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What is a Flash Tattoo?

What is a Flash Tattoo?

If you’ve ever admired the tattoo designs displayed on the walls of a tattoo studio, then you know what a flash tattoo represents. A flash tattoo is a design on paper or cardboard, printed, and ready to be inked. While custom ink is gaining popularity over flash designs, many artists and tattoo veterans still hold the flash tattoo in high regard. The original idea behind the flash design was to speed up the tattoo process by cutting down on consultation and design time. They were widely used in “street shops,” offering a large volume of generic tattoos to walk-in customers. The designs are pre-drawn and ready to be inked, which can significantly speed up the length of time per customer and still create a unique handcrafted tattoo. Flash designs can be a useful source of inspiration for those looking for a tattoo idea, too, or those who are not quite sure where to start. A picture says a thousand words, and it may be easier for some to modify a flash design than to try and explain their wishes from scratch. Flash art can also give you some excellent ideas you might never have imagined otherwise. Flash tattoo design can either be inked as it is or modified slightly depending on the customer. Modifications are minimal, though. If you’re looking for significant changes, then a different flash design or custom tattoo designs might be the better option. Flash designs can be hand-drawn by the tattoo artist themselves or by a professional flash artist. The relatively new role of “flash artist” (as opposed to the tattoo artist) is gaining popularity. Copyrighted designs from professional flash artists can now be sold online or at conventions. A flash artist is not necessarily a tattoo artist. These designers are talented but may never have wielded a tattoo needle in their lives.

Market Flash

These are the designs that you’ll probably leaf through in the studio catalogue. They have remained popular over the years and are frequently requested by clients. Hearts, roses, symbols, and more will generally be considered as market flash. They require less design input and tend to be generic patterns and pictures. It means that the same tattoo design may be used on more than one client, and your tattoo will not be unique. Market flash designs are still an ideal way to offer a fun, simple tattoo at a lower cost than collector flash or custom ink.

Collector Flash

Collector flash falls between market flash and custom ink. A collector flash design is a unique piece of artwork created by the tattoo artist. They will mimic the style and interest of the tattoo artist, like any other artwork. Many tattoo artists have gained a following through their collector flash designs. Customers are willing to pay extra and wait longer for the unique designs of their favourite artists. Collector flash also lets the artist’s individual style shine through and allows them to fine-tune their ideas without external input. A valuable collector flash design will radiate with the artist’s passion and style. Unlike custom ink, collector flash work gives you minimal input on the style or design. A tattoo artist will build their own portfolio, and you are providing the canvas for them to produce their artwork. If you’re looking for a truly unique tattoo design that you don’t have to describe or imagine, then collector flash may be the way to go. Unlike market flash, an artist will rarely repeat their own design with collector flash. They keep each piece as a unique artwork. Collector flash is comparable to custom ink in this way because nobody will have the same tattoo as you. If you like the idea of collector flash but don’t have the budget for it, keep an eye out for special flash events and sales. Many tattoo studios host these on occasion for holiday specials, fundraising, or promotional purposes.

Flash Tattoo vs. Custom Ink: What’s the Difference?

Flash designs are an excellent entry into the world of tattoo art without committing to a full custom tattoo. Flash designs, particularly market flash, are usually smaller and simpler. If you’re looking for something quick that can be achieved in one sitting, a flash tattoo is ideal. Some people prefer more input into the design of their tattoo. They may want their ink to mean something personal to them, or, perhaps, they have their own specific ideas about what they want their tattoo to resemble. The tattoo artist will sit down with you and draw the design while incorporating your instructions and amendments. Custom tattoos designs are generally larger and more intricate than flash designs. Whole back tattoos or full sleeves are usually custom-designed features. Flash art tends to be smaller and simpler, designed to be finished in one session. Extra design time, multiple sittings, and a large surface area will also be reflected in the cost of a custom tattoo. Another increasingly popular avenue for the flash tattoo is the rising demand for temporary tattoos. Temporary tattoos are trending for special occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, hen nights, and so on. The concept of a temporary tattoo has been around for centuries, with henna being the most prevalent medium. In modern times, temporary flash tattoos can offer all the look and style of a permanent tattoo without having to make the commitment. Recently, celebrities and designers have been bringing temporary flash tattoos back into the spotlight. Bright colours, gold leaf art, and intricate jewellery designs can all be achieved through temporary flash art.

Custom vs. Flash: At a Glance

Benefits of Flash

Source of Inspiration Quick and simple and completed in one sitting Lower costs

Downsides of Flash

Designs are not unique Little opportunity for customer input

Benefits of Custom

Completely unique design that will not be repeated on other customers Customer input creates the tattoo just as you want it Covers a larger area

Downsides of Custom

Higher costs Possible multiple sittings required The design process can take time

Ready to Explore Your Own Flash Tattoo?

At Chronic Ink Tattoo, our talented artists are ready to help you explore Flash and other tattoos to make sure you find something you’ll want to show off for decades to come. If you’re in the Toronto, Markham, Mississauga, Kitsilano Vancouver area drop by our shop and check us out for yourself.

Tell us Your Idea

Tattoo Studio Locations

Downtown Toronto

378 Yonge Street, 2nd Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5B 1S6 Directions

Midtown Toronto

252 Eglinton Ave East, 2nd Floor, Toronto, Ontario M4P 1K2 Directions


7381 Kennedy Road, Unit #105, Markham, Ontario L3R 5B5 Directions


100 City Centre Dr., Unit #2-311, Mississauga, Ontario L5N 2C9 Directions


1804 W 4th Ave, Vancouver, British Columbia V6J 1M3 Directions

Looking for your next Tattoo Idea?

Browse our selection of one of a kinda tattoo designs created by our Chronic Ink artists. Each piece is individual and will only ever be tattooed once.

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