Can You Use a Regular Printer For Tattoo Stencils?

Tattoo stencils are used to help a tattoo artist transfer a tattoo design to the skin and continue tattooing without making mistakes. Stencils are super useful, especially if a tattoo artist is gaining experience and developing their skills. When tattoo artists start working on a professional level, it is forbidden to do a freehand tattoo, which is why tattoo stencils are very useful.

Many consider tattoo stencils to be a waste of time and not a true form of tattoo art. But, we have to recognize that tattoo stencils make the job of the artist much easier. There is less chance of error and the lining usually turns out excellent.

Now, it is important to mention that professional tattoo artists use expensive and special printers to print their tattoo stencil designs. So what we are asking here is; can you use a regular home or office printer to print the design, or do you need to invest in an expensive tattoo printer?

If you are asking yourself the same question, you have come to the right place. So, without further ado, let’s find out if you can use your regular printer to become a master tattoo artist.

Tattoo Stencils and Printers – Explained

Tattoo stencils and printers
Credit: Instagram

What is a tattoo stencil?

Tattoo stencils, as we mentioned earlier, are an outline of the tattoo design printed on thermal paper or hectograph carbon paper. Stencils work as a template to transfer tattoo designs onto the skin. This helps the tattoo artist to create an outline, trace it and get the tattoo done without complications or mistakes. Tattoo stencils can also be used to show the client what their tattoo might look like on the skin or where the client has decided to put the tattoo.

What are tattoo stencil printers?

Before stencil printers, tattoo artists only had paper and a pen to create tattoo stencils. It was a time-consuming process and it was really complicated. But, with the development of technology, tattoo stencil printers have become a thing and they have taken over the tattoo world quite quickly.

Tattoo stencil printers allow tattoo artists to quickly create and reproduce stencils, improving work efficiency and tattoo artist’s workflow. The printer is connected to the computer, where the tattoo artist uses programs like AmazioGraph or Photoshop to create or modify designs.

Compared with ordinary printers, tattoo stencil printers are smaller and even portable. However, they are very functional and provide everything the tattoo artist might need. These printers support thermal papers, as well as other types of paper used to create tattoo stencils.

So can I use a regular printer to create tattoo stencils?

If you want to work on your tattoo skills at home, but don’t want to buy an expensive tattoo stencil printer, there is a cheaper solution. Using the right paper and your personal or professional printer, you can create proper tattoo stencils at home.

So yes, you can use the regular printer to create tattoo stencils. But, you cannot use plain paper. Instead, you’ll need thermal paper, carbon transfer paper, or even temporary tattoo paper. All papers can be used with an inkjet or laser printer, so don’t worry.

Here are the main steps to follow when using the regular printer to create tattoo stencils;

  • Step 1 – make sure the printer is connected to the computer you will use to create and print the design. If your design is complete, just open the image.
  • 2nd step – Place the tattoo paper in the printer tray (where you would put plain paper). Make sure the paper is positioned correctly, especially if using carbon tattoo paper. The white side of the paper should face the printhead. This is how he will receive the ink and print a design.
  • Step 3 – when printing is complete, remove the paper from the printer tray and allow it to dry completely. This especially applies if you are using temporary tattoo paper. If you tweak this step, chances are the printed ink will smudge.
  • Step 4 – cut out the printed pattern. Be sure to stay close to the edges of the design, but don’t cut into the design. This will make the stencil easier to work with later in the process.
  • Step 5 – and there you have it, the long-awaited moment – ​​transfer of the design to the skin. For this, you can use a deodorant stick. Be sure to apply a thin layer to the skin, then place the stencil over the deodorant. Make sure the design side is placed down, so it can transfer properly. Press down firmly on the paper and let it sit for a minute. Then, remove the paper and admire your work.

To note: Keep in mind that there is always a possibility that your particular printer may not be efficient using thermal transfer or hectograph paper.

There are cases where these types of papers only print a lot on the printer and completely mess up the design, or even print nothing at all. After all, these papers are designed for use by professional thermal printers only.

What is the difference between a professional stencil printer and a standard printer?

Now, given that you can technically create perfectly good tattoo stencils using just a computer and home printer, you might be wondering; Why Do Tattoo Artists Use Expensive Thermal Tattoo Stencil Printers?

Well, the main difference between a regular stencil printer and a thermal stencil printer is the ink. When using a regular printer, the ink used to print the design is regular computer ink. Professional tattoo stencil printers use carbon printer ink, which is more suitable for transfer to skin. Basically, carbon printer ink is most similar, if not the same, to black tattoo ink.

Thermal stencil printers are also more reliable in terms of printing the exact same replica of the created design. Ordinary home printers may not have the same capability, as there may still be a problem with ink smearing or parts of a design not printing.

Also, when you use thermal paper or carbon paper with a regular printer, there is a higher chance that the paper will wrinkle when it comes out. In this case, you may have to repeat the printing process and also waste a sheet of thermal paper.

So the main trick is in the paper, not the printer?

Even though a professional tattoo stencil printer does a better job of transferring the design to the paper, the trick is not in the printer you use but in the stencil paper.

As we mentioned earlier, there are different types of tattoo or stencil transfer papers. If you have a personal printer, just choose the stencil paper and create your own tattoo designs at home. But, you also need to know more about these stencil papers, so here’s a quick overview;

  • Hectograph transfer paper – this type of paper is used for a creation of freehand drawing, where the tattoo artist makes the layer by hand or using a dot-matrix printer. This is an old fashioned method of stenciling that is still popular among professional tattoo artists today.

Even though hectograph transfer paper is more economical, it can quickly become expensive if you are not a professional or experienced in designing freehand tattoos.

  • thermal paper – this type of paper uses heat to transfer the design from the printer to the paper. Thermal paper is currently only used by tattoo artists to create tattoo stencils. The reason it is so prevalent in the tattoo industry is that it creates a clear image and the stencil can be seen on all skin types and tones.

This is because the paper has 4 different layers, allowing deeper preservation of details and designs as a whole. Thermal paper is a standard in the tattoo industry, and every aspiring tattoo artist should learn to work with it.

Last takeaway

I hope we have given you enough information to start the journey of creating tattoo stencils on your own. Of course, for more information, you should talk to a professional tattoo artist who is an expert in stenciling and see which printers deliver the best results. Other than that, all you have to do is get your hands on some suitable transfer paper and get to work.

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