How are Temporary Tattoos produced?

Every one knows the temporary tattoo. This funny product you can buy, or get in an in-pack promotion (magasines, packs of cereals…). Millions and millions of them are sold each year.
Everyone knows the product but do you know how they are produced?

You want to order temporary tattoos with your logo or design? Here are some important guidelines to keep trouble out of your way:

Non toxic and non allergenic ink

The temporary tattoo will be in touch with the skin of children so the first thing to know is that the ink must be non-toxic and non-allergenic. Ask the company who proposed you the temporary tattoos a certificate of an independent international laboratory. if for whatever reason they do not want to supply this document, don’t buy the tattoos from them as most probably they use non certified inks to keep their product cheap.

Tattoos printing process

Two methods of printing exist for temporary tattoos. The first and most serious one is offset printing as per the image. This method guarantees a high quality print which will perfectly transfer to the skin. The tattoos are printed in batches on large offset sheets as per the image below. These offset machines can not print just a few sheets of tattoos. Once the machine is installed and ready with the ink, print plates, etc., the minimum quantity to be printed is 5000 sheets. Printing less sheets would make each sheet far too expensive
The second method used to print temporary tattoos is silkscreen. This method is used for smaller quantities but the result can not be compared with offset printing. The number of dots per inch is far lower for silkscreen printing, so a temporary tattoo with small details will not look good while offset print can get you a real photo quality.
finally, as silkscreen print is often used by small companies, get the guarantee they use safe inks!

temporary tattoo batch

Minimum order quantity

The minimum order quantity for offset print is 5000 pieces, while silkscreen may be done for smaller quantities. Let’s take an example: you want to order 5000 small tattoos with your own design; your tattoo will be printed once on each of the 5000 sheets in a batch. It means that many different temporary tattoos are printed at the same time on the sheet. This can be seen on the image above.
Silkscreen printing allows to produce smaller quantities but with less printing quality.
Some companies will sell you 1000 or 2500 temporary tattoos printed in offset, but it means you’ll pay for 5000 anyway and the remaining tattoos with your design will most probably be used as sales samples for the producer.

Cutting and handling

Next step is the dye cutting process, row after row is cut, one or two hundred sheets at a time with a semi-automatic machine. Then each row is cut to obtain finally piles of 1 or 2 hundred tattoos which are all the same.
Packing must be terribly well organized not to mix tattoos with different designs. client in Australia will not appreciate receiving tattoos for Holland instead of their own.

Production time

An offset machine needs one or two hours to be prepared for printing and will probably print the 5000 sheets within half an hour. So why do tattoo factories need two or three weeks to deliver your tattoos?
A lot of time is necessary to prepare the batch, the file in which all the tattoos on the print sheet are stored. To optimize the sheet there must be no empty space left. Tattoos have several sizes, so it is not easy to fit them all properly on the sheets.

We also put the tattoos in such a way on the sheets that we can easily dye cut them once they’re printed.
Once your image is printed ( reserve printed off course so that it will appear readable on the skin) the glue must be added, this glue will stick the image to the skin. This glue also must be non toxic and non allergic.
from there handling starts, the transparent protection sheets will be added, one by one on each sheet. as shown in the image.

This whole process takes about ten days, add shipping and you have a 2 or 3 weeks delivery time.
For more information about temporary tattoos :