We Value Your Privacy

We and our partners use technology such as cookies on our site to personalise content and ads, provide social media features, and analyse our traffic. Click below to consent to the use of this technology across the web. You can change your mind and change your consent choices at anytime by returning to this site.

Update Consent
Loading ...

How to Make a Tattoo Stencil Without Carbon Paper

Many tattoo artists choose to make tattoo stencils without carbon paper for a variety of reasons. The main reason is because using a stencil creates a mirror effect of the image that is to be tattooed. Tattoo artists use a light table, or light box, to trace photos and drawings in reverse in order to produce a stencil that represents the drawing in it's original form. In addition, using a light box with tracing paper and hectograph pens or pencils is far more cost effective than using carbon paper.

Loading ...
  1. Assemble a light box or light table. A light box or table is little more than a clear piece of Plexiglas or plastic with a light bulb beneath it. This allows the artist to clearly view the photo or drawing to be traced by providing bright and even lighting underneath it. This can be done by making a square hole in a desk and installing Plexiglas over it and a lamp underneath, or by placing a lamp underneath a glass table. Portable tabletop light boxes may be purchased from tattoo supply retailers.

  2. Place the photo or drawing to be traced on top of the light box. Be sure to place it face down as the objective is to trace it in reverse (mirror image). When the stencil is applied to the skin it appears in reverse of what it looks like on paper. Essentially, tracing the drawing in reverse counteracts this action and the stencil will duplicate the original drawing once applied to the skin.

  3. Place tracing paper over the chosen photo or drawing. Select an appropriately sized sheet of tracing paper. Trim to size if necessary and place it directly on top of your drawing. Make sure your drawing is face down to create a mirror image before covering with tracing paper.

  4. Tape the tracing paper and original drawing down. To help avoid mistakes and ensure neat, clean lines you must keep the papers from sliding against one another or off of the light box. Gently secure them in place with a few small pieces of Sellotape.

  5. Trace the drawing onto the tracing paper with the hectograph pen or pencil. A hectograph pencil is a popular tattoo stencilling tool because its gelatin base contains violet dye that does not smear, yet is neatly and easily transferred to moistened skin. Use a hectograph pen or pencil to trace the drawing over your light box or table. The mirror image tattoo stencil is now ready to apply.

  6. Tip

    Remember that drawings will appear on the skin in reverse of how they appear on the stencil. Always provide a clean and sterile area, equipment, and supplies when giving or receiving tattoos.


    Do not attempt to tattoo yourself or anyone else without the proper training and state required certification.

Loading ...

Things You'll Need

  • Photo or drawing
  • Tracing paper
  • Light table
  • Hectograph pen or pencil
  • Sellotape

About the Author

Michelle Renee is a professional trainer and quality assurance consultant in the career, education and customer service industries, with two decades of experience in food/beverage and event coordinating management. Renee has been published by Lumino and Career Flight as well as various food, education and business publications.

Loading ...