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How Long Do Temporary Tattoos Last?

I remember when I tried to make my very first temporary tattoo transfers. I ordered my waterslide paper from Frend's Beauty Supply in Los Angeles. I edited my image in Photoshop to give it a faded, realistic look...not too black, not too blue...flipped the image, and printed it on my waterslide paper. I stuck the paper down to my skin and pressed a wet rag against it, eagerly awaiting the results of my newfound skill. I slowly pulled the paper back to reveal....

....a wet inky mess of nothing.

I was so disappointed. I later spoke with a rep at Frend's complaining that their tattoo transfer paper didn't work. He was surprised to hear this as it is one of their most popular items. I must have done something wrong. I tried everything I could think of. I coated my skin in prosthetic adhesive thinking this might give the image something to grab onto. It didn't work completely, but I was on the right track.

It was around that time that I was invited to join a Facebook group called "Neill Gorton's make-up FX 911".

This group changed my life.

I found a post from someone else who was having similar issues. Another member posted the instructions on how to successfully create a tattoo transfer. By coating the treated side of the accompanying acetate with Pros-Aide, you hold the tattoo together and it transfers beautifully.

The tattoo on her hand and the cards on her shoulder were done with the bad ink. I had to airbrush over them to save them.

It is advised that you print your tattoos on a laser printer. However, my Epson WP-4530 (inkjet) and I created some awesome tattoos together. Then, one day, I did my printer wrong. In an attempt to save a few bucks, I used some cheap off-brand ink in her. She wept tears of black ink....all over my documents. She hasn't been the same since.

Not to mention that the ink refused to sink into coated waterslide paper, resulting in the inky watery mess that I started with.

In desperation, I went back to my trusty Neill Gorton group and looked around for some help. A few people suggested applying a couple of coats of Green Marble Selr to the paper before printing. This worked OK, but the ink sat on the surface of it instead of sinking in. Left out to dry overnight, it seemed to do the trick. It's not perfect, but it'll do until I can get a new printer.

All of these tattoos are fake and were done for "A Very Sordid Wedding". It took about an hour to get all 20 of his tattoos applied and sealed.

I was curious to see how the Green Marble affected the longevity of the tattoos, so I applied a couple and documented the results. These are some tattoos I made for a friend who has a mermaid business. She needed to make sure they would last in chlorinated water. Still waiting to hear about the results of her testing.


July 9, 2018

My friend replied with this (edited for typos): "They lasted through five hours of swimming in a salt pool and then two more hours in chlorine without a bit of damage! Thanks Shelly! We will be ordering a BUNCH very soon." Yay!

Below are the results of mine. :)

The first three were taken right after application. After that, I took one photo per day for seven days. I would have gone longer, but I had a funeral to attend and didn't think it would be appropriate to show up with severely aging temporary tattoos. You can see that the side of my arm that constantly rubbed against my clothes wore away and picked up dirt faster than the other side. Also, I forgot about them in the shower a couple of times and scrubbed with a cloth. I may try this experiment again someday on my upper arm or something.

In the meantime, let me know if you need some custom temporary tattoos and I'll be glad to help! You can see more at

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