Monday, November 23, 2009

What are STENCILS (line drawings) and why are they important?

Stencils, also known as "line drawings" or "liners" are what a tattooist REALLY needs to apply the tattoo design to the skin. The line drawings are run through a thermofax (or similar device) with the result being the line drawings set to carbon paper. The tattooist then applies a liquid solution (type may vary) on the skin, and presses the carbon line drawings to the skin. This provides a "blueprint" on the skin . . . a guide to create the actual tattoo.

Stencils are a way that the tattoo flash artist (artist who creates the design on paper) communicates the intended artistic nuances of the design to the tattoo artist (who actually applies the tattoo on the skin). Like any type of communication, it is a "two-way conversation." Not all line drawings are created equal. Some tattoo flash artists put more "information" into their design stencils and some put less. Likewise, tattoo artists use stencils differently. Some will follow the stencils provided exactly as they were created, while others may alter the stencils before using them to create tattoos on the skin.

Regardless of how they are created and used, almost ALL tattooists use line drawings. There are a very few select number of tattooists who "freehand" tattoos, but even they will oftentimes use a pen directly on the skin before they start to apply any ink. In other words, they may not be using any "reference material" (designs and/or stencils on paper), but to create on skin what they have in their mind, they still create the "stencils" on skin with a pen of what they imagine the final design to look like.

The bottom line is that most tattooists NEED stencils to create tattoos on skin.