How do you make tattoo stencils stick better? After you’ve spent all that time creating the stencil, you don’t want it to blur, bleed, or wipe off easily. You need the best tattoo transfer gel to make the stencil stay put until the outline is done.
What is transfer gel for tattoos? You might’ve heard artists talking about using Speed Stick deodorant, but there are better stencil gels available these days. The best tattoo transfer solution maintains clean, bright lines even as you wipe off the ink.
As we researched stencil solutions, we checked with top tattoo artists like Daniel Paarup and Nikko Hurtado. (Nikko sells his own brand that we included in the reviews below.) Not only did we find the best transfer gels, but we also got insider tips on how to get the most from the top brands of tattoo transfer creams. Check out the highlights below, then scroll down to learn more:
|The best tattoo transfer gels
|Stencil Stuff Tattoo Stencil Application Solution
|Electrum Tattoo Premium Transfer Stencil Primer Gel
|Spirit Classic Transfer Cream
|Stencil Prep Spray
|Essential Values Tattoo Transfer Gel Solution
|Anchored Stencil Solution
|S8 Red Stencil Transfer Gel
How to transfer a stencil with tattoo transfer gel
If your stencil looks blurry and wipes off too easily, chances are you’ve made a beginner mistake. Always take the time to clean the skin properly before applying it. Here’s how to prep your client for a new tattoo:
- Wash the skin with green soap and while it’s sudsy, shave it with a fresh razor. Shaving dry won’t give as close of a shave and you might end up cutting the skin.
- Next, wipe the skin with alcohol. This disinfects the area and also removes any remaining oil. It’s the oil that stops the stencil ink from sticking to the skin.
- Apply a thin layer of stencil solution. Spread it over a little bit more area than you need for the tattoo. Massage the gel into the skin and be patient. It needs to dry enough to feel sticky.
- Even with gloves on, you should be able to feel that the skin is sticky from the transfer gel. Now it’s time to press the stencil into place. (Remember to put it with the ink side down!)
- Take a clean, dry paper towel and press down on top of the stencil for a few seconds. Your client may notice that their skin feels a little tight, and that’s a good sign because the gel is drying.
- Wait at least ten minutes before peeling off the stencil. If the paper feels damp, wait longer. It may take as long as twenty minutes. Then lift up one corner carefully and peek to see that everything is as it should be. Chances are the skin will stick to the paper a little bit, and that’s a good sign, too.
Once you start lining the tattoo, dry wipe to keep the stencil from rubbing off. If you put a thin layer of lubricant like Hustle Butter or A&D ointment, it’s much easier to wipe off the excess ink without using any liquid so that it doesn’t smear the stencil.
How to choose the best tattoo transfer gel
When it comes to tattoo transfer solutions, there are gels, lotions, and sprays. (And yes, some people still use stick deodorant). If you’re new to tattooing, we suggest you try each type to see what you like best.
Some dry faster, others slower, and some wipe off easier. Again, we recommend you experiment because there are times where you’ll want the stencil out of your way sooner. And then there are times when you need it to stay put for longer.
Also, keep in mind that there are different colored transfer solutions in case you’re working with green or red ink instead of purple.
Best Tattoo Transfer Gel in 2024
Stencil Stuff Tattoo Stencil Application Solution
Are you looking for the best stencil stuff for tattoos? Here it is – Stencil Stuff is the brand name of this tattoo transfer solution. It’s a lotion made with non-toxic ingredients so it’s safe for most skin types. It’s also vegan-friendly.
This American-made product dates back to 2005. A group of professional tattoo artists were frustrated with crappy-looking stencils that didn’t stand up to wiping. They invented this creamy lotion called Stencil Stuff that made the stencil ink stay crisp and bright. With it, you don’t have to gray line or bloodline. It dries quickly and keeps all the precise details of the outline sharp and clear.
Moreover, it’s more sanitary to use transfer gel like this than a stick deodorant because it prevents cross-contamination.
Keep in mind that green soap will wipe off the stencil even if you’ve used Stencil Stuff to transfer it. Use a lubricant and dry wipe only until the outline is finished.
If you’ve let the Stencil Stuff dry long enough (artist Franco Vescovi recommends 30 minutes!), it stays put for hours of tattooing.
- An American-made stencil cream with non-toxic ingredients safe for most skin types
- Invented in 2005 and trusted by artists around the world
- Dries quickly, leaving the stencil crisp and clear
- Don’t wet wipe as green soap will blur the stencil
Electrum Tattoo Premium Transfer Stencil Primer Gel
Electrum transfer gel gives Stencil Stuff a run for its money. Here’s a rundown of the similarities and differences.
First, Electrum is a gel whereas Stencil Stuff is a lotion. They both work for transferring hand-drawn carbon stencils as well printed ones. Electrum can also transfer Sharpie ink.
Second, both are non-toxic, vegan, and made in the USA. But Electrum takes a little longer to dry than Stencil Stuff and sometimes the gel makes the ink bleed a little. The lines aren’t white as crisp. Still, it takes less of the gel than it does the lotion to do the job. Seriously, a dime-sized amount can cover an entire forearm.
Although Electrum stands up to green soap a little better than Stencil Stuff, it’s still smart to dry wipe with a lubricant until the outline is finished.
Both products were created by tattoo artists who needed something better than deodorant for transferring stencils. In the end, we like this gel because it smells nice, it’s easy to work with and not greasy, and the bottle lasts a long time.
Pros say if you are having trouble with Electrum, you’re probably using too much or not waiting long enough for it to dry. When you do it right, the stencil sticks so dark and deep that you might have to clean it a little to see the line you just tattooed!
- American-made, non-toxic, and vegan transfer gel
- Developed by professional tattoo artists
- Excellent for keeping stencils in place while outlining
- Lightly fragranced and pleasant to use
- Use less than you think you need and you’ll get better results
Spirit Classic Transfer Cream
If you use Spirit transfer paper, you’ll get great results with this brand’s transfer cream. It comes in different colors to match the ink of the freehand and thermal papers.
Each of the American-made Spirit creams is vegan, cruelty-free, and safe for all skin types. Moreover, they are fragrance-free and contain no parabens, gluten, or phthalates.
Artists say that this transfer cream holds very well for hours without losing details. What’s more, you can wipe away tattoo ink with green soap and water without blurring the stencil.
How does it work? Organic solvents transfer the stencil ink onto the skin then a lipid layer locks the pigment into place. The proprietary formula allows you to wet wipe instead of dry wipe only. With that said, it’s still essential to let the stencil dry completely before tattooing.
- Available in different colors to match transfer paper ink
- Can be wet wiped with green soap and water
- American-made, vegan, and cruelty-free
- Paraben-free, fragrance-free, with no phthalates or gluten
- The best performance comes when using Spirit transfer paper
Stencil Prep Spray
Instead of lotion, gel, or cream, try this spray that works well with inkjet stencil paper. Once it dries, it’s resistant to green soap so it can be wet wiped.
The patented formula is made in the USA with only 5 ingredients. The ingredients alter the pH of the skin to lock in methyl violet stencil ink. Then the ink literally dyes the skin, which is why the stencil doesn’t blur or rub off. (We’ve heard of people using this to fix temporary tattoos).
If there’s any downside, it’s that the bottle sprays hard, so watch out for overspray.
- Works well with inkjet stencil paper and traditional transfer paper with methyl violet ink
- Can be wet wiped as it’s resistant to green soap
- American-made formula with only 5 ingredients
- Spray bottle dispenses forcefully
Essential Values Tattoo Transfer Gel Solution
We’re kind of on the fence when it comes to this transfer gel. It works well enough and dries within 8 to 10 minutes. It even comes with a satisfaction guarantee.
What’s our hangup? It uses a preservative called DMDM hydantoin which is a formaldehyde releaser. Formaldehyde is bad news for human health. As artists, we prefer to use non-toxic products not only for our clients’ sake, but also for our own well-being.
- Dries within 8 to 10 minutes
- Comes with a satisfaction guarantee
- Contains a formaldehyde releaser
Anchored Stencil Solution
Artist Nikko Hurtado collaborated on this stencil solution that works just as well or better than similar products. Its excellent performance comes from years of testing in the lab and the studio.
The formula transfers the ink crisply and cleanly and keeps it in place for hours while you work. Yes, you can wet wipe it, too.
If there’s any con, it’s that this popular product tends to go out of stock.
- Developed in the laboratory and the studio by a professional tattoo artist
- Keeps lines crisp and clear for hours
- Can be wet wiped
- Sometimes hard to find so stock up
S8 Red Stencil Transfer Gel
Sometimes it’s hard to see stencil lines on Black and Brown skin which is when traditional purple transfer paper fails at its job. But S8 red transfer paper ink comes across clear and bright. Be sure to get this red-colored transfer gel to get the best results.
Not only is it a transfer gel, but it’s also good for cleaning the skin. It removes excess oil and exfoliates dead skin to prepare the surface perfectly.
Moreover, the botanical formula contains no petroleum or propylene glycol, making it a natural alternative for sensitive skin and all skin types.
It comes in a pump bottle, so be careful how much pressure you use to dispense the gel. A big push down on the top will give you enough for an entire arm or half a leg.
- Ideal for transferring stencils onto dark skin
- Designed to work with the same brand of red stencil paper
- Vegan, botanical formula with no petroleum or propylene glycol
- In a pump bottle
- Red-colored and compatible with red transfer paper only
Put down the deodorant and pick up the right tattoo transfer gel for your next tattoo. The right stencil cream keeps lines sharp and bright so that the outline turns out perfect, no matter how long it takes. Check back soon for new reviews of the best tattooing products.