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How to Make a Tattoo Stencil?

by  Kin Liu -  Last updated on February 8, 2022

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Expert tattoo artists seem to have no bounds when it comes to creativity, style, and expertise in the tattoo and piercing parlors. They’re able to respond to customer requests while still maintaining infinite patience.

This is especially true when it comes to freehanding a tattoo. Whether they’re filling an awkward space between some existing tattoos on the customer or simply acquiescing to a request for the artist to tap into their creative juices, we have mad respect for those who can do this under the pressure.

That said, this is something that we would reserve for very professional tattoo artists. The idea of freehanding something is enticing, of course, but if you’re just starting out, we recommend going with a tattoo stencil.

If you’re doing a DIY tattoo or you are just a beginning tattoo artist, tattoo stencils are a great way to lay out a clear pathway when tattooing. It may seem a bit more structured and complicated, but trust us.

Not only do you want to make sure that your customer is 100% happy with the end product, but that you’re also satisfied with your own work. Creating a tattoo stencil is a relatively simple process, which includes designing your own image or tracing an image you enjoy onto a tracing paper.

Once that is accomplished, then you can begin the transfer of the image onto the area of skin you want the tattoo. Tattoo stenciling is important because you want this image to be translated clearly onto your skin forever.

It helps tattoo artists provide their customers with what they’re asking for. We decided to go into more depth and give clear cut instructions for those who want to try this for the first time at home.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Tracing or wax and carbon paper
  • An ink pen with a pointed tip
  • Masking tape
  • Antibacterial soap
  • Glycerin based, stick deodorant

How To Make a Tattoo Stencil?

Step 1: Design Time

For those who want to implement their own design, but not necessarily freehand it onto the client, make sure you take the time to sketch out your desired final outcome onto a piece of regular paper.

Be sure to draw thick outlines and go over the drawing more than once to ensure your desired quality. Generally, if you are printing either a digital image of your own making or something else on the internet, then you may skip this step because you’ll have something to trace.

This tip is important for original hand-drawn work and can be a stepping stone to freehanding.

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Step 2: Tracing to Transfer

Once you have found your desired image or drawn the design to your liking, the next step is to trace it all over again, but this time onto transfer or wax paper. Just place the transfer paper over your print and begin using the ink pen to trace the image onto the paper. You can learn how to use a tattoo transfer here.

If you are worried about the image being reversed, just remember that it’ll be the right way round once printed on your skin. You can use the masking tape to tape the two papers down if you’re worried about any lines being out of place; just tape it around the edges so it can’t move around while you’re tracing.

We find that usually, it’s lightly easier to tape both the image and the transfer or wax paper onto a glass window so that the light filters through and you can more clearly see the image that you’re tracing.

Doing it over a desk with a lamp over you may not yield the best visibility, unless you have something that can illuminate the image, such as a drafting table or a desk with a light box. In the absence of spending money on those, we find that a window during the daytime will work just fine. Then, once that is accomplished, you can move onto the application!

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Step 3: The Transfer to Skin

Before any transferring can occur, be sure to prepare the area of skin you’ll be using. Safety and cleanliness are key throughout the entire tattooing process but especially here. This involves shaving any hair to ensure a smooth finish.

Then, clean the area with the antibacterial soap and water. Once the area is nice and dry, rub the stick deodorant over the skin to help give the transferring extra slack. Now that the prepping is completed, you are ready to apply the stencil.

Lay the paper with the wet side facing in onto the skin and gently pat it down with little taps all around the paper. Be sure not to rub the image. Even though the art is facing down, there’s still a good chance that part of the image will smudge or even just become less defined.

Once you’re certain you’ve patted down all the areas, leave it on for about 2-3 minutes to transfer onto the skin. It’s important here to remind your client not to fidget around either, since you don’t want any unnecessary creases in the image.

Once the 2-3 minutes are up, when you slowly peel back the paper, you should have your design perfectly transferred onto the client’s skin and ready to be tattooed!


As you can see the actual stenciling process itself is a fast and easy way to ensure an accurate tattoo. The extra preparedness is sometimes essential when working with your original or other’s art.

It is also the most inexpensive part of DIY tattoos, given that all you’ll need to outsource is transfer paper. Creating or choosing your design will end up being the most difficult part.

It’s an arduous process to be creative, and coupling it with permanence can make it even more stressful. With tattoo stenciling you can be relieved knowing that whichever design you decide will be accurately copied.

As you get more skilled in tattooing different designs, you’ll start to get a feel for your own personal style and can begin to add your flair to the images.

Once you get comfortable with that, you can begin experimenting with your own designs, based on all the different artistic styles that you’ve stenciled over the years.

We’re confident that by that time, you’ll be ready to freehand your own tattoos and start making your mark in the industry.

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Last update on 2024-04-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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