A stencil is only as good as the stencil solution you use for it! Imagine you’ve made the perfect stencil, and placed it exactly where it should be on your client, only to have the whole thing wipe off after 10 minutes of tattooing!
In the good old days, tattooers used things like pure Dettol, stick deodorant, or even Vaseline! Stencil applicators have changed how we tattoo – and there are so many different products on the market that it’s hard to know which one to pick. So I’ve done the hard work for you.
If you’re curious to see how I apply stencils, check out How To Use Tattoo Transfer Paper (Step By Step Guide)
Here are the best stencil applicators of 2022:
1. Stencil Stuff
Stencil Stuff was developed in 2005 and is used by some of the world’s best tattooers including Bob Tyrrell, Jimi Litwalk, and Myke Chambers.
This stencil solution is the perfect consistency and works with both hand stencils and thermal stencils. It doesn’t leave a residue, and the bottle is the perfect size and shape with a great pouring nozzle! It leaves your stencils sharp, clean and makes them last for the whole tattooing session.
It’s made in the US and the company also makes a great Spray Stuff that makes all drawn on tattoos last as well for freehand projects!
We use it in our tattoo studio, and has been a shop-wide favorite!
- 100% non-toxic
- Vegan Friendly
- Dries quickly
- Leaves stencils crisp
- Been around for 18 years
- Can wipe off if not left to dry long enough
2. Recovery Stencil Lock
Recovery Stencil Lock is the closest thing to Stencil Stuff, and that’s probably why I like it. It is made by Recovery, which started as an aftercare company but has moved on to stocking stencil products, numbing creams, and piercing solutions.
This stencil solution’s consistency is similar to Stencil Stuff but leans more toward the gel-like feel. It can leave some residue if you use too much of it, so bear in mind that less is more. It has no scent and is also completely vegan-friendly and non-toxic.
- Free of parabens, perfumes, or dyes
- Comes in 2 different sizes
- Prevents irritation
- Can leave a residue
- Needs to dry for a long time
3. Electrum Stencil Primer
The first studio I worked in only used Electrum Stencil Primer – every time I get a whiff of that apple scent it brings me back to the day I started this journey. I
t was definitely my favorite product until I found Stencil Stuff. I find that Electrum stencil solution is better for Sharpie stencils, but it is difficult to not over-do it with hand and printer stencils. If it is left on for too long, it is also quite difficult to clean your stencil off after the tattoo is done.
- Has a lovely apple scent
- Works with both hand stencils and printer stencils
- Non-toxic and cruelty-free
- Developed by professional tattoo artists
- Difficult to know how much to use
- Can cause some irritation
- Only available in one size
- Most expensive product on the list
4. Anchored Stencil Solution
Anchored Stencil Solution was developed by tattooer Nikko Hurtado who is well known for his color portraits. It is better to use with hand stencils and is not recommended for thermal or eco-tank printed stencils. Due to popular demand, it can be quite tricky to source the product so I recommend stocking up if you like this product! There have been some mixed reviews about how long the product needs to dry, so if you tattoo multiple times per day this may not be the best one for your needs.
- Developed by a tattoo artist
- Can be wet wiped
- If applied properly can last for hours
- Can be hard to find
- Takes a while to dry
- Best used with hand stencils
Honey is the newbie stencil solution on the market, developed by tattooers Tom Kerr and Darren Millar.
While it is still new, there have been great reviews thus far. It is known to hold stencils very well and is recommended for bigger pieces and full-day sittings due to its long-lasting effects.
The company is still small so it may be difficult to get your hands on some Honey. Despite its name, it is vegan-friendly and the packaging is really cool.
- Great packaging
- Developed by tattoo artists
- May be hard to find
- Difficult to remove the stencil
- Still new to the industry
If you are wondering which stencil applicator is the best for you, you will need to determine what your needs are and base your decision on that.
If you are a tattooer who takes a lot of walk-in clients, Stencil Stuff may be the best option for you. If you prefer a gel product, perhaps Electrum or Honey will be better suited.
At the end of the day it’s complete up to you and I hope that this article helps you make your decision! While you’re at it, check out our list of the Best Tattoo Ink of 2022.
If you’re looking to stay up to date with new tattoo tools and techniques, we recommend visiting a tattoo convention.