Everyone and their mothers and their grandmothers have tattoos these days! The days of tattoos being “job-stoppers” are over and you probably have at least one, yourself. If you don’t and you’re on this page… c’mon we know you want to join the club! At the beginning of everyone’s tattoo journey, there comes a time when they stop and ask the internet, “What even is a flash tattoo?” Clearly, that’s where you’re at, and we’re here to help. You’ve probably heard this “flash” word thrown around a bunch now and maybe you even have a bit of an idea of what it means, but we can tell you’re looking for a full-blown breakdown of this “flash tattoo” concept. We’ve got you here at HUSH, and we are going to teach you everything there is to know about flash tattoos below.
What Is a Flash Tattoo?
A flash tattoo is a design that is ready to be tattooed immediately. Flash tattoos come as you see them. An artist usually has a sheet or a book with their flash designs in it. Typically, they are tattoos that are popular among people. On this note, you might have heard the term “flash sheet” before. This is a piece of paper that has a bunch of flash designs all together on it. You can look through all the designs at once and choose what you want. Have you ever seen those flash sheets for Halloween or Friday the 13th? Usually, artists will offer a variety of spooky designs with a set size and for a set price. This is a great example of what flash is. On the other days of the year, the designs are usually a mix of classic designs, trendy designs, and the artist’s particular style. Multiple people can pick the same flash design and get it tattooed. This is the thing about flash. Flash isn’t too unique and that means you and someone else can have the same tattoo. Side Note: What Is a Set Price or Set Size? You caught that too, huh? A set price or size is something that’s price or size is already decided. Ex: “This 5-inch tattoo has a set price of $200” or “This tattoo has a set size — it’s for palms only at a price of $150.”
Who Creates Flash Tattoos?
Flash tattoos are created by the artist. Well, mostly. Mira, if a design is simple enough they may have copied it from another person's flash sheet. A good artist can copy a design easily, especially a flash design, if it’s in their style — that said, most artists will choose to create their own designs versus taking someone else’s.
Are There Different Types of Flash Tattoos?
As tattoos become more popular and socially acceptable, more styles of tattoos have emerged. There is some debate, in the tattoo world, about flash. Typically, flash is seen as classic designs that are common for customers to ask for. Nowadays, you will see artists offering flash that looks nothing like the flash sheets that come up when you look in Google images. They are more stylized or they offer one or two designs that they call “flash” that are bigger or more complex than classic flash. We are going to break down the difference between typical and stylized flash for you, but bear in mind these aren’t official industry terms that people use. We are just using “typical” and “stylized” to help you differentiate as you learn, and we hope it helps!
Typical flash is the kind of flash you see when you google “flash sheet.” You may also have seen typical flash when artist posts their Friday the 13th or Halloween flash sheets on their Instagrams. They are small designs that are fairly easy to tattoo and the subject matter is pretty common. We’re talking pairs of dice, cherries, spider webs, roses, horseshoes, martini glasses, stars, lips, arrows, skulls, butterflies, and the list goes on. You mostly see typical flash at shops that handle a lot of walk-in clients or have newer tattoo artists. These are great money-makers to fill in an artists’ time ni between scheduled appointments. Flash tattoos are also a great way for a newer artist to get comfortable tattooing.
We are coining the term “stylized flash.” We don’t know if anyone has said it before… but we’re claiming it anyway! Stylized flash is when an artist has a few designs or a sheet of designs that they have created and want to tattoo. These designs are different from typical flash because they usually aren’t typical! Also, artists sometimes reserve the designs for a one-time tattoo. Meaning they won’t tattoo the design twice. If more than one person wants that design, they might do a similar version of it but not the same exact design. Artists offer stylized flash usually because they want to tattoo start tattooing more of that certain style. Or simply because they made a sick design and they want to show it to the world!
Why Is It Called “Flash” Tattoo?
Mmmm, there isn’t a great answer for this. Sorry. If you do some internet searching or ask your tattoo friends, they might tell you stories. There’s one about the illicit days of tattooing and some circus person quickly flashing tattoo designs to customers in between avoiding the cops. The circus-cops-flashing story is way more fun, but we think it probably has something to do with the meaning of the word flash. Maybe it’s from “flashy.” Tattoo artists create sheets of flashy designs and post them up on their walls to drive customers in. It could also be that flash means “done in a flash” because flash tattoos are typically quick designs. There’s another tall tale behind this one. Saying that tattoos were mostly done on sailors who would come into town for the day and want a quick tattoo “done in a flash.” We’re going to leave it up to you to decide on this one.
What Is the Difference Between a Flash Tattoo and a Custom Tattoo?
Easy — a flash tattoo is a pre-made design and a custom tattoo is specifically designed for a customer using an idea the customer brings in. Flash tattoos are ready to go. Custom tattoos have a longer process. A custom tattoo starts with a customer approaching an artist with a concept, the artist draws up their interpretation of the customers' idea, the artist and customer adjust whatever the customer wants different, and only then do they start the tattooing. With flash, you can just walk in, point to a design, and get tattooed immediately.
Are Flash Tattoos Cheaper?
Most times, a flash tattoo will be cheaper than a custom tattoo. Custom tattoos take more time to think about and design and readjust depending on the customers' opinions. A flash tattoo is pre-made and ready to go. Maybe if you want some finger dots, that will be cheaper than flash. Otherwise, flash is a great way to go if you have tattoo cravings but you’re on a budget.
What’s the Point of Flash Tattoo?
A flash tattoo is an awesome idea if you are overwhelmed with the number of possibilities there are for a tattoo but you know you want a tattoo and you want it now! A flash takes away the many choices you have when creating a custom tattoo but can be a nice relief for some of you who are looking for less choice, more tattoos. If it’s your first tattoo (aw! yay!) getting a flash tattoo can be a great introduction to the feeling of getting a tattoo. If you don’t want to jump into getting a full back piece then getting a small flash design is a great way to introduce yourself to how it feels. Pero like, getting a tattoo doesn’t have to be painful to validate the experience. The tattoo world has come a long way, and it’s why HUSH exists. We have creams and sprays and gels that serve as topical aesthetics to help make tattooing less painful. Less ouch, more art. Check out our line of numbing products here — for newbies and veterans, alike.
If you are on a shorter vacation and you find an artist in the same town that you love – get one of their flash tattoos! It can help make a memory of a place you love.
Why Do Artists Do Flash?
A tattoo artist will do flash for a number of reasons. They might be trying to gain experience, save time, make extra money, or do more of a certain style. New artists might start only tattooing easy flash to gain experience. Doing flash tattoos can help an artist learn to tattoo without risking messing up a more complex design on a client. Some artists choose to only do flash or their stylized flash in order to save time. They might be working other projects or jobs and not have time to do custom tattoos but still want to keep tattooing. Flash can also be a great way for artists to make some extra money between scheduled appointments or on slow days. If an artist is offering stylized flash tattoos they might be trying to shift the type of tattoo styles they usually do. Sometimes artists create a bunch of stylized designs and offer them for a lower price point so they can try out a new style or skill.
That’s All, Folks!
You know the what, why, how, and more of flash tattoos now — from what a flash tattoo is, to who makes it, what the difference between flash and other types of tattoos, and why people make flash, you are officially a flash expert. The next step is adding some flash to your own collection! Go support your favorite local artist, and don’t forget to grab some tattoo numbing gel before you stop in 😉 Sources: Why is Tattoo Flash Called Flash? | Reddit r/traditionalflash Flash | Cambridge English Dictionary Topical Anesthesia | NCBI