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The ultimate guide to buying a cosmetic tattoo device

Which tattoo pens are suitable for a cosmetic tattooing?

Types of Cosmetic Tattoo Devices

There are two kinds of Cosmetic Tattoo Devices. Digital and Rotary.

Rotary devices are favoured by traditional body art tattooists, however there are many rotary devices on the market that are suited to permanent makeup.

By comparison digital tattoo devices are usually less powerful than rotary, but they can also offer more stability for work that requires delicate precision such as eyeliner tattooing. Digital cosmetic tattoo devices are more precise and consistent in speed setting, and are able to be adjusted exactly, whereas the speed on rotary devices is controlled manually and has more room for error and inconsistency.

Safety and Hygiene Requirements

Not all cosmetic tattoo devices are made equal, and some are not suitable for use on actual clients. But how do you know which ones are and which ones aren’t? In order for a tattoo device to be suitable for use on clients they must be compatible with universal needle cartridges OR have a built in system to prevent back flow. This is important as it stops pigment and bodily fluids from being drawn back into the machines mechanics. If bodily fluids are able to flow back into the device there is a high risk of cross contamination and infection between clients.

Cartridges vs Needle and Tips

Needle cartridges are an all in one needle and plastic tip that twist to lock into the device. Not all cosmetic tattoo pens take needle cartridges, and those that don’t will take a separate needle and tip that must be purchased separately and assembled for use as needed.

The benefits of using a cosmetic tattoo device that takes all in one cartridges are that there is less chance of needle stick injuries when setting up and using the device. There is also no assembly required, and less products needed to purchase and keep in stock. The cartridges are usually clear, allowing the artist to see how much pigment has been drawn into the cartridge, and when to dip back into the pigment to refill.

The benefits of using a separate needle and tip are that the configuration is smaller when assembled, and the tips are able to be reused as long as they are sterilised in an autoclave and stored appropriately. If your cosmetic tattoo device takes separate needles and tips, make sure that the device is also using a back flow system.

Wireless vs direct to power

Another variable to consider when choosing a cosmetic tattoo device is whether you prefer wireless devices or direct to power devices (or DC, direct current). I’ll put the pro’s and cons for both below.

wireless cosmetic tattoo device




more manouverable while working

batteries need to be recharged/swapped out between clients

Battery pack will make the device heavier (less ergonomic)

rechargeable batteries do not last forever and eventually need replacing

DC cosmetic tattoo device

Direct to Power (DC)



lightweight compared to wireless

less manoeuvrable

no recharging required

power will be consistent throughout use

Weight and Ergonomics

Permanent makeup services can take anywhere from one hour to three hours each client. And most artists will see 2-3 clients a day. Thats a long time to be working with the same tool in your hand. Just like any other repetitive physical job there is a risk or repetitive strain injury (RSI). It’s important that the cosmetic tattoo device you choose is not only safe and hygienic, but also is not difficult to hold and work with.

Price Points

There is a large price fluctuation between low end and high end cosmetic tattoo devices. There are devices from alibaba for $100 AUD and there are high end cosmetic tattoo devices that cost thousands of dollars. So why are some more expensive than others, and do you NEED to spend thousands on your first cosmetic tattoo pen?


< $1000 devices

> $1000 devices

Usually no warranty included

Usually includes a factory warranty

Has a shorter lifespan

Has a longer lifespan

Housing may be less durable and is easier to break if dropped

Housing is more durable and normally made form alloy

Don’t expect any customer service or technical asisstance

Should include tech support, and machine maintenance/servicing

Less stable during operation

More stability during operation

Sometimes includes a back flow system, sometimes does not. Meaning not all are suitable for use on clients.

Includes a back flow safety system OR takes cartridges with membranes to prevent backflow

Needles can be cheaper, but not as high quality. Check to make sure they have a membrane.

Needles and cartridges are usually more expensive, but higher quality

Many artists choose to purchase a high end cosmetic tattii device as their main machine, and a mid level cosmetic tattoo device as a backup. Accidents do happen and sometimes even high end devices need unexpected servicing and repair. There is nothing worse than having a calendar full of bookings, and your device stops working. Actually that’s not true, even worse is the possibility of your device failing halfway through a treatment, and not being able to complete the service.


Stability is a word that is very important when it comes to performing micro tattooing like permanent makeup. Particularly for nano stroke eyebrow styles, and eyeliner tattooing. When a device is not stable, the needle is harder to control with the precision that is needed. When I talk about device stability I am referring to the way the vibration levels effect the precision of your design application.


While this factor is not as important as the others, it can be very distracting for both the client and the artist if the tattoo machine is too loud. I personally find that the noisier the device is, the less stable it is as well.

Stroke Length

You may see the stroke length of devices listed in the specifications. But what does that mean? In this instance the stroke length (sometimes just called stroke) is referring to the distance that the needle travels vertically (up and down into the skin) during use. Some devices may be able to be converted to a shorter or longer stroke length depending on the type of tattoo being applied. Permanent body art tattoos are implanted deeper into the skin than semi-permanent cosmetic tattoo’s. For an artist who performs both types of tattooing it can be useful to have a device which allows for both longer and shorter stroke lengths.

So how do you decide what variation of cosmetic tattoo device you should buy? There is no universal answer to this question as each tattoo artist will have their own preferences and priorities. The best way to choose a device is to first establish your budget, and your main priorities in your tattoo device. Perhaps you specialise in nano stroke brows and your main concern is the stability of the device. Or perhaps you have back to back clients and perform mainly lip tattoo’s, in which case your main concerns may be battery life/running time, and ergonomics.

While it may be a disappointment that I cannot tell you the answer, I certainly hope that I have given you the tools and information needed in order to select the cosmetic tattoo pen that’s best for you. If you feel like I missed anything or if you have a more specific question please let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!

Microblading Online

Cosmetic Tattoo Trainer

About the Author

Tegan Naderi is a long-time team member of SCHB and is mentored by Zara. She is a cosmetic tattoo artist and owner of VIP Brows, specialising in machine hair stroke tattooing. Tegan is also one of the cosmetic tattoo trainers and the SCHB online course creator.

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