How to Make a Tattoo Stencil With a Printer

Written by sarah thomas
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Tattoo shops generally use pricey thermal machines or hand-trace printed images onto carbon paper to make stencils, but with the right paper and a home printer, you can create tattoo stencils at home. You can also use temporary tattoo paper with an inkjet or laser printer, and if you have an older dot matrix printer, you can use carbon transfer paper.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Printer, either dot matrix or an inkjet
  • Printer paper
  • Specialised paper (carbon transfer for use with dot matrix printers or temporary tattoo paper for inkjet printers)
  • Scissors
  • Water
  • Sponge
  • Glycerine-based deodorant

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Load the image that you would like tattooed onto your computer. Print a test sheet on regular printer paper to ensure the design is the correct size and placement.

  2. 2

    Place the special paper into the printer. With a dot-matrix printer, place carbon paper into the printer tray. With an inkjet printer, use temporary tattoo paper. Follow manufacturer instructions to correctly load the paper.

  3. 3

    Allow the paper to dry completely when using temporary tattoo paper.

  4. 4

    Apply the clear adhesive sheet to the printed sheet of temporary tattoo paper, per manufacturer instructions.

  5. 5

    Cut the design from the paper, staying close to the edges.

  6. 6

    If using carbon paper and a dot matrix printer, apply glycerine-based deodorant on the area where the stencil will be placed. Press the carbon paper stencil onto the skin firmly, transfer-side down. Remove the paper.

  7. 7

    Peel the adhesive backing from the temporary tattoo paper and press the tattoo design onto the skin firmly. Wet a sponge and press it against the back of the paper to release the tattoo.

Tips and warnings

  • Dot matrix printers can be used with carbon transfer paper since the printer head puts pressure on the paper to apply the design. Ink-jet printers and laser printers do not apply that pressure, so carbon paper can not be printed on using an inkjet or laser.
  • Tattoo stencils can also be made by printing a design on regular printer paper and then hand tracing the tattoo over carbon transfer paper. Hand tracing will not be as precise as a printed stencil (see reference 1, 2).
  • Although anyone may make their own stencil, tattoos should only be inked by a professional (see reference 1, 2).
  • The manufacturers of temporary tattoo paper, such as Tattoo Johnny, suggest that temporary tattoo paper should not be used by women that are pregnant or nursing, as the effects of the adhesive are not known (see reference 2).

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