Flash Tattoos Vs Custom Designs: Which Is Right For You?

Old School Swallow Tattoo @lucymaytattoo

Most of us have seen a movie or TV series with this scene: The character experiences a drunken night and ventures into a tattoo parlor to get inked. They flip through a binder of designs before settling on a heart or a skull. These designs in the binder or displayed on the walls of tattoo studios are known as flash tattoos. 

While they may seem like simple, common tattoos, their history is anything but. Tattoo art has been around for thousands of years, and many years of experiences and drawings culminated in these familiar designs. 

Color Skull Tattoo @ivanmoralestattoo

“Flash art may either have been personally drawn by the artist giving the tattoo, or may be sold by an artist to a shop. In the early days, it was usually hand-drawn locally, with shops using their own designs. Later, professional flash artists began to sell prints of their artwork at conventions and eventually via the Internet,”


Types Of Flash Tattoo Designs

Flash tattoos are often done in the traditional American style, also known as old-school. 

“A lot of traditional artists don’t use a bigger needle than a nine and there are certain rules of what colors you should use, how you do your lines and shading. Therefore, there is a lot of flash from these traditional tattoos from back in the days, which is a reminder of these techniques and styles,”

Panther Flash Tattoo @zz_lin_10

Flash tattoos are broken up into two types: Market Flash and collector flash.

Market flash are super popular designs that are often asked for – think hearts, roses, and infinity signs. Collector flash are designs made by the artist themselves that they’ve put in their own unique flash binders.

“Collector flash is unique to tattoo artists. They are designs made specifically by the artist in their preferred style or of their own interests. An artist keeps these within their own portfolio and shows them to clients upon request. If you want a unique tattoo from a specific artist in their own style, this would be the way to go,”

Chosen Art Tattoo
Sailor Tattoo @tattoosnob

Collector flash is not the same as custom design tattoos. The latter is a tattoo that both you and your tattoo artist create together. It’s unique to you instead of just your tattoo artist. 

Pros Of Flash Tattoos

These tattoos are already designed, so you don’t have to go through the process of designing your ink – it’s already done! Also, most market flash tattoos are simple, making the process of getting one is easy and can usually be done in a single sitting.

Flash tattoos are also usually cheaper than full custom pieces, as it often takes less time for the artist to complete. 

If you want to get a tattoo, but are eager to get something simple and don’t want to go through the process of a custom design, then a flash tattoo could be perfect for you. Plus, flash tattoos can be great choices as space fillers in between tattoos on your arms or legs. 

Old School Anchor Tattoo @iraitz_trojan_tattoo

Cons Of Flash Tattoos 

Flash tattoos are generic. So, choosing one means that you need to accept that there will probably be many other people with the same tattoo as you.

If you want a tattoo as a form of self expression, flash tattoos can feel restrictive compared to the unlimited options of custom designs.

How To Choose A Tattoo

This is a personal choice, and one not to be taken lightly as it’s going to be with you for a long time. 

Flash Butterfly Tattoo @mauricette.ttt

One of the best things you can do is chat to tattoo artists about any tattoo ideas you have. If you love the old school style of ink and want to stick to simplicity, then flip through the flash binder. Just because the designs are common, it does not mean they should be ignored.

Flash tattoo art has a timeless quality, and the bold lines along with saturated colors don’t fold because of trends – flash tattoos never go out of style. 

However, don’t just fall back on flash art because of price or time. As stated before, your tattoo is going to be on your skin forever, so take the time to save money and get your mind wrapped around multiple tattoo sessions. 

If you’re looking for a sleeve or larger designs, chances are you’re going to have to go the custom design route. 

Flash Tattoos That Will Always Be Popular

Rose And Name Tattoo @adamjensentattoos

Rose Tattoos

Old school rose tattoos are one of the most popular flower tattoo choices out there. Most commonly done in traditional red, this tattoo often represents love.

Of course, there are many colors to choose from for a rose tattoo, with each color having a different meaning. A white rose can symbolize purity, a yellow rose joy, and a purple rose royalty.

Related Post: Style and Charm: The Timelessness of Rose Tattoos

Traditional Heart And Dagger Tattoo @heartofgoldtattoo

Heart Tattoos

Heart tattoos remain one of the most popular designs for tattooees, and there are many different routes to take with this. A simple heart outline, a fully saturated red heart, or a heart with an arrow through it and a lover’s name.

Related Post: Celebrate Your Passion with a Heart Tattoo

Swallow And Rose Tattoo @bertdaggermoon

Swallow Tattoos

The swallow is a popular symbol in traditional sailor tattoos. Not only do they look great, but the meaning behind this inking is particularly symbolic for travelers.

“In addition to indicating that a sailor had sailed 5000 miles, swallow tattoos are also associated with the idea of return,”

Sailor Jerry

Related Post: What Does Your Swallow Tattoo Say About You?

Infinity And Heart Tattoo @zeetattooo

Infinity Sign Tattoo

This is a super simple choice – it’s a single curved line with big meaning.

“The infinity symbol, often used in mathematics, represents a never-ending loop and is depicted as a number 8 on its side. In the tattoo world this can be seen as a symbol of never-ending or limitless possibility,”

Tattoo SEO

Don’t turn up your nose at the flash designs in tattoo studios. Even if you’re leaning towards custom ink, flash tattoos are such key pieces in the history of tattoos, and so much inspiration can be found within the pages of flash tattoo binders.

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