One of the first steps in getting a tattoo is discussing the design with the artist. Whether you have an image already or you’re getting a custom image drawn up, the next step will be for the artist to create a stencil of the design to be placed on your body. This is not like the stencils you used in first grade with the little holes cut out for you to draw inside of. This is a proper rendering of the image, lines and occasionally shading and all, on a specific type of paper, called Stencil Paper.
This stencil paper is specific to the industry. It allows the artist to draw out the image, or with the help of the fancy-schmancy newer stencil machines, to print out the image that will be inked into your skin. There are two common types of stencil papers used in the industry—thermal and impact. Thermal papers generally have three sheets of paper and an ‘onionskin,’ while impact papers have two sheets and the ‘onionskin,’ Thermal papers are used with a type of thermal stencil machine (like with most things, there are many different types and brands of machine) while impact papers are generally utilized for freehand stencil drawing, like a carbon copy.
Regardless of the paper used, the result will be the same—a translucent sheet of paper with the complete design ready to be transferred to your skin. After cleansing the area with green soap (an industry standard, generally a mild antibiotic), the artist will then shave the area where the stencil will be laid. Once this is complete, the artist will apply a stencil fluid, sometimes a lotion, sometimes a spray. This helps the ink from the stencil paper to transfer easily and seamlessly to your skin. The next step is to lay the paper in the designated position. It is very important that the individual remain perfectly still during this part of the process, as any slight movement can shift the paper, causing a flaw, duplicate line, or blur in the design. Once the artist is satisfied with the placement, he or she will very slowly peel off the paper, revealing your tattoo template below.
Now comes the fun part—you’re ready to tattoo!