Stencil Tattoos

Gallery of stencil style tattoos that can be filtered by subject, body part and size.

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Stencil tattoos imitate the stencilling tecnique, which produces an image or pattern by applying pigment to a surface over an intermediate object with designed gaps in it which create the pattern or image by only allowing the pigment to reach some parts of the surface.

Stencil art tattoos (not to be confused with tattoo stencils*) mimic paintings where ink is applied to a surface through a pre-cut image in a sheet of wood, metal, plastic or cardboard.

Stencil art tattoos, sometimes called “graffiti” or “trash,” simulate the use of spray paint and cut outs that are commonplace among street artists. The use of stencils in street art arose as a necessity in many areas, due to legal limitations around painting in public spaces. Carving an image into a flat surface ahead of time allows for instantaneous application, as opposed to spending minutes or hours with a spray can, roller or brush.

Despite the automation of the process, there are still organic artifacts that remain in stencil art. They can have inconsistent ink distribution, random splatter straying beyond the edges or in damaged parts of the stencil, and unpredictable drips of paint down the canvas.

Tattoos mimicking this look are, in fact, very precise. Each smudge and “accidental” splatter detail is added with careful intention. The first examples of stencil art tattoos emerged circa 1998 in Germany, though the timeline hasn’t yet been formally tracked by historians. The internet spread this concept worldwide in the 21st century, attracting many tattooers who also work as street artists.

*Tattoo stencils are tools that transfer any design to the skin via medical grade paper and non-permanent ink. When the paper is peeled away, it leaves a guide for tattooers as they work. This is commonplace for any tattooer, unless they work freehand, and is unrelated to the aesthetic style of “stencil art.”

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