How to Use Transfer Paper Tattoo – Ultimate Guide
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How to Use Transfer Paper Tattoo

Many tattooers, over the years, have tried different ways to transfer their original designs onto their clients’ skin. And there are many ways to transfer a tattoo design on the skin (including freehand). But one of the most common methods is using transfer paper. In this article we will tell you about the most popular and effective ones, as well as cover how to choose a good and how to use tattoo transfer paper to get your design from paper onto your client’s skin.


What is tattoo transfer paper?

Do you remember the carbon copy sheets from your childhood? In fact, this is that copy paper. There are two kinds of such paper: for machine transfer and for manual.

  • Hand-transfer tattoo paper has two layers: the top layer is your tattoo design, and the bottom layer duplicates the outlines you trace on the back of the design.
  • Thermographic transfer paper for a thermal printer (aka thermocopier) allows you to transfer the tattoo design from the printed image.

The transfer paper consists of three sheets: a liner (the bottom yellow sheet), a carbon sheet and tracing paper.

Not all transfer papers are the same, though. Some of them work better than others for transferring tattoos, so we will cover some of the essential steps to ensure your transfer paper is working to its fullest potential.

Transfer paper needs to buy a good and high quality. In this case, consider the manufacturer. Chinese-made transfer paper poorly transfers the image, quickly erased and does not allow to achieve the desired result. Look for the inscription “made in USA” to be sure of the quality of this product. Tattoo transfer paper made in the USA is reusable, it lasts a long time and even after several uses the lines on it are visible.


You can draw your own tattoo sketch on paper and use tattoo transfer paper to transfer it to your client’s skin.

You can also use a printed drawing. If the picture is in color, use any of the photo editing tools and make it black and white and high contrast, so that all the lines of the picture are clearly visible. Then print it in the size that you plan to tattoo. There is no difficulty in transferring a small drawing in this way. But if you need to move the drawing on the skin on the whole back or, for example, an entire sleeve, you may have difficulties. In this case, you can divide the tattoo design into several parts and print it on several A4 sheets. This function may be available in the printer settings, or you can divide the drawing yourself using Photoshop and then print the individual parts.

If you are using a thermal printer, make sure that when your stencil is in place it doesn’t touch any of the heating elements inside your machine. This can cause unwanted smudges on both copies and destroy your stencil if not careful.


Now About Using Tattoo Transfer Paper.

Manual method:

  1. Print the wanted design on any printer.
  2. Place the sheet with the printed design on it on the tattoo transfer paper.
  3. Use a pen or pencil to trace the outlines of the design. On the back side, because of pressure, a mirror outline will be printed on the sheet.
  4. Make sure you draw all the contours you want. The tattoo stencil is ready!

The way of using transfer paper for machine transfer:

  1. Draw the your tattoo design on a sheet of paper, using a gel pen or pencil or merely printing out the design on a printer.
  2. Once the resulting sketch is finalized, insert it in a thermal tattoo printer, which scans the image and transfers it with preservation of the smallest details on transfer tracing paper. Your tattoo stencil is ready!

It is advisable to use this printer in tattoo parlors with high traffic to make the work of the tattoo artist easier.


Before transferring the tattoo from paper to the body, the skin should be shaved and then disinfected so that there are no bacteria on it, which can later get together with the pigment in the upper layers of the skin. You also need to degrease the application surface for durability of the pattern.

Apply tattoo transfer gel, Dettol, or soap solution to the skin. These products are needed to easily apply and clearly transfer the tattoo design to the skin, leaving no smudges and no smearing.

Tattoo transfer gel in its composition is absolutely harmless, so it does not cause allergies and does not spoil the skin. It lays down so as not to interfere with your tattooing, and also firmly fixes the drawing on the skin, despite the fact that during the session soap concentrate, vaseline or oils are used.


Place the sheet with the sketch on the treated surface with the printed side facing you and the imprinted outline against the skin. Press down (you can lightly blot with a damp cloth).

Carefully apply the transferred sketch to your skin directly over the transfer gel or cream. Press your transfer ink sheet down on all sides so that it locks tightly to the skin, and wait about 30 seconds (the time to hold the sketch is always listed in the instructions on the package).

Making sure that the pattern is imprinted on the skin, gradually remove the stencil from the skin. If anything is wrongly transferred or doesn’t transfer, you need to correct it right away before it dries. Too many flaws? Then feel free to erase your drawing and transfer it again.

After you have managed to transfer the drawing on the skin in the right way, wait until it dries and you can get to work.

Final Words

Transfer paper is a great way to speed up tattooing and create cleaner lines with less resistance from the skin. Once mastered, transfer paper will help you shorten your time in the tattoo shop, which is every artist’s dream. Good luck and happy tattooing!