What Is A Flash Tattoo?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on August 17, 2019
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

If this is your first tattoo, you’re probably overwhelmed trying to decide what to get. Flash tattoos are the perfect solution for when you can’t think of a specific idea for your upcoming ink. They’re also great if you’re simply looking to simply get a classic design or a small one-off piece.

A flash tattoo is an image of a tattoo pre-drawn and pre-colored. You just point at the print, and that’s what you get. The convenience makes flash tattoos an easy and popular choice.

A flash tattoo is:

  • A pre-made design
  • Generic
  • Easy to get in one session

Types of Flash Tattoos

Flash tattoos are pre-made designs you’ll find on poster, prints and books at a tattoo parlor. There are two types of flash tattoos:

  • Market
  • Collector

Market Flash Tattoo

A market flash tattoo is a set of popular and classic designs that are usually of things like infinity signs, hearts, roses and pop culture references. You’ll find these in lobby books or hanging on the walls of tattoo parlors. 

What’s great about market flash tattoos is that they’re easy and can be completed in just one sitting. They’re generic and recycled, but sometimes you just want to get a simple heart, and that’s okay. If you aren’t looking to get a unique tattoo and don’t mind someone else having the same one, go for it.

Usually, flash tattoos come with a matching line art stencil. This is what expedites the process. The stencil will be transferred onto your skin before the tattoo process. The design can be kept grey and black or can be filled with color depending on your personal preference, so there’s still an element of customization here.

Collector Flash Tattoo

While market flash tattoos are pretty standard and generic, collector flash tattoos are a little bit more unique. They aren’t custom, so you won’t be the only one with the design, but they’re unique to the tattoo artist. They’re made by the artist in their distinct or preferred style and are a product of their imagination.

You’ll usually find these within the tattoo artist’s portfolio. This is a great option for when you want something special but aren’t looking to create something completely custom. Talk with your tattoo artist about this. Some don’t reuse their pieces, and some will only draw the design for a limited time.

Look out for special flash events where tattoo artists create a set of tattoos that they’ll only do for a day, a week or a month. This can be a good opportunity to get a unique idea from your favorite artist. A few other people might have the tattoo as well, but it won’t be as widespread as the market flash.

Flash vs Custom Tattoos

Now that you’re familiar with the different types of flash tattoos, you might be weighing the pros and cons. It’s important to also take into consideration custom tattoos. Custom tattoos are when you’re looking to get something one of a kind. You’ll design this tattoo together with your artist. This takes time, patience and will be more costly than a flash tattoo.

Custom tattoos are for when you want to get something that holds a lot of meaning for you. You’re also guaranteed to be the only person who has this specific tattoo. Usually, custom tattoos are larger, more detailed pieces. Flash tattoos, on the other hand, are usually smaller pieces with a more simple design.

You’ll find that tattoo artists will recommend you get a custom tattoo instead of a flash. This is because it’ll expand their portfolio and allows them to create something special and meaningful.

How to Decide What Style of Tattoo to Get

Flash Tattoo

There are pros and cons to every tattoo type. Flash tattoos are easy to draw and can be completed in one sitting. If you can’t think of a specific idea but are itching to get some new ink, this might be the way to go. They’re also usually less expensive because it takes less time and effort from your tattoo artist. You simply pick the pre-drawn design you want, and the artist will draw it for you. You’ll be in and out in a flash.

If you don’t care that other people might have the same tattoo, then this is the best option for you. You’ll save time and money. A flash tattoo is also best when you’re overwhelmed with choices and want to narrow down what you want. A flash sheet organized by theme can be really helpful when you sort of have an idea of what you want.

Custom Tattoo

If you’re ready to invest some time and effort into a new tattoo, a custom tattoo is an ideal choice. You’ll be able to brainstorm ideas with your artist overall several sessions to create something truly exceptional.

This does take time and requires a good amount of creativity from your end. If you already have an idea in mind, you can take it into the parlor. Your tattoo artist will discuss the design with you and even make some changes and tweaks.

You’ll probably need a couple of sessions for advising and the actual tattooing. It’ll be worth the extra time and effort because you’ll have something significant and meaningful in the end.

Flash Your Way into Tattoo Land

Flash tattoos are a great way to get tattoos when you can’t think of ideas or just want something generic quickly. They’re usually less complex designs that can be done in one sitting and are fun and easy. You can just walk into a tattoo parlor, point at a design and get it done on the same day.

If you aren’t sure what you want or if you’re on a budget, consider a flash tattoo. They also have the advantage of being a design the artist has practiced before. This means you’ll be getting a good quality piece for much less than what a custom piece would cost.

When you eventually go ahead with getting your dream tattoo, it’s imperative that you always follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare advice closely, and be sure to invest in a high-quality tattoo healing lotion to aid recovery.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated, but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times, and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.​