Tattoo power supply settings can get a little complicated if you don’t know what you’re looking at. While some power supplies are very elementary, with simply a power button, jack, and knob, some power supplies can come with digital screens, multiple knobs, multiple jacks, and switches. It’s when you get to these machines that it can get a little confusing.
So what are all the settings available on tattoo power supplies? And what does each one do? Let’s dive in and figure it out.
To start off, what exactly does a power supply do? Well, a tattoo power supply is what you use to not only transfer electricity to your tattoo machine but to control how much electricity is being fed to your tattoo machine at any given time.
Knowing that, what are all the available settings for a power supply, and what do I need to set them at for a shader? For a liner?
Here’s the short answer:
Tattoo Liner Voltage
When doing line work, best practices dictate you run your machine at 7.5-8.5 Volts.
Tattoo Shader Voltage
When shading 8-10 Volts is what most artists use.
Basic Tattoo Power Supplies
Let’s look at the most basic kind of tattoo power supply there is. With a basic box, there will only be a power switch, a phone jack for your clip cord, a phone jack for your foot pedal, and a knob to control the voltage.
To operate these, you simply plug in your machine and foot pedal and then turn the machine on. Once powered on, you are going to adjust the voltage to the level you need.
The amount of voltage is dependent on a handful of variables, but will usually always be somewhere between 4-12 volts. The first variable is if you are trying to run your machine fast for lining or slow for shading. The voltage is the last method you want to use to speed up or slow down your machine, but usually, the higher the voltage, the faster the machine will go.
The second variable will be the machine you will be using, and whether that machine is mechanically tuned to run fast or slow.
Advanced Tattoo Power Supplies
So what about the more advanced machines? Some machines will come with plugs to run multiple machines at once. When this is the case, typically, they will be labeled liner and shader. They do this so you can have your liner and shader set up at the same time. All you have to do is a switch that will be on the front of the machine to either L or S, depending on which machine you need to be using. This does not mean you are limited to only hooking up a liner to the liner and a shader to the shader, it is just a way to label the jacks and knobs.
These kinds of tattoo power supplies come with a set of two knobs: one to control the liner jack and one to control the shader jack. The knobs are going to correspond to the side a given jack is on. Meaning the left knob controls the left jack.
Sometimes these kinds of machines will have a digital screen that will tell you the current volts your machine is running at and the duty cycle.
All Digital Tattoo Power Supplies
Then there are the new all-digital tattoo power supplies. They work in the exact same way, but there are no knobs. Instead, on the digital screen is a navigation menu you can use to set the voltage.
With these, all-digital power supplies you can save presets for your favorite machines too, which makes the machine ready to go with the push of a button.
Available Tattoo Power Supply Settings and What They Mean
- Power Switch – The power switch is used to turn the tattoo power supply on and off.
- Phone Jacks – The jacks will be where you hook your machines and foot pedal the power supply.
- Switch – If your tattoo power supply has the option to hook up more than one machine, it will have a switch that is used to flip between the different machines you have hooked up.
- Digital screen – The digital screens will tell you information such as volts, duty, etc.
- Knobs – The knobs will be used to control the level of volts you are running at any given time.
- Voltage – The voltage is the amount of power being given to your machine. Typically the higher the volts, the faster the machine will run, but the higher the volts the quicker the machine will overheat. A machine will require anywhere from 4-12 volts.
- Duty Cycle – The duty cycle of a machine is the percentage of time that the machine is on. What this means is the percentage of time that the contact screw is touching the front spring, thus opening the circuit. So if your machine is running at a 45% duty cycle that means your machine is on (the circuit being open) 45% of the time. The easiest way to adjust your duty cycle is to adjust the distance between your contact screw and the front spring. The closer the contact screw is to the front spring the higher, the duty cycle. About 50% duty cycle is where you want to be.
What Speed Should a Tattoo Machine Run At?
Contrary to what a lot of people believe when they are first starting out as a tattoo artist, there are no correct power supply settings. There are a few basic guidelines you can follow, and you should be aware of what everything on the power supply does, but the settings are going to be determined by the particular tattoo machine and how you have it tuned.
Some things to keep in mind are: A tattoo machine will run on 4-12 volts, and the less volts you need to run a machine at the better.