Dotmatrix printers used to create tattoo stencils

November 26th, 2008 in Tattoo

Tattoos are applied by stencils using spirit master which is basicly carbon paper. The task is to trace the design to the carbon paper so that it can be applied to someone’s skin. The issue with this is that often you’ll spend 45min + on some designs, which can lead to your hand/mind being exhausted well before a tattoo, and even if you do create the stencil much before the client comes in – one slip up on applying the stencil will leave you having to spend the next hour re-tracing it. For shops they use Thermafax machines which uses heat to transfer the image – one of the two ways the paper can transfer, although this is a very costly piece of equipment usually going for $1,000+. The other is pressure (IE: The pressure of your pencil to the paper while tracing). Another alternative comes from something obsolete, the Dot Matrix printer.

Dot Matrix printers have been phased out for the most part, some of the rare situations you see them being appectable is at point of sales systems, where they print out receipts (But go to most new modern businesses and you’ll see they’ve replaced the noisy dot-matrix receipt printers). So how these guys work is using pins + ink ribbons they apply pressure with these pins to print on paper, using the pressure of the pins to print out a design onto the carbon paper, the dot matrix becomes an effective fix to hand drawn stencils.

So it was off to Ebay, where you can find some more modern day Dot Matrix printers for about $150-200, not too bad – Although I found some older models, Brand new for $60 shipped. I purchased the Lexmark 2930 plus, you’ll want to look for something that is 24 pins.


  1. what type of computer do you hook the printer to. Is there a limitation to what type or is that why you get one with a 24 pin cord?

    also FWD answer to: please

    Comment by Brett — March 3, 2009 @ 6:27 pm
  2. I hooked the Dotmatrix up to a computer that was running on Windows XP. This is an older model over 10 years old, and I did find some issues with compatibility at first but was resolved with some google searches + reading. The more model USB dot matrixes I expect to have much less issues with XP + Vista although they are much more expensive (~$150).

    Comment by admin — March 18, 2009 @ 4:37 pm
  3. Great post i really like it
    why i cant subscribe to your feed ? i keep getting an error?


    Comment by Ghetto Tatoos — July 3, 2009 @ 10:40 pm
  4. I use a Epson LQ590 dot matirx printer for my stencils and it works great. However I found that even on the lightest setting it sometimes blowes through the whitepaper kind of chews it up. So what I do is print on the yellow side and just reverse the image, this leaves the white tissue intact.

    Comment by Jamey Franklin — October 22, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

    Comment by SHIZ — January 5, 2010 @ 1:08 am
  6. Hi Guys,

    Ive been making Tattoo for the past 10 years now,
    i had many kind of stencil printers, but last week i bought a dot matrix an old one, but in good condition, oki microline 391, I have never seen such a good stencil, better then anything i ever had doing stencil.

    If you guys have questions feel free to ask,email me at

    Comment by Jason — February 4, 2010 @ 2:58 pm
  7. run a piece of copy paper between the print heads and the transparent “stencil sheet”. the copy paper takes the damage and you get a clean print.

    Comment by Seven — November 15, 2010 @ 7:34 pm
  8. Hello, I was researching punitive tattoos and happened upon your site. It was compelling. I especially find the blk and white image with squares and tattoo marks fascinating. Is it old? What state do you tattoo in? Also….you might be interested in our site
    Thank you for your site to read.
    art with a pulse
    madame chinchilla

    Comment by Madame Chinchilla — November 29, 2010 @ 2:25 pm
  9. Well, that is very good, however what about additional choices we’ve got here? Do you mind writing one more post regarding all of them too? Thanks!

    Comment by Loida Besendorfer — February 4, 2011 @ 5:38 am
  10. Do you accept guest posts? I’d like to write couple articles here.

    Comment by Azzie Roades — March 3, 2011 @ 11:49 am
  11. Does anybody know how to configure the settings to get a nice line for any Oki or 320 Turbo?
    Email me a

    Comment by Tatfeller — February 15, 2013 @ 12:08 pm
  12. hi how do i use this dot matrix machine if i just want to draw the drawing and make it a stencil? much thanks for your help

    Comment by tammy — March 15, 2013 @ 7:28 pm
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