Can You Make Tattoo Stencils With Regular Paper?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on January 17, 2022
    Last Updated: January 17, 2022

Designing tattoos can be a real test of your artistic talent, and you need to be good at drawing to create the masterpieces your customers want. However, it’s one thing to be good at drawing on paper, but a completely different skill is needed for drawing on skin.

That’s where tattoo stencils come in. They allow you to transfer your work of art from paper to your customer’s body.

We’ll let you know exactly what a tattoo stencil is and how it’s made – and most importantly, we’ll explain whether regular paper can be used effectively for making tattoo stencils.

What Is a Tattoo Stencil?

A tattoo stencil allows you to transfer your artwork from paper to body. Many tattoo artists find it difficult to draw freehand on the skin, especially when starting out. You need your tattoo creations to be perfect and look exactly like your customer imagined.

A tattoo stencil is where the outline of the tattoo design is transferred onto a specific type of tracing paper to trace the outline onto the skin. The stencil also gives your customer the chance to see the tattoo on their skin before making it permanent.

Can You Make a Tattoo Stencil With Regular Paper?

The paper generally used for tattoo stencils is tracing paper, sometimes containing carbon or wax coated. This paper allows an accurate representation of the tattoo design that has been initially drawn on paper. 

You must use the correct paper to be able to transfer the design to your customer’s skin. If you use regular paper, it will be difficult to transfer the design accurately as you can’t see this clearly enough through the paper. With tracing paper, you can flip the design while tracing it, ensuring that it is the right way round when transferring it to the skin.

Specific stencil paper will transfer the design to the skin when applied. The skin should be cleaned and prepared before applying the stencil. You will need to use a stick deodorant to the area or specific stencil lotion for the design to transfer correctly. 

Regular paper won’t transfer the design easily as the ink remains on the paper rather than transferring onto the skin as with tracing paper.

Sketch and Practice Your Design

As with all elements of tattooing, practice is key to your success. You need to practice your drawing skills initially, drawing freehand on paper. The more you draw, the better your skills will be. You can create your tattoo stencil from your freehand design, or you can use a design that’s been created for you and printed out.

Once you’ve practiced drawing on paper, you can use practice skins to improve your art on uneven surfaces.

Tracing Your Transfer

Once you’ve created your design, you will need to trace this onto paper to make your stencil. This is where it’s essential that you use the right kind of paper. Regular paper is too dense to see the design through. 

You need to place the tracing or transfer paper over your design. You can hold the paper in place by using good-quality masking tape. You will then trace the design with an ink pen, careful not to move either piece of paper. 

You can use a lightbox underneath the paper to get a clearer image and a perfect trace. Natural light through a window will also help you to see the design.

Transfer to Skin

Once your stencil is complete, you need to transfer the design to the skin. Before you do this, you should make sure that the skin is cleaned and prepared. The area should be shaved of any hair and then cleaned with antibacterial soap and water.

The skin then needs to have stencil lotion applied to transfer the stencil ink to the skin. A stick deodorant works in the same way and can also be used. The tracing paper is then carefully pressed onto the skin, and the ink is transferred, showing the outline of the tattoo on your customer’s skin.


Making the perfect tattoo stencil takes lots of practice and many hours of drawing. The paper you use to transfer the design from paper to the skin is crucial as it needs to be relatively thin but durable. Regular paper is dense and isn’t flexible enough to transfer the design onto the skin correctly as it doesn’t shape itself to the body’s contours.

You can use regular paper as a stencil, but it’s not recommended as it won’t give you the results that you want. You may be left with a tattoo outline that looks slightly different from the original drawing, which isn’t good for permanent body art.

With this in mind, it’s better to invest in specific stencil paper that has been created for this purpose. It will give you the stunning results that you and your customer are looking for.