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Next Gen Temporary Tattoos

Jan 3, 2019   |   4 min read

So, you thought that temporary tattoos were meant only for children?

Wrong! Temporary tattoos are being used by corporates and event managers at trade-shows-for fundraising, for charities, for employee motivation, for family fun days etc.

Temporary tattoos are now moving to the next level with the introduction of new technology. 

Let’s explore a few areas where temp tattoos are using breakthrough technology.

  • Temporary Tattoos as next-gen fitness wearables and bio-monitors
  • Temporary Tattoos as next-gen biobatteries
  • Temporary Tattoos as a touch-sensitive interface
  • Temporary Tattoos with QR codes for promotion

Temporary Tattoos as a touch-sensitive interface Temporary Tattoos with QR codes for promotion

1. Temporary Tattoos as next-gen fitness wearables and bio-monitors

color-change-biosensor-next-gen-temporary-tattoo on woman's arm
Color Change in Bio-sensor Temporary Tattoos Relay Health Status Image via Firsteatright

Current fitness wearables provide interesting fitness information to users, but they suffer from limitations such as battery life and a need for wireless connectivity.

Researchers at MIT have developed biosensitive inks, that can be applied on skin as temporary tattoo biosensors. The ink changes color depending on the body’s interstitial fluids. For instance, green ink changes to brown color if the glucose concentration increases. The biosensor can also monitor hydration levels in the body.

Though the research is still in the initial stages, this tech can be especially useful to athletes who need performance and health monitoring, astronauts and diabetics.

Nano-tech engineers at UC San Diego are in the process of testing temporary tattoos that can both extract and measure blood-glucose levels from the fluid found between skin cells.

These tattoos can also precisely track blood alcohol levels and wirelessly relay the readings to a laptop or mobile device. The device is worn like a temporary tattoo and picks up on alcohol levels in sweat within 15 minutes of being applied to the skin.

Ultra-thin electronic Temporary Tattoos

Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University in the US have developed highly flexible, ultra-thin tattoo-like circuits using an off the shelf printer.  A desktop printer is used to print traces of silver nanoparticles on temporary tattoo paper. The particles are coated with a thin layer of gallium indium alloy that increases electrical conductivity and makes the circuit more robust. These tattoos are utra-thin, very stretchable and inexpensive to produce.

Applications for ultrathin, compliant tattoos include epidermal biomonitoring, soft robotics, flexible displays, and 3D-transferable printed electronics.

2. Temporary Tattoos as next-gen biobatteries

man on an exercise cycle sports a  temporary tattoo which uses sweat to generate power
Temporary Tattoo uses Sweat to generate power. Image source – Joe Wang, American Chemical Society

Researchers in California have developed a device that can monitor your workout progress and generate power from your perspiration. In 2014, Dr. Joseph Wang and his team at UC San Diego presented their invention at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco. It works by measuring a chemical called lactate that is naturally present in sweat. The more intense the workout, the more lactate your body produces. Prior to this development, the only way to measure lactate was with a blood test, an invasive and inconvenient process. The sensor also strips electrons from lactate to generate a small electrical current. Wang hopes the device can eventually power a smart watch or heart rate monitor.

Check out the detailed video here.

3. Temporary Tattoos as a touch-sensitive interface

circuit golden metallic temporary-tattoos-as-a-touch-sensitive-interface on an arm
DuoSkin Temporary Tattoos
Image via NewAtlas

Imagine a scene straight out of a Bond movie or the Mission Impossible series. With a stylish customized tattoo, you could remotely control devices, pay for a coffee or open a door, all at the wave of your hand.
Sounds far-fetched?
In 2016, Microsoft and MIT joined forces to develop a fabrication process that turned gold leaf temporary tattoos into just such a touch-sensitive interface, named DuoSkin. With wireless communication capabilities, the DuoSkin design can function essentially as a skin-based remote control for whatever can be remotely controlled.

man with motorola temporary tattoo on arm to unlock moto-x
Motorola’s Digital Temporary Tattoo replaces the PIN
Image via Smithsonianblog

4.  Temporary Tattoos with QR codes for promotion

A phone scans a QR-code-temporary-tattoo on woman's chest
QR Code Temporary Tattoos
Image via Etsy

A QR (Quick Response) Code is a bar code that can be created easily and at a low-cost, allowing the smartphone user to scan the code to provide access to a website, video, promotional campaign etc.
Now Temporary Tattoos can be customized with QR codes which when scanned lead the user to interesting content related to the brand. These tattoos are unique conversational starters and memorable. Brands can use these as swag at conferences, trade-shows and other promotional events.

Would your brand be open to using next-gen temporary tattoos?  Do write in to us at or in the comment section below.



Rekha is content strategist and editor at Gumtoo. Rekha is an art and craft enthusiast, she likes working with mixed mediums such as clay, glass and tiles. Fluent in 5 languages, she plans to learn French someday.

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