How to Use Transfer Paper for Tattoos? [Steps & Pro Tips]

Are you looking for a way to express yourself through body art? Look no further, as I will teach you how to use transfer paper for tattoos.

Transfer paper helps create clean and sharp lines when applying a tattoo design to the skin. A tattoo artist will use this to help them apply the tattoo design accurately. You can also use it if you want to apply a tattoo design at home.

In this post, I’ll cover all the information you need about using tattoo transfer paper for tattoos. So whether you’re a beginner or just looking for clarification on the process, keep reading on.

Key Takeaways

  • Transfer paper is the perfect tool to create a clean design for your tattoos as a tattoo artist.
  • Transfer paper is a great way to ensure your tattoo is placed correctly and precisely.
  • A thermal copier machine can help you create a tattoo stencil with ease.

What Is Transfer Paper?

Transfer paper is a specially COATED paper that helps to transfer the design from the paper onto your skin.

The paper is placed over the tattoo design and then transferred onto the skin. This helps to create CLEAN and SHARP lines when applying the tattoo design.

women trying to use transfer paper but how to use transfer paper for tattoos

But transfer papers aren’t just transfer papers.

There are different TYPES and COLORS of transfer paper available on the market, each with its own unique purpose. Have a look at them below:

2 Types of Transfer Paper

There are two types of transfer paper used for tattoos; let’s take a closer look:

  • Hectographic transfer papers
  • Thermographic transfer papers

HECTOGRAPHIC transfer paper is the most common type of paper used.

It’s INEXPENSIVE and easy to find. It’s made with a wax-based coating that helps to transfer the design onto the skin. Also known as freehand transfer paper, which is a manual transfer paper (similar to carbon copy sheets).

However, the downside is that they’re not as PRECISE as other types of paper and can be challenging to work with, especially when doing multiple designs in a tattoo shop.

THERMOGRAPHIC transfer paper is less common and more expensive but is WORTH the investment if you want a high-quality tattoo.

They’re made with a heat-sensitive coating that helps transfer the design onto the skin and are more precise and easier to work with.

Pro Tip: A thermographic transfer maker machine will make your life 10x easier when using this type of paper.

4 Different Colors of Transfer Paper

Here are the three colors of transfer paper available on the market:

PURPLE transfer paper is the most common type of paper used by tattoo artists. It also used to be the only color available for transfer paper.

However, purple transfer paper can be DIFFICULT to see on dark skin tones.

GREEN transfer paper is the newest color available on the market. It’s becoming more popular among tattoo artists because it’s EASIER to see on the skin, especially on dark skin tones.

However, green transfer paper can be more EXPENSIVE than other colors of transfer paper.

There are also yellow sheet transfer papers.

Lastly, you can also find RED transfer paper which works well with people with light skin tones.

Thermal Copier Machines

Thermal copier machines are a great way to transfer beginner tattoo designs onto the skin using transfer papers. The machine uses heat to BURN the design onto the paper, which can then be pressed onto the skin.

The ADVANTAGE of using a thermal copier machine is that the design will be more precise and will not smudge like it would if you were using a regular pen or pencil.

These machines are generally very EASY to use, and you can usually find them at your local tattoo supply store.

However, thermal copiers can be EXPENSIVE and not worth the investment if you’re only going to use them once or twice.

READ MORE: The Best Pen Tattoo Machine for Beginners

Creating Your Stencils

Now that you have what you need to know about transfer paper, it’s time to create your tattoo stencils.

There are a few different ways that you can create your stencils. You can either draw them by hand or use a computer program like Photoshop.

women creating stencil for tattoo but how to use transfer paper for tattoos

If you’re drawing them by hand, make sure you use a light box so that the lines are nice and visible. And if you’re using Photoshop, there are a few different tutorials you can follow to create your stencils.

Pro Tip: If you’re having trouble with your stencils smudging or not transferring onto the skin correctly, try using a piece of clear tape to hold them in place.

How To Use Transfer Paper For Tattoos By Hand?

The hand method is the most common way to use transfer paper in tattoo shops. It’s quick and EASY, and you don’t need special equipment.

Here’s a quick guide on how to do the hand method:

1. Gather Your Supplies

In addition to the free hand transfer paper, you’ll need a pencil, pen, or markers. You’ll also need a FLAT work surface and good lighting.

Once you have everything gathered, you’re ready to get started.

2. Start Sketching

Begin by sketching your design onto the tattoo transfer paper.

You can trace an existing image if you’re not CONFIDENT in your freehand skills. Just be sure to use a LIGHT touch so you don’t accidentally rip the paper.

Once your design is complete, it’s time to transfer it to your skin.

3. Transfer The Design To Your Skin

To do this, place the tattoo transfer paper on the area of the skin where you want the tattoo. Then, using a pen or marker, trace over the lines of your design.

The ink from the pen or marker will transfer onto your skin, creating a temporary stencil of the design.

Once you’re finished tracing, carefully remove the paper and check that the lines are visible on your skin. If they’re not, REPEAT the process until they are.

Pro Tip: Hectographic tattoo transfer paper is the best type for this method.

How To Use Transfer Paper For Tattoos Using A Thermal Copier?

Thermal copiers are a great way to make professional-looking copies of your tattoo designs, especially if you are in the tattoo industry. Thankfully, tattoo transfer paper can assist with this.

Here’s a quick guide on how to get the best results:

1. Make Sure You Have The Right Size And Shape

Start by ensuring that your design is the right size and shape for the area you want to tattoo.

Select a piece of tattoo transfer paper slightly LARGER than your design.

Pro Tip: Use thermographic tattoo transfer paper when using a thermal copier for the best results.

2. Put The Transfer Paper In

Place the tattoo thermal transfer paper onto the thermal copier bed, printed side up.

If your design is intricate, you may need to use more than one sheet of paper to PREVENT smudging.

3. Print The Design

Load your design into the copier and print it onto the tattoo transfer paper.

Carefully remove the printed sheet from the copier bed and let it cool for a few minutes before handling it further.

4. Transfer The Design To Your Skin

To transfer the design onto your skin, wet the back of the paper with a damp paper towel and press it firmly onto the skin.

Hold it in place for a few minutes, then peel it away slowly.

Now all that’s left to do is to fill in your tattoo with the ink of your choice, and there you have it.

You have now successfully used tattoo transfer paper to create a beautiful and unique tattoo.


Can I Reuse Tattoo Transfer Paper?

Yes, you can reuse tattoo transfer paper, but only if it’s still in good condition. If the paper is ripped or damaged in any way, it won’t work as well and may not produce a clear stencil.

How Do I Choose The Right Type Of Transfer Paper For My Tattoo?

Any transfer paper will work if you use a simple design and want to apply it by hand. However, thermographic transfer paper is the best choice if you use a complex method or a thermal copier.

Can I Use Regular Printer Paper For Thermal Tattoo Transfer Paper?

No, you cannot use regular printer paper for thermal tattoo transfer paper. The paper is not designed to withstand the high temperatures of a copier and will likely melt or catch fire.
It’s essential to use carbon paper or tattoo transfer paper designed specifically for thermal copiers.


Tattoo transfer paper is a great way to create beautiful and unique tattoos.

There are many different types of transfer paper available, so be sure to choose the right one for your needs. Don’t forget to follow the instructions that come with your tattoo transfer paper to ensure the best results.

This ends our guide on how to use transfer paper for tattoos. I hope you learned something new to try out on your next tattoo project!

men trying to use transfer paper but how to use transfer paper for tattoos

Did you find the guide helpful? Let us know in the comments section!


1. Art. Art is Fun [Internet]. Art is Fun. 2014. Available from:

About Edith Russo

Edith is a self-made entrepreneur with a keen business sense that others admire and a total “can-do” attitude. She’s always coming up with new ideas to anticipate her readers’ needs and help solve all their toughest beauty and skincare problems. READ HER LATEST ARTICLES. FOLLOW HER on Linkedin and Twitter. Learn more about her HERE.