Tattoo Gun and a Tattoo Pen

Tattoo Gun Vs. Tattoo Pen: Which Is Better?

Tattooing is one of those things that requires a lot of equipment. Even if you don’t know much about tattooing, you have a clear image of what it looks like; dozens of needles, a tattoo gun, a lot of ink, gloves, a desk or chair, cleaning equipment, and so on. But, if you are knowledgeable in tattooing, or are even a total 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 goes smoothly, comfortable, and safely (also, thanks to the tattoo artist of course).

Now, which part of the equipment can’t a tattoo artist go without? Well, you may have answered this question by either saying ‘tattoo gun’ or ‘tattoo pen’. We’ve all been there; some of us would even add ‘aren’t those the same things?’. But, essentially you’re right; both parts of the equipment are irreplaceable in the tattoo 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’ll explore both the tattoo gun and the pen and explain the main 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 not familiar with tattoos and you use both terms ‘tattoo gun’, and ‘tattoo pen’ to refer to the same tattoo machine, you wouldn’t be too far off. It is common that people don’t even differentiate between the two machines, and when you tell them that they’re different, you can see a bit of confusion and surprise on their faces. So, what is the difference? Let’s take a look at both machines individually and figure out what makes them different!

Tattoo Guns

Tattoo Guns
Credit: @oldstreetphotos

Tattoo guns are the traditional tattoo machine everybody knows about. It is the things with needles tattooists use to buzz the ink into your skin, freely explained. But, if we want to be a bit more specific, a tattoo gun is a tattoo machine that uses electromagnetic coils to push the needle into and out of the skin during the tattooing process.

With every stroke, the coil oscillates, which enables quick and effective needle penetration in and out of the skin. Thanks to this mechanism, the tattoo gun can move the needle anywhere between 50 and 3000 times in 60 seconds, depending on the type of work the tattooist is doing.

The tattoo artist controls the tattoo gun completely. For example, if the tattooist presses the gun a bit harder, this will increase the speed at which the gun will move the needles. Or, if a tattooist uses different needles and angles at which they will enter the skin, they can create different effects or ever different levels of pigment payoff. Different techniques, alongside different needles, can create incredible, unique effects, from coloring to shading.

It takes a lot of time for a tattoo artist to master the tattoo gun. That is why from the very getgo, tattoo apprentices are taught how to use the gun and are encouraged to practice using it on fake synthetic skin or even pork belly.

Tattoo Pens

Tattoo Pen
Credit: @hangwu7273 

Unlike tattoo guns, tattoo pens are motor-driven 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. Of course, tattoo guns are irreplaceable, but the tattoo pens do wonder in the right hands. It has been known that tattoo pens, because of their stability, ensure cleaner, sharper lines, and overall cleaner tattoos, compared to the work of tattoo guns.

One of the main differences when it comes to tattoo guns and pens is that tattoo pens are almost completely silent. Tattoo guns are mostly recognized for the buzzing sound they produce during tattooing, while tattoo pens are incredibly quiet. This is an excellent little feature, especially when you take into account that the buzzing sound of tattoo guns actually increases people’s anxiety and fear during tattooing.

It is safe to say that a lot of 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, even more. But, tattoo guns are still considered the go-to tattoo machine, mostly because they’re more difficult to master, so when a tattoo artist does that, they’re considered to be a true tattoo professional.

Read More: 8 Best Tattoo Pen Machine: Ultimate Buying Guide (2023 Updated)

Which Is Better, Tattoo Guns or Tattoo Pens?

So, in the battle of tattoo guns vs. tattoo pens, we cannot help but wonder which of the two machines is better. When it comes to professional tattoo artists, we believe the majority would agree that tattoo pens are far better than guns. Surely enough, both machines have their advantages and disadvantages, so it is only fair to list them out and have our readers make a decision for themselves.

Tattoo Guns


  • Tattoo guns are personalized machines, and as such allow for truly custom work and experimentation
  • Some say that tattoo guns make a tattoo look specific, especially in the sense of cool tattoo artistry and aesthetics
  • One can choose between different kinds of tattoo guns; from rotary, automatic, to coil tattoo machines
  • Each tattoo gun type provides different finishes and results, which can be super beneficial for different tattoo styles


  • The noise tattoo guns make during tattooing is definitely one of the biggest disadvantages; many customers associate the buzzing and vibrating sound with the fear of getting tattooed
  • The issue of pain is also a big disadvantage; clients generally state that the tattooing process was more painful when done with a tattoo gun, mostly because of the buzzing and vibrating
  • Tattoo guns are definitely less stable and can be a bit hard to work with during hours-long tattoo sessions
  • Tattoo needles can be difficult to replace and adjust

Tattoo Pens


  • Tattoo pens are super silent; because there’s no buzzing or vibration, working with tattoo pens is pretty silent and the customer generally enjoys that
  • Because they’re silent, tattoo pens don’t cause fear or anxiety in customers
  • Tattoo pens are considered to be less painful for a customer as well, mostly because there’s no buzzing
  • Because of the quietness of the machine, customers are more relaxed during the tattooing process too
  • Tattoo pens are lightweight and very easy to work with, even in hours-long sessions
  • Needles are super easy to replace and adjust


  • Tattoo pens can be a bit on the pricier side compared to tattoo guns
  • Tattoo pens also use short needles, or cartridge needles, which are pretty expensive

Final Thoughts

So, considering the advantages and disadvantages of both tattoo guns and pens, it is pretty clear that tattoo pens win the battle of the better machine. However, things aren’t really this black & white in real life. Each tattoo artist has their personal preferences and machines which suit them the best. Regardless of which tattoo machines they use, tattoo artists first need to 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 truly better? There isn’t an exact answer; the answer changes from one tattoo artist to the other, just as the styles of tattooing change, alongside preferences, type of work they’re doing, etc.

Both tattoo machines do their work; they tattoo the best they can, but the final effects are surely in the hands of the tattoo artist. The tattooist that has mastered tattooing techniques will have no issue working with the gun or the pen to create a piece of art.

The only difference we believe makes the final argument tilt a bit in favor of the tattoo pen is the notion of less pain for the customers. Considering that pain is a no.1 reason for people avoiding tattoos or experiencing issues with the whole process, we cannot simply ignore the fact that tattoo pens hurt significantly less than tattoo guns.

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

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