A tattoo flash is a stereotypical tattoo design printed or drawn on paper or cardboard, and may be regarded as a species of industrial design. It is typically displayed on the walls of tattoo parlors and in binders to give walk-in customers ideas for tattoos. Most traditional tattoo flash was designed for rapid tattooing and used in "street shops" - tattoo shops that handle a large volume of generic tattoos for walk-in customers.
Flash is either drawn by the individual tattooer for display and use in their own studio, or traded and sold among other tattooers. Hand-drawn, local tattoo flash has been largely replaced by professional "flash artists" who produced prints of copyrighted flash and to sell at conventions or through the Internet.
By the year 2000, most tattoo studios had become custom shops with the flash serving largely as a reference for ideas. Most tattoo designs are created by the tattoo artist developing an idea brought in by the customer.
There is no standard size for tattoo flash, but it is most commonly found on 11x14 inch prints in North America, and at A3 paper size in Europe. Tattoo flash may or may not come with an outline, also known as a line drawing. This outline is typically printed on a separate sheet. This is convenient for the tattoo artist, who would otherwise have to draw the linework for themselves.
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