The Magic Brush team had been approached to complete one of their most exciting projects to date! In October 2017, we were approached by the Auckland Theatre company to cut and create a full back tattoo of a serpent on actor Ryan Carter for their upcoming thrilling play Red Speedo at the ASB Waterfront Theatre. The show is written by award winning Lucas Hnath and directed by Benjamin Henson. Working with their in-house graphic designer and ours, we came up with the design and technically worked out how to cut and apply the full back tattoo with a stencil. Due to the nature of this production, there were a few technical issues in the brief that needed to be addressed when finding the best solution.

The brief:

Design a temporary tattoo solution for a 3 week show, ideally tattoo to last a minimum of 2-3 days.
Temporary Tattoo must be waterproof for media shots as well as on-stage performance.
Tattoo must be able to be removed easily and not irritate actor’s skin during application or removal.
Tattoo size = full back and should wrap around one leg of actor’s as well as integrate with his existing leg tattoo.

A lot of research and development went into the final planning and execution of this tattoo. We decided to use alcohol based inks for temporary tattoos that were specially developed to last 3-5 days of application with the right care. Something we also needed to take into consideration, was that the actor would be working out & exercising throughout the show, to keep up the appearance of his physique. Sweating and rubbing would affect the longevity of the paint, so we needed to conduct some testing to figure out how viable this option was. Application of baby powder onto the tattoo after application and everyday would prevent the tattoo from rubbing as much and fading.

Application and testing:

We had to take body measurements of the actor, we did this using plastic wrap to map out the contours of the body.
We tested some to-scale printed tattoos to figure out the best size and positioning for the tattoo.
We edited the stencil design after the first application, to ensure correct positioning & best fit to the brief.
Our graphic designer converted the pdf version of the tattoo into the stencil cutting software and scaled it accordingly.

We cut the stencil in A4 sheets (9x sheets) meaning we could tweak the stencil upon application and also so that the size of the stencil was a bit more manageable.
The final cut stencil had some overlapping designs to ensure the stencil matched up perfectly when applying.

Working with stencils are tricky, especially something like the scale of this one! The final stencil had to be tested a few times to ensure the correct positive spaces were cut out and converted and to also ensure all the lines were attached and did not fall out.
Our first complete tattoo trial on the actor was stressful, we had two hours to complete application before his media call & photo shoot for promo at the pools. Stuff.co.nz was also present, doing a time-lapse video of our application – no pressure! We had no option but to get it right the first go!
Our first application went really well & everyone was impressed with the outcome, the tattoo also held up really well in the pools.
We decided on an application every 3 days for the final show, upon testing the longevity of the stencils on the actor.
Once we had worked out all the kinks of the tattoo design & cutting, application following that was a breeze.

This method of custom cutting and designing stencils, and painting on the tattoos with airbrushed inks was a great way to ensure continuity of the tattoo application on our actor each day. This also ensured easy application and removal. We were worried going down the temporary tattoo transfer path and the work involved in removing the tattoo and scrubbing the actors skin after 3-4 days. This project has really revolutionized the way we can think about continuity for film, commercials, theatre and waterproof tattoo solutions. Our Custom Cut Stencils – Airbrushed Temporary Tattoos are a great solution for our clients wanting custom created temporary tattoo solutions for their productions.

We look forward to helping add a touch of Magic to your next project, inquire within!

Video by Paul Menezes from Dreamscope Media