Even the most experienced artists use stencils.
They use the best tattoo transfer paper to get the image onto the skin.
Carbon paper, also known as stencil paper, is the easiest way to copy freehand and printed drawings.
Today, we’ll review tattoo transfer paper, stencil transfer cream, and stencil ink.
I want to help you find the tools you need to be a successful artist.
How do you transfer a tattoo from paper to skin?
This is how to use transfer paper successfully.
First, these are not single pieces of ordinary paper.
This is hectograph paper that comes in “sheets” with 3 or 4 layers. The thickness depends on whether it’s for a freehand drawing or a copy from the thermal printer (1).
If you’re going to use a thermal printer, you’ll be “burning the stencil.” Transfer paper for thermal printers has 4 layers.
In either case, the top sheet is where you create the design for the tattoo.
For freehand transfer paper, you’ll draw on the top layer or trace an image with a pen or pencil. (That’s called an impact transfer.)
Underneath that is a sheet of carbon paper that provides the “ink” that creates the stencil.
Then, there’s usually a yellow protective sheet on the bottom.
Once you’ve replicated the image onto the carbon paper, you need to get it on the skin.
Shave the hair and cleanse the area, preferably with antimicrobial green soap.
You can leave the skin wet with soapy water to serve as stencil stay. Think of it as putting on a temporary tattoo.
Press the sheet down firmly, but don’t rub it or move the paper around. Leave it there for at least a minute to make sure the stencil transfers to the skin. Peel it off carefully, checking to see if the stencil stays put.
Important: Wait for the skin to dry before touching it! This allows the stencil to set so that it won’t rub off easily.
For longer-lasting results, dry the skin after cleansing and use a stencil cream instead. I’ll point out the best transfer agents in the reviews below.
Best Tattoo Transfer Papers
For now, let’s begin with the best stencil paper for tattooing.
Spirit Classic Tattoo Transfer Paper, Freehand
Spirit is a well-known brand of transfer paper for tattoos. They make several types, including this kind for freehand drawings.
On the top sheet, hand-draw the stencil with a ballpoint pen or pencil. The paper resists tearing from tracing, too.
You won’t need any other equipment. Remember that you won’t be able to use these sheets in thermal printers.
Just so you know, this product is certified vegan. It features vegetable wax that’s saturated with high-quality dye.
The waxy texture is very responsive to pressure. Therefore, you can do very detailed drawings, and the fine lines will transfer well.
Once you transfer the stencil, the image stays bright and clear while you ink it.
For excellent results, use transfer cream or gel to fix the stencil.
Spirit Master Classic Thermal Tattoo Stencil Transfer Paper, Carbon Purple
The classic color for ditto paper is purple. It shows up well on light to medium skin tones. (Scroll down to find carbon paper in other colors.)
With 4 layers, these sheets are made for thermal copy machines, but you can also use them for freehand stencils. Just remove the milky brown protective layer.
This product is certified vegan and made in the USA.
ReproFX Spirit Green Sheet Thermal Tattoo Stencil Transfer Paper
If you are tattooing dark skin tones, try this high-visibility green transfer paper.
It has an updated formula that makes the stencil more vivid and more durable.
The green color is much easier to see on dark skin, but it works fine on light skin.
Plus, it’s compatible with all thermal printers and safe for most skin types. Be sure to use green transfer cream to get the most vibrant result possible.
The vegan paper is made in the USA by a reputable manufacturer trusted by tattoo artists worldwide.
Spirit Classic Thermal Roll
Notebook paper-sized sheets are suitable for medium and small tattoos. But what if you want to stencil someone’s entire back?
This roll of thermal transfer paper is the solution.
It’s 100 feet of continuous stencil paper with the classic purple color. Use it with any thermal printer you like.
The shelf-stable formula won’t degrade. The only downside is that it’s the classic purple color of carbon paper.
But it could be an economical solution for small tattoos as you can simply use only what you need.
Spirit Clear Carrier Tattoo Stencil Transfer Sheet
When you use a thermal transfer machine, it tends to form hot spots and burns after a while.
To get clearer stencils, use this plastic sheet to spread out the heat evenly. It prevents over and under-exposure during printing.
It’s also available in a 28-inch-long size for the Classic Thermal Roll of transfer paper.
Stencil Pro | Thermal Stencil Paper by Numbskin
Numbskin’s stencil paper has 4-ply sheets that create navy blue stencils.
The top layer is the master sheet for freehand drawing or printing. Next, the second layer is protective tissue that you’ll need to remove before using the paper.
After that is the carbon page, which sits on top of the transfer paper. The transfer paper is two-sided – one is matte, and the other is shiny.
It’s the shiny side that will end up with the stencil that you press on to the skin.
Last, there is a yellow backing page.
If you separate the pages, be careful to align them again for the next drawing. Don’t draw over areas where you’ve already used up the carbon.
The package includes 50 sheets. They are compatible with dot matrix printers or freehand drawing with a ballpoint pen.
Red Tattoo Stencil Paper by S6 RED TATTOO SYSTEM
Here’s red stencil paper that uses FD&C-approved skin-safe colorants.
It’s compatible with impact and thermal transfers. Plus, it’s vegan and made in the USA.
Artists like the red color for stenciling light skin tones. It makes for excellent contrast when outlining with black ink.
Moreover, the vegetable and mineral waxes on the carbon paper help it withstand wiping without smudging.
Pirate Face Tattoo Transfer Stencil Paper
Artists on a budget have been pleased with this inexpensive tattoo transfer paper. I
It creates stencils in the traditional purple color.
There are 15 sheets of 4-ply paper. Each one measures 8.5 x 11-inches. They are compatible with freehand or thermal copying.
Please remember to remove the second layer, a protective sheet between the transfer paper and the carbon.
BoChang Tattoo Stencil Paper
Here’s another economical transfer paper for tattoos.
The 4-ply sheets are notebook paper-sized. They create dark blue stencils on the skin.
The description says they are good for both impact and thermal transfers. Unfortunately, some reviewers say that they work better for freehand drawing.
Just pull out the protective tissue before using them in either case.
Then, it’s the shiny side of the stencil paper that goes on to the skin.
Happily, they come with a satisfaction guarantee.
ATOMUS Tattoo Transfer Stencil Machine Thermal Copier
A quick search will round-up several cheap thermal copy machines like this one. They all look pretty much the same, so it’s hard to choose the best one.
If you want to use a thermal printer to transfer stencils, this model is a decent choice.
The main frustration is that it’s best for line drawings. It doesn’t transfer shaded stencils very well at all.
After you finish copying one or two sheets, you should let it cool down for a few minutes before continuing.
It’s compatible with A5 and A4 paper up to 210mm in width.
Yes, you can use soapy water and even deodorant to help transfer the stencil onto the skin.
But neither of those methods works as well as Stencil Stuff.
You only need a thin layer of this creamy lotion to get the image to stick.
It keeps the stencil sharp and crisp and helps it resist wiping and blurring.
Stencil Prep Spray for Tattoo Stencil Transfer
This spray won’t rub off when you use green soap. It makes the stencil copy cleanly and stay sharper than mere soap and water or deodorant.
The patented formula is made in the USA. The ingredients include water, propylene glycol, a wax, an emulsifier, and a preservative.
It has the effect of altering the pH of the skin. That’s why it helps the methyl violet in the carbon paper adhere better.
Illusionist Tattoo Stencil Transfer Gel
It smells nice and dries quickly.
But what’s best about this transfer gel is that it makes the stencil dark and clear. It also prevents fading and smearing while tattooing.
Some reviewers prefer it to Stencil Stuff.
If you don’t love it, the manufacturer provides a money-back guarantee.
SUPVOX Green Card Tattoo Transfer Cream
It’s deodorant and transfer cream. Is this stuff for real?
Fakespot says that it is.
Reviewers seem to have mixed experiences. Some praise it, others make fun of it.
In any case, it will help copy the stencil onto the skin. Subsequently, it provides limited protection against fading.
The directions say to spread it on the skin, then press the stencil down for 5 to 10 seconds.
Peel off the stencil carefully and let it set for about 10 minutes.
Electrum Tattoo Premium Transfer Stencil Primer Gel
I found it amusing that this stencil gel declares itself “deodorant-free.”
It’s non-toxic, vegan, and made in the USA. Plus, it smells pleasant.
What’s handy is that it doesn’t just make carbon stencils transfer better and last longer. It also preps the skin for freehand stenciling with a Sharpie.
That’s why they call it an “all-inclusive” primer.
A small amount goes a long way. Follow the directions, and the stencil should endure for the length of the tattoo job.
Electrum Nox Violet Tattoo Stencil Ink
Natalie Nox invented this hectograph ink for hand-painted stencils. Use it to freehand directly on the client’s skin.
Then, the stencil will last for hours, especially if you prime the skin with transfer cream. For example, it’s compatible with the Electrum stencil gel above.
Furthermore, you can use it as ink if you have an eco-tank printer.
Hustle Butter Deluxe
Hustle Butter Deluxe is an all-purpose product that every tattoo artist should try.
It won’t remove stencils, yet it provides excellent glide.
It doesn’t clog tubes like petroleum jelly can, either.
Meanwhile, it helps reduce swelling and bleeding. Many artists recommend it to their clients as tattoo aftercare.
Silhouette America Temp Tattoo Paper
Warning: This is not stencil paper. It’s specifically for printing temporary tattoos on an inkjet printer.
I’d recommend it for kids or adults who want to trial-run a tattoo before committing.
The package has only two sheets in it. It comes with adhesive to affix the tattoo to the skin with water.
Keep in mind that these temporary tattoos only last for a day or so. They will wash off in the shower.
Wormhole Tattoo Stick and Poke Tattoo Kit
Now that you successfully transferred a stencil, how about doing a stick and poke tattoo?
This kit includes everything you need to get started.
It comes with safety instructions, disposable needles, black ink, ink cups, gloves, a tattoo marker, tattoo ointment, a safety razor, and a pen to hold the needle for tattooing.
It doubles for microblading eyebrows, too.
If you are a beginning artist, get a stack of tattoo transfer paper right away. Practice with it obsessively as stenciling is an essential skill.
What’s more, you can give a tattoo a test run by stenciling the drawing first. I suspect you’ll be using yourself as a canvas, so this is a safe and non-permanent way to see how something looks before you ink it.
But don’t settle for the cheap stuff. Experiment with stencil creams and different colors of transfer paper on different skin tones.
The more experience you have, the better artist you can become.
1 https://authoritytattoo.com/how-to-use-tattoo-transfer-paper/ accessed August 20, 2020