How are temporary tattoos made?

By | January 31, 2014

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Temporary tattoos are made through screen-printing, a process involving stencils, inks, backing paper and specialty film decals. Manufacturers produce a temporary tattoo that has an image printed on a backing paper and transfer film. People apply them by lightly dampening the tattoo, which “imprints” the image and film onto the skin as the backing paper is removed.


Stencils are templates that outline the shape of the eventual temporary tattoo. Stencils are made by taking a sheet of material (usually plastic covered in a gelatin, glue or heavy ink) and cutting out the desired tattoo shape or image.

Stencil Sheet and Ink Setup

The stencil sheet is placed over a screen, usually made of silk or nylon. The manufacturer fills the empty plate area with the tattoo design and uses a squeegee to lay colored ink in the area.

Multicolored Tattoos

Several different colored inks may be used on the temporary tattoo, but they must be squeegeed onto the screen one at a time, with the background colors last.

Backing Paper and Buffer

The temporary tattoos are printed on a backing paper that is evenly coated with an agent that gives the paper its stiffness. The paper then gets a nonstick silicone coating that serves as a buffer between the tattoo image and the backing paper.

Film Decal Layer

The next layer on the temporary tattoo is a film layer (made of gelatin or polyvinyl alcohol) that has the printed image on it and goes on top of the silicone layer. This is the special film decal that is pressed against the selected area and transfers the tattoo to the skin.


Temporary Tattoos: How Are They Made

More Information:

FDA: Temporary Tattoos

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