Tattoo Starter Kit Buying Guide

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Tattoo Starter Kit Buying Guide

For hundreds of years, human beings have been tattooing one another. In the modern world, it has become widely recognised as a legitimate form of art, and a popular means of self-expression.

Tattoos are applied to the skin using needles. Due to the nature of this process, a lot of equipment is required to perform it accurately and safely. Anyone looking to take up the art form should seriously consider buying a starter kit, which should have all the basic equipment needed. It is the intention of this guide to provide all the necessary information for anyone seeking such a starter kit to make the right choice.

The online auctioning site eBay is designed for buyers looking for a quick, easy way to find the product they want. It has a tremendous selection and a simple interface, making it the ideal place to shop for tattoo starter kits.

What to Look for in a Tattoo Starter Kit

There are numerous key items that any novice tattooist will require, along with many others that are likely to prove very useful. The following is a list of these items that can often be found in a tattoo starter kit. Each entry will also have information about what an item is used for, and why a tattooist needs it.

Power Supply

The power supply is absolutely essential: do not buy a tattoo starter kit if it does not contain a power supply for the tattoo machine. A power supply plugs into the mains, which converts the power into the correct wattage for the machine. In a starter kit, the power supply will be the right one for the included gun. Power supplies often feature adjustable power controls, which are usually operated via a foot pedal.

Foot Pedal Switch

Foot Pedals are commonly included features of the power supply. Tattoo artists sometimes need to vary how powerful their gun is, in order to achieve different effects on the skin. Adjusting the power at the supply can be awkward and disruptive to the process. Using a foot pedal allows the artist to adjust the power level without stopping their work, making it a very important tool.

Clip Cord

The clip cord connects the power supply to the tattoo machine. This is a small piece, but it is equally as important as the power supply, because without it the gun cannot be powered. Ensure that a clip cord is included in the package, as well as that it is long enough for your purposes.

Tattoo Machines/Guns

The tattoo machine, or gun as it is often called, is the tattooist’s paintbrush. It is the mechanism that allows rapid, efficient illustration on the human skin.

An electrical current is run through an electromagnetic coil in the machine. This in turn is connected to a device know as the armature bar. The armature bar holds the needle or needles of the machine in place. When the current is passed through the applicance, it oscillates, moving the needles back and forth. The needles carry the ink, which is transferred into the skin when it is punctured.

Whilst it’s true that there are other kinds of guns, most machines found in starter kits will be basic coil units, as these are the simplest, and allow both lines and shading to be inked, instead of specialising in one type of effect.

Without the gun, performing a tattoo isn’t possible, so it goes without saying that every starter kit should contain one.


The ink is another key part of a tattoo starter kit. The ink is, as aforementioned, pushed into the skin by the needle, where it stays and forms part of the image. There are countless colours of tattoo ink available, and which colour or colours a tattooist uses is entirely up to either them or their subject. Most starter tattoo kits will contain a range of coloured inks, with many of the most commonly used colours.

Ink Cups & Ink Cup Holders

A tattooist will often have to change the colour of the ink they are using mid-drawing. To this end, ink cups are often included, which are open-topped and store ink, allowing the tattooist to dip the needle into the ink as required. Ink cup holders keep the ink cups fixed in rigid positions, which is useful for organisational and practical purposes.


Needles are another crucial instrument of tattooists. Needles need to be changed with every session, hence starter kits will often include multiple needles. Needles must be sterile, though they usually come pre-sterilised and packaged in airtight blister packages, so this is rarely a problem.

Tips (Nozzles)

The tip or nozzle of a tattoo machine is the end portion, into which the needle is fitted. These need regular replacement, and so, like needles, are often included in bundles of more than one. Grips hold the tips in place and should also be included.

Practice Skins

Tattooing is not an easy thing to do. Even for a very talented artist, using a machine-powered needle on actual people is a difficult task. Many new tattooists will required a bit of practice before they are ready to begin work on real skin. Practice skins are an excellent solution to this problem. They are rubber surfaces, imitating the texture of skin, on which the aspiring tattooist can practice using their new machine. An excellent way to hone skills, and a risk free means to make the inevitable mistakes of a novice tattoo artist, practice skins are often included in starter kits.

Rubber Bands & Grommets

Rubber bands are used to wrap around the machine and create the correct levels of tension against the needle, whereas grommets connect the needle to the armature bar. Rubber bands and grommets are very important inclusions in any starter kit.

Aftercare Cream

The process of tattooing can cause skin problems. Some of these common negative after effects include:

  • Scabbing
  • Itching & Stinging
  • Discolouration
  • Dryness
  • Swelling
  • Redness

If left unchecked, these symptoms can not only cause great discomfort, but also leave scars, which could cause the artwork to become discoloured. This is obviously undesirable, and so aftercare cream has been developed to counteracts these effects. The cream is used in the vast majority of cases as a precaution against the above symptoms, which do manifest quite commonly. A starter kit should include aftercare cream.

Other Useful Items

Other items which can prove very useful, and which are sometimes included in starter kits, include:

  • Gloves – usually latex
  • Stencils
  • Allen keys and other tools
  • Transfer paper
  • Skin-marking pens
  • Instructional manuals or DVDs


The art of tattooing is an extremely popular and rewarding phenomenon, allowing personal expression in a creative and novel format. It is an ancient art, which has only grown in prominence as time has passed. It is, however, something that requires a lot of equipment, which can be problematic for beginners.

This guide set out to provide information about what one would normally find in a tattoo starter kit, and how to find one. The list above contains all of the key features. Using eBay is an extremely sensible course of action when shopping for tattoo starter kits, due to its simple and versatile user interface and enormous range of options to choose from.

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