How To Apply A Tattoo Stencil Without Deodorant - Tattoo Stencil Methods

Written by: Jason White

Tattoo stencils are a crucial element of the tattooing process, and they serve as a precise guide for tattoo artists to successfully transfer a design from an idea on paper to a fantastic piece of work on your skin. Tattoo artists, and at-home tattooers, may often use deodorant as a medium for transferring the stencil onto the skin, but what happens when you don’t have any deodorant on hand? We’ve got several alternatives for transferring a tattoo stencil onto skin efficiently.

Related: Top Rated Tattoo Stencil Printers

What Is a Tattoo Stencil?

A tattoo stencil is an outline that helps tattoo artists create their designs on their clients’ skin. It’s a sterile process that copies a mirrored version of the tattoo project onto the skin using a translucent paper that can be adjusted for sizing needs. This allows the artist to have accurate placement and precision during the tattooing process. 

There are numerous formats of stencil paper, including thermal stencil options, or special tattoo transfer paper. How these stencils can be applied successfully to the skin varies. Check out our article on What Transfer Paper is and How to Use It for more information.

Also read: How To Make A Tattoo Stencil

11 Ways to Apply a Tattoo Stencil Without Deodorant

Deodorant is not an essential component of the stencil transfer process, and there are so many alternatives to applying a stencil that can be considered.

Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jelly, which is commercially known as Vaseline, is an excellent way to ensure a crisp transfer of the stencil design to the client's skin. You only need to apply a thin layer of the jelly and press the stencil design on it, holding it there for at least 30 seconds. Apply even pressure to ensure the stencil is copied entirely. Remove the stencil slowly, peeling back from a corner, and making sure the client doesn’t move, causing the stencil to smudge. 

Keep in mind that Vaseline acts as only a temporary adhesive and the stencil may begin to disappear as you work through tattooing the design and rub the skin during the session.

Baby Oil

Baby oil is another option for transferring your stencil design that is particularly a good option for clients who have sensitive skin. Since baby oil is a very thin liquid, use a cotton ball to apply the oil to your client’s skin before pressing and holding the stencil against it. Apply even pressure for around 30 seconds before peeling slowly from the corner.

Body Lotion

Body lotion is another easy-to-access alternative to deodorant for applying a tattoo stencil. Avoid any products that have fragrances as they can cause severe reactions to your client’s skin before, during, or after the tattooing process. 

You only want a thin layer of body lotion for the tattoo transfer, so it may be best to apply this with a cotton pad. Place the stencil over area and press gently for a thorough transfer of the stencil. 

Use Warm Water and a Washcloth

One of the best and simplest ways for transferring a tattoo stencil onto skin is to just use warm water! Using a washcloth, apply warm water to the skin, press the stencil onto the area, and dab gently on the stencil with the washcloth. The process is similar to applying temporary tattoos.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is a plant used to make something called witch hazel water. It’s a great anti-inflammatory product and is often used as a natural way to clean the skin, especially if you have cuts, scratches, or insect bites. This makes it an excellent alternative for applying a tattoo stencil and great for sensitive skin.

Witch Hazel dries very quickly upon application, so it’s best to thoroughly saturate the area before applying the stencil. Afterward, use a cotton ball or cotton pad soaked with witch hazel to dab on the stencil to make sure it is fully transferred. 

Baby Wipes

Baby wipes are great for sensitive skin and are often used by tattoo artists to clean the skin prior to stencil application and the tattoo session. But baby wipes are also great for applying the stencil to clean skin. Like witch hazel, baby wipes dry on the skin quickly, so use the baby wipe to wet the back of the stencil and apply it to your client’s skin. 

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is not only an amazing option for tattoo aftercare, but it’s an excellent alternative to deodorant for applying a tattoo stencil. Apply a thin layer of aloe vera gel to the skin and then press the stencil to the skin with even pressure, ensuring a successful transfer of the tattoo stencil.


Hairspray is a sticky option that will get your stencil successfully stuck to your client’s skin. Spray a small amount of hairspray onto clean skin and then press the stencil on the area. It will act as a temporary adhesive for the design, but, beware, this method can be easily wiped away during the tattoo process.

Green Soap

Green soap can often be found in tattoo parlors and is an excellent option for transferring the tattoo stencil onto skin. Mix the green soap with a little bit of water and apply it to the skin, then apply the stencil before it dries. Use a saturated cotton pad to press on the back of the stencil to ensure a crisp transfer of the stencil. 

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol or surgical spirit is a sterile way to apply a tattoo stencil. It’s important to note that it dries quickly so you need to ensure the area where you want to apply the tattoo is quite wet before you apply the stencil, or it will not transfer the entire design. You can also use a cotton pad soaked with rubbing alcohol to dab the back of the transfer in order to make sure it captures all of the image. This is also a fantastic choice for sensitive skin. 

Tattoo Stencil Solution

Of course, if you’ve got tattoo stencil solution on hand, this is probably the best option for transferring your stencil onto your client’s skin. This product is designed to get the best transfer of your stencil onto the skin, without the need for deodorant. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take for a Tattoo Stencil to Dry?

Depending on what medium you are using to transfer your tattoo stencil onto your client's skin, the drying time of a stencil can vary. Stencils should remain pressed to the solution for at least thirty seconds to ensure a crisp and clean transfer of the design, but the stencil should be left for at least five minutes before the tattoo artist begins their work, so there is less of a likelihood that the stencil will come off during the session. 

What Is a Tattoo Stencil Made Of?

Tattoo stencil ink is a non-toxic, easy-to-remove product that allows tattoo artists to efficiently produce an accurate version of their design, without the risk of causing infection to the client. 

Is Deodorant a Good Method to Transfer a Tattoo Stencil?

Deodorant is not the best method for tattoo stencil transfers, which is why there are so many other methods to consider. Deodorant is expensive, it can cause allergic reactions, it can be sticky, or it could distort the design during the tattooing process. There are more sterile and practical solutions to transferring a tattoo stencil. 

Our Final Thoughts

There are so many alternatives and methods for transferring a tattoo stencil to the skin. Even if you don’t have any deodorant on hand, there are many options that will successfully get your design ready for a tattoo session. It’s essential to be patient with the application process to make sure you get the crispest and cleanest transfer of your design. Even though deodorant is often easily accessible and seems like the easiest option, there are numerous ways to apply a tattoo stencil without deodorant.

Also read: Can You Use A Regular Printer For Tattoo Transfer Paper

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