Are you trying to enter the world of professional tattoo artists, but having difficulty with your designs? Thankfully, the tattoo printer and tattoo stencil machine help you out. It’s a lifesaver to artists everywhere and saves even the best artists’ time while they work. Going without a tattoo stencil takes guts, even with the best tattoo guns, so let’s look at how to add them to your tattoo skill repertoire today! Never fear those crazy complicated designs that your clients ask you for again. Feel free to expand your style and pigment choice using the confidence that a good stencil gives you.
If you want to call yourself a professional artist, you need to learn how to use a tattoo printer to make the perfect tattoo stencils. There will be a time in every artist’s life where you need to use a stencil, and if you plan to draw it on yourself…well, good luck without an easy way to erase your mistakes or confirm the design with your client! Put your favorite tattoo gun and its tattoo power supplies on stand by, and let’s begin.
What is a Tattoo Printer?
A tattoo printer is a type of thermal copier that many artists use to create stencils. Thermal printer machines use a very particular type of paper (which is typically labeled as tattoo transfer paper) in order to create a portable pattern. While it works similar to a thermal printer and thermal laminator, it has very specific mechanisms that set it apart. It heats up a layer of the paper covered in ink, causing the heated parts to transfer over to our stencil layer.
Once finished, you dispose of the extra layer and end up with a perfect stencil. You send the design to the printer just as you would with a usual printer, making it highly accessible even for people who aren’t technology-inclined. Once you have your stencil, you can easily transfer it over to your client by cleaning the area, getting them situated on your tattoo table, applying transfer medium, and placing the stencil on. Pat it in place, remove it, and voila! You now have a beautiful guide to use in your tattooing endeavor.
So, what are tattoo stencils? They are the perfect way to take a finalized design and place it on your client’s skin. Along with your decor, supplies, and professional tattoo artist chair, a stencil indicates the mark of an experienced tattoo artist. They guide you through the design and ensure your client’s tattoo looks as good as possible. It isn’t tracing—you’ll still need a lot of skill to get your gradients, shading, and coloring down—but it does make a dramatic difference.
It also lets your client confirm the design with confidence. If your client dislikes the general design after the fact—well, that’s their own fault. They could see exactly what you were going to tattoo before you put it on their skin! Anyways, thermal paper has four layers—a white layer that your design ends up on, a waxy layer, a carbon layer, and a yellow layer that holds the artwork in place.
Interested in learning how to transfer tattoo stencils to skin? Let’s cover that really quickly, or a stencil printer will serve no purpose for you! Once you have the carbon copy, show your client and tell them it’s the last chance to ask for changes. Wash and shave the area where you are going to tattoo. By using a transfer medium or basic deodorant, you give your stencil a guaranteed texture to stick to, but clean skin will still pick up the design.
Carefully apply the paper, telling your client not to move. If the stencil does end up shifting, reprint it and wash off the old stencil. Pat the stencil into place, get your final approval, and start tattooing!
Another way to make stencils is by using hectograph paper, but those stencils are drawn by hand and not at all precise. By printing your design, you ensure that you don’t waste precious materials while making the stencil. Plus, thermal paper is easier to transfer over to your client.
Types of Tattoo Printers and Tattoo Printer Machines
If you’re looking for a tattoo printer on Amazon and only finding expensive tattoo transfer machines, then look no further. These are the best tattoo printers and they’re quite affordable. The nice part about tattoo printers is that you don’t need to dump hundreds of dollars into a ‘state-of-the-art’ machine. As long as it’s sturdy and working, you can use it. That’s why I don’t review a whole onslaught of products in this article. These three just focus on some basic customizations that you may find to your liking and nothing beyond that. The quality and durability of all of them is about even.
Life Basis Thermal Tattoo Transfer Machine Tattoo Kit Stencil Transfer Copier Printer
This permanent tattoo printer weighs less than 4.4lbs (2kg), accommodates A4 and A5 paper sizes, and currently comes with a two year warranty. That warranty is technically unnecessary (it lasts forever), but it’s nice to have a contingency plan in a new tattoo shop in the event it somehow gets damaged and you have no spares around.
Anyways, back to the features. The sellers send you 200 free digital designs which you can organize and use as you like. It warns you if it ever gets too hot, can mirror your image with the press of a button, and has a unique setting for precise line work. It only comes with ten papers, so order extra. It’s only $20 for a huge amount of tattoo copy paper.
Black Tattoo Transfer Stencil Machine Thermal Copier Printer with Bonus Papers
Among thermal printer machines, this is the design you’ll see most often. Why? It’s quite reliable, uses very little electricity, and provides two unique traits among the professional tools—most importantly, the tattoo stencil looks more bold than the other products here. This is because of the paper it uses and the fact that you have to hand draw the design. It is less convenient than the other printers, since it doesn’t connect to a computer or print designs that way, but it’s still a step up from completely tech-free stencil making.
The boldness of the lines certainly makes this tattoo thermal copier worth it, and you still have multiple settings for bold and soft lines to shine on the stencil paper. As far as a simple thermal copy machine goes, this is the one you see most often in older tattoo shops and is excellent to get accustomed to. For newer shops or technology-forward artists, pick from the other two options here.
Dragonhawk Black Tattoo Transfer Stencil Maker Machine
After printing out your tattoo stencil, run it through this thermal machine to transfer it over to actual stencil paper. It’s pretty simple, although it won’t hook up directly to your computer like the first one does. Compared to other thermal copiers, it sits in the middle of the price range. It comes from a reputable brand, so you can be confident that it was tested before it was shipped and works right out of the box.
For this particular tattoo stencil maker, you’ll need to avoid cheap transfer paper. Simply buy a brand name ($20 will get you through about 20 tattoos’ worth of stencil paper, so price isn’t an issue). Any good company will do—ask your fellow artists to see which they prefer. Life Basis paper works best for me, but to each their own.
Professional Temporary Tattoo Printer Machine
A lot of people ask me about these and a fair temporary tattoo printer price, so I want to go over them a little while we’re on the topic of printers. First of all, there are many different ways to create a temporary tattoo. You can print it onto special temporary tattoo paper which only requires an inkjet printer. If you want to spend some extra cash, you can print tattoos directly onto your skin with a Prinker machine.
A professional thermal tattoo stencil machine, which is what I talked about above, only serves to create a simple, solid-color outline that rarely lasts the duration of your tattoo session. On the other hand, temporary tattoo printers create designs that last for one or two weeks…but would be toxic if used for actual tattoo work. Keep that at the front of your mind while you shop for the tattoo printer you need!
Why You Need to Keep a Tattoo Printer Around
Any professional tattoo artist needs to keep a tattoo stencil printer around so that they can guarantee the quality of their art. Everyone has something that trips them up while they ink—be it fur, human faces, or straight lines—and stencils help keep all of that looking good. In tattoo shops, having one around helps not just you, but every other artist working in the shop.
Even if you are a magician that can magically paint a Picasso on someone’s skin with the flick of your wrist, a tattoo printer has some huge benefits for you. Namely, your client gets to see the end result of their tattoo ahead of time. By taking a picture of the stencil on their skin before you begin your session, you have proof of what the approved design looked like. Furthermore—and the best benefit, I think—is that saving a picture of the stencil gives your client something to look back on. They’ll look at the stencil picture and think, ‘oh yeah, this really is a piece of art I’m wearing!’ That satisfaction is well worth the price.