Have You Ever Wondered about Tattoo Flash?
This article gives a quick review of the origins and proliferation of tattoo flash or sheets of tattoo designs commonly seen in tattoo parlors.
Tattoo flash refers to tattoo designs that hang on the walls of a tattoo parlor and are available for potential tattoo customers to choose from for tattooing. Such displays of tattoo designs originated from traditional Western tattooing styles and the way flash is drawn is highly systematic.
For example, flash found in tattoo parlors within the same neighborhood often differ only in slight subtle ways and the designs mainly involve pinups images of women, military insignia, ships, fierce animals, knives, and skulls.
Sheets of tattoo flash were first put up for sale by a certain “Lew the Jew” Alberts, a wallpaper designer and tattooist in the early 1900s. Before the availability of tattoo flash, a tattooist who would like to reproduce another tattooist’s design has to copy that design off of a customer’s body.
The brilliant Alberts spotted the business opportunity and started producing tattoo flash that any tattooist could buy and quickly set up a tattoo parlor. Once a flash sheet is acquired by a tattooist, he can simply copy it entirely or make slight alterations, and then use it as his own. Because of such flagrant but legal copying and reproduction, it was quite difficult to identify the original creator of the flash.
Nonetheless, the introduction of tattoo flash gave rise to a win-win situation as the tattooist improved the possibility of sealing a deal by rapidly offering different design choices to customers. In turn the customers can save on valuable time and money. However, even if a tattooist had multiple sheets of flash, the number of choices was still rather limited.
As a result the use of tattoo flash, certain designs or variations of these designs subsequently became classics, worn by a majority of tattooed people in a particular social group. Fads can certainly change over time but certain classic tattoo designs such as the rose remain wildly popular today.
Currently tattooists who offer tattoo flash will use a piece of translucent rice paper to transfer a design to the customer’s body. First, the rice paper is placed over the sheet of flash. Then, the design is directly traced on the paper thereby producing a stencil. Finally, the tattooist will apply a little carbon powder onto the stencil and transfer the design onto the body before actual tattooing.
In the 1980s a wave of change came about when tattoo parlors began to move towards contemporary tattoos or custom designs. Until then, most tattoo parlors had flash covering most walls, the front windows and often the ceiling as well. For those who enjoy the intricate flash designs, you can easily buy a “pork chop sheet” or a sheet of cheap flash designs for a dollar or so.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kum Cheong wrote this article. If you would like some help on choosing a design for your next tattoo, you are welcome to visit his Tattoo Design Website today.