How To Use Tattoo Transfer Paper

Last Updated on March 21, 2022

How To Use Tattoo Transfer Paper

We can all agree that designing the perfect tattoo or explaining what design you want to your tattoo artist can be the hardest part of the process.

Even after sketching a design out with your tattoo artist, there is always the problem of how that design will look on your skin, but is there an easier way of doing this?

Well, let me introduce you to the art of tattoo transfer paper; it is a carbon copy paper for tattoos that will leave an outline of the tattoo you want on your skin. Problem solved!

But wait, let me tell you something:

It will give a similar effect to temporary tattoos, but instead of using it as a temporary tattoo, your tattoo artist may use this as a rough guide to follow. It ensures both the artist and client are happy.

transfer paper


Hectograph or Thermograph: What’s the Difference?

When you look for tattoo stencil transfer paper, you will be faced with two types: hectograph tattoo transfer paper and thermographic transfer paper, but what is the difference between the two?

Hectograph tattoo transfer paper:

Hectograph paper is essentially carbon copy sheets that will closely mimic the process of applying a temporary tattoo as a kid.

But instead of using any old design, your tattoo artist will design the piece with the guidance of your preference. This type of transfer paper is also referred to as ‘freehand transfer paper’ because the artist creates the design on the paper.

Hectograph transfer papers usually have three sheets: the top sheet to draw your design, the center tissue sheet, which is removed before you begin, and the bottom sheet where the design is transferred to.

The design is created using a hectograph pencil to ensure quality artwork and to ensure that the design is effectively transferred.

This type of stencil paper is more cost-effective and easier to re-do if a mistake is made, plus by the paper being available in different colors, it is easier to see on a different skin tone.

Thermographic transfer paper:

Thermal tattoo transfer papers tend to have a more complicated process that involves thermogenic image transfer.

Thermal tattoo transfer paper tends to have four layers: the first is a paper layer in which the design is transferred onto, this is protected by a milky thin layer (which is thrown away), then an ink layer (usually purple) and a yellow layer which holds the sheet in place.

Although the tattoo transfer process is quite complicated, once you remove the top piece of paper, you will have the replica of your original design, but on the area of skin you’d like the tattoo to be.

Both thermographic and hectograph transfer paper methods are significantly and more accurate than just eyeballing an outline; it ensures both the client and tattoo artist are happy with the design.

How To Use Hectograph Tattoo Transfer Paper

Hectograph transfer papers are a convenient way to transfer images onto the tattoo paper; it uses three-layered carbon copy sheets to create the design.

Here’s how:

Step One:

All you need to do is draw your design on the top sheet and wait for it to copy down onto the bottom sheet. You can work with your client when it comes to creating the design and make adjustments.

Once the design has transferred through, it is as easy as cutting out the design and preparing the skin.

Step Two:

After you’re happy with the design shape being cut out, the skin should be prepared with a solution known as ‘Stencil Stay,’ which helps the paper stay on your skin to remove imperfections.

The Stencil Stay also ensures that the tattoo transfer paper transfers the image efficiently and that it looks sharp and accurate, like the design.

Step Three:

Once everything is prepped and ready, it’s time to align the transfer paper on the location of the tattoo, this step may take some time and a few tries to get it in the position you want.

Don’t worry about taking your time; you don’t want the tattoo to be in the wrong location or position now, do we?

After you’re happy with the alignment and location of the tattoo, wipe the design repeatedly back and forth with a damp sponge or paper towel (similarly to applying a temporary tattoo), so once the paper is removed, the tattoo design is left on the skin.

Step Four:

Remove the tattoo stencil paper and ensure that the tattoo image is correct on the skin and both you and your client are happy with the outcome of the tattoo design.

This method is brilliant as it is inexpensive, easy to use, and it can be easily wiped off if the design is not quite right or the client is not quite happy.

It can be used on a wide range of skin tones, too, as this type of tattoo transfer paper comes in a range of colors to ensure maximum visibility.

How To Use Tattoo Transfer Paper: Thermographic

Thermal transfer papers have four unique layers which work together in the tattoo transfer paper. It is also coated in a thin, disposable layer that protects the tattoo transfer papers from dust and dirt.

Underneath the first layer, there is a purple ink layer that aids in transferring your image, the layer underneath that is a yellow sheet that supports the rest of the sheets and holding the whole tattoo transfer papers in place.

Step One:

You should create your tattoo design in pencil on a regular sheet of white paper before sliding the design between the ink layer and the bottom yellow sheet.

Drawing your design on a regular sheet of white paper allows you multiple tries to get the design right before transferring it over to the tattoo paper.

Once you’re happy with the tattoo design, you can slide the sheet between the purple ink layer and the bottom yellow sheet (your design should be the third sheet down in the sheets of paper)

Step Two:

After the first step, you should place the whole set of papers through a thermogenic transfer maker– this is often found in your local tattoo shop, but your local print shop may have some if you’re lucky.

After running the papers through the machine, you can remove the top piece of paper to find the design underneath.

Step Three:

Prepare your skin in the same way as you would with the Hectograph Tattoo Paper and position the paper on the area.

Ensure you smooth out the sheet and apply a fair amount of pressure to the area, so the image transfers effectively and sharply.

Once you’ve pilled back the image, you should notice the full drawing represented on your skin in full detail. This is how to use tattoo transfer paper effectively!


Here are some top frequently asked questions about how to use tattoo transfer paper:

Can you use regular printer paper for transfer paper?

Yes, you can if you have a temporary tattoo paper and a printer, but it won’t be as good of quality as using professional transfer paper.

Where can you buy tattoo transfer paper?

Many places sell tattoo transfer paper, such as Amazon, most local tattoo shops, and nowadays, you can find them in your local Walmart.

Some people even use parchment paper, wax paper, and even vaseline to transfer tattoo images!

Can you transfer tattoo stencil to the skin without carbon paper?

Yes, you can; some people use a lightbox to transfer their tattoo to their skin. In fact, many tattoo artists choose to make tattoo stencils without carbon sheets to create a mirror effect.

Tattoo artists use a light table or lightbox to trace photos in reverse to represent the drawing in its original form; it is a more cost-effective way over using carbon paper.


All in all, using transfer paper for your tattoo is an easy and cost-effective way to work with your tattoo artist to distinguish the design and what it will look like in the body placement.

Give it a go with your next tat; it will change your life!