A tattoo flash is a 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 used in their own studio, or traded and sold among other tattooers. Hand-drawn, local tattoo flash was largely replaced by professional "flash artists" who produced prints of copyrighted flash and sold them at conventions or through the Internet. By 2000, most tattoo studios have become custom shops with the flash serving as more of a reference for ideas. Most designs are created by the tattoo artist from 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.