How Do You Make a Tattoo Stencil? - InkedMind (2022)

Tattoo stencils first came into existence as a tattoo flash, a concept or design that first featured cardboard or paper. Flash artists gave birth to this concept, which is why it graced tattoo parlors in the beginning and still does.

The main idea behind this concept was to have a quick tattooing way, and it earned wide popularity far and wide within no time at all. Flash artists started hand drawing, copying, and distributing their designs to millions of people through the internet, which is how this became a raging trend.

From the biggest tattoo parlors to the smallest ones worldwide, tattoo flash is now a household name. The tattoo stencil relies on an outline sheet, which is the foundation of the stencil.

Although this seems like a very modern trend, tattoo flash has, however, been in existence since the 1930s. Over the years, this process has been through numerous evolutions, and different methods have come into existence for creating stencils.

Today, even those who are not tattoo artists can achieve some incredible looking tattoos on their own, with the user-friendly stencils. You can find access to thousands of websites that offer you a variety of tattoo flash and stencils.

Let’s look into the details of tattoo stencils, their making, and function below.

(Video) How to make a tattoo stencil EASY

How Do Tattoo Artists Make Their Own Stencils?

Like we mentioned, two schools of thought have emerged over the years relating to the process of tattoo stencil creation. Both are not complex, but it merely depends on what way works better for a particular artist.

How Do You Make a Tattoo Stencil? - InkedMind (1)The first school of thought belongs to those who use a themofax (like this one). This is a machine that selects the most evident lines on the artist’s image and then prints the stencil for them.

Then there is the other school of thought, which caters to those artists who believe in providing their customers with handmade, qualitative creations.

Tattoos are not cost-friendly: most artists charge exorbitant sums from their customers, but they do create unique, hand-drawn designs. This method gives the artists an opportunity to go through their work and modify and alter the image as they deem fit. It helps them to create and custom their plans to achieve the unique final look they envision for their customer’s skin. If an artist especially values perfectionism, then this method caters to their ideals.

Both methods are not very complex in truth. The only difference, perhaps, is the time they take. While thermofax allows people to complete a tattoo project, the stenciling requires more time and some preparation beforehand too. Perhaps the only complicated part, if we can call it that, for an artist would be the concept drawing part.

Now to make a stencil, an artist has to trace their drawing over the stencil paper. A stencil paper is somewhat similar to carbon paper: the main difference is that it consists of a thin tracing paper that the artist has to place over an inky sheet of paper. Those who opt for a thermofax, resembling a laminator, run the inky sheet through it. The heat from the thermofax helps press the lines onto the stencil paper from the drawing. Thermofax takes significantly less time than hand stenciling.

(Video) 4 methods to make RELIABLE Tattoo stencils.

With thermofax, the artist has to ensure that they use dark ink for the lines on their drawing, not pencil, for the machine to detect them.

Materials to Create Tattoo Stencils

Creating a tattoo stencils does not require complex or extravagant materials. You can make a stencil by hand with the help of tracing paper, a dip pen, a fine-tipped marker, and a stencil fluid. Stenciling requires a dye for transferring the design onto the skin, which is what the stencil fluid is. This dye is not permanent, and you can purchase pens that already have the stencil fluid in them.

How Do They Work?

Stencils work well only when the person using them has prepared the skin well first. If proper prepping of the skin is not done, the stencil will not transfer or stick the image properly. It is important to begin by shaving the hair on the skin area where the tattoo will go.

Next, one must use antibacterial soap for the area where they will apply the stencil and then clean and dry the skin. The last step of prepping includes using a stick deodorant or a stencil lotion on the skin, so the tracing sticks well.

Once the skin is fully ready, you apply the stencil to the area, ensuring the fluid side is right above the skin. Then the person must pat the stencil on the skin and let it for a minute or more to set. It is highly important not to rub the stencil, as this will result in blurring or smudging of the design.

Once you feel the skin has received the imprint well, you can begin peeking the tracing paper away but mind you, do it very carefully. When the paper is off the skin, you must see a neat design in place, all ready for the needle to work its way on the skin.

(Video) How to Make a Tattoo Stencil using Tattoo Stencil App | Tips & Tricks

Are Tattoo Stencils Permanent?

In answer to this question, we need to bring a few facts to your notice. Tattoo stencils are only tracing of the original work you want on your body. The artist traces the designs you want on your skin, and with the help of an alcohol rub, he/she imprints it on your skin.

Once you apply a stencil directly onto your skin, it leaves a permanent outline behind which the artist proceeds to work over with a needle. The reason why stencils are so popular is that it makes the tattooing part onto the skin with the ink, easier for the artists.

When there is a clear outline on the skin from the stencil, all that remains for the artist is to begin inking it away. But till the part where the needle doesn’t begin inking the design on your skin, the stencil print is not permanent.

You can wash it off easily in case you don’t like the design or change your mind about getting the tattoo. However, once the artist puts the needle to your skin and begins tracing the outline, there is no going back, and the tattoo then becomes a permanent mark on your body.

Do all Tattoo Artists Use Stencils?

Tattoo stencils are valuable tools for many artists. This tool enables them to replicate just about any design on their client’s body, from famous pictures on studio walls to custom designs that clients bring in them.

Tracing is a time-honored technique, and there is no doubt how they lend the artistic appeal to the images. This time-honored tradition exists from the time of renaissance masters, who would How Do You Make a Tattoo Stencil? - InkedMind (2)trace and transfer designs on canvases to create priceless paintings.

(Video) How To Make Tattoo Stencil for Beginners

Some of the best artists employ this technique today to create exotic artwork on human skin. With the help of tattoo stencils, most artists are able to ensure they give their clients exactly what they’re asking for.

However, not all artists use tattoo stencils. We even have several famous and lesser-known maestros who go freehand but still do a flawless job. They prefer drawing the images directly on to the skin.

In this approach, some artists create a rough draft first, sealing the design on the skin with the help of a spray after that. Once they have an outline like this, they get to work with a needle thereafter. We also have many freehand artists in the world who employ a vast range of colored markers and steadily build a design.

These permanent markers are not permanent, though. You can wash them off or easily erase them with rubbing alcohol or special soap. Truth be told, we may be inspired by the stencil-using artists, but we’re absolutely awestruck by the freehand geniuses.

They’re the ones who created unique works directly onto the skin, not using any guide or stencil. However, there are chances of some variations in the visibility and positioning of the design, but it is best for clients to use their own discretion in deciding what they want best.

Final Thoughts

Tattoo stencils help artists achieve a mockup of the image the clients want as tattoos on their bodies. Once the clients approve the image they see on their skin, the artists are then able to trace the designs directly on to their skin with a needle. As a client, individuals can work in collaboration with artists and create innovative and unique artwork. Rest assured, tattoos are not only pleasing to the eye but also help some find deep contentment for their souls.

(Video) Cheap Tattoo Stencil Machine


What can you use to make tattoo stencil stick to skin? ›

By applying deodorant to the skin before applying the stencil, you can ensure that the design will stay intact throughout the entire tattoo process.

How do you transfer ink from paper to skin without deodorant? ›

Pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto the cotton ball or swab, and apply the alcohol over the area of skin you wish to transfer the design to. Make sure the skin has become moist with the alcohol.

What liquid can I use if I don't have a tattoo stencil? ›

Pour the liquid antibacterial soap and alcohol into the squeeze bottle. Use equal parts for each ingredient, one-third liquid antibacterial soap and one-third alcohol for the mixture. Screw on the top of the squeeze bottle. Shake the mixture.

What is the best material to use to make a stencil? ›

The most common material for stencils is Mylar – and for good reason. It is flexible, durable, easy to clean and long lasting. 10mil Mylar is our preferred thickness for its flexibility, durability and versatility. Other options include adhesive backed mylar, magnetic, acrylic or wood stencils.

Can I use hairspray as stencil adhesive? ›

I ran out of spray adhesive, forgot to check before I started my latest stencil, but I did have a huge can of hairspray. So I gave it a go and it worked really well. Nice clean edges, it left less residue than adhesive and value wise wins out over adhesive for me.

How do you make stencils stick better? ›

Lightly spray adhesive to the back of the stencil and position on the surface. Remove any residue from spray adhesive with a damp paper towel, or using one of the cleaning solutions used to prep the surface.

Why does my tattoo stencil keep rubbing off? ›

If artists don't do anything to protect the stencil, its going to begin to slough off the skin as friction begins to strip away those stained cells. Wiping, passes with a needle, incidental contact, even resting your hand on your client's skin can compromise the stencil.

How do you transfer a tattoo from paper to skin? ›

Spread the lotion thinly over the shaved area with a gloved hand and then carefully position your stencil over the area and pat it into place (don't rub it, which can blur the lines and distort your design). Leave the stencil in place for a few minutes and then gently peel away the backing paper.

Can you use Vaseline to apply a tattoo stencil? ›

I apply a very thin layer of Vaseline on the stencil just before tattooing so that the model won't disappear too easily. Vaseline also holds the excess ink from spilling too much on your skin, making it easier to see and follow what you're doing, especially if you're working on a line-work tattoo.

How do you transfer a tattoo stencil without transfer paper? ›

You will need to use a stick deodorant to the area or specific stencil lotion for the design to transfer correctly. Regular paper won't transfer the design easily as the ink remains on the paper rather than transferring onto the skin as with tracing paper.

What can you use as tattoo transfer paper? ›

You can use a regular printer to create a tattoo; you just need to make sure that you are using the correct paper type for tattoo stencils. This paper would be thermal paper or hectograph carbon paper. The tattoo transfer paper can be used with an inkjet or laser printer without any issues.

Can I use Sharpie as a tattoo stencil? ›

Yup, as long as it's a fresh one! Tattoo artists freehand with colored sharpies all the time.

What is tattoo stencil fluid made of? ›

The tattoo stencil chemical composition includes a preservative chemical composition that includes 56% propylene glycol, 30% diazolidinyl urea, 11% methylparaben and 3% propylparaben, which is commercially known as Germaben II.

What do tattoo artists use to transfer to skin? ›

Dip pens and tracing paper are valuable tools used to create what is called a “tattoo stencil,” and helps ensure a client will get exactly what they want from their ink. After a traced design is applied, the artist can use their skills to follow the lines and fill in the blanks for the perfect tattoo.

What can I use in place of stencil stuff? ›

Melted a stick of cheap clear deodorant, few cap fulls of green soap, a little alcohol and water. Works a lot better than the Stencil-Pro I have.

Is it better to stencil with a brush or a sponge? ›

Sponges are fantastic! They're great for larger projects with more space to cover, as they are quick and they evenly distribute the paint. If you want your edges looking sharp and crisp, do another layer with a stencil brush.

Can you use any paper for tattoo stencil? ›

So, yes, you can use the regular printer to create tattoo stencils. But, you cannot use the regular paper. What you'll need instead is thermal paper, carbon transfer paper, or even temporary tattoo paper. All of the papers can be used with an inkjet or laser printer, so don't worry.

How long should you let a tattoo stencil dry? ›

After a nice consistent rub down with Stencil Stuff® allow about 5-10 minutes to dry and you are good to go. It's recommended to apply the stencil before setting up so it allows for some drying time.

Do you peel stencils off wet or dry? ›

Tip #5: Remove the stencil while your paint is still wet.

This seems counterintuitive, but if you allow the paint to dry, the paint on the stencil can bond with the paint on your project. Then, when you try to remove the stencil, some of the paint may peel off with it.

How do you prevent tattoo friction? ›

Make sure to keep your tattoo moisturized even after it's completely healed. Try to wear loose clothes (or loose clothing items for the area where the tattoo is placed), to prevent it from getting friction and rubbing.

What paper is used for tattoo stencils? ›

The paper generally used for tattoo stencils is tattoo transfer paper, which is sometimes called thermal paper or hectograph carbon paper. This paper allows an accurate representation of the tattoo design to be transferred to the skin.

What is the special paper for tattoo stencils? ›

Hectograph or Freehand Tattoo Transfer Paper

They are similar to the sheets used with manual typewriters or older dot matrix printers, to create multiple copies. Hectograph transfer paper usually has three sheets. The top sheet is where you manually draw your design.

Can I use a normal printer to make tattoo stencils? ›

So, yes, you can use the regular printer to create tattoo stencils. But, you cannot use the regular paper. What you'll need instead is thermal paper, carbon transfer paper, or even temporary tattoo paper. All of the papers can be used with an inkjet or laser printer, so don't worry.

What material is used for reusable stencils? ›

Reusable Stencil

Our best-selling reusable stencils are made out of mylar, the most common stenciling material. Mylar is great for stencils because it's durable, pliable and washable. These plastic stencils will last for many uses and are a great choice if you have a lot of branding to do.

What can I use as a stencil adhesive? ›

Use painter's tape or spray adhesive to secure the stencil to the surface, so it doesn't move. Spray adhesive will guarantee security that the stencil won't move, or the brush won't catch the edge and result in paint bleed underneath.

Does parchment paper work for tattoo stencil? ›

Draw the design on paper such as tracing paper or parchment paper using a pencil, then fill it with colour using the gel pen. Wet a piece of cloth with warm water once you have decided on the spot where you want the tattoo. Place the design on the skin.

What do tattoo artists use to transfer? ›

Approve the Placement for the Stencil Transfer

Most tattoo studios use a machine called a thermal imager to make their stencils. This saves on literally hours of tracing time by simply inserting your tattoo design into the machine, and it transfers it onto a special thermal paper in seconds.

What paper do I use in inkjet printer for a tattoo stencil? ›


What kind of paper is best for tattoo transfer? ›

Thermal papers are now the industry standards as they are the only option compatible with modern printers, and you can often use them with both stencil machines and hand-drawing stencils. (artists can also use most thermal paper for impact transfers.)

What kind of printer do you need to make stencils? ›

Either an inkjet or laser printer will work with our Ikonart Custom Stencil Kit, so if you already own a printer, use what you got! However, if you are looking to buy a printer, we recommend getting an inkjet printer.

What machine do tattoo artists use for stencils? ›

Tattoo Thermal Copier allows the tattoo artist or professional to copies designs onto stencil paper quickly and efficiently in a few easy steps.


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