How to Make Custom Tattoo Flash (Without Drawing From Scratch)

If you’re learning how to become a tattoo artist, you’ve probably been told to practice drawing flash tattoos. Flash sheets are the prints of small tattoos you’ll see typically displayed on the walls of tattoo studios. 

Being able to draw those types of designs is important to your career because you’ll probably spend your first year as a tattoo artist doing small flash tattoos on clients. 

However, most new artists get stuck on creating custom tattoo flash. Even after you’ve traced tons of designs or copied other artists’ work for practice, it can be hard to draw something completely unique. 

Keep reading to discover the easy way to do it without having to start completely from scratch.

In this article, we’re breaking down how to:

  • Change a design to make it your own
  • Combine ideas you like to make original flash designs
  • The fastest way to get new flash designs (where to buy designs)

How to Change Another Artist’s Design to Make Original Tattoo Flash

Trying to draw tattoos from scratch takes a ton of time, and leaves you staring at a blank sheet of paper for hours on end. This is why tattoo artists search for reference images all the time

Using a reference image does not mean ripping off someone else’s designs. It means using another artist’s work as a base for your own creation. 

In the video below, our instructor, Brandon, shows you how to make changes to the original design and create your own piece of art.

How Much Do I Need to Change a Design?

There are a lot of different “rules'' when it comes to using someone else’s work to inspire your own. Some copyright laws say an image needs to be changed 30% to be “different enough” from the original. However, if your work is still too close to another artist’s, most tattoo shops won’t hire you.

If you want to work off another artist’s design to make art for your tattoo portfolio or a client, we recommend using your own style as much as possible.

How to Combine Multiple Designs to Make a New Flash Design

If you want to work off of more than one design, you can pull the things you like from multiple pieces and use them to make something completely new. 

In the video below, you’ll see how our instructor takes two Neo Traditional tattoos to draw a completely new idea.

How to Personalize Designs

If you’re designing flash for your tattoo portfolio, you not only want your artwork to be good, but you want the shop to remember you. When it comes to flash, we recommend still using the lessons you’ve learned from working with other artist’s designs - but putting your own spin on it. 

tattoo flash prints created for a studio customer

In the example above, you can see how the artist used familiar elements from traditional tattoo flash while using details to make personalized art. 

To learn how to design your own flash sheet, check out our article, “How to Create Flash Art.”


We recommend creating a logo or personalized signature so you can sign each of your flash sheets.

How to Get Professional Tattoo Designs Faster

prints of custom tattoos

We’ve talked about different methods you can use to make your own flash without copying other artists. Using these methods can still be difficult - especially if you’re new to tattooing and aren’t used to drawing with the flow of the muscles. 

However, without the right fit and flow, your tattoos will look awkward and limit your earning potential as a tattoo artist. 

For most artists, learning to draw with flow takes 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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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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