Imagine adding an additional service to your salon that can be performed by anyone with a free pair of hands, no experience required. If your salon is constantly busy, use your polish drying time or any other down time as an opportunity to capitalize on a hot and exciting service—body art.

The same products used in movies or television for more than 15 years are now available to salons, which can offer clients the look of a real tattoo without pain or risk of infection.

Requiring only a small investment of time and money, body art is a great way to increase your salon’s revenue. Doing tattoos on six clients a day can translate into an extra $1,000 a month.

Tattoo vs. Airbrushing

There are two different types of body art you can offer in the salon: temporary tattoos and airbrushed body art. The major difference between them is the equipment used in the process.

Temporary tattoos have the authenticity of a real tattoo. They are transferred to the skin with alcohol and then handpainted. Salons will not have to invest additional equipment to apply the tattoos to a client’s skin.

On the other hand, body art is what I call fantasy artwork. Body paint is applied to the body using an airbrush, stencils, and colour blending techniques.

Both airbrushed body art and temporary tattoo paints are non-toxic, alcohol-based, and waterproof. If the client wants to remove the artwork or tattoo, she can do so with alcohol or baby oil and it will come off instantly.

Although temporary tattoos and airbrushed body art are offered in traditional henna-style designs, these products are distinctly different from traditional henna body art. Henna is a stain that cannot be removed—it must be allowed to wear off. Henna takes anywhere from 3-24 hours to apply, while various forms of temporary body art can be done in as little as 10 minutes.

Building Your Business

Selling body art services is the easy part ... they sell themselves. “I have found cross-promoting with hairdressers in my salon has been a big business builder,” says Luzia Willis of Sorella’s Salon and Day Spa in Missoula, Mont. She places cards and posters on and around the stylists’ stations. When their clients ask questions, Willis takes that opportunity to promote her body art.

Let the manufacturers help too. Body art companies have signs and posters for the salon to use to promote the service. By placing these eye-catching posters in high-traffic areas of the salon or in the front windows, you will create interest and bring more clients into the salon.

Another tried-and-true promotional idea is frequent tattoo cards. Willis offers a punch card to her body art clients. When they reach 10 punches they can redeem the card for a free tattoo.

Deb Brown of Airbrush Café in Helena, Mont., has taken her body art business on the road. “I charge $10 per person for birthday parties. Plus, I charge the party organizer a $15 travel fee to go on location at the party to apply the tattoos,” she says. This part of her business began with events for small children and now consists mainly of events for teenagers.

“I started doing birthday parties by advertising. Now I’m booking new parties before I leave a party location,” says Brown. “To sweeten the deal, I may offer a discounted or even a free tattoo to clients who are moms and might be interested in doing a body art birthday party. This helps them understand what they look like and how they work”

Transferring Temporary Tattoos

Typically a body art technician can charge upwards from $5 for a tattoo design transfer. Charge more for larger designs and additional colours. Tattoos may be retouched after a few days for $1 per colour. Remember, the cost of the design will vary depending on your clientele and the size of the design.

For the design on this page, I charged $7 for the transfer. I used blue over the transfer and red for the accents and charged $2 per colour. It took me less than three minutes to apply this $11 tattoo.


1. First choose the design and colours to be used. (This is sometimes the hardest part of the whole service!) Select a design transfer and colours that match the client’s taste and personality. The colours can be blended into each other, so don’t worry if the client chooses several colours.

2. Next, clean the skin with 70% isopropyl alcohol using a dampened cotton pad or an alcohol prep pad. It is important to use 70% alcohol and not 90% alcohol. A stronger alcohol will make the transfer ink bleed together. Make sure you cleanse thoroughly. If there are traces of oil left on the skin, the tattoo will not wear as long.

3. While the skin is still damp with alcohol, apply the tattoo transfer (ink towards the skin); press firmly. Using the alcohol pad, press the ink onto the skin, then pat it with your fingers. You can tell the tattoo transfer is complete when a small amount of blue has transferred to the alcohol pad. Remove the transfer sheet while it is still damp.

4. Apply a small amount of setting powder.

5. If the transferred image isn’t perfectly solid, it can be touched up with black or blue paint. Adding blue can make the tattoo look even more authentic, because it has a blue-black appearance like a real tattoo.

Now you are ready to add colour to the design. Be sure to shake the paints well. Paint over the transferred image using a range of colours. When applying colour, dip only the bristles of the brush into the paint. (You’ll only need a little paint, and it will be wasted if it dries on the neck of the brush.) Paint the colour directly over the transferred image. It won’t be affected by the presence of other more transparent colours. Between colours, clean the brush by wiping it with the alcohol-soaked cotton pad you used to apply the transfer. Make sure you have removed all of the excess paint before starting a new colour. Apply multiple coats of paint to make colours more vibrant.

6. Finish by dusting the design with a setting powder. It is important to use setting powder specifically made for body art. If the powder contains a perfume, there is a chance it contains oil, which will weaken the colours. The powder will also remove the shine and give it an authentic look.

Airbrushed Body Art

Since body art paint is alcohol-based, it will clog your nail art airbrush. But if you already own an airbrush system, there is no need to purchase any new equipment other than the airbrush itself. Compressors are universal, as are hoses. If the hose doesn’t fit perfectly, adapters can be purchased from the company that produces your airbrush.

When choosing an airbrush for your body art, consider what the airbrush is made of and make sure it is a high-quality material that will last a long time. Does the airbrush have a warranty? Most importantly, be sure the airbrush is recommended for use with body art paint.

Typically a body art technician can charge between $5 and $10 for a single-colour design, depending on the size of the stencil. Be sure to charge accordingly if the design is a larger one. Body artists should charge $3 for each additional colour.

The following design is based in white, which is the first colour (for a $5 charge). Additional colours are red, purple, blue and green ($3 each) for a total of $17. This design only took me five minutes to apply.


1. First, select the body art colours and stencils. Consider the size of the design selected and which colours are needed to complete that design. Lay all your paints and supplies out before you start.

2. Cleanse the area to be painted with 70% isopropyl alcohol.

3. After the skin has dried completely, apply the stencil to the skin. Some stencils have a light medical- grade adhesive on the back to allow them to stick to the skin. This is very helpful, as it allows a free hand to use while airbrushing.

4. I like to base the tattoo with one colour first. Using white to do this will make any additional colours appear brighter and more vibrant. Lightly overlap the colours to produce a beautiful colour fade. Spray using the lightest colours first and then the darkest. To change colours, use a good airbrush cleaner to spray out any remaining paint in the gun. By using the lightest colour first, your airbrush is easier to clean and prevents darker shades from mixing with the lighter colours.

5. Finish the design with a setting powder made specifically for body art.

6. Clean up with airbrush cleaner instead of water. Remember never to mix water with alcohol-based paint, since water will coagulate with the paints and they’ll get gummy. You can use alcohol to wipe down the airbrush and its parts.

Shayna Raymond is a cosmetologist at Faces and Nails Gallery in Rapid City, SD, and an international senior educator for Medea Airbrush Beauty Products in Portland, Oregon.

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