How to Use Tattoo Stencil Paper

by Maude Coffey

One of the most important tools a professional tattoo artist uses is stencil paper. A tattoo artist learns how to use a stencil during an apprenticeship. A tattoo stencil provides a map for the tattoo artist to follow when performing the procedure. Each line is detailed in a contrasting purple color on the skin for the artist to see and tattoo over. The stencil can withstand the wiping away of ink while the artist works and remnants of the stencil can be removed after the tattoo is finished by normal washing with soap and water.

Items you will need

  • Stencil paper
  • Pencil
  • Tattoo design
  • Scissors
  • Paper towels
  • Latex or nitrile gloves
  • Green soap
  • Spray bottle
  • Razor
Step 1

Transfer the tattoo design onto the purple stencil paper by tracing over the design while it is placed on top of the paper. The paper that the design is on should have a purple outline of the design on the back when you are finished tracing. Trim extra paper off from around the stencil with scissors and set aside, purple side up.

Step 2

Put on a pair of latex or nitrile gloves. Spray a paper towel with green soap and clean the area of skin to be tattooed. Throw the paper towel into the trash.

Step 3

Shave the area with a disposable razor to remove any hair. Wipe down the area with a paper towel and green soap again. Throw the disposable razor, paper towel and gloves into the trash.

Step 4

Put on a fresh pair of gloves and wet down the skin with the green soap spray bottle. Apply the tattoo stencil, purple side directly onto the skin. Smooth out any folds or bubbles in the stencil with your thumbs. Peel the stencil off and throw into the trash with the gloves. Allow the stencil to dry for several minutes before beginning the tattoo.


  • Have the client stand when applying the stencil.

    Prevent smearing the stencil by leaving a small border around the stencil when cutting off extra paper; the stencil will be easier to hold this way.


  • Tattoos should only be performed by a professional tattoo artist in a shop setting.

About the Author

Maude Coffey retired after 10 years working as a professional body modification artist in the tattoo industry. She is certified in principles of infection control and blood-borne pathogens. Coffey received additional training and classes, such as anatomy, jewelry standards and aftercare, from the Association of Professional Piercers. Coffey aims to educate about safe tattooing and piercing practices while writing for various websites.