How to Use Tattoo Transfer Paper: Ultimate Guide

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One of the most important supplies in the world of tattooing is the transfer paper. It is an indispensable tool for any tattoo artist, whether beginner or expert. It serves to transfer ideas, designs or images to the skin of the client in a simple way so that the design remains on the skin and it is easier to make the tattoo.

We 100% recommend the use of these products because they produce sharp, quality and long-lasting copies, guaranteeing better results. It’s great for making custom templates.

What material will I need to transfer a tattoo?

The following is what you’ll need:

  • Layout ( download simple layouts)
  • Bic-type pen, sharp pencil or mechanical pencil
  • Hectographic or thermographic paper
  • Razor blade
  • Antiseptic and antibacterial liquid to disinfect the skin
  • Stencil

Two Choices: Hectograph or Thermograph

First, here are two different types of tattoo transfer paper:

  • Hectograph tattoo transfer paper
  • Thermographic transfer paper

Hectograph transfer papers are carbon copy sheets that are very close to the process of applying a temporary tattoo. The only real difference is that you or the artist are the ones drawing the tattoo. You might hear people refer to these as “freehand transfer papers,” also.

The other option is a thermographic transfer paper, which is a more complicated method that involves a thermogenic image transfer. Because it’s harder, we typically don’t recommend using it.

Both options make transferring images to your skin way easier and exponentially more accurate than simply eyeballing an outline.

How to use Hectograph Paper with a Template

Hectograph or manual transfer papers are the best way to transfer images on tattoo paper. If you understand how to do this, learning how to use tattoo transfer paper is simple.

These are composed of three-layered carbon copy sheets just like what you would see in a manual typewriter. The top sheet is the one where you’ll draw the tattoo design, the center sheet is removed when you begin, the bottom sheet is the carbon where the drawing will be transferred.

The following steps explain how to use a hectograph correctly. Correct application of the stencil is essential to begin the tattoo procedure.

  1. After making your template, take a sharp pair of scissors and cut out the design. Cut close to design for better handling during application.
  2. Wash your hands and put on disposable gloves. Every time you touch the customer, you must wear gloves.
  3. Clean the area to be tattooed. Use antibacterial soap and clean the entire area where the stencil will be applied. Follow this general cleaning with another rubbing using alcohol to ensure the area is clean and free of residual soap or body oils. Wipe in a circular motion from the center out.
  4. Shave the area to be tattooed. Clean the area one more time to make sure you haven’t left any hair down. Make sure the area is dry before continuing.
  5. Have the customer stand up. The client’s body should be in its natural position. This is especially important in the arms, legs, lower back, and abdomen. For the arms and legs, never lift or bend the limb in any way; Make sure they are straight and relaxed before applying your stencil.
  6. Apply a thin coat of the stencil applicator agent. You can go the old-fashioned way and use regular unscented deodorant. This technique has been used successfully for years, but be careful about spreading germs.
  7. Apply the tattoo stencil to the prepared area. Make sure your right side is facing the area where you applied the stencil applicator; This should be the purple side. Make sure the template is flat and positioned where it should be and press gently on the skin. Be careful not to rub, smudge or stain the stencil when applying it to the skin.
  8. Slowly peel off the paper and if done correctly you should now have a template outline to follow.

Thermographic Tattoo Transfer Papers

Thermal transfer papers are made with four unique layers. The top layer is where the design will transfer over. It is coated in a thin, disposable layer which protects it from dust and dirt.

Underneath that is a purple ink layer, which is the same as the carbon sheet from the previous method. This layer aids in transferring your image.

The last layer is a yellow sheet that acts as a support for other sheets. This layer is there to hold everything in place, as well as protect the carbon sheet from being damaged or dirty.

  1. Create the design on a normal sheet of white paper using a pencil.
  2. Slide the sheet between the purple underlayer and the yellow bottom sheet when you’re done. From top to bottom, your drawing will be the third sheet in line.
  3. Place all four pieces of paper into a thermogenic transfer maker now. These can be found in most tattoo shops. Check with your local printing shop if not.
  4. Make sure you remove the top piece of paper after running the papers through the machine to see your design underneath. As before, prepare your skin and place the paper on it.
  5. Apply pressure to the sheet to ensure a good image transfer. The full drawing should be visible on your skin when you pull back the thermal paper.


Here are the most common questions we get on how to use tattoo transfer paper.

Q: Can you use a normal printer for tattoo transfer paper?

A: If you have temporary tattoo paper and a printer, yes you can make a tattoo stencil transfer paper, but it won’t be as high quality.

Q: Where can I buy transfer paper?

A: The best place is on Amazon. But Walmart, and maybe local tattoo shops also have it. There are cases where we’ve heard of people using parchment paper, wax paper, and even Vaseline to transfer tattoo images but we don’t recommend this.


We hope that our guide clarified how to use tattoo transfer paper. We recommend using the hectograph type but either will work. If you have any questions just drop them in the comments below.