How to Make a Tattoo Stencil with Tracing Paper

A tattoo stencil is a blueprint that guides a tattoo artist through the tattoo design features, ensuring that they clearly outline and etches the line thickness and details according to the client’s taste.

A stenciled design gives the artist an easy time when drawing the art. The client is also satisfied with the permanent artwork that they’re going to live with.

Why is a Tattoo Stencil Important?

How to Make a Tattoo Stencil with Tracing Paper

Anyone who would want a tattoo is always looking forward to something viable and beautiful, whether it’s their own idea or bringing an image they want. The artist can then go ahead and sketch what the client wants, but it may be hard to transfer some of these images onto the skin. The image could be too detailed or maybe having thin fine lines that may not look good on the skin.

As much as it may be hard to balance between what the client wants and what the artist can sketch, a stencil is a great way to cover all this up. The artist reproduces the client’s image, getting rid of unwanted details to make a good tattoo. After making the tattoo stencil, the client can see how the real tattoo will look before it is drawn.

Perhaps the outlined stencil will show you that the tattoo won’t look good on the spot you want it done. Apart from giving a rough idea of how the tattoo will look, it also helps the tattoo artist produce exactly how the client wants it. The image produced is exactly as it appears. You can print tattoos on this stencil paper using a stencil tattoo printer.

How to Make a Tattoo Stencil

Before a tattoo artist takes a needle into the skin, he first has to draw the stencil to guide his accuracy and give him an easy time. Creating a stencil is a simple process that you can do at home but needs patience and expertise. With enough practice, you will be able to do this in a few minutes.

What you’ll need:

  • Tracing paper
  • Stencil fluid (It is a dye that is transferable to the skin)
  • A marker with a fine tip
  • Masking tape
  • Dip pen
  • Antibacterial soap
  • Stencil lotion
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  1. Once you have everything you need, practice drawing your desired design on paper if you’re not using a design printed out from the internet. Before you begin the tattoo stencil, you need to simplify the image design by reducing it into something that is drawable using tattoo techniques. Some finer details may have to be removed or simplified to avoid cluttering the final art on the skin.
  2. Place your tracing paper onto the design and trace it using the sharp- pointed marker. To prevent slipping, tape the drawing paper together with the image design on a smooth surface before tracing to ensure you accurately do it.
  3. You have now drawn the stencil on your paper. But remember, you can’t transfer it directly onto the skin surface as the image will appear backwards. You have to reverse the design on your stencil. Turn over your tracing paper with the sketch onto another tracing paper and carefully trace it with your dip pen placed into the stencil fluid. You can buy a stencil pen that has stencil fluid to avoid dipping the pen in the liquid.
  4. Prep the skin area where you intend to draw the tattoo by shaving and cleaning with warm water and antibacterial soap. Apply a stencil lotion and then place the stencil on the skin. Of course, the stencil is in contact with the skin, transferring the image to the area. Carefully peel the tracing paper. The stencil image is left on the skin, ready for the needle.

Frequently Asked Questions

What paper is the best for drawing tattoo stencils?

A freehand tattoo transfer paper or hectograph is the best paper when it comes to drawing stencils. It is used to make stencils either by hand drawing or dot matrix printer. This paper gives you a very easy time drawing the design on white paper. It has three layers, which are often removed after drawing on the top sheet.

What can I use if I don’t have stencil fluid at home?

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If you don’t have the fluid, which is temporarily transferable to the skin, you can consider melting a speed stick then mix it with a colorless hand sanitizer and green soap. It forms a solution that you can use to draw stencil, and it doesn’t run off unless you forcefully do that. You can also use Dettol solution, but it disappears after slight wiping. A good stencil should only get off after scrubbing it hard.

How do I draw my final tattoo without rubbing off the stencil?

Tattooing is an art that needs high expertise. You may sometimes wipe excess tattoo ink, and while at it, remove the stencil. It could be that you’re using the wrong method and tools.

After applying your stencil onto the skin, give it roughly 10 minutes to dry, depending on the size, to avoid this mishap. Coat the design on your skin with some little Vaseline. Draw the tattoo on the stencil starting from the bottom going up. This helps reduce the need to wipe away ink from parts of the stencil where you have not worked already. Instead of wiping or rubbing away the ink vigorously, carefully blot it out. Your stencil will not be wiped away before you’re done with drawing.

Most tattoo artists use Vaseline while tattooing since it holds excess ink liquid from spilling on your skin, giving them a clear view and easily follow the outline of what they’re drawing. Vaseline furthermore soothes the skin in case of irritations.

Also read: How to Fade a Tattoo at Home: 4 Effective Ways to Try


Getting a perfect tattoo is very hard, and what is hardest is explaining to the artist what exact design you want. A tattoo transfer paper halfway solves this problem. You can draw a tattoo stencil to test different designs before you go for the needle. With a lot of practice, the above steps will show you just how easy it is to come up with a perfect tattoo design that suits your taste.

About the author

I’m S.R Bhuiyan, a proud Tattoo artist. I will share the body art journey with you here in PrettyJust. I have 10+ years of experience in the field of tattoo, piercing, nail art, and skincare. Check out my bio which has my tattoo studio/cat/travel pics!

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