Currently, they have two (2) distinctive line of work: the Hawk and the Sol.

In the Hawk series, you will find the Spirit, Thunder and Pen tattoo machine models. From these three (3), artists tend to go for the Thunder model.

The reasoning is that the Cheyenne Hawk Thunder has a better stroke and is very lightweight.


Cheyenne Hawk Thunder


– Lightweight at only 3.35oz (68 g).

– It feels comfortable in big or small hands.

– Components are reliable and hard to damage.



– It’s not so great for shading and filling.


On the other hand, the new Sol line includes the Nova, Terra and Luna models.

Basically, these three (3) models are the improved version of the Hawk line.

Don’t get me wrong, any of the Hawk models are still good option to go with, but as technology evolves, so do the other versions.


Cheyenne Sol Nova


– It’s great for any type of work.

– It’s easy to adjust the configuration as you go.

– The motor vibrates less so the tattooed skin will not suffer as much.



– As this is a Pen model, the size may not be ideal for small hands.

– It is not easy to disinfect after a tattooing session. This is common on pen tattoo machines.


If I could choose from the three (3) Sol versions, I would go for the Nova as it is the most versatile, despite its overall weight.


FK Irons

The last one making our list of 2021 best rotary tattoo machine is FK Irons.

This manufacturer not only offers rotary models but also coil alternatives.

What is interesting about their rotary line is the accessibility to machines with different characteristics.


This gives the tattoo artist the possibility of acquiring the right tool based on what they need.


This, at the same time, may be an issue.

For instance, the Xion, the Flux (their new rotary wireless model – finally!!!) and FK Irons Spektra Edge X only accept cartridge needles.

Nevertheless, if you want more versatility, the Spektra Halo2 and Direkt2 are standard and cartridge compatible as well.

It is really hard to decide which machine is the best from these guys but I would be inclined to go for the FK Irons Xion model.


FK Irons Xion Review


– It works great for any outlining and shading type of work.

– Adjusting the stroke is easy by using the ratchet system.

– I love their style. There are so many designs to choose from.


Not so good

– It is heavy and vibrates enough to complicate long tattooing sessions.

– The stroke range is short.

– As any other Pen tattoo machine, it is also hard to sanitize.

Buying Guide 2021 and Frequent Asked Questions

It’s our aim here to provide you with useful tattoo machine reviews.

But, what is the point of that if perhaps you don’t understand what is mentioned in the reviews?

To answer this question, we have also included a helpful guide and answers to most common questions within this industry.


This guide will be updated as we find more interesting details to share with the community.


What is a rotary tattoo machine?

These machines stand out mainly because they use an electric motor mechanism to move the needles in and out of the skin.


The small motor allows the machine to work with precision to make fine lines and shading during the tattoo process.


Artists can use the machine for both drawing outlines and shading, which speaks of their great versatility.

One of their significant advantage is that they are lightweight, allowing the tattoo artist to work fast and for longer.

Besides, they allow the artist to work with greater precision because their hands won’t cramp as much, especially for complex designs that require long sessions.

Coming back to the motor topic, a particular characteristic is how quiet they are. Thus, the tattooing experience becomes more laid back and relaxed as opposed to being intimidating when you have a buzzing machine inking on your skin.


How does a rotary tattoo machine work?

As you may know already, they are powered by either a wireless battery or by connecting it directly to a power point.


Wireless technology is becoming quite attractive to many artist and therefore, to many brands!


Read More: Best Wireless Tattoo Machine Reviews and Buying Guide 2021.


Before answering this question, you have to learn what parts make up a rotary machine.


Rotary Tattoo Machine Mechanics and Diagram
Source: Smarter Every Day


Rotary tattoo machine parts

Let’s look at the diagram above.

Here you will see what are the main parts of the machine including:

– A DC / RCA connection point (also for a wireless battery).

– The motor.

– A cam wheel.

– The needle bar, the tube (to guide the needle) and the actual needle (standard or cartridge).

– The grip (to wrap and hold the machine) and the tip.

Depending on the manufacturer, they could have additional items but all of the above are the escentials.



Once you have connected the machine to the power supply, the motor will rotate, moving the cam wheel.

This cam wheel will be connected with the needle by the “eye”, which is secured with a grommet.



The grommet must be placed first into the eye of the needle bar, then you can connect it with the cam wheel end.


After setting up all the other elements, you can power the machine up; this will move the motor (moving in clockwise motion) and the bar will come up and down.

The up and down movement of the needle bar releases the needles in and out, piercing the skin.


Understanding the Voltage

Rotary tattoo guns can be regulated or unregulated.

Regulated ones have a pre-set voltage whereas with the unregulated machines, the artist has to choose which voltage is ideal for the work they need.


There is no recipe to adjust the voltage of your machine.


Various brands come with different voltage ranges as each motor is different.

As you gain experience as an artist, you will learn how to adjust it in the best way that works for you.

The voltage will also depend on the speed of your hand and the technique used.


The general rule for unregulated voltage is to turn it up during outlining so that to get the faster speed necessary.

In contrast, you will need to bring it down during shading because it is a more meticulous process.


Rotary Tattoo Machine Types

Choosing one of these machines comes down to characteristics including weight, the machine gun and availability of the tattooing accessories including the grips.

Essentially, these machines differ by brand and the way in which various models have refined characteristics to give artists and clients a better experience.

Tattoo artists who intend to acquire one should look out for reviews and ultimately, make the choice based on personal preferences.

The most popular manufacturers include Bishop, Dragonhawk (good for beginners and low budgets), Neotat Vivace, FK Irons and Inkmachines (Dragonfly).

If you prefer handmade tattoo machines, I recommend checking out well know independed artist – they know they stuff.


The setup of a rotary machine is one of the fundamental steps to get it working properly.


It can be a bit challenging to set it up, tune it and troubleshoot it. Nevertheless, you will become more skilled as you get to know the device.


Rotary Tattoo Machine Setup (needles, tubes, rubber bands, operating voltages)

As per usual, before setting up your tattoo gun, you will need to thoroughly wash your hands.

Once you have ensured a working station properly sanitized, follow these steps:

1. Get a rubber nipple and attach it to the needle bar pin.

2. Adjust the tattoo gun retainer screw to open it. This will create room for the needle bar and tube.

3. Carefully insert the needles into the tube and input the tube tightly into its clamp.

4. Fit the needle-bar loop to the nipple and ensure they come together tightly.

5. Hold the needle-bar pin and press it downwards with the attached needle-bar.

6. Tune the retainer screw to adjust the needle-bar so it come into contact with the retainer rings.

7. Tighten it enough to hold the needles in place and avoid wobbling.

Once your tattoo gun is setup, connect it to a power source and test it at your desired voltage.

Outlining requires a higher voltage because you work faster while shading requires a lower voltage.


Tuning your Rotary Tattoo Gun

Doing a proper tuning of a rotary machine is part of the setup as well.

In basic words, it is the process of ensuring that the needles are of the right depth for tattooing and the voltage is adjusted accordingly.


Components that make a rotary configuration


Tuning will thus, involve adjusting the needle grip and tube to move the needle up or down to the required depth.


Once satisfied with the depth, you need to tighten the tube to hold the needle firmly in place.


Keep in mind that you will need to reduce or increase the voltage of your tattoo gun based on the work you are doing.


Lower voltage works great for lining and higher to shading.


The final aspect to consider is checking the stroke of the machine. Short stroke (3.0 to 3.5 mm) is used for outlining, while shading uses longer strokes.


As you tattoo, you will see whether you have it adjusted to the right depth. Thicker skin might require more depth but excessive bleeding is an indication that the needle is going too deep into the skin.


Read More: Tattoo Needles Guide 2021 – What you Need to Know.


Troubleshooting & Faultfinding

In the course of tattooing, you may run into some problems with the setup; even, it may fail to start after connecting it to the power source for the first time.

In this case, you should consider several issues including:



Low voltage (or lack of voltage altogether), poor power supply or a defective tattoo gun motor.


Speed reduction

Another major issue you may encounter is when the machine starts out just fine but appears to lose power or reduces in speed.

The main possible fault to check in this case may be that the needle-bar pin has come into contact with the housing.

Also, the needle-bar retainer may be too tight against the needle-bar or even worn out.

You should also make sure that the motor is not faulty, however with time, motors tend to loose their quality.


Point of contact

A struggling motor could mean, among other things, a poor connection pin.

The motor problem could also be as a result of the adjustment screw being too close to the cap, which means you need to adjust it accordingly.



The needle suspension of your tattoo gun may get jammed, which could be a result of a loose needle-bar pin.


As any rotary part, it is important to ensure they are lubricated properly.



If the needle-bar pin of your tattoo gun gets wobbly, it is an indication that it might be loose or that the inner pistol spring is defective.

At the same time, the movement of the needle bar pin may be out of sync, indicating that it needs lubrication.

The best way to troubleshoot and fault-find is by using the manual that comes with the machine.

The manufacturer knows more about their equiment than any other artist. Reading their manual will save you a lot of time and help you get the machine running correctly.


Buying Guide Final Thoughts

Rest assured that the first time setting up your machine could be a little bit challenging.

Lucky for all of us, despite that each brand has their own design and configuration, all of them do the same, so don’t stress!


There are many ways to find the solution. Also, facing the issues will get you to know what to do next time it happens.


As mentioned before, using the manual will save you a lot of time and get it right possibly in one go.

Nonetheless, if you get confused, you can always contact the seller for more information.

Whatever level of experience that you may have with tattoo machines, it is important you understand and study the functionality of each component.

As a last resource, I recommend to seek the assistance of experienced tattoo artists if you run into trouble with your rotary tattoo machine setup.


Top 5 Best Rotary Tattoo Machine 2021 Summary Table

Bishop microangelo Review

Bishop MicroAngelo
Cheyenne Tattoo Machine - Hawk Thunder

Cheyenne Hawk Thunder
Spektra Xion

FK Irons Spektra Xion

Dragonhawk Aion Wireless
Shading/LiningLiner / Shader.Liner / Shader.
Great for shading.
2 oz (57 g)2.39 oz (68 g)5.4 oz (152 g).4.3 oz (121 g)
Voltage: 6v–8.5v5-12V. 2.5WMin: 4v, Max: 9.5.
Do not exceed from 10.5v.
Lining: 8-9V.
Shading: 7.5-8.5V.
Stippling: 4-5V
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