Getting Started, Setting Up, and Getting Ready to Tattoo

Updated on March 19, 2020
jsngoodrow profile image

Jason Goodrow, otherwise known as "the Goodboy," is a tattoo artist offering free advice.

What your gear should look like before setting up for a tattoo if you have an autoclave.
What your gear should look like before setting up for a tattoo if you have an autoclave.

Know Your Tattoo Machine

Guys and gals, I am not going to beat around the bush when it comes to your tattoo machine. If the tattoo machine is not set correctly, or the points are not maintained for a good connection, then you are going to have a hell of a stressful time if you don't know how to manage the basic mechanics of your machine. So with this lesson, I am showing some pics of a tattoo liner I use, along with how to set it up correctly. Also and I will repeat this later. If you have any questions about setting up your liner after this lesson, please leave a comment. I will gladly respond to any questions you might have.

Let's Get Started

So first things first, when setting your tattoo machine up there are a few things to know. Tattoo machines used to line, the point on your contact screw and front spring should be a dimes width, no matter what. Most people can eyeball close but if you literally have to put a dime in there to get it perfect then do it, your line work can make or break a tattoo, so make sure that width is set correctly!!!

Dime width gap in your liner should look like this.
Dime width gap in your liner should look like this.
Check your needles for burs or solder that might be on the tips.
Check your needles for burs or solder that might be on the tips.

Second Phase

Second phase is opening your tube, disposable or one autoclaved it should be packaged so opening it a for sure thing, if this is a step you missed, opening a needle or a tube, then question if you want to take a chance with dirty equipment.

Third Phase, open that pakaged pre-sterilized needle, check it by eye for any burs or bent needles in the grouping, if you observe any then discard it open one that is good. Burs or bent needles will cause the tattoo process to bleed more and the ink will not insert itself into the skin correctly potentially causing scar tissue

Needle in diamond tip tube
Needle in diamond tip tube
Make sure eyeloop on needle bar is facing left.
Make sure eyeloop on needle bar is facing left.

Next Step

So now that you have the needle in the tube you are ready to insert the tube into the machines tube slot. Make sure to slide it up far enough that you can semi tighten the wingnut that attaches the tattoo tube and machine together. Now you want to turn that eye loop of the needle to the left, and then insert the armature bar nipple, this insures that you put the needle on the armature bar correctly, if you don't you will notice that no ink is really going into the skin when you are tattooing and you will also see a lot more blood as the skin is being traumatized. Pay attention to this detail.

Next press down on the armature bar to guide the tip of the needle out of the end of the tube. This helps you determine how far out you need to let your needles hang so you can get the right depth set on your needle that will penetrate the skin. As a rule of thumb, let the tip of your needle hang down on its own about 1/16 of an inch the stroke of your machine should do the rest. If you're not sure don't tattoo right then, tattoo on a gourd or melon. Your needle should never go more than 1/8 of an inch deep into an average person's dermal layer. The melon will give you a better visual of what you need to do for your settings.

Use proper sized rubber bands for holding your needle in place, this will help stabalize the needle in the tube creating a cleaner line
Use proper sized rubber bands for holding your needle in place, this will help stabalize the needle in the tube creating a cleaner line

Time for Power

Ok so you have pre-tuned your tattoo machine by setting the contact point screw and front spring to a dimes width. You have your armature bar nipple in place making sure the eyeloop to the needle is facing your left hand. Next thing is slipping two proper sized rubber bands around your tattoo machine and the needle. Make sure the rubber bands are placed evenly apart this will distribute equal pressure to the needle which will stabilize any wobble the needle has inside the tube creating a clean solid line when tattooing.

Next it is time to attach your clipcord and get ready for the next lesson. Down below are few other photos showing what your machine will look like when set up.

I will talk about power supply settings and touch base with persons that might have questions.

Thanks and vote up if you like this material!!!

Machine set up
Machine set up

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Jason Goodrow


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      • profile image

        anastacia gonzales 

        2 weeks ago

        Ok so recently i got a new tattoo gun because my old one wasent performing as well as it used to... but anyways i got a new one and i feel like maybe its not built right... when i go to make sure my amature bar and spring are lining up with my tube and contact point its lkke almost completley off. I can get the gun going but the contact point bar thing is like hitting the right edge of the spring what should i do

      • jsngoodrow profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Goodrow 

        5 months ago from Washington State

        Great to hear... Patience with the machine... Steady speed does make a huge difference... It controls how thin or wide the line is... The slower you go,the wider the line faster you go the thinner and more,faint your lines

      • profile image

        Luke Dorrington 

        5 months ago

        Thank you for these tips they have really helped I was struggling with faint lines and after following your advice I think it was either my hand speed vs machine speed or my setup was incorrect either way its much better now thanks again

      • profile image


        8 months ago

        Hello. I really like and appreciate your tattoo lessons. I am having trouble getting my machine to work efficiently and I feel confident after reading how to.tune my machine using a dime width gap between the front spring and the contact screw will alleviate these issues. I am curious though, when my contact screw is at the one o'clock position the spring is not lined up precisely with the end of the screw, the spring is then about an eighth of an inch past the contact screw. Is this ok? I'm not sure of the make and model of my tat machine, I thought it was a liner machine but now I am not sure. Thank you very much.

      • profile image

        Zackery Bell 

        13 months ago

        I need help setting up my new tattoo gun......

      • profile image


        13 months ago

        how many needles is a 3RL

      • profile image

        Kris Shanahan 

        15 months ago

        Ive always drawn and lots of people told me to invest in a tattoo gun, I dont rate myself as others do but with my nephews work no wonder- i got my 1st gun- gonna swat up first, btw if you wa t to see little kris's work - his name is Kris Pyatt on FB and insta, @pyattart - he is brilliant!

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        Love your material, will you get into needle sizes and what to expect from them?

      • profile image


        4 years ago

        What bottle can I use for the green soap

      • profile image


        4 years ago

        What size is the standard needle??

      • jsngoodrow profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Goodrow 

        4 years ago from Washington State

        You simply need to press your front spring down on the armature bar, you will fell the tension release a bit as you do this... keep in mind you might get unlucky and be able to do this only once... if you do it wrong you need to replace the whole spring set.

      • profile image


        4 years ago

        how do I weaken the spring?

      • jsngoodrow profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Goodrow 

        6 years ago from Washington State

        What it might suggest is the tension in the sprig is too strong and you might need to weaken your spring a touch... hope this helps

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        When contact screw and front spring are dime width apart, the machine won't turn on...they shouldn't touch at this width, is that correct?


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