We're going to approach this from a different angle than most tutorials would take. My background is in the sign business, and cut vinyl is the medium we use 99% of the time today for sign work. Because of my experience with handling and applying vinyl that way, my methods are a bit unorthodox compared to the rest of the body art world. But they work. And the proof of that? I've applied thousands of tattoos over the past couple of years, and I haven't screwed up a single tattoo.

The first thing I'm going to recommend is that you somehow obtain a little tool called a squeegee. (Click here to see the kind I recommend.) We also offer them for sale. In lieu of the exact same tool, you can subsitute anything with a smooth, firm edge that's slightly flexible. (A Pampered Chef pot scraper or a large grout shaper is a good substitute.) We're going to first use the squeegee as a little help with peeling the backing paper off the stencil. Place the stencil face-up on a solid flat surface and pass the squeegee over the top layer with a few firm strokes. This helps the vinyl surface to re-adhere to the transfer tape if the stencil has been sitting for awhile. Now flip the stencil over (face-down) and catch a corner of the backing paper with your fingernail. Pull the paper away by curling it up and back, away from the vinyl surface. Try REALLY hard not to touch the back of the vinyl itself; your glittery, mica-y fingers will affect the adhesion wherever you touch. Keep a finger on the exposed corner of the tape if you need to hold the stencil down. (Now you know why I put a scalloped dip in all four corners of my stencils!)

Warn the client that from this point they need to hold really still. (With younger kids, Mom or Dad might need to help with this.) Place the stencil on the cleansed area, and press it down. Now (believe it or not) we're going to use the squeegee on the stencil. You're NOT going to hurt anyone! I've done this with people of all ages, on all parts of the body (except the lower back, around the arm for armbands, and . . . the one we talked about earlier), and no one as much as winced. You want to pull the squeegee downward over the stencil, that is, from the top of the arm or leg toward the bottom. You're going perpendicular to the curve or the arm or leg, in other words. The skin, and the tissue under it, will naturally flatten out as you do this. A few passes will do the trick.

Now, take a fingernail and do an edge seal. Gently scratch the fingernail around the edges of the image, paying attention to small detached pieces inside of the design. (You can also use the curved corner of the squeegee for this.) Then pick up a corner of the transfer tape and slowly pull the tape up until you have one entire edge of the tape away from the stencil. This should be a left-hand or right-hand edge, because you want to peel the rest of the tape away ACROSS the curve or the arm or leg, perpendicular to the direction of your squeegee passes. Don't pull the tape upward; instead roll it off away from the stencil surface. If part of the stencil decides it wants to ride along, roll the tape back down, use your fingernail again to scratch the errant stencil piece back onto the skin. This takes practice, and despite your best efforts at skin cleansing you're still going to run into difficulties occasionally. The lower back is especially contrary because you're dealing with a slightly concave surface. Sometimes you have to peel an inch, push it down, peel another inch, push it down. At least twice, I've had to pull a stencil off a client with REALLY oily skin and use a second one, but usually the first stencil and its tape will help pull off a lot of the residual oil.

Let's make magic with the fairy dust!