Flash Tattoos Explained

Published April 25, 2024
By Celebrity Ink

Flash tattoos are pre-designed images commonly found in tattoo parlours and serve as a catalogue of popular choices for clients. These designs often include iconic symbols like anchors, skulls, snakes, and even whimsical motifs such as alien faces. Due to their popularity, flash tattoos are often repeatedly used. They allow for quick selection and can be replicated with high consistency. When you recognise a tattoo as something you've seen before, it's likely a flash tattoo, known for its classic and recognisable style.

Flash tattoos are designs that have stood the test of time. While nothing showcases your unique personality and personal taste quite like a custom tattoo, you’ll find there are some definite perks to choosing a flash tattoo.

It can feel like there’s a lot of tattoo terminology around these days, and if you’re new to the world of tattooing, a lot of it may be unfamiliar to you; this includes flash tattoos.

What Are Flash Tattoos?

If you’ve been to a tattoo shop before, you’ve probably looked at the walls or picked up a binder to leaf through and been intrigued by the simple yet effective designs in there. You’re looking at flash tattoos. So what is a flash tattoo, in simple terms?

Flash tattoos are common designs displayed on walls or binders in tattoo shops. These tattoo designs are easily repeatable and ready to be inked onto your skin.

The word “flash” derives from the travelling circus artists of the 1800s. In those days, artists would display their tattoo designs on large pieces of cardboard or paper, which were displayed on “flash racks” for customers to choose from. Legendary tattoo artist Sailor Jerry was one of the artists who had a major impact on flash culture. Although flash tattoo art is still heavily associated with old-school rock and roll and Americana imagery, these days, the field is broader than traditional flash tattoo designs. For many artists, flash tatts are just original designs they’ve created that they can often use again and again, regardless of style. For new tattoo artists making a name for themselves, flash designs can be a way of showcasing their unique approach and building a portfolio.

The Different Styles of Flash Tattoos

Aspiring tattoo artists are often told to draw many different flash designs so customers will have plenty of options to choose from. Flash designs give tattoo artists the chance to hone their craft and practice smaller designs before they move on to larger ones. 

The beauty of flash designs is that it’s always possible to put a new spin on some old concepts. Some examples include:

Revamped traditional designs

Even a simple tweak, like an original colour palette, can give a fresh twist to skulls, love hearts, and other symbols that have been done over and over again.

Fictional characters

As new movies, TV shows, and comic books have their moment in the spotlight, tattoo artists gain new characters to include in their portfolios along with their old favourites.


Japanese tattoos draw from traditional folklore, art and mythology. Their images, which symbolise themes like bravery and good fortune, have become popular all around the world. Although Japanese tattoos tend to be large, sometimes taking up an entire sleeve or back, Japanese flash tattoos take a modern approach to this quintessential style.


Also known as classic Americana, traditional tattoos most closely resemble the vintage designs of Sailor Jerry’s time. They are easy to recognise from their big, bold outlines, simple and saturated colour palettes, simple shades, and often simple images like pirate ships, mermaids, love hearts, and eagles.


Flash tattoos don’t have to look like cartoons. Even though they’re small, they can still use features like shading, contrast, and 3D effects to create lifelike artistic depictions.

Why Get Flash Tattoos?

One of the most exciting things about getting a tattoo is seeing a skilled artist bring your vision to life, so custom tattoos will always be in high demand. Yet flash tattoos have their own perks, including  


There’s no point designing a tattoo that’s ready to apply if nobody wants it. Flash tattoos are based on tried-and-tested designs that have remained popular rather than flash-in-the-pan fads. They’ve endured for a long number of years and you know they won’t become uncool.


It goes without saying that having a custom tattoo designed costs a lot more. If you’ve been itching for a new tattoo, a flash tattoo can give you a cool design without the high price tag. If it’s your first tattoo, a flash one can be a way to test the waters and see if tattoos are for you.


Working with your tattoo artist on a custom design is a satisfying process but one that shouldn’t be rushed if you want the best possible results. If you have limited time or don’t care for a waiting period, a flash tattoo can give you a new tattoo quicker. It’s the perfect option if you’re on holiday or getting a tattoo on the spur of the moment.

Look good with other tattoos

The simplicity and various options of flash tattoos mean that when you get a bunch of them together in a similar style, it just looks right. Flash designs look right on your skin alongside other flash designs as well as custom tattoos, as long as you stick to the theme.

Easier decision-making

With endless opportunities out there, choosing a custom tattoo can feel like a massive decision. Flash tattoos make it easier: just look at the flash sheet and pick your favourite.  

Book In a Flash Tattoo at Celebrity Ink

Celebrity Ink is here to help you find the perfect tattoo and placement for you, whether it’s an original tattoo or a flash design. We specialise in many different tattoo styles from realistic to traditional to Japanese, and our expert artists keep standards high wherever in the world you step into one of our studios.

The right flash tattoo can be the first step in your patchwork tattoo collection. Patchwork tattoos are a collection of smaller tattoos grouped together to create an overall design, while each individual tattoo also works as a stand-alone piece. Your patchwork tattoo collection often begins with finding the one right, perfect tattoo.
Celebrity Ink is dedicated to helping you find the perfect tattoo, custom or flash. To get started on your tattoo journey, book a discovery consultation with our Inked crew.

Get your next tattoo at Celebrity Ink

The team at Celebrity Ink can provide you with not only a tattoo that tells your story but also detailed aftercare information that goes beyond the question of how long does a tattoo take to heal.

Our team sets standards in tattoo design while working alongside you to bring your vision to life. Whether you’re seeking traditional tattoos, realistic designs, mandalas, or any other, we have artists specialising in a range of tattoo styles that can provide you with the tattoo you have envisioned.

Book a consultation to discuss your tattoo design, get in contact with the crew at Celebrity Ink, and we will lock you in for your next ink session.
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