Beginner Tattoo Kits and Other Supplies You Need As A Tattoo Artist | Painful Pleasures Community

Beginner Tattoo Kits and Other Supplies You Need As A Tattoo Artist

Is a beginner tattoo kit right for you? This blog tells you all the supplies you need as a beginner tattoo artist.
by Danny Tress Last Updated: May 10, 2024

Being a beginner artist or apprentice who’s learning how to tattoo is overwhelming enough. But understanding everything you need in your toolkit and why? That’s a whole other beast. Your setup encompasses every part of the tattooing process, from creating the tattoo to preventing cross-contamination. We highly recommend having a basic understanding of the supplies you need as an artist before you begin your apprenticeship. 

That’s what this blog post is all about. Check out all the supplies you need to get started as a tattoo artist.

What is a Beginner Tattoo Kit?

Collection of tattoo supplies for a beginner tattoo kit

First, you might be tempted to just grab yourself a beginner tattoo kit. It’s usually a budget-friendly way to get started as a tattoo artist. So let’s talk about what beginner tattoo kits are, when getting one makes sense, when it doesn’t make sense, and how you can pick a good one!

Simply put, a beginner tattoo kit is a bundle of the basic tools and equipment you’ll need to get started tattooing. A well-rounded kit will typically include a basic machine, necessary accessories like grips and power supplies, a few needle cartridges, and ink. 

Keep in mind, that even the best tattoo starter kits usually offer the bare minimum you need to start practicing – not the professional setup you’ll need further into your career as an artist.

Deciding If You Need a Tattoo Kit

Before you decide if you need a beginner tattoo kit or not, evaluate where you are in your tattooing journey. Let’s say you’re curious about becoming a tattoo artist… but not 100% sure it’s your career path. You love drawing tattoo designs, and you’ve been dying to try out a real machine. An affordable tattoo kit can offer what you need to start practicing on practice skins (or orange peels). Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can move on to practicing on yourself or some brave friends. You’ll get some real tattooing experience without breaking the bank and see if it’s right for you.

Now, let’s say you’ve passed the above stage, and you’re ready to start an apprenticeship. You’ll be in a real shop, tattooing real clients, and you’re committed to tattooing as a future career path. In this case, you’ll likely need to invest in more supplies than what comes in the typical tattoo kit and possibly in a more versatile tattoo machine. If your budget is limited, a tattoo kit can still be a good choice to help you get started. But if you can afford a more complete setup now, buying your supplies separately might make more financial sense – as fully-fledged artists do. This way, you’re investing your money in the quality and quantity of supplies you’ll need to serve your clients long-term.

Understanding the Essential Components of a Tattoo Kit

The best beginner tattoo kits usually come with the following:

Tattoo Machine

FK Irons tattoo machine on stainless steel countertop

The heart and soul of your kit. Note that because beginner tattoo kits are usually meant to be a budget-friendly entry point to tattooing, the machines that come in them are often basic models that need some of the features of more expensive models. 

Tattoo Machine Grips

You’ll need a separate grip unless your kit includes a pen-style machine. Some kits feature a reusable grip, while others may offer a few disposable ones. 

Power Supply

Close-up of the Peak Vega tattoo power supply
A reliable power supply is essential, and kits usually come with a basic tattoo power supply or, in the case of wireless pen-style machines, a battery pack. If you’re using a wired power supply, you’ll also want a clip cord or an RCA cable, depending on the connectivity of your tattoo machine.

Sterile Needles or Needle Cartridges
Range of Stellar needle cartridges in a row at a tattoo workstation

Make sure your tattoo starter kit includes a variety of sterile needles in different sizes and configurations so you can practice with each type. 

Needle Bars vs. Cartridges

Tattoo needle cartridges are the most common tattoo needles artists use nowadays. Every needle cartridge you use should have your date of sterilization on the back of its packaging. However, if you’re kicking your journey off with a coil machine—which some artists swear by!—you’ll be using traditional bar needles. In that case, the same principle applies: A reputable brand should make your bar needles and they should be sterile + high-quality for safe procedures. Learn more about the ins and outs of tattoo needles in our blog here.

Tattoo Ink

Line of tattoo ink on a yellow background

Tattoo ink is a must because in a beginner tattoo kit… how else are you gonna tattoo? Consequently, a good tattoo kit should come with a small-but-useful range of colors for you to try. More importantly, your tattoo ink should come from a reputable brand like World Famous, Eternal, or Solid Ink (just to name a few). Plenty of these brands offer starter sets for beginning artists. So, if you find a tattoo kit you love that doesn’t give you all the colors you want to try, check out these brands for a wider (but still beginner-friendly) selection.

Disposable Tips

Disposable tips are easy to use and maintain and provide a hygienic solution for preventing cross-contamination. 

Stencil Transfer Paper

You’ll need transfer paper to create stencils for your tattoos. (Trust us – freehanding when starting out is a bad idea.)

Disposable Gloves

Many kits come with a small supply of disposable gloves, but if you’re serious about practicing, you’ll probably need to invest in more soon!

Researching and Choosing the Right Tattoo Kit

Now that you know what components make a beginner tattoo kit, it’s time to dive into the research phase. Read reviews, watch tutorials, and get a feel for what the tattooing community recommends. Remember, your kit is an investment. Even if you plan to upgrade as soon as possible, you still need a decent-quality kit to make your practice worthwhile. So take your time in choosing the one that aligns with your needs and budget.

Above all, ensure you know how to avoid low-quality, unsafe tattoo kits… because, unfortunately, the internet is full of them. If you can’t find a real brand behind the kit – one that’s been around for years and is well-known in the tattoo industry – don’t trust it. The few bucks you might save aren’t worth compromising your work or health with unsafe inks or faulty machines. To avoid them, we recommend buying your kit from a well-known tattoo supply website that only stocks reputable brands.

Comparing Different Tattoo Kit Brands and Models

So you’ve eliminated any suspicious “off-brand” kits from the running, and now you’re comparing a few options from trusted, well-known brands. You’ll want to consider factors like:

  • Machine’s durability and versatility. Do you plan to use this machine for a while? Or are you planning to upgrade soon? 
  • Machine type. Does it include a pen-style machine, rotary, or coil?
  • Ink and needle cartridge selection. Does it come with enough quantity and variety that you can practice a variety of tattoos?
  • Reviews and reputation. What have other artists said about this kit? Do they continue to use it, or did they only practice with it briefly before upgrading?

Budget-Friendly Beginner Tattoo Kits

Pro tip: Dragonhawk tattoo kits have become a favorite thanks to their low price point and decent quality. 

Tips for Setting Up and Using Your Tattoo Kit

Beginner tattoo kit complete with APOF practice skins

  • Read the Manual: Yes, it might sound mundane, but reading the manual is crucial. Each kit is different, and understanding the specifics will save you from unnecessary hiccups.
  • Practice on Fake Skin: Before you unleash your artistic talents on real skin, practice on fake skin – or orange peels for a more budget-friendly option. It allows you to get comfortable with the machine and perfect your technique before tattooing a real person.
  • Experiment with Grip and Needle Configurations: Experiment with different grips and needle configurations to find what works best for lining, packing, shading, etc.

Maintaining and Cleaning Your Tattoo Kit

The longevity of your tattoo kit depends on proper maintenance. Regularly clean and lubricate your machine, replace needles, and store your inks in a cool, dry place. Investing time in maintaining your kit ensures it remains reliable until you’re ready to upgrade.

Other Tattoo Supplies You Need

While a tattoo kit might cover most of your basics, it doesn’t have everything you need to be a successful tattoo artist. Usually, if you take on a professional apprenticeship, your shop will supply you with other essentials you need. However, it’s good to know beforehand everything important for tattoo artists at every stage of their career. So these are the staples you NEED but won’t necessarily find in a beginner tattoo kit.

MadaCide and CaviCide

Tattoo shops have to fulfill OSHA’s standards for sanitation. Consequently, most shops have MadaCide or CaviCide on hand. These chemicals sterilize your workstation and prevent cross-contamination. Bear in mind, you can’t use these products to sterilize your tattoo tubes, tattoo grips, or other equipment. They’re intended for your tattoo workstation exclusively.

Barrier Film, Machine Bags, and Clip Cord Covers

All these protective supplies are critical parts of your setup process before any tattoo. If you start apprenticing with a wireless machine, you won’t need clip cord covers—although many tattoo mentors believe in training you with a wired machine first. Machine bags slide easily over your machine and prevent it from coming in contact with bodily fluids and other cross-contaminants. Additionally, barrier film is a catch-all staple that you can use to protect your workstation, machine, and other supplies.

You can also use dental bibs as a protectant at your workstation. Many artists line their stainless steel medical trays with dental bibs before laying out their supplies.

Washer Bottles + Spray Bottles

Washer (squeezer) bottles and spray bottles are great for applying green soap, alcohol, or soap to your client’s skin. We highly recommend labeling your bottles so you know what you’re reaching for during a tattoo session. These bottles keep you organized, which is imperative for smooth, hygienic sessions.

Transfer Paper + Stencil Primer

You’ll be making a lot of stencils at every stage in your career. So you’ll need high-quality stencil supplies like transfer paper and Stencil Primer for every session. This is true even before you start tattooing people. You’ll need to make stencils for your practice skins, too. This isn’t to say you can’t dabble in freehand techniques, especially with Peak dotwork cartridges, but stencil supplies are nonetheless a must.

Ink Caps

If you’ve got tattoo ink, you’re gonna need caps to hold it. Ink caps come in various sizes, so you’ll want to get a good variety to accommodate various needle configurations. For instance, you’ll need larger ink caps for your mags and smaller caps for your liners.

Rinse Cups+ Distilled Water

These are self-explanatory staples. You’ll need to rinse your needles while tattooing. Get a cup to do it and sterile water for your rinse water. 

Tattooable Practice Skin

Some beginner tattoo kits do come with practice canvases. However, if you’ve found a kit you love that doesn’t include practice skins, we highly recommend buying some separately. We especially recommend A Pound of Flesh. This brand is an artist-favorite for so closely replicating real human skin. Tattooing practice skin helps you practice and refine essential techniques without making mistakes on clientele (or friends).

Final Thoughts on Tattoo Kits

Beginner tattoo kits can be a great, affordable way to dip your toes into tattooing. Stick to ones that come from brands trusted in the industry and avoid “off-brand” kits like the plague. Remember that kits aren’t your only option for getting started. Sometimes, buying an affordable machine and other supplies separately makes more sense, especially if you’re committed to tattooing as a future career. If that’s you, you can DIY your own “kit” here on Ultimate Tattoo Supply with our high-quality machines and accessories catering to every budget.

Comments are closed here.

Follow us @ Instagram