The Official Blog for Tattoo Artist Magazine

Larry Brogan: Mapping Out Large Scale Tattoo Projects

By Larry Brogan
Courtesy of Tattoo Road TripClear contact paper or shelf liner can be purchased at most home improvement centers, kitchen and bath shops and even many grocery stores. Just ask where the shelf liner/contact paper is. It is nothing more than a clear, thin, flexible sheet of plastic with a sticky side to it, and comes in a roll like wrapping paper…

This stuff comes in handy, when planning large tattoo designs and for cover-up work. It is best to shave the client’s skin and wipe it down with a little alcohol, to remove any oils or soap.

For general tattoo layouts, I use colored markers to trace out the muscle and bone contour, bends, creases, joints and center lines of whatever body part I am working on and includes any significant moles, scars or existing tattoos. I will sometimes draw a rough layout of my intended design in a contrasting color to my contour lines, to establish the proper flow and fit to the body.

When your drawing is finished, take an appropriate-sized piece of contact paper (and before peeling off the backing) lay it on the skin to determine where any excess bits can be cut and trimmed from the paper. After trimming, peel off the backing and lay it on the skin, pressing firmly to be sure it adheres to all parts of the marker drawing. It may be helpful to have another person help with larger pieces, as it can be cumbersome with only two hands.

When you are satisfied that you have gotten all your image adhered to the contact paper, it is time to peel it off. This can be a bit uncomfortable to some people, kind of like peeling off a Band-Aid, and it will exfoliate the skin a bit, as the dead skin cells stick to the paper. Most importantly, the marker will transfer over, giving you a very precise overall layout of the body, and all the information you need to properly render your drawing to fit the body and all it’s curves, bends and odd spots. After peeling off the contact paper, you should lay it out, sticky side down, on clean white paper.

Several pieces of copy paper will do the trick, if you do not have large paper handy. People are quite surprised at the amount of surface area contained in a full arm or leg, when it is laid out flat, but you fill find this technique will greatly aid your drawing and layout of large-scale designs.

Using this technique in the same manner for planning cover-up work is extremely useful. You can draw directly on the old tattoo(s) to be covered with marker and make it as detailed as you need. Draw in any contour and boundary lines and any other information you see fit, lay your contact paper over it all and make an impression. You get much more accurate results from this method than you can just using tracing paper or referencing photos of what you are covering.

(Larry can be found at Tattoo City Skin Art Studio in Lockport, IL.)

2 responses

  1. A very informative contribution.
    I learned this trick from Mick Tattoo in Zurich years ago…(or was it Filip?). Regardless, it’s been one of the best (and most used) tips I ever received!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:38 PM

  2. Pingback: Larry Brogan: Building a Solid Portfolio « TAM Blog

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