How to Make Prison Type Temporary Tattoos

Updated April 17, 2017

Prison tattoos are symbols that represent the inmate's gang affiliation, time served, and what crimes the prisoner has committed. Designs like spider webs, teardrops, and eight balls are common on prisoners, and are done inside the prison with homemade tattoo machines and ink drained from pens. A temporary or fake version of these types of tattoos can be applied to the skin with supplies from around your home. Use these type of tattoos for your next costume or Halloween party.

Draw a spider web, a tear drop and an eight ball, like a pool ball, on a white, unlined piece of paper. Hold the drawings up to the desired body part to determine if the size of the drawing will fit. Enlarge or minimise the size of the drawing on a copy machine or printer if necessary.

Lay the drawings of the prison tattoos on top of the purple layer of spirit paper. Tape the drawings down to the spirit paper to prevent slipping or blurred lines. Trace over the drawings with a pencil, applying even pressure. The pressure applied will transfer the purple onto the back of the design.

Remove the drawings from the spirit paper. Cut out each individual drawing, and avoid touching the back of the drawing for the purple image on the back will smear. Mix one part soap and four parts water in a spray bottle. Spray the desired body part with the mixture.

Apply the drawing, purple side down, onto the body part. Designs like spider webs are applied on the elbows of prisoners, while tear drops go under the eye. Smooth the drawing onto the skin and let sit for 30 to 45 seconds. Peel the drawing off of the skin, and allow the purple stencil to dry for several minutes.

Outline the drawing in a blue marker. Prison tattoos are not done with professional ink, so the tattoos turn out a blue colour instead of a professional black. Repeat the process for the other drawings.


Dust a light powder over the marker to set the design. Ask a friend to apply designs to your back or hard to reach body parts.


Permanent marker may not wash off for several days, so consider your personal and work schedule before applying these temporary tattoos. Do not use this process for any other reason than a costume.

Things You'll Need

  • White paper
  • Pencil
  • Tape
  • Spirit paper
  • Soap
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Blue marker
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About the Author

Maude Coffey retired after 10 years working as a professional body modification artist in the tattoo industry. She is certified in principles of infection control and blood-borne pathogens. Coffey received additional training and classes, such as anatomy, jewelry standards and aftercare, from the Association of Professional Piercers. Coffey aims to educate about safe tattooing and piercing practices while writing for various websites.