Tattoo Gun Vs. Tattoo Pen: Which Is Better?

The tattoo is one of those things that requires a lot of material. Even if you don’t know much about the tattoo, you have a clear picture of what it looks like; dozens of needles, a tattoo gun, lots of ink, gloves, a desk or chair, cleaning supplies, etc. But, if you have any knowledge of tattooing, or even a complete beginner, you probably already know that each piece of equipment plays an important role in the overall process; thanks to the equipment, the tattooing process is smooth, comfortable and safe (also, thanks to the tattoo artist of course).

Now, what part of the equipment can’t a tattoo artist do without? Well, you might have answered that question by saying “tattoo gun” or “tattoo pen.” We have all been there; some of us would even add ‘are they not the same things?’. But, essentially, you’re right; both parts of the equipment are irreplaceable in the tattooing environment.

But what is the difference between a tattoo gun and a pen, and what exactly are they used for? In the following paragraphs, we will explore both the tattoo gun and the pen and explain the key differences. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

What is the difference between a tattoo gun and a tattoo pen?

Generally speaking, if you’re unfamiliar with tattoos and use both the terms “tattoo gun” and “tattoo pen” to refer to the same tattoo machine, you wouldn’t be too far off. . It’s common for people to not even tell the difference between the two machines, and when you tell them they’re different, you can see a bit of confusion and surprise on their faces. So what’s the difference? Let’s take a look at both machines individually and find out what makes them different!

tattoo guns

tattoo guns
Credit: @oldstreetphotos

Tattoo guns are the traditional tattoo machine that everyone is familiar with. These are the things with needles that tattoo artists use to buzz ink into your skin, freely explained. But, if we want to be a little more specific, a tattoo gun is a tattoo machine that uses electromagnetic coils to push the needle in and out of the skin during the tattooing process.

With each stroke, the coil oscillates, allowing rapid and efficient penetration of the needle in and out of the skin. Thanks to this mechanism, the tattoo gun can move the needle between 50 and 3000 times in 60 seconds, depending on the type of work performed by the tattoo artist.

The tattoo artist completely controls the tattoo gun. For example, if the tattoo artist presses the gun a little harder, it will increase the speed at which the gun will move the needles. Or, if a tattoo artist uses different needles and angles to penetrate the skin, they can create different effects or consistently different levels of pigmentation. Different techniques, combined with different needles, can create amazing and unique effects, from coloring to shading.

It takes a long time for a tattoo artist to master the tattoo gun. That’s why from the start, apprentice tattoo artists are taught how to use the gun and are encouraged to practice using it on synthetic fake skin or even pork belly.

tattoo pens

tattoo pen
Credit: @hangwu7273

Unlike tattoo guns, tattoo pens are motorized and use needles that come in interchangeable cartridges. The pens are super easy to use and allow the tattoo artist easier handling and more stable work. Sure, tattoo guns are irreplaceable, but tattoo pens do wonders in the right hands. It is known that tattoo pens, due to their stability, ensure crisper, sharper lines and overall cleaner tattoos, compared to the work of tattoo guns.

One of the main differences between tattoo guns and tattoo pens is that tattoo pens are almost completely silent. Tattoo guns are primarily known for the buzz they produce while tattooing, while tattoo pens are incredibly quiet. It’s a great little feature, especially considering that the buzz of tattoo guns actually increases people’s anxiety and fear while tattooing.

It’s safe to say that many tattoo artists prefer using tattoo pens to tattoo guns. The benefits of using tattoo pens are endless and they can do everything a tattoo gun can do and more. But tattoo guns are still considered the go-to tattoo machine, mainly because they are harder to master. So, when a tattoo artist does this, he is considered a true tattoo professional.

Read more: 8 Best Tattoo Machines: Ultimate Buying Guide (2022 Update)

Which is better, tattoo guns or tattoo pens?

So, in the battle of tattoo guns versus tattoo pens, one can’t help but wonder which of the two machines is better. When it comes to professional tattoo artists, we think the majority would agree that tattoo pens are much better than guns. Admittedly, both machines have their pros and cons, so it’s fair to list them and let our readers decide for themselves.

tattoo guns


  • Tattoo guns are custom machines and as such allow for truly custom work and experimentation.
  • Some say that tattoo guns give a tattoo a specific look, especially in the sense of tattoo art and aesthetics.
  • One can choose between different types of tattoo guns; rotary, automatic and coil tattoo machines
  • Each type of tattoo gun offers different finishes and results, which can be very beneficial for different tattoo styles.


  • The noise that tattoo guns make while tattooing is definitely one of the biggest drawbacks; many clients associate the buzz and vibration with fear of getting a tattoo
  • The pain issue is also a big downside; customers generally report that the tattooing process was more painful when done with a tattoo gun, mainly due to the hum and vibration
  • Tattoo guns are significantly less stable and can be a little difficult to use for hours-long tattoo sessions.
  • Tattoo needles can be difficult to replace and adjust

tattoo pens


  • The tattoo pens are super quiet; because there is no buzzing or vibration, working with tattoo pens is quite quiet and the customer usually appreciates that
  • Because they are quiet, tattoo pens do not cause fear or anxiety in customers.
  • Tattoo pens are also considered less painful for a client, mainly because there is no buzzing
  • Due to the silence of the machine, customers are also more relaxed during the tattooing process.
  • The tattoo pens are light and very easy to use, even during sessions lasting several hours
  • Needles are super easy to replace and adjust


  • Tattoo pens can be a bit more expensive than tattoo guns
  • Tattoo pens also use short needles or cartridge needles, which are quite expensive

Final Thoughts

So, considering the pros and cons of tattoo guns and pens, it’s pretty clear that tattoo pens win the battle for the best machine. However, things aren’t quite so black and white in real life. Each tattoo artist has their personal preferences and the machines that work best for them. Regardless of the tattoo machines they use, tattoo artists must first listen to themselves and follow their own style, and then they use the equipment that provides the best desired effects.

So which tattoo machine is really the best? There is no exact answer; the answer changes from tattoo artist to tattoo artist, just as tattoo styles change, preferences change, the type of work they do, etc.

Both tattoo machines do their job; they tattoo as best they can, but the end effects are surely in the hands of the tattoo artist. The tattoo artist who has mastered tattoo techniques will have no problem working with the gun or the pen to create a work of art.

The one difference that we think tilts the final argument in favor of the tattoo pen a bit is the notion of less pain for clients. Considering pain is the number one reason people either avoid tattoos or have trouble with the whole process, we can’t just ignore the fact that tattoo pens hurt far less than tattoo guns. .

So if pain during tattooing is usually an issue for you, you should look for a tattoo artist who works with a tattoo pen. Other than that, if in the right hands, your tattoo will look great regardless of the machine used to create it.

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