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Tattoo Supplies

Updated on June 7, 2013

Have you been thinking about opening up your own tattoo shop? Do you just want to be able to do tattoos for your friends without doing it “prison style”? If so, you will need an assortment of tattoo supplies before getting started. The proper tattoo supplies can help you do quality tattoos and reduce the risk of infection if you follow the proper regulations and guidelines. Here are some of the most common tattoo supplies you will need for doing tattoos.

Tattoo supplies in action.
Tattoo supplies in action.

Tattoo Machine

The tattoo machine is the most basic tattoo supplies you will need if you want to do tattoos. The tattoo machine is what injects the ink into the skin to make the tattoo. To accomplish this, the tattoo machine is electrically powered and it resembles the sound of a dentist drill. Depending on where on your body you decide to put the tattoo, it might hurt just as much as a dentist’s drill, too! The machine has a needle which moves extremely fast. In fact, it has to puncture the skin between 50 and 3,000 times each minute in order to put the ink below the skin’s surface. Each puncture deposits a small amount of ink. Most tattoo machines include components like a sterilized needle, an electric motor, a foot pedal to control the needle’s movement and a tubing system which holds and distributes the ink to the needle.

Sterilization Supplies

A complete set of tattoo supplies is not finished unless you have the proper sterilization equipment on hand. When the skin gets punctured, there is always a chance of infection, especially if bacteria or other harmful materials have touched the needle beforehand. As a result of this, most professional tattoo artists use tattoo supplies that are for single-use only. This means that they dispose of the supplies every time they use them on a customer. Needles, ink, and gloves are usually thrown away after each use to help prevent infection and the tattoo artist can order these kits which are delivered in sterile packaging.


For the tattoo supplies that cannot be disposed of after using, sterilization is required. The tattoo machine, the ink tube and other reusable materials are to be sterilized before and after using them. An autoclave is typically used for sterilization. This type of unit, which is also used in hospitals, uses three things to kill any organisms living on the equipment – time, pressure and temperature. The autoclave either uses a 250 degree temperature with 10 pounds of pressure for a half hour or a 270 degree temperature for 15 minutes under 15 pounds of pressure to sterilize the tattoo supplies for later use.


Tattoo artists also need a selection of disinfectants in their arsenal of tattoo supplies. They are required to disinfect their work area after each customer with viricide, a chemical approved by the EPA for use in destroying viruses. Also, plastic bags are required so the tattoo artists can cover the spray bottles to help avoid any cross-contamination. An antibacterial soap is also one of the essential tattoo supplies so artists can wash their hands before and after each customer to prevent the possible spread of any bacteria. Sterile wipes are also recommended for cleaning the area to be tattooed in case there are any bacteria on the surface of the skin.

Tattoo Ink

What would a tattoo be without the tattoo ink? It would be a painful waste of time – that’s exactly what it would be! Without ink, there would be no tattoo. There are many companies that sell tattoo ink and there are also various types of ink. Some ink is designed to show up under a UV black light while other inks are just basic and used traditionally. There are also skin pigment tattoo inks which are shaded to match the color of the person’s skin.

Tattoo Examples

A professional tattoo artist should have a variety of books included in their tattoo supplies for customers to leaf through when deciding what they want to put on their body. There are also several tattoo magazines with the work of professional tattoo artists so customers can get an idea of what they want.


In addition to books, the tattoo artist should also have a portfolio on hand of the work they have done for previous clients. Each tattoo artist has a different style and their portfolio should showcase their individual style so the client can choose the artist that fits their taste.


One nice thing about buying items online is that you can find beginner tattoo kits for around $150. A tattoo kit is liable to contain the basics of tattoo equipment, such as a single needle tattoo machine, inks, gloves, a book of tattooing and ideas, and even tattoo skin. In fact, it's not difficult to find cheap tattoo machines, or even a wholesale tattoo kit online for the beginning tattoo artist. Be sure to buy a lot of tattoo skin so you can practice tattooing on practice skin.  Lastly, don't forget the ointment to give to the people you tattoo.  Tattoos need the right care after they are finished or they may not heal right, destroying your hard work.  Vitamin A and Vitamin D ointment is common for tattoo ointments.

Whether you are just starting out as a tattooist or if you have been running a tattoo business for years, there are some basic tattoo supplies required for being successful. Never skimp on the sterilization equipment because it is not only safe, it is also required by law to make sure your tattoo supplies are sterilized before using them on customers. Other than that, just have fun with your tattoo supplies and you can make a decent living doing what you love to do.

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