How to Use Tattoo Transfer Paper

If you’re a tattoo enthusiast, you might have come across the term “tattoo transfer paper.” It’s an essential tool that allows you to transfer your tattoo design onto your skin before getting inked permanently. Whether you’re a professional tattoo artist or a DIY tattoo enthusiast, using tattoo transfer paper can make the whole process easier and more precise. In this article, we’ll explore the two most common types of tattoo transfer paper and guide you through the steps to use them effectively.

How to Use Tattoo Transfer Paper

Types of Tattoo Transfer Paper

Before we dive into the step-by-step process, let’s understand the two main types of tattoo transfer paper:

Thermographic Transfer Paper

Thermographic transfer paper is a popular choice among tattoo artists due to its ease of use and reliable results. It comes in a set of four sheets:

  1. White Sheet: This sheet is where you draw your design. Use a regular pencil to create your tattoo design on this sheet.
  2. Milky Thin Sheet: This sheet is meant to be discarded after use.
  3. Ink Sheet: Usually purple in color, this sheet will transfer the design from the white sheet.
  4. Bottom Yellow Sheet: This sheet holds everything together during the transfer process.

Hectograph or Freehand Transfer Paper

Hectograph or freehand transfer paper is another widely used option, especially by artists who prefer more control over their designs. It comes in a set of three sheets:

  1. Top Sheet: This is where you draw your tattoo design using a special hectograph pencil for quality artwork.
  2. Center Tissue Sheet: This sheet is removed after the transfer is complete.
  3. Bottom Carbon-Like Sheet: Available in different colors, this sheet receives the copied design from the top sheet.

Using Thermographic Transfer Paper

Materials Needed:

  • Thermographic transfer paper set
  • Regular white paper
  • Thermographic transfer maker machine
  • Soapy water or a special solution
  • Scissors

Step-by-Step Guide:

Step 1: Create Your Design

Start by sketching your tattoo design on a regular sheet of white paper using a pencil. This sketch will serve as the template for transferring the design onto the transfer paper.

Step 2: Assemble the Transfer Paper Set

The thermographic transfer paper set consists of four sheets. First, place the white sheet with your design facing up. On top of it, layer the milky thin sheet (which will be discarded later), followed by the ink sheet, usually purple in color. Lastly, place the bottom yellow sheet that holds everything together.

Step 3: Use the Thermographic Transfer Maker

Take the assembled set of papers and run them through a thermographic transfer maker. This machine is commonly found in tattoo shops or printing shops. The transfer maker uses heat to transfer the design from the ink sheet onto the white sheet, creating a carbon copy of your original design.

Step 4: Cut Out and Apply the Design

Once the design is transferred onto the white sheet, carefully cut it out. Now, wet the area of your skin where you want the tattoo with soapy water. This helps the transfer paper adhere to your skin better. Place the cut-out design over the wet area and press it down firmly.

Step 5: Reveal Your Tattoo

Gently peel off the transfer paper, and voilà! Your tattoo design is now on your skin, ready to be tattooed.

Using Hectograph or Freehand Transfer Paper

Materials Needed:

  • Hectograph or freehand transfer paper set
  • Hectograph pencil
  • Stencil stay solution
  • Scissors

Step-by-Step Guide:

Step 1: Draw Your Design

Using a special pencil called a hectograph pencil, draw your tattoo design on the top sheet of the transfer paper. The hectograph pencil ensures high-quality artwork and enhances the transfer process.

Step 2: Copy the Design

The design you draw on the top sheet will be copied through to the bottom carbon-like sheet. The center tissue sheet is meant to be removed.

Step 3: Prepare Your Skin

Before applying the transfer paper, apply a solution called stencil stay on the area of your skin where you want the tattoo. This solution helps the transfer paper stick better to your skin.

Step 4: Apply the Design

Place the cut-out design over the prepared area of your skin and press it down firmly. Ensure that all parts of the design make good contact with your skin.

Step 5: Reveal Your Tattoo

Once you’ve pressed the transfer paper down, gently peel it off to reveal the transferred design on your skin. Now your tattoo artist can use the design as a stencil for the actual tattoo.

Using tattoo transfer paper simplifies the process of getting the perfect tattoo design on your skin. It allows you to experiment with different designs and placements before making a permanent commitment. Remember to follow the instructions carefully and take all necessary precautions to ensure a successful transfer.

Tips for a Successful Tattoo Transfer

  1. Choose the right type of transfer paper based on your preferences and experience level.
  2. Keep the transfer area clean and free from oils or lotions for better adhesion.
  3. Ensure that the design is centered and properly aligned before applying the paper.
  4. Press the paper down firmly to ensure a clear transfer.
  5. For complex designs, consider seeking assistance from a friend or a professional artist.

Advantages of Using Tattoo Transfer Paper

  • Helps you visualize the final tattoo design on your skin.
  • Allows for easy adjustments and modifications before tattooing.
  • Reduces the risk of mistakes during the tattooing process.
  • Enables professional tattoo artists to create custom designs with precision.

Precautions and Safety Measures

  • Perform a patch test if you have sensitive skin to ensure no adverse reactions to the transfer paper or solution.
  • Follow proper aftercare instructions for the transferred tattoo to promote healing.


Tattoo transfer paper is a valuable tool that streamlines the tattooing process, whether you’re a professional artist or an enthusiastic tattoo lover. By choosing the right type of transfer paper and following the step-by-step guidelines, you can achieve accurate and stunning tattoo designs. Embrace the freedom of trying out various designs without the commitment of permanent ink. However, always prioritize safety and hygiene during the tattooing process.


Is tattoo transfer paper safe to use on the skin?

Yes, tattoo transfer paper is safe for skin application. However, individuals with sensitive skin should perform a patch test before using it.

Can I reuse tattoo transfer paper?

No, tattoo transfer paper is designed for single-use only. Using it more than once may lead to blurred or distorted designs.

Where can I purchase tattoo transfer paper?

Tattoo transfer paper is available at tattoo supply stores, online retailers, and some art supply shops.

Can I use tattoo transfer paper for temporary tattoos?

Yes, tattoo transfer paper is ideal for creating temporary tattoos before making a permanent commitment.

How long does the transferred design last on the skin?

The longevity of the transferred design depends on factors like skin type, aftercare, and exposure to water. Generally, it lasts for a few days to a week.

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