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How to make tattoo stencils using carbon paper

Updated April 17, 2017

During a consultation, the tattoo artist and client discuss design ideas and colours and the price of the tattoo. A tattoo artist answers any questions or concerns the client has during this meeting and schedules an appointment. Once the appointment day and time arrive, a client is required to fill out paperwork and show identification before receiving the tattoo. The tattoo artist sets up their station with a tattoo machine, ink caps and paper towels. After preparing the stencil, the tattoo artist calls the client to the station to begin the tattoo process.

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  1. Lay a blank piece of paper on a drawing table or surface. Place the carbon paper--with the matt side facing upon top of the blank sheet. Tape the blank sheet and the carbon paper to the drawing surface. The tape prevents the papers from moving during the transfer.

  2. Place a blank sheet of paper over the carbon paper. Tape the blank sheet down to the drawing surface.

  3. Draw the tattoo design in pencil onto the top blank sheet. Use even, steady pressure to ensure that the lines of the design transfer to the bottom blank sheet.

  4. Remove the tape from the three sheets. Discard the carbon paper. Examine and compare the bottom sheet to the top sheet for any lines of the design that did not transfer. The bottom sheet is the tattoo stencil to apply to the client.

  5. Tip

    Trim the excess paper off of the design before transferring to skin. Keep the top sheet in case the design needs to be transferred into an additional stencil.


    Never use tattoo equipment without participating in a professional apprenticeship first. Place a barrier on the drawing area to prevent the carbon paper from leaving smudges.

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Things You'll Need

  • Blank paper
  • Carbon Paper
  • Tape
  • Pencil

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.

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