Printable Tattoos

ianNo, this isn’t a diehard Pop Goes the Page reader permanently commemorating his fandom. Mr. Ian (whom you might recall seeing in this post) is in fact modeling a custom printable tattoo. Why? Because we’re adding art product reviews to our blogging fun, and thought we’d start by checking out this printable tattoo paper by Silhouette.

tattoo paperI purchased the paper at our local Paper Source store for $11.95. One pack includes 2, 8.5″ x 11″ printable tattoo sheets and 2 adhesive sheets. The instructions call for additional items like “Silhouette software,” a “Silhouette optic scanner,” a “scraper tool,” and “Robo Master software.” You don’t need any of that. You can manage perfectly well with a desktop printer (or a color copier), a credit or ID card, and a pair of scissors.

First, insert the image you’d like to use into a document on your computer. IMPORTANT! If you’re creating a tattoo with writing, or if you need the tattoo to have a particular orientation, you’ll need to mirror the image (i.e. flip it horizontally) so it will display properly later. You can do mirror images in photo editing software (like Photoshop), but we used Microsoft Publisher with much success.

reversed popFeed the tattoo paper into the printer, making sure that the machine is set to print on the paper’s glossy side. We used an HP Officejet printer, but we also tried a color copier. Both worked!

printingWe did notice, however, that the black lettering came out looking cracked when we used the Officejet printer. We didn’t have any problems like that when we used the color copier. So the paper definitely reacts to different types of toners.

cracked lettersWhen the ink is dry, peel and apply the adhesive sheet to the top of the printed image. Then use a credit or ID card to flatten out any winkles or creases. Use scissors to cut the tattoo from the page.

transferring imageTo apply the tattoo to your skin, peel away the adhesive sheet, then press the image against your skin. Cover with a wet paper towel for 30-60 seconds. Remove both the towel and the tattoo paper and you have a new (albeit temporary) tattoo!

shoulder applicationThe creation and application of the tattoos was very easy, but we did notice a few issues when it comes to wearing them. Since this is basically a piece of film with ink adhered to it, there is a definite border around the tattoo. You can see it here (we added a dotted line to the second image in case you missed the border in the first image).

forearm tattoo dotted linesTo be fair, the company does recommend you use their “Silhouette software” and the “optic scanner” to minimize this problem. Apparently, the software makes marks on the paper and the optic scanner cuts around the borders of the tattoo with laser precision. We could have also (ahem) used the scissors to cut a little closer to the image.

Another issue with this product is that, because the tattoos are film, they can look a little wrinkly after they’ve been applied.

hand tattooSo, how do the tattoos hold up over the course of a day? According to the instructions, the tattoos “generally last a day and can be removed with a washcloth.” To put that statement to the test, we gave an Angry Birds tattoo to Katie’s 7-year-old for field testing.

kid test 1The tattoo was supposed to go to Field Day at school, but unfortunately, a fast-moving stomach virus sent our tester home before he could match it against the rigors of 1st grade relay races. He bounced back the next day and the tattoo accompanied him to an end-of-season soccer game. There, it survived 4 hours of heat and humidity. There were definitely signs of wear, but the bird was still easily visible on his forearm through the sweat, grass stains, and victory revels – his team won!

kid test 2The tattoo disappeared when he showered after the game, which was well over 24 hours after its initial application. It did leave a black sticky residue, but that was easily removed with a dab of alcohol on a cotton ball. Here’s an example of the residue on another test tattoo Katie was sporting (the original tattoo read “My mom is lost. Call Jenny 867-5309″).

residueI also discovered that you can simply peel the film off your arm like a super-sticky piece of tape. That was the fate of my forearm tattoo. I wore it for an hour, but then it had to go.

Overall, the tattoos were easy to create. They weren’t perfect in terms of the film borders and wrinkles, but we got a real kick out of making our own tattoo designs. The tattoos held up well to use, but don’t expect them to last more than 24 hours (or one shower).

Now go out there and make yourself a Dauntless tattoo. You know you want one.

Draw Like an Old Master

draw like an old masterMove over Leonardo! You too can draw like an Old Master. And you don’t need a studio, an aristocratic benefactor, or an artistic temperament. You just need one of these…

overhead projectorYup, it’s an overhead projector. Remember these things? They used to be a fixture in classrooms. Now, you can probably find one in a forgotten corner of a school storage closet, or buried in the back of a library office, its head peeking out from a pile of mimeograph sheets like the Loch Ness of the office realm.

I rescued this overhead projector from the surplus pile at my library and am proud to house it in my stable of useful outreach tools. Among other things, I’ve used it to make inexpensive event signs, salvage presentations when PowerPoint went kaput, light up shadow puppet shows, and replicate iconic pieces of Renaissance art. Here’s how it works.

First, select the image you want to replicate (we used Leonardo da Vinci’s helicopter sketch). Then, print the image on transparency film made specifically for printers…

transparancy filmLoad the transparency film into a computer’s printer like a regular piece of paper, and lo! It comes out with the image printed on it.

transfered drawingFire up the overhead projector, drop the transparency film in place, aim the projected image at a piece of paper, poster board, foam board, or wall and…start tracing!

katie tracesWhen you’re finished tracing, simply fill in the outlines with markers or paint.

katie drawsVoila! You now have a lovely image that requires zero artistic ability.

finished artTo make inexpensive event signs, simply print the titles of the signs on transparency film, trace them onto the top of a piece of foam board or poster board, and fill the outlines in with paint. Once I had the title, I’d use computer print outs to create the images and/or copy I needed for the rest of the sign. Our most popular event sign ever was created this way (and you can see it here).

If I hired a professional printer to have the titles of the sign printed on foam board, it would have cost between $15 – $25 per sign. Since I would typically create 10-15 signs for a large event, it added up pretty quick. On Amazon, transparency film is about $20 per pack of 100, 8.5″ x 11″ sheets. Vinyl letters and/or stencils are another option for creating signs, but they don’t always come with the widest variety of fonts (and they can get a little pricey too).

The overheard projector tracing method does require some time. If you have an event with a small budget and volunteers looking for work, however, you might just consider trying this method. It also works for theater sets and/or murals. Or you can just, you know, whip yourself up some classic art for the fun of it.

katieThis person featured in this post, by the way, is my new part-time assistant Katie! You actually already met her foot in this post, when she was operating a skeleton marionette. Katie was my temporary event assistant for 2 years before I managed to reel her in to work for me on a permanent basis.

So she’s way used to my odd requests and strange job requirements. Such as selecting hundreds of specifically-sized rocks at a local quarry, folding 500 origami hats, helping me shove University students into 8′ cardboard tubes to install archery targets, developing a tax game for kids, locating an Etsy artist who could make a cuddly Ichthyosaur, and dressing up as a Victorian Steampunk spelunker at a Journey to the Centre of the Earth event.

So she was totally game for throwing on a doublet, taping on some construction paper facial hair, and posing as an Old Master. No problemo.


Special thanks to the Lewis Center for the Arts’ costume shop for the doublet and hat loan! Thou rock!

Art at Home

art at homeOver the years, I’ve had parents approach me at my programs and say “I bet you do a ton of art at home with your kids, right?” They are very surprised when I tell them that no, actually, I don’t!

The reason is this. I have a very active son. And I mean active with a capital A. He decided he was done napping when he was 13 months old and celebrated this decision by vaulting out of his crib. I have a younger daughter who puts everything in her mouth. Absolutely everything. So art supplies were not the best match for our active, mouthy little household. My one experiment with crayons resulted in eight decorated walls, and my son referring to my daughter as a “great artist” with something akin to awe in his voice.

This winter, however, I decided that everyone was a little older (and hopefully, a little more careful) and we were ready to try again. I put together a little art studio, in a little house, on a little budget.

I decided that the studio would be in our kitchen, since we already had a second-hand table parked there that had previously been used as a train table for our son. I purchased a couple art caddies from Michaels craft store and parked them on the tabletop.

caddiesInside the caddies are scissors, a glue stick, a hole punch, markers (regular and thin), a tape dispenser (for a good one, see this post), and plastic shape tracers my husband purchased 3 years ago.

We had been using 3 drawers in the kitchen for toy storage. I moved the toys elsewhere and set up art storage.

drawersThe top drawer holds crayons, colored pencils, and regular pencils. The middle drawer holds construction paper and patterned paper. The bottom drawer has sketch pads and white paper. It might seem like overkill to have these supplies divided into three drawers, but I wanted the kids to be able to segregate the supplies easily and put them away on their own (it worked too!).

The final art storage area is located in the bottom of our pantry, which is right next to the art table. Again, I didn’t pack the pantry full of supplies because I wanted the kids to have plenty of room to access the supplies and put them away on their own.

pantryI stocked a canvas bin full of clean recyclables: empty oatmeal containers, cereal boxes, tissue boxes, toilet paper tubes, paper towel tubes, plastic retail packaging, tea tins, etc. Every now and then, I replenish the bin with new stuff. In many ways, it’s a small-scale version of the recyclable program I run at my library. Here’s the canvas “art bin” in action:

art binTucked next to the art bin are containers with Playdoh…

playdohWatercolors (not tempura or finger paint – not quite going there yet) plus extra brushes

watercolorsAnd a miniature version of the Bling Bin, which contains odds and ends like pom-poms, pipe cleaners, a pair of unused shoe laces, ribbon, clothespins, feathers, craft sticks, even those little hook thingees that come on new pairs of socks.

mini bling binAlso in the pantry was the biggest splurge – a huge roll of easel paper for floor projects. But a 40% off coupon really helped knock down the price. In fact, I used Michaels 40% off coupons for all of this stuff, slowly acquiring supplies and stashing them in the basement until the big reveal on New Year’s Day.

So, how did the art studio go over? That morning, my son spent 4 hours in the studio, creating things. He made a roadway with easel paper, a jet pack, a rocket, a drawing of a haunted house, a train map, and a train bird feeder, which he promptly asked me to hang on the porch. These days, he’ll head to the art studio to manufacture his own toys to play with. Here’s a shot of that snazzy train bird feeder. Look at that fancy tape work!

train birdfeederMy daughter favors Playdoh, coloring, and using pom-poms from the Bling Bin in various scenarios around the house (ice cream store, grocery store, some sort of complicated sports game with vague scoring parameters). Often, she can often be found scribbling away at the art table with multiple markers at once. She says this is a drawing of a playground. Can you guess what her two absolutely favorite colors are?

playgroundThis past holiday weekend, we stepped into the studio to create some snazzy submarines with spinning propellers (toilet paper tubes, drinking straws, cereal box cardboard, and plastic medicine cups).

submarinesAnd, continuing with the nautical theme, we also made these boats out of tin foil (that’s sailboat on the left and a rowboat on the right). Then we floated them in the bathroom sink.

boatsIn short, the studio was a success and I didn’t need to invest in something big like an easel, shelving, or even new storage bins to make it work. In fact, I was surprised and delighted to learn that many of the containers and even some of the art supplies were already lurking in the house.

Oh, I can still fantasize about my dream home, where a whole room would be dedicated to art. It would have big windows, a sink, a tile floor, a drying rack, a costume/performance area, a drafting desk, paper mache mobiles hanging from the ceiling, and walls adorned with the cheerful work of my genius children.

But right now, I’m happy with my little kitchen studio, and so are my little artists.