Flash Faux Pas and Tattoo Etiquette

One of the hardest things about getting a tattoo, once you’ve decided you want one, is choosing the design. Hopefully by now you realize that the tattoo will be permanent, so once it’s on there, there’s no going back. Selecting the perfect piece of art to wear on your body for the rest of your life should be an involved, concentrated process.

The problem, though, is that too many people are lazy when it comes to choosing their tattoo design. They rely too heavily on flash and will pick something right off the wall in a matter of minutes because they like it, and insist that the artist do the design exactly as it is on the flash page. I think this calls for a discussion on the purpose of flash art.

When a flash artist sits down and creates a page of designs, he knows (or hopes) copies will be sold to numerous tattoo studios and will be used by potential patrons for tattoo designs. This is how he makes money, and it can also be how the studio makes money if the designs are popular. The more “sellable” (popular) a particular sheet of flash is, the more its worth. The prudent flash artist will fill his flash sheets with dolphins, hearts, tribals and other trendy pictures that draw the eye of the lazy consumer looking for a quick-find. The flash artist and the tattoo artist both make their money whether the customer uses an ounce of ingenuity or not, so many of them really don’t care if they see a thousand reproductions of the same design. You, on the other hand, should.

Now before I get a bunch of hate mail about my slamming flash or dolphins, let me assure you that I have nothing at all against either. Flash serves a very important purpose in the tattoo world, and dolphins are one of my favorite animals. The problem I have is with people having such a lack of creativity that they actually don’t care if a thousand other people are out there wearing their exact same tattoo. I guess this is the difference between people that get a tattoo because tattoos are “kewl” and the people that get a tattoo because they appreciate it for the artistic quality. That is also going to be the difference between the people that regret their tattoos in 20 years, and those that still love them.

Think back about, oh, say 10 years or so, and what were your favorite things at that time? How about 20 years (if you were alive then)? And I can assure you that major life changes like marriage, children, and simple age can have a big impact on the things you find important. The key is to find out what is deeply important enough that it will still be with you many, many years down the road. Your favorite cartoon character, music band, celebrity, or even significant other may change drastically over time and are generally not wise choices for tattoos.

Going back to the original point of this article, flash does have its place in the tattoo world. It’s great to look at for ideas and inspiration. If you see a piece of flash you really love and you are sure you want it for a tattoo, fine. But for goodness sake, be creative with it! Use the flash drawing as the base for your own design. Take the time to think about it and make some changes to the original design to make it a better example of your inner self. Change the size, remove a few things, add a few things, change the colors, etc. Make sure that your tattoo – the picture you will be wearing for the rest of your life – is unique and special, not something you’re going to find an exact replica of on someone else’s body.

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