If you’re reading this, I’m sure you love tattoos. The whole ‘permanent’ part? Not so much. It makes sense that a lot of people choose to forgo tattoos purely because of their permanency. Even if you find a design that you absolutely love, who’s to say that you will not find something even better in the future? Plus, all the tattoo lotion and tattoo numbing cream you need for a healing tattoo can intimidate anyone. Your skin is a canvas, albeit with a very limited size. Removing tattoos is a huge issue. My point is—sometimes tattoo lovers just don’t dig permanent tattoos on their own skin! That’s where a temporary tattoo pen comes in. Let’s take a look at what they do, how to use them, and a small sample of the best types out there!
Temporary Tattoo and Body Art Pens
Even if you know how to make a tattoo gun, that doesn’t mean you’re excited about using one on yourself! So, how do temporary tattoo pens work, and why haven’t you heard of them? Unfortunately, since tattooing is still a niche art, the world of adult temporary tattoos is secluded to remote craft stores, specialty stores, or simply Amazon. The closest you will find to temporary tattoo pens is a henna set from your local craft store—and henna may not cover the aesthetic you’re looking for! One of the pens I talk about later is a black henna pen, but it has a lot of extra ingredients that make it look dark and like a permanent tattoo.
Every single temporary tattoo pen out there uses a fine or medium tip to better emulate the outlines of a real tattoo. If you want to create a gradient appearance, you will need to use more traditional body paint and water it down before you create the outlines with your temporary tattoo pen. As I mentioned before, semi-permanent henna tattoo pens make up a big part of the industry, but many colorful pens with different ingredients provide a more temporary experience.
What distinguishes a tattoo pen from a marker is its ability to stick to the skin, rather than wiping away with a bit of water. Like other temporary tattoos, temporary tattoo pen drawings will wash off immediately with rubbing alcohol. Regular soap and water will do the trick, however, you will need to aggressively wash the area and may even need some salt to ‘scrape’ it off. It’s made to stick to the skin, albeit for only a little while, so conventional washing methods don’t work the greatest.
Custom Temporary Tattoos
So, now that you know an authentic-looking temporary tattoo world is out there waiting for you, how do you utilize it? First, find some pens that you like. I review three ones that I find cover all the basics and represent industry standard further down the article, if you can’t find any in your local craft stores. Once you have your pen in hand, check out some neat tattoo designs online. Watch videos of henna artists at work—they will give you an idea of how to fill in the detail of your tattoo! Plus, henna designs take zero art experience.
If you’re confident in your drawing skills, go for a complex design! Practice your design on paper (with regular markers or pens—save the good ink for your skin). Stick to simple designs, pay attention to the weight of your lines, and always use a reference for your drawings (even if you are making a toony design). If you absolutely need shading, then look at examples of cross hatching or stippling. Stippling is actually a common tattoo technique, albeit one that customers choose less often! These types of shading don’t require a shader pen—which means you can use your temporary tattoo pen to accomplish it.
Best Temporary Tattoo Pens
Before you look into purchasing temporary tattoo pens, I want to recommend a little something that you should be doing with all new beauty products. Apply it to a very small portion of your skin—the back of your wrist works well—and wait to see how your body reacts to it before you go through with a whole design. Allergies are more common than you think, and since inks use a whole swaths of organic ingredients to accomplish their bright pigment, there are a whole lot of potential allergic reactions waiting to happen. Granted, it’s rare, but do a spot test anyways. There’s no point in risking it.
Skin Companion Twin Tip Tattoo Pen
These are the best colored temporary tattoo pens out there. They have two different tip sizes and shapes on each end, allowing you to switch between outlining or coloring large areas. Honestly, it functions more like a marker, but it sticks to the skin much better any other colored temporary tattoo pens I’ve seen. One unique way to use them is to grab a black outline from a temporary tattoo for adults and use these markers to color it in.
True to their natures, they start to disappear after two days (or one week, if you keep them safe from water and the elements). You can quickly rub it off your skin using rubbing alcohol if you want it off before then. The best part about these markers is their lack of toxic ingredients, making it gentle on skin and usable on your face. They also dry quite quickly, allowing you to make a lot of progress with your design in one sitting.
Professional Body Art Pens. Temporary Tattoo Color Pens for Enhancing and Defining Ink
These pens not only help you make a temporary tattoo, but they also assist with cosmetic problems you might have. Specifically, the need to apply eyeliner every day! You can use this marker to apply some subtle weight to your eyelashes or use it to make incredibly realistic temporary tattoos. Their black pen obviously looks the best, but don’t underestimate the ability of their colored markers to make something just as spectacular! It is waterproof, meaning it will last even longer than the Skin Companion tattoo pens I covered above. The best way to remove it is by using the included makeup remover wipes or nail polish remover (if it’s away from your face).
Out of every temporary tattoo pen I review here, this one undoubtedly has the best tip. It is velvety and offers a little bit of give. It feels almost like you’re painting the tattoo onto your body! Keep in mind that this is meant for adults, not for children. The last thing you want is for your daughter to find it and give herself some…’stunning’…new eyelashes that last for a week.
Semi-permanent Tattoo Pen
If you want to look into a more dedicated type of temporary tattoo, semi-permanent tattoo pens are out there waiting for you! These last up to six weeks and contain ingredients such as henna that stains every layer of your skin, rather than just the top layer. I picked out my favorite one based on the shape of its container—it’s surprisingly intuitive when you are tattooing yourself or someone else!
Inkbox – Semi-Permanent Tattoos
This temporary tattoo pen uses fruit and herb ingredients to create an ink that lasts for six whole weeks (or more, if you take care of your tattoo well!). It works by staining your skin permanently with natural ingredients. Since your skin naturally sheds off every six weeks or so, it will fade in about that time. Nothing but dermabrasion or straight up removal will get these tattoos off early. While that might seem like a downside, this is what works best for a lot of people. You don’t have to repeatedly apply it every day, nor do you have to commit to a life-long tattoo. It’s a happy middle ground that can be left to fade or touched up every other week with an inexpensive temporary tattoo pen!
In order to use this, apply it to your skin in light and even strokes wherever you want your tattoo to appear. Keep it there over the course of 12 to 24 hours, then clean off any residue with soap. It gradually darkens on your skin over time, with the end result looking like a real tattoo! Be aware that anything you touch with this tattoo—your face, clothes, sheets, or towels—will also be exposed to this ink. Just make sure to keep any contact with your temporary tattoo brief and quickly clean off any smudges—at least until you wash off the staining agent.
Realistic Temporary Tattoos
Remember when I said you couldn’t shade with these outline temporary tattoo pens? Well, if you use a semi-permanent tattoo pen, there actually is a way. It just requires a lot of experience and dedication. As you already know, semi-permanent tattoos include henna, which needs to set in over time. The longer you allow it to set, the darker it appears.
By gently washing away the henna over the course of hours, you can create a gradient effect! It stains with different intensity. Just keep in mind that timing is everything. It could take you many rounds of tattooing to get the hang of it and know exactly when and how to wash your pen lines. The downside is that the areas you wash off early will also fade relatively quickly.
Once you get the knack of gradient shading, you can begin to create realistic designs! Use a reference image to create your design, practice your design using pencils, and then execute with the real thing! Because semi-permanent tattoos have a limited range of hues, you can’t exactly color with them. Your realistic temporary tattoos will be black and white.
If you want to avoid semi-permanent tattoo pens, you’ll have a much more difficult time making a realistic tattoo. Take a plate or palette of some kind, place a few drops of water, and then dip your temporary tattoo pen into the water. This will quickly sap out the ink from your pen. Use a brush with your new ‘paint’ to apply it to your skin and create a realistic, gradiated appearance akin to watercolor.
Watering down regular temporary tattoo pens drastically reduces how long it stays on your skin. It’s basically like painting or drawing directly on your skin—in other words, not something that will last through a single shower session! Furthermore, it uses your ink and pigment quite quickly, so I don’t recommend using normal temporary tattoo pens for realistic designs.
To greatly enhance your experience, or the experience of your friends, think about grabbing a tattoo chair!
Using your Temporary Tattoo Pen
Unlike permanent tattoo pens for adults (or, you know…just tattoo guns), temporary tattoo pens for adults allow you to explore the inked world without giving up some of your precious body real estate. You can choose to wipe it off immediately if you don’t like it. You can experiment with different colors for the same design (or even color in a permanent tattoo differently every day). You can touch it up every few weeks until you decide to upgrade to a permanent ink. Whatever you do is your decision! These temporary tattoo pens allow you to safely explore the inked world—so what are you waiting for? Check your craft stores and try them out!