Create Tattoo Flash Art in 5 Steps (Plus 25 Free Flash Designs!)

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:

  • Why flash art is important to your tattoo career.
  • How to draw your own flash.
  • And we’ll give you some free flash designs you can tattoo right away!

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:

Drawing Flash Improves Your Tattooing Skills

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:

Pro

Con

  • Finding flash online gives you access to lots of great designs you can start tattooing (and making money with) immediately.
  • You won’t be spending as much time developing your design skills.

Pro

  • Finding flash online gives you access to lots of great designs you can start tattooing (and making money with) immediately.

Con

  • You won’t be spending as much time developing your design skills.

Creating Your Own Flash Designs:

Pro

  • Making your own flash builds your design skills. People will pay much more for your personal style later on because they can’t find work like yours anywhere else.

Con

  • It takes time to draw flash, and you’ll need to spend time on your design skills to compete with more experienced tattoo artists.

Pro

Con

  • Making your own flash builds your design skills. People will pay much more for your personal style later on because they can’t find work like yours anywhere else.
  • It takes time to draw flash, and you’ll need to spend time on your design skills to compete with more experienced tattoo artists.

Tattoo Flash Art Saves You Time

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.

Having Flash Art Helps Customers Decide What They Want

flash tattoo designs are typically displayed on the walls in tattoo studios

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.

Note

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.

Tattoo Flash Helps You Build a Client List

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.

Showing Personal Style

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.

Note:

If you are very new to a shop, you might want to create a sheet of designs that fall into popular categories for walk-ins (like an infinity sign, heart illustrations, and roses).

Tattooing 101’s Tattoo Flash Art Sheets

Need some inspiration? Check out our library of tattoo flash art.

How to Create Your Own Tattoo Flash Sheets

Interested in making your own tattoo flash sheet? 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:

  • Putting multiple designs on one piece of paper
  • Using the same color scheme in all the designs
  • Having a “theme” (birds, flowers, weapons, etc.)

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.

Note

If you are working on an iPad, each “tracing sheet” below would be a different layer.

  1. 1
    Tracing Paper: Round One

On a sheet of tracing paper, sketch out your design with basic shapes.

  1. 2
    Tracing Paper: Round Two

Put another sheet of tracing paper on top of your sketch. Here, you can clean up and refine the design.

  1. 3
    Tracing 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.

custom work of a tattoo flash set
  1. 4
    Arrange 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. 

Note:

Arrange the designs so that there are only small gaps between the designs.

  1. 5
    Trace 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:

  • Sharpie or Micron’s Pigma Graphic pen
  • 0.8mm Micron pen
  • 0.3mm Micron pen

Note:

Most flash sheets are 11” x 14”.

  1. 6
    Color 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. 

Pro Tip:

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. 

How to Get Professional Tattoo Designs Faster  

Tattooing 101 Sketchbook sign
popular categories and ideas for tattoo inspiration

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 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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