tattoo pen versus tattoo gun

Tattoo Pen Vs. Tattoo Gun: What’s The Difference?

In the world of modern tattooing, there is a lot of equipment designed to help tattoo artists do the best work possible. Due to the variety of tattoo machines that are used by artists, many people find themselves wondering, tattoo pens vs. tattoo guns, what is the difference between the two? They are both tattooing machines that yield the same result, so surely they cannot be that different from each other? 

tattoo artists wear black gloves

Tattoo pens vs. tattoo guns – Tattoo guns use electromagnetic coils that are pulled and pushed to move the tattoo needle up and down into the skin. A tattoo pen utilizes a motor that moves the needle. The motor in a tattoo pen is quiet and generates almost no vibrations in the machine. 

What is a tattoo pen, and is there a difference between a tattoo pen and a traditional tattoo gun? What are the differences between them? Is a tattoo gun better? Let’s look a little closer at some of the differences between a tattoo gun and a tattoo pen.

What Is The Difference Between A Tattoo Pen And A Tattoo Gun?

Often people do not question the tattoo machine that their tattoo artist is using, as they do not realize there are different tattoo machines available that may yield different results when used. 

What is a tattoo pen, and how is it any different from a tattoo gun? 

Tattoo Guns

A traditional tattoo gun is a tattoo machine that uses electromagnetic coils to move the tattoo needle in and out of the skin.

As the coil oscillates, the tattoo needle penetrates the skin and pushes ink into the skin with every stroke.

A tattoo gun’s needle will move up and down between 50 to 3000 times a minute, depending on what the artist requires. 

The tattoo artist will control the speed of the machine by using a foot pedal, pressing harder to increase the speed of the tattoo gun.

Tattoo guns are very efficient and reliable machines that have been used by many artists. These tattoo machines have been a staple in the application of tattoos for many years.

They produce clean, sharp, and beautiful tattoos when they are used correctly.

A tattoo gun in the hand of a talented master tattooer will yield amazing tattoos.

Tattoo Pens

Tattoo pens are driven by an electric motor, as opposed to the coil in tattoo guns.

These are extremely easy machines to use; they are easily adjustable and very user friendly for the tattoo artists who use them.

Tattoo pens use a very different system compared to traditional tattoo guns. Tattoo pens use needles that come in interchangeable cartridges that can be swapped in and out of the tattoo pen as many times as required throughout the tattoo application process.

These machines are also incredibly quiet compared to other tattoo machines. So quiet that if you are not listening out for the sound it makes, you may not be able to hear it at all.

Tattoo pens do not have much kick back while in use. This means that the tattoo pen is a lot more stable and does not move around much while being used, which results in a much cleaner tattoo all around. 

When using a tattoo pen, it is much more agile and easier to maneuver. These machines do not move on their own, but only according to what the tattoo artist is doing, and because of this, many tattoo artists have stated that tattoo pens create much tidier tattoos with cleaner and more defined details.

Are Pen Tattoo Machines Good?

Pen tattoo machines are not just good; in fact, they are wonderful. 

They will probably never replace the original tattoo gun entirely, but they are definitely becoming very popular, and most tattoo artists will now use them alongside their coil tattoo guns.

Many tattoo artists enjoy using a tattoo pen so much that they tattoo with these machines exclusively.

Many artists have noted that the tattoo pen gives them much better consistency in their tattoos than their coil guns do.

Tattoo artists have also said that using a tattoo pen is far easier on their wrists, hands, and fingers – noting that this type of machine is much easier to use and often much lighter.

They said they have noticed that they can use a tattoo pen for much longer without needing to take a break, and they make far fewer mistakes while tattooing since their hands do not cramp while using it.

Many tattooers often suffer from cramps in their hands and fingers when using a traditional tattoo gun due to the vibrations, and it has even caused them to lose feeling in their hands for a while after the tattoo. 

The tattoo pen has hardly any noticeable vibrations at all, making this machine much more comfortable to use for long sessions.

Its high level of hygiene is another reason why the tattoo pen such an amazing tool.

Tattoo pens are fully autoclavable, which means that you can place the entire machine in an autoclave to completely sterilize the entire machine quickly and easily.

This makes them some of the most hygienic tattoo machines you can use.

Is There Anything That A Tattoo Gun Can Do That A Tattoo Pen Can Not?

Tattoo guns and tattoo pens are very different in their build. They are structured; differently, they move; differently, they operate with different mechanisms, and they use different types of tattoo needles as well.

However, both types of tattoo machines can execute the same work as each other. There is not one thing that a tattoo gun can do that a tattoo pen cannot do.

A tattoo pen is still a tattoo machine and is not any less useful than a traditional tattoo gun in any way at all.

Both tattoo machines perform well for line work, shading, color, and any style of tattoo and technique that the artist using it desires.

Both types of tattoo machines are excellent tools when it comes to tattooing, and neither of them should be regarded as inferior to the other. It is all about the preference of the tattoo artist using them. 

Do Tattoo Pens Hurt Less Than Tattoo Guns?

There have been no studies conducted that prove that tattoo pens are less painful to be tattooed with than a traditional tattoo gun; however, many clients who have been tattooed by both types of tattoo machines have expressed that they could feel a distinct difference between them.

Clients had said that the tattoo pen, for whatever reason, was much less painful to be tattooed with than when they were tattooed with a tattoo gun.

Some tattoo artists believe the reason clients feel that their tattoo was less painful is due to the lack of buzzing put off by the tattoo gun.

They believe that this is basically a trick that their mind has played on them, and because they cannot hear the buzzing of the tattoo machine, they are not as aware of the fact that they are being tattooed, causing them to be more relaxed. They, therefore, perceive the experience to be less painful.

Tattoo artists have said this is actually very useful for them, as they can tattoo far better, and for longer when their clients are relaxed – and when they believe that they are in a lot less pain than they are, and this perceived lack of pain helps the client remain calm during longer sessions.

Whatever the actual reason may be, tattoo clients seem to believe that tattoo pens do, in fact, hurt less than tattoo guns.


There are some major differences between a tattoo pen and a tattoo gun – some may make a difference to you as the client, but the tattoo machine that is used will mainly affect the tattoo artist.

Both tattoo machines can perform at the same level and execute the same tattoos, so it will be about the tattoo artist and which tattoo machine they prefer to use when it comes down to it. 

Some tattoo artists work better with having a gun vibrating in their hand as they work; they find it more comforting as it is what they know, whereas some tattoo artists enjoy the ease of use and the stamina that comes with using a tattoo pen – especially those that run off of a battery pack and are essentially cordless machines.

No matter which machine your artist chooses to use, rest assured that both of these tattoo machines are perfectly capable of creating the tattoo of your dreams when they are operated by a talented artist.


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