What Is A Flash Tattoo And How Does It Work?

Stunning and quick, flash tattoo designs are taking over the world, one stencil at a time!

Written by , MA (Mass Communication & Journalism) Joyce Joyson MA (Mass Communication & Journalism) linkedin_icon
Edited by , BTech Anjali Sayee BTech linkedin_icon Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English Literature) Aparna Harry MA (English Literature) Experience: 3 years

Tattoo trends ebb and flow! One such tattoo style that has started gaining popularity is flash tattoos. So, what are flash tattoos? They are pre-made designs used during the tattooing process as a stencil to create a tattoo design in a flash. As you probably guessed from the name, they are quick and easy. These flash tattoos are most certainly not a new trend and have been popular for years. They were immensely popular in the early 80’s and classic designs such as anchors, swallows, and skulls were very common.

These flash designs are typically etched on paper and put on the walls of tattoo shops. Some artists even get them printed as a flash tattoos book, depicting each design on 11×14-inch prints. Keep scrolling to learn more about flash tattoos, from what they are to how much they cost.

What Is A Flash Tattoo?

A woman with a flash tattoo on her inner wrist holding a stone
Image: Shutterstock

Flash tattoos are common designs usually drawn on paper and pinned to walls or displayed in binders in traditional tattoo shops. They give tattoo enthusiasts the complete look of a design that is drawn and colored in so they know exactly how it will look on their skin.

These flash tattoos come in hundreds of options, varying in design and size, and can be reused multiple times. They are an easy and quick alternative to personalized tattoo designs. Initially, designs were hand drawn in tattoo studios as per each client’s preferences, but now many amateur and professional tattoo artists are selling flash designs to shops or at tattoo conventions. This sort of tattoo helps to cut down on tattooing time, right from choosing the tattoo design to consultation to the very process of inking. Also, they allow for modifications, although minimal.

You must be wondering how big are flash tattoos? Gratefully, these tattoo stencils come in all sizes! However, the size of the flash tattoo can be customized to fit the client’s preference and the artist’s inking style.

Kaya Terry, a blogger, shares her experience of joining the flash tattoo trend. She writes, “Overall they looked great and caught the light beautifully…I would recommend these temporary tattoos because they are easy to get off and are perfect for festivals, holidays, and pretty much anything that you want to add a little bit of “flawlessness” too (i).”

These flash tattoo designs look undoubtedly cool and are truly convenient. The best part is that there are so many designs to choose from that you are sure to find one that speaks to your soul. Learn more about the various types of flash tattoo designs out there on the market below.

Different Types Of Flash Tattoos

A male client getting flash tattoos
Image: Shutterstock
  • Market Flash Tattoos

These are some of the most popular types of flash tattoo designs that one can get from any street shop. They include elements such as hearts, roses, infinity signs, and pop culture references. These tattoos can be used repeatedly, over and over again.

  • Collector Flash Tattoos

Unlike market flash tattoos, which are generic, these tattoos are considered comparatively unique. These custom designs are made by tattoo artists to suit an individual’s preference and may not be used again for other people. .

  • Traditional Flash Tattoos

These types of flash tattoos are inspired by American traditional tattoos with elements such as daggers, skulls, anchors, eagles, pinup girls, etc. These types of flash tattoos typically involve the usage of bold lines and limited color palettes.

protip_icon Did you know?
Flash tattoos are commonly done in the American style. Tattoo artists have to, therefore, adhere to strict rules such as never using needles larger than size 9 and only using specific colors, lines, and shading techniques.

After learning about different types of flash tattoos, you should understand how they are different from custom tattoos in the first place. Scroll down to read more.

Differences Between Flash Tattoos And Custom Tattoos

If you are wondering how a custom tattoo is different from a flash tattoo design, here is what you need to know:

Points Of DifferenceFlash TattoosCustom Tattoos
DesignThese tattoos are pre-designed and then inked after a client selects a design from the assortment of options available.These tattoo designs are customized for the individual.
CostThese tattoos use ink that is comparatively less expensive than the ones used for custom tattoos.These tattoos use custom ink that is generally more expensive.
IdeaThese tattoos are great for those individuals who don’t have a specific tattoo design in mind.These tattoos are ideal for clients with a vivid and precise design in their mind.
Artistic SkillThese tattoo designs are easy to execute as they are pre-designed by artists.These tattoos require a higher level of effort, artistic skill, and creativity.
CustomizationThese tattoos offer a low level of customization as these are pre-designed.These tattoos are fully customizable.
AftercareThese tattoos have a simple aftercare as they are usually smaller in size and have less complex designs.These tattoos can take a long time to heal, from a few weeks to months.

While flash tattoos help to save time and money, custom tattoos make for more meaningful and unique designs. But if they are both so different, how exactly are flash tattoos etched on the skin? Learn more below.

How Do Flash Tattoos Work?

A tattoo artist sticking the flash sheet on the hand of the client
Image: Shutterstock

There are two types of flash tattoos, permanent flash tattoos and temporary flash tattoos. Permanent flash tattoos use a needle to deposit ink into the top layers of the skin, while temporary flash tattoos can be directly applied on the skin’s surface and can be easily removed. Temporary flash tattoos are painless, while the permanent ones may lead to immense discomfort. Also, permanent flash tattoos last longer and can take months and years to fade, while temporary flash tattoos just last for a couple of weeks.

Tattoo artists use flash sheets to display pre-designed tattoo options. A flash sheet is nothing but the paper on which the design is drawn. The tattooing process typically involves using two flash sheets. The first sheet has the image of the colored or filled tattoo design and is used to show the clients how the actual tattoo will look like and as a reference sheet during the actual tattooing process. The second flash sheet involves just the outline of the artwork, without any shading or coloring. This sheet is used as a stencil on the skin to ink the design during the tattooing process.

The second flash sheet is often used first during the tattooing process to mark out the basic tattoo design. Then the first flash sheet is used to add specific details like shading and colors. And the artist uses professional-grade waterproof or archival tattoo inks for flash tattoo designs.

Hence, flash sheets help make the tattooing process more smoother and efficient. Now, let us find out how much this tattooing process costs.

How Much Do Flash Tattoos Cost?

Man checking flash tattoo designs at the studio
Image: Shutterstock

Typically getting a flash tattoo can cost somewhere between $100-$200. However, tattoo prices may vary depending on the location of the artist or studio, experience of the artist, reputation of the studio, tattoo size, and complexity of the design, and placement of the tattoo. Also, a bigger flash tattoo will cost more than smaller and medium-sized tattoos, as they cover a larger surface area and require more ink usage and time and effort by tattoo artists.

Hence, flash tattoos come in a variety of sizes and styles to choose from. Wondering how long this flash tattooing process takes? Find out in the next section.

How Long Do Flash Tattoos Take?

It can take anywhere from a few minutes to hours to complete a flash tattoo. This is determined by various factors such as the size and complexity of the design. Larger size tattoos with detailed design elements can take relatively more time to complete than small and medium flash tattoos. Also, it depends on the efficiency and speed of the tattoo artist and how quickly they can get the job done.

But, how long do the results last for? Learn more in the next section.

How Long Do Flash Tattoos Last?

As mentioned earlier, there are two types of flash tattoos. The temporary ones last for around 2-6 days roughly, while the permanent ones remain for years but require touch-ups to keep the ink fresh and vibrant. Adhering to proper aftercare tattoo practices and taking necessary precautions such as avoiding excessive sun exposure can make them last longer.

Flash tattoos make for a popular choice. They come in various sizes and designs to choose from, look really good, and allow tattoo enthusiasts to make quick decisions and eliminate the need for long-drawn design consultation. They are comparatively less pricier and time-consuming when compared to custom tattoos. Also, these tattoo designs are great for those individuals who want to get something inked on their skin but do not have any ideas of what to get done. In addition to this, these tattoo designs are readily available and thus help make the tattooing process quicker and smoother.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a flash tattoo day?

Tattoo artists and studios across the world run what is called ‘flash days’ on a few occasions, where clients can walk in, and choose a design from the pre-selected flash tattoo designs, and is often done at discounted pricing.

Do flash tattoos fade?

Flash tattoos like other tattoos do fade away eventually. However, how quickly a flash tattoo fails depends on the ink quality, tattoo care practices, and location of the tattoo on the body. Body parts such as the limbs face daily wear and tear and may fade faster compared to other areas. Tattoo may also generally fade if the skin faces any trauma.

Key Takeaways

  • Flash tattoos are pre-designed and offer tattoo enthusiasts a variety of options to choose from.
  • Flash tattoos are created by tattoo artists based on their imagination, personal style, and skill.
  • Flash tattoos makes the tattooing process more streamlined, and quicker as the artists are already familiar with the tattoo designs.
  • Flash tattoo designs are not uniquely tailored but they allow for customization to a small extent.
what are flash tattoos

Image: Dall·E/StyleCraze Design Team

Flash tattoos are often confused with custom tattoos, but the two are totally different. While one is tailored to the client’s preference, the other is used as a stencil of sorts. Watch out the video to learn more.

Personal Experience: Source

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Joyce Joyson

Joyce JoysonBeauty & Lifestyle Writer

Joyce Joyson is a beauty and lifestyle writer with over a year of experience crafting short-form content for the beauty, fashion, and lifestyle niches. She has a triple majors bachelor’s degree in History, Political Science, and Geography from IIS University and a master’s degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kristu Jayanti College. Her academic foundation has equipped her with...read full bio

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