Decorate a Sweatshirt With Your Tattoo Using HTV and Leonardo™ Pro

If you’re like me (or several other people here at Siser® North America), then you may have a little ink. No, I’m not talking about printers or EasyColor™ DTV™, I’m talking about tattoos! Getting “inked up” is a great way to use your body as a canvas so you can express yourself in the most personal way possible.

However, when the winter months roll around, layering up to stay warm can come at the expense of covering up our beautiful inky art. It’s a bit of a bummer to hide those tattoos for several months at a time… but what if you didn’t have to?

Thanks to Siser heat transfer vinyl, you can wear your tattoos and keep them on display all winter long! And with the power of Leonardo™ Design Studio Pro, it’s easy to recreate geometric, line-based art. So, say “goodbye” to saying goodbye to your ink, because I’m about to show you how to decorate a sweatshirt with your tattoo— using my own forearm tattoo as a demonstration!


Photographing a Tattoo

Before I get to inking up my clothes, I’ll first need to convert my body art into a digital cut file. If you’re fortunate enough to have an SVG or other vector-based file of your tattoo… you’re in luck! You can import your cut file directly into Leonardo Design Studio and skip to the end of this blog.

But if you’re like me and never requested a digital file of your tattoo (whoops), you’ll need to recreate it first. Don’t worry— the tools in Leonardo Pro make this a fairly simple process!

In order to digitally recreate my tattoo, I’ll need a good photo of it that is as flat as possible. I’ll place my arm on a flat surface and keep it still and relaxed. Then I’ll use my phone’s camera to get it into frame as straight as I can. If your tattoo is somewhere you can’t easily see (like on your back), you may need to ask a friend for help.

Photo of an arm tattoo.

It’s OK if the photo isn’t absolutely perfect. Our bodies are made up of curvy, organic shapes which typically warp our tattoos. As long as the picture is clear and captures the entire tattoo, we’ll be able to “fudge” the recreation to our liking!

Setting Up Leonardo Pro

Once the photo is taken, it needs to be sent over to a PC or Mac® running Leonardo Pro. I typically like to email photos to myself, but you can also use a photo sharing service like Google Photos.

With the photo now on my computer, I’ll go ahead and fire up Leonardo Design Studio and select the File > Import option. After finding my photo, I’ll hit “Import”.

Importing tattoo image into Leonardo.

A new window appears with some Import Options. Selecting the “Background Image” option and clicking “Next” will drop the photo right onto a blank Art Board. I’ll uncheck the “Print and Cut job” checkbox on the right side of the screen and resize the image to fit within the borders of the Art Board.

Resizing tattoo image in Leonardo.

With the photo properly imported, I’m ready to digitally recreate my tattoo!

Recreating a Tattoo

Now it’s time to digitize the tattoo! Leonardo Pro hosts a suite of tools that make recreating geometric and line art tattoos possible, like the one on my forearm. Let’s try them out!

Creating Straight Lines

I’ll start with the arrow at the top of my tattoo. To create the “stem” of the arrow, I’ll hover over the Draw Shapes tool and select the Create Square option to draw a rectangle that’s roughly the width and length of what I see in the photo. Look at that— the first step is already done!

Drawing a rectangle in Leonardo.

Now I’ll switch over to the Vector Brush tool to create the arrowheads, which feature ends that are a bit more rounded. Since I’ll be drawing perfectly straight lines, I’ll check the “Line” box in the tool pop-up. The number box to the right can also be adjusted to increase or decrease the thickness to the desired size. With a few click-and-drags, I’ve added a couple of arrowheads to my tattoo design!

Using the Vector Brush tool to draw lines in Leonardo.

While I’m still in the Vector Brush tool, I’ll go ahead and create the two horizontal lines underneath the arrows as well.

Creating Rings

Next up, we’ve got a hollowed-out circle… otherwise known as a ring. Using the Draw Shapes tool again, I’ll select the Create Circle option this time. Clicking and dragging while holding the Shift key will keep the proportions even, resulting in a perfect circle! I’ll scale the circle to roughly match the size seen in the photo. But wait a minute… this is a solid circle! No worries— we’ll hollow it out in just a couple of easy steps.

After making sure only the circle is selected, I’ll copy and paste it in place (Ctrl+C, then Ctrl+Z). With my new circle now selected on top, I’ll change the color so I can get a better idea of how the ring will look once hollowed out. Now I’ll click and drag while holding Shift from one of the corners to keep the proportions locked again as I scale the circle down. I can now adjust the inner circle appropriately until the outer circle appears to be the proper “thickness”.

Creating a ring by "punching out" a circle.

Once the two circles are sized accordingly, I’ll select both, hover over the Weld tool, and select the Remove Front option. The top circle will “punch out” the bottom circle, creating a ring shape that looks just like the one in my tattoo!

Ring shape created by "punching out" a circle in Leonardo.

Creating Dotted Paths

So, we can make straight lines, arrows, and rings. But what about the dotted circles? I could create a bunch of tiny circles and arrange them into the appropriate spot one-by-one. But that sounds more painful than getting the tattoo itself.

Instead, I’m going to use a little “hack” to speed this process up.

First, I’ll create a circle that’s roughly the same size as the dotted one and convert it to a stroke. Then with the circle selected. I’ll hover over the Text Tool and select Text on Path. A new window is brought up that allows me to type text that follows the shape of the circle.

Since I need a bunch of tiny circles, I’ll choose Arial Round from the Font Style tab and then type a bunch of periods until the circle is completely outlined with them. I’ll tweak the font size and number of periods a bit until I’m satisfied, then click Apply.

Creating a dotted circle using the Text on Path Tool.

I can now see that the circle is surrounded with a new, dotted circle. I’ll simply click the original circle, delete it, and… viola! I now have a perfect ring of dots that I can move into place.

Creating Triangles

The steps I’ve covered so far are enough to recreate most of the shapes in my tattoo. But there’s still a few more that need to be covered!

Moving down the tattoo, I have a triangle intersecting a couple of circles. Creating the triangle is as simple as using the Pen Tool to draw straight lines to three different points. But if you want a “perfect” triangle, there’s a hack for that too!

Hovering over the Draw Shapes tool reveals the Create Custom Star option. Clicking anywhere on the artboard brings up a window that allows me to change the points and radii of the star. If I drop the points down to 3, the preview will now show a perfect triangle! After all, a triangle really is just a three-pointed star. (Perhaps my most controversial statement yet)

Creating a triangle using the Custom Star Tool.

Since the triangle is also hollowed out, I’ll follow the same steps above to “punch out” the fill, creating a triangle outline.

You may have noticed that the lines of the triangle in my tattoo are broken or dotted at certain points. Is this possible to recreate as well? Yes! I’ll simply select the Eraser Tool and check the “Line” box. After adjusting the thickness of the brush, I can then easily slice through the triangle in the appropriate areas to achieve that broken-line look.

Creating line breaks in a triangle using the Eraser Tool.

Creating Half-Shapes

There’s one more shape I need to cover, and that’s the “swoosh” that goes across the largest circle in my tattoo. This is a bit of an odd half-shape, but by using the same methods as before, recreating this will be quick!

I’ll start with the Create Circle tool to make an oval that’s roughly the same size as the swoosh. Then I’ll use the same “punch out” method from earlier to create the a hollowed out version. I’m already almost done!

Creating a "swoosh" shape in Leonardo.

Since the “swoosh” in my tattoo is not a complete shape, I’ll use the Eraser Tool once more to get rid of sections of the oval that aren’t needed.

Slicing the "swoosh" using the Eraser Tool.

Believe it or not— those are all the methods I need to complete this geometric tattoo! All of the lines, arrows, circles, triangles, swooshes, and dots seen here can be recreated using just 7 tools in Leonardo Pro. Rather than bore you with the steps for making each and every shape from my tattoo, I’ll skip ahead to finished result.

Finishing Up

Full tattoo design recreated in Leonardo.

Ta-da! My line art tattoo has been digitized! I can now resize it and edit it, but there’s still one last step that needs to be done before it’s ready to be cut. I’ll select the entire design and hit the Weld tool so that it’s turned into one continuous layer. To double check that my design was properly welded, I’ll hit the “W” key to quickly switch over to Wireframe View.

Finished tattoo design in wireframe view.

Looking good— now it’s prepped for my Romeo® or Juliet® cutter!

I’d personally like my design to be as close to my tattoo as possible, so I’m going to use a thin, matte HTV for this application. EasyWeed® Matte Black is the perfect product for the job!

I’ll load the EasyWeed into my cutter, send the design (mirrored!), and weed the finished result.

And now it’s time for the final step. I’ll take my hoodie and arrange the underside of the left sleeve face-up on the heat press platen. EasyWeed is applied at a temperature of 305°F/150°C with medium pressure for about 15 seconds.

Just like any other heat application, I’ll pre-press the garment to remove any wrinkles or moisture. Then I’ll arrange my tattoo design onto the sleeve, roughly aligned to mimic the position of my actual tattoo on my forearm. Now I’ll cover it with some parchment paper and press it for 15 seconds, followed by a hot peel.

The Result

So, how did it turn out? Take a look!

Wearing sweatshirt with tattoo design applied to sleeve.
This is totally a candid shot of me and not staged at all.

Now I can have my work of body art on display whenever I want— even during those frigid Michigan months! This is just one more way that Siser HTV allows you to express your personality no matter that situation.

Want to watch us recreate this tattoo using the steps above? Check out our YouTube tutorial below!

What do you think of my geometric tattoo “sleeve”? Do you have a line art tattoo you want to try this with? Or do you perhaps want to see a follow-up blog post with a more complex tattoo? Let me know in the comments below!