Flash art designs are small tattoos that you can give to multiple clients. As an aspiring artist, building up a collection of these ready-to-go designs gets clients interested in your tattoos and saves you time when you have lots of customers later on.
In this article, we’ll show you not only how to create your own flash sheets fast, but we’ll also start you off with some free designs so you can start building up your flash library today.
In this article, we’re breaking down:
What is Tattoo Flash?
A flash sheet has multiple tattoo designs that have a common theme. Most flash sheets come with two separate pieces: a sheet of full-color designs and a sheet with the plain line drawings to help artists create a quick stencil.
Flash art tattoo designs can come in any style, though the most recognizable vintage tattoo flash designs are in the American traditional style, often echoing Sailor Jerry.
Why You Need Flash Designs as a Tattoo Artist
Before we get into the actual process, it’s helpful to know why tattoo flash is important to you as an artist:
A lot of new artists want to get started tattooing right away and use pre-designed flash. Whether this is the right choice for you depends on your career goals as a tattoo artist:
Using Other Artists’ Flash Designs:
Creating Your Own Flash Designs:
Drawing takes a lot of time. If you have a bunch of flash designs ready to go, you can tattoo them over and over again without taking the time to draw something new for every client.
Usually, two types of customers are going to be looking for flash designs: street shop walk-ins and “collectors.” Walk-in customers that aren’t sure what they want can look at the shop’s flash to help them decide on a design, and a lot of “collectors” will get flash from different artists. This is why almost every tattoo shop has flash hanging on the walls.
Even if a client wants a custom tattoo, looking at flash can help them explain their ideas more clearly and give them a starting point when choosing a design.
Because flash designs aren’t custom tattoos, they can be reused without the artist having to do any additional design work. This makes it easier to host “Flash Days,” when you can tattoo a lot of clients without taking time to draw designs in between. This helps tattoo shops (particularly new shops) bring in new customers.
New Artists: If you don’t have a large client list yet, drawing a lot of flash designs helps you build up your social media channels. By posting your work regularly, you’ll get more followers that are familiar with your art, and those people can become clients.
Creating unique flash helps you show off your personal style to customers looking through your portfolio.
New Artists: You don’t always get to do a tattoo design you like on every customer, but you can draw whatever you want on paper. Taking that time to develop your artwork and personal style will help you build a brand and become more well-known so that you can start tattooing designs you love.
Tattooing 101’s Free Tattoo Flash Art Sheets
Need some inspiration? Here's 25 designs we created that you can use for free
How to Create Your Own Tattoo Flash Sheets
Interested in making flash sheets of your own? Let’s break down the process.
A sheet of flash tattoos should have a cohesive look that makes it look like the designs belong together. You can do this by:
Making Hand Drawn Flash Sheets
Here’s our recommended tattoo flash art supplies:
The goal of a flash sheet is to show customers what a finished tattoo would look like. To get that perfectly clean look, you don’t want to start sketching onto the flash sheet. Instead, you’ll start on tracing paper and then work through several rounds of drawing before getting to color.
If you are working on an iPad, each “tracing sheet” below would be a different layer.
- 1Tracing Paper: Round One
On a sheet of tracing paper, sketch out your design with basic shapes.
- 2Tracing Paper: Round Two
Put another sheet of tracing paper on top of your sketch. Here, you can clean up and refine the design.
- 3Tracing Paper: Round Three
On this sheet, you’ll be making cleaner, darker lines with your pencil. Don’t shade this drawing, since you’ll need the plain line work.
Repeat these three steps for each design that will go on your flash sheet.
- 4Arrange Your Designs on a Flash Sheet and Tape them Down
Cut out each of your finished flash designs and arrange them on a sheet of plain white paper and tape them down. Make sure to press the sticky side of the tape against your clothes a few times before taping the tracing paper down. This will keep it from ripping when you take the tape off.
When your drawings are arranged, make two photocopies. One will be the plain linework you can use to make stencils, the other you will place beneath the drawing paper on the light box.
Arrange the designs so that there are only small gaps between the designs.
- 5Trace Your Line Work Using a Light Box
Place your paper on the light box, and then put your flash sheet on top. If you’re going to be using Copic markers, use digital photo paper so the markers don’t bleed.
At this point, you’ll want to consider using pens with different thicknesses to create different line weights.
For example, if you want your design to have 3 different line weights, you could use:
Most flash sheets are 11” x 14”.
- 6Color Your Designs
When your line drawings are done, you can add color. We recommend using Copic markers.
Work from your darkest to your brightest colors. For example, put in black first, and leave yellow and cream colors for last. Additionally, working in “batches” can help you make designs faster. To do this, you would fill in each color for all your flash designs instead of working on only one design at a time.
When you’re done, add a border to your flash sheet for a professional look. This sheet is what will go in your portfolio or on the wall. Your backup sheet of linework can go in a filing folder with the individual tracings, which you’ll photocopy whenever you need a stencil of one of your designs.
Drawing Flash with an iPad
Drawing digitally speeds up the process of creating flash, and you don’t need any additional supplies. When you use Procreate, mistakes are easy to rub out, and you can “streamline” your brushes so any lines you draw will automatically be perfectly straight. Additionally, you can put the color on another layer, which makes it easy to re-print the stencil whenever you want.
Master Flash with the Artist Accelerator Program
For most new tattoo artists, trying to draw flash designs means staring at a blank page for hours with nothing coming to mind. They feel stuck because of the pressure to come up with a bunch of great new ideas every day. And when they do get through a design, it never looks the way they want it to.
Being told what to draw while someone explains which elements look good on skin gets artists out of their own heads so they can spend more time drawing and learning how to create great tattoo designs.
This is why we created the 30-Day Flash Challenge. It guides you through a structured program that tells you what to draw each day. By the end of the month, you’ve built up the fundamentals you need to create designs that clients love on your own.
If you want instant access to the 30-Day Flash Challenge, as well as our full course that can take you from complete beginner to professional tattoo artist in as little as 90 days…