Freehand Glitter Tattoo Tutorial

Because of their impressive size and mesmerizing sparkle, freehand tattoos are becoming more and more popular and today I would like to show you how to get started.

Speaking for myself, I often end up doing nothing else but freehand tattoos at an event, asking myself why I did all the packing and set up for my other services like face painting?

It seems as soon as I show up with a freehand tattoo on myself (or finish up on my first customer the very latest)  people are fascinated and soon there’s a bunch of spectators which will turn into customers. If the event is slow I usually paint my event neigbours to the left and right and across to get potential customers drafted over (and a complimentary snow cone from their booth, that's just how it goes...). 

Then the finished first customers will be mingling at the festival and will be are asked “where did you get that?” and will get referred to my booth and so on. One of these tattoos like shown above, takes me about 5-6 Minutes to finish and depending on the event I charge 15-20$ for it.

The clients seem to accept the prices easier than for face painting because the glitter tattoo stays on for days, still looking pretty, unlike paint that washes off in the shower (and already smears up with the first snack they grab after my booth). Not to mention that no client comes back for a touch up, if anything they come back to grab a business card! It seems these tattoos are popular for all ages and all genders (yes, men stand in line too!

Last Saturday I did a green and orange tribal dolphin on a guy and he came back with his friends that were getting a big clef in blue glitter and an arm tribal in black glitter). Also I had an elderly lady getting one for herself, after she hung out around the booth finally asking me shy if I could paint her a white swan in glitter for church tomorrow? Of course I did!

Freehand Glitter tattoos are so easy to personalize and adapt to wishes. You can play with design sizes or color, you don’t have to necessarily carry around a bulky folder of stencils (doesn’t it always seem that some stencils are never sold and some you run always out of….). I still keep some for wiggly little kids but I started to use freehand on them too. They stop to wiggle instantly! Try it! They watch what you are doing with your brush on their arm like its magic, because they can’t see it, like secret ink. Look in their faces when you start to swirl the glitter around; pure joy!

So let’s get started!

Materials Need:

An old clean flat paint brush ½”
Rubbing alcohol

Pros-Aide Adhesive
Opaque cosmetic glitter, any colors you like

Kabuki brush
A glass jar


Optional Materials:

Small shallow container, like an old paint lid
A crumb of any dark standard face paint


Freehand Glitter Tattoo Tutorial

I like to carry my rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle because a little bit goes a lot way. To get set up I get every item ready on a table. I pour a little bit of the rubbing alcohol into my glass or jar, not too much, just enough to reach the ferrule.

I recommend you use your old face painting brushes or cheap brushes for this because this procedure will destroy your brushes over time. Then when a customer is ready to be painted, I pour some of the Pros aide adhesive in the shallow lid, not much – also here, little goes a long way, and you can always pour more if needed.

Start with about a teaspoon. You can use a crumb of face paint to stain the adhesive to make it easier to see where you have already painted. Just stir it around with the brush until the liquid shows a light tint and then push the crumb in a corner of the lid or work around it. I personally don’t do it because I feel it is not needed and also –frankly- I like the surprise effect when the glitter turns “nothing visible” into an impressive design in a second.

While you are talking with your customer about the design they want; “So you like flowers? Would you like a rose today?”…you are already cleaning up their arm, spraying it with alcohol and letting it dry or rubbing lightly with your cloth or a wipe. Then, you portion a bit of adhesive and use the decision making time to stir around that crumb of paint (if you think you need it). Take your brush out of the alcohol and dab it dry on your cloth, dip only up to the ferrule into in the adhesive and paint away.

Of course you can use all brushes you desire to use, or even the wand that comes in the little ½ oz bottles of pros-aide. Using a flat brush only is just how I am doing it my way. I like to do everything in tribal style because anything that has less definition will not show the same effect as a finished product. The SHAPE of the applied adhesive will have to define what it is, not the color of the glitter. Should you feel insecure to deliver actual design requests, like: “I want a tiger”, then just offer swirls and teardrops in different sizes to start with. The only thing you have to do to get a pleasant result is to always keeping your lines sharp and well defined.

This is one simple but very impressive design that you could easily learn for the beginning. Step by step, see picture:

This step by step was painted in white paint to make it more visual. If you paint with actual adhesive, the liquid will turn sticky and the lines disappear while you are painting. As a rule of thumb; the less liquid you use, respectively the thinner the layer of adhesive on the skin, the faster it will be ready to apply glitter and the better the tattoo will hold up later.

When you’re finished painting, wait until every drop of adhesive is tacky (clear and shiny) and no milky spots are left. Put your paint brush back into the alcohol and let it sit in there (you'll have to remove a skin of rubbery Pros Aide from it before your next customer, I usually just rub along the bristles with my fingernail and dip it back into the alcohol). Meanwhile all your painted on adhesive should be clear. If you need to help you can simply fan the wet area with your hand or a battery operated hand fan if you want to appear fancy (but this is really not necessary if you apply thinly). See the last 2 milky drops on this design?

…after those drops turn clear you, put a towel to catch excess glitter underneath your customers arm and poof on your glitters. Try to vary your colors to complement each other and the design and only use as much glitter as needed.

Then swirl the glitter around with a kabuki brush in circular motion and watch how everything comes together!

Don’t forget to inform the customer how to remove the tattoo. I have it printed (just like for face paint) on the back of my business card - it reads: “Glitter Tattoos will hold up 5-7 days and usually just wear away after about a week, should you need to remove, this can be done using lotion, oil or rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball”

There is no limit to your imagination, you can play with the complexity of the actual design, with the colors of your glitters or add gemstones or even jewel clusters.