How to Use Thermal Stencil Paper

Written by sam orr
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How to Use Thermal Stencil Paper
Thermal stencil paper is used to transfer intricate designs to skin prior to tattooing. (tattoo image by nO-FaCe from

Thermal stencil paper is used in many applications, from high-end screen printing to professional tattooing and henna art. Each "sheet" or transfer packet includes four layers. The design is hand-traced or mechanically copied to the top sheet by the underlying carbon transfer sheet. A protective tissue is sandwiched between these two sheets and is removed prior to use, and a backing sheet is attached to the packet to protect the carbon. Simple or intricate designs can be traced by hand or transferred to the transfer paper with a thermal copier machine and then applied to a variety of surfaces.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Thermal stencil transfer paper
  • Thermal Transfer Copier Machine (optional)
  • Ballpoint ink pen

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  1. 1

    Choose a design with clean lines that can be easily outlined or "traced" onto the thermal transfer paper.

  2. 2

    Remove the tan protective tissue from the transfer paper pack. The yellow backing sheet functions to protect the carbon paper from tearing or unintentional markings but may also be removed if desired.

  3. 3

    Tape the chosen design (face up) securely to the backing sheet or to the back of the carbon sheet if the backing sheet has been removed.

  4. 4

    Place the transfer paper packet on a flat smooth surface with the design to be outlined facing upward and the white top-sheet at the bottom. The design will be transferred to this sheet.

  5. 5

    Trace over the outline and details of the design using a ballpoint pen. Press firmly and evenly for complete design transfer.

  6. 6

    Cut away unused transfer paper by trimming around the design, leaving a 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch border. Remove the backing and carbon sheets from the white top sheet imprinted with the finished transfer design and use as desired.

  1. 1

    Remove the tan protective tissue from the thermal stencil paper packet. Leave the backing, carbon and top-sheet intact.

  2. 2

    Slide the transfer sheet packet into the paper slot (usually at the back of the machine). Refer to the copier manufacturer's user manual for specific loading instructions--a few thermal transfer copier models require the carbon transfer side to be loaded facing upward.

  3. 3

    Insert the design to be transferred into the copy slot commonly located in the front of the copier, design side facing downward or following manufacturer's instructions.

  4. 4

    Change the copier resolution settings as desired or choose the "auto" settings function.

  5. 5

    Press "copy" or follow manufacturer's instructions to initiate the transfer process. When complete, remove the transfer packet and discard the carbon and backing sheet.

Tips and warnings

  • For machine transfer, the design to be transferred must be loaded into the copier on a full-size sheet of paper. Attach a cut-out design to printer paper using a glue stick.
  • For best results practice the hand or machine transfer process to determine the pressure to be used when tracing the design or to optimise copier settings for machine transfer.
  • Check the underside of the white top sheet (the side in contact with the carbon sheet) for satisfactory design transfer results before cutting around the design.
  • To transfer the design to the skin, wipe the desired skin area with a stencil applicator solution (available online from tattoo supply distributors) or with a glycerine-based deodorant stick. Place the top-sheet transfer paper onto the skin and rub the back of the transfer paper gently to transfer the design.

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