What Are Flash Tattoos? A Brief History

For many, tattoos are a way to express something that is personally meaningful.

Many tattoo enthusiasts put weeks or even months of thought into their body art ideas before pulling the trigger.

These tattoos can be great, but sometimes, some spur-of-the-moment ink is just what the doctor ordered — and that is where flash tattoos come in.

What Are Flash Tattoos?

If you’ve ever walked into a tattoo shop and seen designs taped to the walls or inside display cases, you’re looking at tattoo flash.

Flash tattoos are pre-drawn tattoo designs that are ready to be tattooed without the need for a custom design to be created.

Flash is great for tattoo artists because it gives them a wide selection of designs to choose from, and it’s also a helpful tool for customers who might not know exactly what they want.

If you’re considering getting a tattoo, taking a look at some tattoo flash can also be a great way to get some inspiration. Sometimes flash tattoos can be altered or customized to better fit what you are looking for.

An artist works on a tattoo with flash designs displayed behind them.

History Of Flash Tattoos

The term “flash” comes from the carnival and circus trade of the late 1800s, where artists would hang up their designs in front of their booths to attract attention.

These designs were often simple and eye-catching — making them ideal for carnival-goers in search of some quick ink.

In the last 1800s, tattoo machines were invented. This made tattooing faster, cheaper, and more popular than ever.

As the tattoo trend grew, artists began buying and trading their simple flash designs with each other in order to give their customers more choices.

This further expanded the popularity of flash tattoos but also cut helped to define the classic look of flash tattoos as many artists began using similar designs.

Today, the flash tattoo “look” has become a very popular and desired style of tattoo.

Market Vs. Collector Flash Tattoos

Many tattoo parlours have generic flash tattoos on display purchased from places such as tattooflashcollective.com or etsy.com.

This type of flash is called “Market Flash.”

There is also a growing trend of tattoo artists creating their own portfolios of flash tattoos done in their own unique style.

This is called “Collector Flash.”

Collector Flash can be a great way to get an idea of what a particular artist’s style is like.

Market is flash is generic flash purchased by artists or parlours. Collector flash is flash created by a particular tattoo artist.

The Flash Tattoo “Style”

Technically any tattoo displayed on the wall of a tattoo shop ready to be picked by a customer can be defined as a “flash” tattoo design.

That said, it would be wrong to claim that flash tattoos don’t have their own unique style.

Flash tattoos are simple by design.

After all, these tattoos are designed to be done quickly and efficiently — in order to save tattoo artists time and effort.

Flash tattoos are also meant to appeal to a wide spectrum of people.

Therefore, many flash tattoos depict simple, recognizable symbols with broad meanings such as sparrows, spider webs, or spades.

Thanks to these parameters, flash tattoos have developed their own style.

Flash tattoos can be defined by their simple designs, limited colour palettes, and thick lines.

Flash tattoos can be defined by their simple designs, limited colour palettes, and thick lines.

Are Flash Tattoos Cheaper?

Yes, flash tattoos are almost always cheaper than custom-designed tattoos.

This is because your tattoo artist does not need to spend any time creating a customized piece of art.

Instead, they simply use the pre-drawn flash design that you have chosen.

Flash tattoos can also be cheaper than other tattoos thanks to their size and simplicity. This means that flash tattoos can often be completed within an hour or two — cutting down on the cost of the tattoo.

While a flash tattoo will likely be cheaper than a custom piece, how much a flash tattoo costs will actually cost depend on where you live, the tattoo shop you choose, and the skill level of your artist.

Should You Get Flash Or Custom?

Flash tattoos and custom tattoos both have their pros and cons.

Flash tattoos are usually cheaper and easier to find, but they can be more limiting in terms of design.

Custom tattoos are usually more expensive and time-consuming to get, but they offer more freedom in terms of design.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference.

Some people prefer the simplicity of flash tattoos, while others prefer the uniqueness of custom tattoos.

There is no right or wrong answer — it’s all about what you want!

Some people prefer the simplicity of flash tattoos, while others prefer the uniqueness of custom tattoos.

Final Thoughts

Flash tattoos have a long history dating back to the 1800s.

While flash tattoos may not carry as much meaning as a custom piece of body art, their place in the tattoo world almost makes them a write of passage for true ink enthusiasts.

Their low price tag also makes them very appealing — especially if all you want is a simple design.