Even the best tattoo machines in the world are of no use without a quality tattoo power supply. At the basic level, a tattoo power supply does just what it sounds like: provide the electricity that allows the tattoo machine to operate. But there are a lot of options out there, and choosing the best tattoo power supply can be tricky if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for. Choosing the right power supply for your tattooing setup is seriously important since the wrong choice might mean you aren’t getting the best out of your tattoo machine.
Tattoo Machine Power Supply Basics
The power supply controls the voltage flowing to your tattoo machine, which determines how hard the tattoo needle hits. There is no single ‘correct’ voltage at which you should run your tattoo machine since the appropriate voltage depends on the style and specs of your tattoo machine, the style of the tattoo, your preferences as an artist, and the location on the body being tattooed. Generally speaking, lining and bold tattoo styles will want higher voltages (~5.5V and up), while shading, blending, and softer tattoo styles will want lower voltages. All tattoo power supplies offer some range of voltage adjustments. Most tattoo power supplies use clip cords or RCA cables to transfer power between the power supply and the tattoo machine. Most also provide the ability to connect power supply accessories like a footswitch, allowing you to turn your tattoo machine off and on while keeping both hands available.
How to Wire a Tattoo Power Supply
Of course, any professional tattoo power supply will come with set-up instructions, and you’ll want to refer to these specifics as you wire your tattoo power supply. That being said, nearly all power supplies (apart from wireless power supplies) have a similar setup, which includes a cord to connect to the electrical outlet in the wall, an outlet that connects to your machine via a clip cord, and an outlet that connects to a foot pedal. Plugin in your power supply and connecting your machine and foot pedal is usually simple and intuitive. More advanced machines may have multiple outlets that allow you to wire multiple machines at once.
How to Use a Tattoo Power Supply
Before you start working with a new power supply, it’s important to practice adjusting the voltage in order to get a feel for the different voltage settings you’ll want to use. While there are no “correct” voltages, most artists have set voltages they typically use for lining and shading. The exact voltage you use will depend on a variety of factors like your machine, the style of tattoo you're working on, and your client’s skin.
Types of Tattoo Power Supply
There are three basic styles of tattoo power supplies: analog, digital, and wireless. There are no major operational differences between the three types, but they do offer different conveniences.
Analog Tattoo Power Supply
Analog machines are the oldest style, and their voltage meters are analog. Generally speaking, analog machines have lower maximum voltage outputs.
Digital Tattoo Power Supply
Digital machines are newer and feature easier-to-read digital voltage meters. This digital display will cost you a bit more than an analog version, but many artists find the convenience to be worth the extra cost.
Wireless Tattoo Power Supply
Wireless tattoo power supply units are the newest style, which typically features digital voltage meters and do away with the cables and cords that run between the tattoo machine and the power supply. While they’re arguably the most convenient, they’re also the most expensive.
How to Pick the Best Tattoo Power Supply
There are hundreds of tattoo power supply options, but which one is best will depend on who you ask. To choose the correct tattoo power supply, consider your artistic style and your tattooing setup. If you have a bold style that needs a strong, consistent hit, you might want a power supply with a higher voltage threshold. If you regularly use multiple machines in a single session, perhaps you want a power supply that allows for multiple machines or for the storage of different power settings. Ultimately, knowing which power supply you need will depend on understanding the rest of your equipment and setup.
Browse our full collection of quality tattoo power supplies and power supply accessories from industry-leading brands like Cheyenne, Critical, FK Irons, Peak, and Precision.