Original Post: July, 20th, 2017
My previous posts have been describing the stroke characteristics of liners and shaders. Liners and shaders both have distinctly different ideal stroke characteristics to make them best suited for the job they are intended to do. With the liner being tuned to be snappy, strong but still respond to the skin and the shader being powerful, still responsive while having a stroke that eases in to the skin and slows down just a touch before the backstroke.
As far back as the beginning of modern electric tattooing tattooers have used two different tools for lining and shading. With the introduction of cartridges to the scene and their growing popularity I find more and more people asking me about my Method and will it line just as well as their coil machine their used to. Chances are, no it won't. It's not a downfall or a design flaw of the machine, it's just that certain compromises will be made for the convenience of one machine that you can line and shade with. Everyone is looking for the one silver bullet that is going to be capable, intuitive and dope as fuck right out the gate. Well that's an awfully tall order given the task at hand, and considering the huge variety of equipment that is available to artists now and what you are transitioning from.
The Method machine (my cartridge exclusive machine), as well as every single cartridge machine on the market has been designed to be a good all around machine. You'll find that some work better than others for lining, while others won't line at all. And you'll find that some run too fast and hard to shade with, but line real well. Every builder/engineer has a different way of approaching the problem of one machine, two distinct uses. In my opinion the Method tackles this problem very well, and shades and lines better than other cartridge machines, but if you're transitioning from coil machines I would urge you to consider this. To go from coil machines to a cartridge exclusive machine is skipping a huge step in rotary machines. The change from standard needle and tube on a coil machine to a cartridge on a rotary machine is just setting you up to be disappointed. There are too many variables that are different, it would be like having to re-learn how to tattoo all over again.
The next logical step for someone wanting to try or transition to cartridges from coils is to actually try a rotary. And not just any random middle of the road rotary on the market. As I said before liners and shaders have unique stroke characteristics, even rotaries. Go with a rotary that is built to be an ideal liner, or an ideal shader. Try my Micro-liner or a Dan Kubin Sidewinder, both built to be awesome liners without compromise. If you're setting up without a specialized tattoo machine, you will be making some compromises, period, whether that's in the form of having to tattoo slower or not have as many needle grouping options.
Having the right tool for the job isn't just important to produce a solid tattoo, it's so important to give the artist confidence to produce tattoos at the best of their abilities, starting with the design stage. Use a machine that is capable of doing any and all of the kind of tattooing you would like to do and you won't second guess or hold back on your design process, adding those little details that your machine can't do or staying away from a bolder line than the design calls for just because your machine has a hard time lining.
So to sum this up, if you use coils and love them, dope! Stick with your coils, but if you want to transition to rotaries because you have wrist strain or because you want a machine that runs the same after the 6th hour of tattooing than it did after the 1st, then try a rotary suited to your purpose. Use a rotary liner, or a rotary shader, not just some machine sold as a "rotary tattoo machine, one gun to kill em all." After that, if you're thinking of moving towards a cartridge setup then use cartridges with the rotaries that you're used to running and that you get great results with. After a while you'll come to a point when you're so comfortable with those that you'll want to experiment with cartridge exclusive machines. Cartridge machines have a lot of benefits that other machines don't have, but they have drawbacks as well. Youi have to be ready ready for that or you will be turned off of cartridges forever. Tattooing is hard enough, keep your equipment transitions small and you'll adapt quickly and a lot more easily.