How do Tattoo Flash Sheets Work? 10 Free Flash Sheets

Tattoo flash sheets are prints of several tattoo designs. Usually, the designs use the same color palette so they look like they belong together. Tattoo artists will show customers flash sheets if they need help coming up with ideas for their tattoos.

As a new tattoo artist, it’s important to understand:

  • How flash sheets work
  • How to make your own flash sets
  • Where to find flash you can use for practice

In this article, we’ll break down each of these steps and give you 10 downloadable flash sheets to get you started. 

How Do Tattoo Flash Sheets Work?

Tattoo flash sheets actually have two jobs, which is why they’re actually made up of two pieces of paper. 

Sheet One - The Full Color Version (for Customers)

flash designs drawn by tattoo artist

Flash sheet by Tattooing 101 Instructor Brandon

This first piece is what customers see because it shows the finished product. It has several designs in full color, so your customer can pick out a design they like and get that exact image tattooed. 

You can also use this sheet as a reference while tattooing to make sure the shading and colors are exactly like the original.

Sheet One - The Full Color Version (for Customers)

The second sheet has just the outlines of the designs with no shading or color. This is what you’ll use to create stencils after a client picks out a design.

Do Tattoo Artists Tattoo Flash Designs on Multiple Clients?

Some artists will refuse to reuse a flash design after it’s been tattooed, but most of the time, they will use their flash designs on multiple clients. If a client wants a custom piece but they like something from a flash sheet, you can work off that design and change it to create a custom tattoo.

How to Make a Tattoo Flash Sheet

You can draw, paint, or digitally design a flash sheet. No matter which method you pick, the process will work the same way.

1

Pick a Theme

Most flash prints will have a theme, tattoo style, and/or a specific color palette. The goal is to make the designs look like they belong together. For example, you probably wouldn’t put traditional and new school designs on the same sheet.

Popular Categories for Flash Sheets

If you’re new to creating flash, we recommend doing popular designs. If you pick ideas that lots of other artists have already done, it’ll be easy to find lots of examples to help guide your own work.

Popular categories include:

  • American Traditional (old-school Sailor Jerry designs)
  • Animals
  • Celestial (moon, sun, stars, etc.)
  • Nautical (anchor, mermaid, and ship designs)
  • Roses
  • Skulls, knives, and hearts

2

Create Your Designs in 3 Stages

Tattoo artists create their designs in 3 separate stages. Traditionally, artists used a different drawing tool for each stage. (If you’re working on an iPad, you can just switch between the colors as you develop your design.)

Red Colored Pencil

arm design on Procreate

In the first stage, you define the major shapes of your drawing.

Blue Colored Pencil

artist designing a feather tattoo

In the second stage, you begin to add details and make decisions on where each element will be placed in your design.

Black Marker

art equipment used in graphic design departments

In the third stage, you’ll make a clean version of your linework. This is the design that you’ll put on your flash sheet.

If you’re planning to draw or paint your designs, we recommend doing the first 2 stages on the same sheet of tracing paper and then using a new sheet for the third. If you’re using an iPad, you can do each stage on a new “layer.”

3

Arrange Your Designs for Line Work

If you drew your designs on their own sheets of paper, cut each design out and tape them down onto a new sheet of paper that is the same size as your flash sheet (11”x14” recommended).

When your artwork is in place, make two photocopies. One will be the sheet for your stencils, the other you will place beneath your final drawing paper on a lightbox. 

Using the lightbox, copy the outline onto your drawing paper.

iPad Only:

If you made your designs digitally, just print a copy of your linework.

4

Add Shading and Color

Set your stencil sheet aside and add shading and color to the “final product” sheet that you will show customers.

iPad Only:

If you’re working on an iPad, use a new layer for both the shading and the color so you can easily go back and print more outlines without erasing your work.

Note:

Remember to sign your flash sheets with your name or logo.

Where to Find Tattoo Flash (+10 Free Sheets)

If you just want to practice your drawing or tattooing skills, you can find designs created by artists you admire and try to copy their work. However, you should not include this art in your tattoo portfolio or on your social media. 

If you want to expand your collection of flash to give your customers more options, you can buy tattoo flash from other tattooers. (Tattoo flash bought from other artists cannot go in the portfolio you use to get a tattoo apprenticeship or a spot in a shop.)

Free Flash Sheets

Unless you purchase both the outlines and the finished products, most of the flash you find online will only be the full-color versions. This makes it harder to focus on your linework - or to print it off and use as a stencil.

To get you started, here’s 10 free sheets:

old school tattoo flash
full color flash sheet
skulls designed in a tattoo shop
tattoos for lobby books
tattoos of outdoor accessories

Free Neo Traditional Tattoo Flash Sheets

Neo trad flash art tattoo ideas
skull tattoo flash art
Traditional tattoo flash art
tattoo flash art roses
tattoo designs of outdoor accessories

Where to Buy Tattoo Flash From Professionals

flash tattoo design book
prints of custom tattoos

As a new tattoo artist, smaller flash tattoos are the best place to start to build your skills. However, as you move forward, you’ll need to be able to design larger, more intricate tattoos for your clients. 

To do that, you’ll need to know how to draw with the flow of the muscles - and make sure your designs fit on the body without it wrapping too far around and overlapping. Without the right fit and flow, your tattoos will look awkward and limit your earning potential as a tattoo artist.

However, learning to draw with flow takes most artists years of trial and error…

And it can be really hard to wrap your head around when you’re just starting out. The best way to get the hang of it fast is to look at references of other artists’ work and see how they did it so you can replicate it in your own work

As you practice drawing and tattooing those professional designs, you’ll naturally learn how to create designs that have flow.

That’s why we created the Tattooing 101 Sketch Book. 

Inside, you’ll find 74 tattoo designs drawn for you by our professional tattoo artists. You can use them to inspire your own designs - or you can stencil them up and start tattooing right away.

Instead of hoping another tattoo artist doesn’t see that you’re practicing with their designs, you can rest assured that these are 100% for you to use however you like. 

When you draw the designs inside or use them as tattoo stencils, you’ll get used to creating designs with flow, which means you’ll be able to draw tattoos that always look good on the body.If you would like to get your hands on a digital copy of 74 pro designs, hit the link below:

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AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain. When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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