What Exactly Is A Flash Tattoo?

With so many popular tattoo styles out there, it can be overwhelming to narrow down the design you want. This is when a flash tattoo design might help you out. A flash tattoo is a pre-drawn design that's ready to be tattooed right away, as shown in the illustration. According to Stories and Ink, the term "flash" originated in an era when tattooing was illegal, prompting artists to work quickly and discreetly to finish "in a flash" before authorities showed up. However, the term's origin isn't confirmed, and different stories circulate among artists. 

Flash designs come in an array of styles, from American traditional roses and skulls to the artist's own original designs. Artists will often have a binder or folder of flash designs for you to browse at the tattoo studio. In contrast to a custom tattoo that requires more planning and discussion with the artist, a flash tattoo design is already completed. Whether it's your first tattoo or you're trying to fill up your tattoo sleeve, a flash tattoo might give you the inspiration you need.

Cost and time of flash tattoos

Flash tattoos are typically cheaper than custom tattoos because they're pre-designed and take less time. The lower cost is part of the appeal. Every tattoo artist and shop runs differently, so the price is based on your area and the shop's policies. Generally, they're priced in the $100-200 range, depending on size. 

If you follow tattoo artists on social media, you may have seen them share their own flash designs. It's common to see artists and studios host "flash days" for certain holidays or when they want to have a sale. For instance, an artist might have a Halloween flash day of various spooky designs they created. The way an artist runs their flash tattoos may vary. Sometimes, an artist will sell an original flash design to one customer only, while others will allow multiple customers to buy one design. "Some will repeat designs and others won't. Some clients really don't want to share their tattoo with someone else," said tattoo artist Lauren Hepple via Stories and Ink.

The time it takes to tattoo depends on the design, but most flash tattoos are usually finished in about an hour and all in one sitting. They're meant to be quick, so if it's your first tattoo and you're a bit nervous about the pain, a small flash tattoo could be the choice for you. 

Placement and color options

Flash tattoos will vary in size, but they're generally on the smaller side. If you like to keep your ink discreet, you might want your tattoo on the back of your neck, behind the ear, or on your back, where clothing or hair can cover it. Just keep in mind, if you like looking at your tattoo, these places make it harder for your own viewing pleasure. That being said, small tattoos will also look great on your wrist, ankle, or arm. Ask your artist's opinion of your design's placement, as they can give an expert recommendation based on the tattoo. 

While black ink is commonly associated with flash tattoos, many artists offer colored designs. It depends on the artist, as some exclusively work with black ink, while others use color. Because a flash design isn't meant to be customized, what you see is typically what you get. Some artists might agree to make a minor color adjustment, like using a red outline instead of black, but when it comes to making substantial changes to the design, additional customization charges may be added.