How to Make a Tattoo Stencil Using a Scanner

Updated April 17, 2017

Before a tattoo artist applies a tattoo to the skin, a stencil of the design is usually made on tissue paper. This stencil is then transferred to the skin of the person to be tattooed, giving the artist an outline to work from. Stencil machines can be expensive, with some models costing several hundred dollars. A relatively affordable dot matrix printer can be used to make a tattoo stencil without the need for any expensive specialised equipment. This is a money-saving technique for new and experienced tattoo artists alike.

Scan your chosen image into the computer using the scanner. It is best to start off with a line drawing that can be easily used as a guide once the stencil in on the tattoo recipient's skin.

Remove and discard the layer of tissue paper from the thermal fax paper. Load the thermal fax paper into the printer with the yellow side facing up.

Open the scanned image on your computer using the image editing software. If the image in not a line drawing, use the image editing software to convert it to one.

Print the scanned image with the dot matrix printer. Your tattoo stencil is now ready to apply to the recipient's skin.


To convert an image to a line drawing, trace around all of the important features of the image, ignoring minor details and shading. This can be done by hand using tracing paper and a pen, or digitally using image editing software and a mouse. Using thermal fax paper will create a reverse of the image on the tissue paper layer of the fax paper. The tissue paper is then applied to moistened skin, transferring the image to the skin.

Things You'll Need

  • Personal computer
  • Scanner
  • Thermal fax paper
  • Dot matrix printer
  • Image editing software
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About the Author

Alane Michaelson began writing professionally in 2002. Her work has appeared in Michigan publications such as the "Detroit Free Press" and the "Flint Journal." Michaelson graduated from Oakland University in 2006, earning a Bachelor of Arts in journalism.