A tattoo flash is a design of a tattoo printed or drawn on a sheet of paper or cardboard. Tattoo flashes are usually displayed on the
walls of tattoo shops in order to give customers ideas for designs.
Traditionally, tattoo flashes were designed by a tattooist for display in his own shop. Tattooists sometimes traded or sold flash sheets
Today, these hand-drawn, local tattoo flashes are rare. Many tattooists make multiple color photocopies of flashes and sell them at tattoo
conventions or on the internet. Newcomers to the tattoo industry wishing to publicise their designs often freely distribute flashes on
their web pages. As a result, contemporary tattoo shops display flashes from many artists.
While there is no standard size for tattoo flash sheets, the most common are 11x14 inches in the US and A3 in Europe. Also the letter and
A4 formats are getting more popular in recent years, since more color printers print these formats.
A set of tattoo flash may or may not come with an "outline". The outline is typically printed on a separate sheet, one for each sheet of
tattoo flash. This is convenient for the tattooist, who otherwise would have to draw an outline himself in order to make the stencil for
the linework of the tattoo.
Today's customers rarely pick a design from the wall and have it done in exactly the same size and color. Most tattoos are custom-designed.
Nevertheless, tattoo flashes are an excellent departure point for design and style ideas.