What is a Flash Tattoo? All You Need to Know

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Getting a tattoo can be intimidating. That’s why many people opt for a flash tattoo as their first tattoo.

So, what exactly is a flash tattoo? Flash tattoos are pre-designed tattoos that are usually displayed on posters or in binders on the walls of a tattoo parlor. You can choose one of these designs and get it tattooed right away in a single session, and they typically cost less than a custom tattoo.

Flash tattoos take away some of the risk and cost, making it easier to understand what you are getting into. You can learn more about them by reading on.

flash tattoo butterfly

What Does Flash Mean in Tattooing?

“Flash” refers to common tattoo designs, usually sold in packets to tattoo parlors, that are posted on the walls of the establishment and offered as pre-drawn tattoos to get.

Flash tattoos are not only a great option for those looking for a quick and affordable tattoo, but they can also give you an idea of what the tattoo parlor has to offer for custom tattoos.

If you find a flash tattoo design that you really like, you can get it as-is and know what you’re getting for a reasonable price.

  • If the flash art has been drawn by an in-house artist, it’s referred to as “collector flash” because it reflects the artist’s unique personal style.
  • If the design is a print that was bought from a professional artist who sells prints, it’s called “market flash.”

The original purpose of flash tattoos was to speed up the tattoo process and pass on the savings to the customer. Nowadays, flash tattoos are also useful as a starting point for those who need inspiration for a custom tattoo when they walk into a tattoo shop.

flash tattoos

How Much Does a Tattoo Flash Cost?

Typically, the cost of a small flash tattoo ranges from $50 to $200, which varies depending on the artist. It’s difficult to provide an exact price without knowing the specific design. However, $50 is usually the minimum price for a tattoo because there is some setup time involved, even for small tattoos that can be completed in less than an hour.

Most flash pieces are simple, one-session affairs with little background work.

Your artist is likely to know the exact cost of most if not all of their flash as they know how long it will take to do that particular design.

See our article on tattoo prices for more details.

How Does Getting a Flash Tattoo Work?

Flash tattoos are the quickest and easiest type of tattoo to get. They usually only require one sitting and very little setup time. The best part is, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting before the tattooing even begins!

  • To choose a flash tattoo, you can browse through the available designs either on the walls of the tattoo parlor or in a book provided by the artist. Once you’ve chosen a design, you can discuss any modifications you’d like with the artist and get a price estimate.
  • It’s usually possible to make minor changes to a flash tattoo design, such as changing the color or adding a small detail. However, if you want a more significant modification, you may need to opt for a custom tattoo.
  • Some tattoo artists have portfolios of their work, which is known as “collector flash.” These designs can be more expensive since the artist typically only allows each design to be tattooed once. However, if you like the artist’s style and don’t have a custom idea in mind, choosing a design from their portfolio could be a great option.

If you don’t mind the possibility of someone else having the same tattoo as you, then a flash tattoo can be an excellent choice overall.

Flash tattoos are typically more affordable, save time, and you know exactly what you’re getting. This makes them an especially good option if you’re feeling nervous about getting your first tattoo.

flash tattoo on forearm

Why Do Artists Do Flash?

Flash art also provides artists with the opportunity to showcase their skills and personal styles. In some cases, their flash designs can represent the best of the best of their work, done exactly the way they envisioned it.

– Flash tattoos in the 50s-60s

During the 1950s and 60s, flash tattoos became a popular option for tattoo parlors to expand their selection of designs. By purchasing these colorful printed sheets, tattoo artists could quickly showcase a wide variety of options to customers and advertise their services.

– From the 80s until now

However, by the 1980s, custom tattoos began to gain popularity, and people started seeking out original designs. This led tattoo artists to create their own portfolios of flash designs that highlighted their unique styles and creativity.

Regardless of the era, having a wide selection of flash tattoos on the walls has been a selling point for tattoo parlors for decades, and it remains one of the lasting appeals of flash tattoos.

flash tattoo bullshead

Custom vs. Flash Tattoos

Flash tattoos are an excellent option if you’re getting your first tattoo, as they’re typically less expensive and don’t require a significant time commitment. They’re also a good choice if you find a design you love and want it exactly as it is. Plus, flash tattoos can usually be completed in just one session.

Custom tattoos, on the other hand, are usually larger and more complex. They’re created with a unique idea in mind that you develop with your tattoo artist.

Custom tattoos are necessary for larger areas of the body, such as full backs or sleeves.

However, because custom tattoos require more time and effort from the artist to create and design, they are usually more expensive than flash tattoos. But, if you want a truly unique and personalized tattoo, a custom design is definitely worth the extra cost.

custom made tattoo

Bottom Line

In conclusion, flash tattoos offer several advantages over custom tattoos. They’re usually less expensive, faster to complete, and you know exactly what you’re getting before the tattooing process even starts. Plus, they’re an important part of the rich history and tradition of tattooing.

While custom tattoos have their own unique benefits, flash tattoos are an excellent option if you’re looking for a quick and affordable tattoo that still looks great.

Whether you’re a tattoo enthusiast or just starting, understanding the difference between flash and custom tattoos can help you make an informed decision when it comes to your next tattoo.


Is a flash tattoo a good first tattoo?

Flash tattoos can be a good choice for a first tattoo if you’re not sure what you want. They often feature classic designs and are usually small, which can be a good starting point.

Why do people get flash tattoos?

People get flash tattoos for different reasons. They usually feature classic designs, are a quick and convenient option, and can be a good starting point if you’re not sure what you want. Ultimately, the reason people get flash tattoos is because they like the design and want to express themselves through body art.

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