Custom Design vs Flash: Why People Choose Custom

John Dietrich

The ultimate tattoo dilemma: do you get a flash or custom design for your next tattoo? There’s no right or wrong answer, it completely depends on the scenario regarding your ink. We looked into why people choose to get custom tattoos over flash designs, and asked them to tell us their stories. We also considered the pros to each kind of tattoo design, and when they might apply to your decision. Read on to find out when you would want to go flash, and when you want to choose custom.

Pros of Shop Flash

American Traditional Tattoo Flash Sheet Photo: Live About

There are positives to choosing a tattoo design from a shop or artist’s flash sheet versus going the custom route. The main benefits include the speed, and quick fix with which the piece can be done. If you have a tattoo itch that you want to scratch, but don’t care too much about what the meaning behind the ink is, then picking a pre-drawn piece of art off a flash sheet can be the perfect way to go. This is especially true if you’re fan of the artist in question and their style, and just want a piece done by them on your body, no matter what the design.

The overall shop time and experience is quicker too, because the tattoo artist doesn’t need to spend time talking with you about what you want in your design, drafting up a sketch, having you approve it, making any changes, and then finally, getting in the chair. When you pick a flash sheet design, you’re in and out within a couple of hours, depending on the size and complexity of the chosen design.

Flash options tend to be smaller in size as well, so if you’re looking to add something small to your body art, flash sheets can provide great inspiration.

Benefits of Custom Tattoo Designs

Nautical custom tattoo design

There are significant advantages to getting a custom tattoo design over going with something from a flash sheet. You get to work with an artist to make your vision come to life, and that allows for a ton of creative expression on your end. You get to tell your story and express yourself through this artistic medium just by virtue of coming up with your own tattoo idea. It’s the best way to really show who you are through your body art.

The thought of another person stealing or copying your tattoo design is an unfortunate reality. Investing in a Custom Tattoo Design is the perfect way to combat this issue. Custom Tattoo Designs provides its customers with a copyright of their design so that their unique and personal tattoo design cannot be replicated. This concept should put many at ease as the individual receiving the tattoo is assured that their design is one of a kind and 100% theirs.

Custom designs are especially useful when you’re looking at getting big pieces done. Flash sheets don’t tend to include large-scale designs, like a full sleeve or back piece, so if that’s what you have in mind, you’re going to need to go custom anyway. What better way could there to be ensure that you’re going to love your tattoo for the long haul then taking part in creating the design yourself?

If you’re looking to get a tattoo that’s particularly meaningful to you, or memorializes someone or something special, then a custom design is the best way to make that happen. What’s meaningful to one person may not mean a single thing to another, so flash options wouldn’t be the best for this kind of tattoo. Go with a symbol or design that has significance, so that you really connect with your tattoo. You’re going to love your ink all the more if it resonates with you on personal level.

Why They Went Custom

Full Back Phoenix Tattoo Photo: Facebook – Jenna Kerr Tattoo
We asked around to find out why people chose custom tattoo designs for their ink, as opposed to picking from a flash sheet. We found that the main reasons people went the custom route was to have a design that really meant something to them, to feel like they had more a say in the design process, and to have something that’s completely unique to them.

Means Something

Jared's Final Tattoo Design

Jared S. didn’t want just any ole’ design, “I feel like I wouldn’t fully appreciate a tattoo unless it meant something to me, compared to a ‘that looks cool’ tattoo”. It was important for him to feel like this tattoo told his story, and represented his ancestral heritage.

Aneela K., on the other hand, went custom to memorialize her late father. She has a butterfly tattoo that she got from a flash sheet when she was 18, and that one she doesn’t give a second thought to. The tattoo she got in memory of her dad, however, is a different story, “…my dad passed away and I got a tattoo, [which] I designed and that had meaning. It had not just his initials, but those of my mom, my sister, and my few very close friends”. She feels an emotional connection to this tattoo, much more so then for her ‘just for fun’ flash ink.

All of Marla W.’s tattoos are custom designs. Each of her tattoos have deep, personal meaning to them, and most of them represent the people most important to her, “Two involve my daughters and first grandchild, and one represents how I want to live my life: authentic and truthful. These are my loves, my journeys”.

She travelled for work a lot when her kids were little, and she got a tattoo to represent the ritual that she would do with her girls before she left:

When I would leave for a trip, I used to hold my thumb and forefinger up and say ‘I love you from here (touching my thumb), all the way around the world to here (touching my forefinger). Eventually we would just hold our thumbs and forefingers up and we’d know what it meant. I hand wrote/drew this tattoo – and that’s exactly what it means. I will always love my girls ‘from here all the way around the world to here’.

When she became a grandma, she designed a tattoo in honor of her daughters and first grandchild, incorporating all of their initials “as a bracelet, even making the links look like they were laying across the bottom side of my wrist”.

Her final custom tattoo is to honor her faith, “I had ‘truth’ tattooed on the underside of my wrist, so every time I needed the reminder, I could just turn my wrist over and see it. The ‘t’ is made of nails from Jesus’ cross”. Each of Marla’s tattoos have very different, but extremely personal meanings for her, which a flash design may not have been able to provide in quite the same way.

Having Something Truly Unique

Full Sleeve Tattoo for Rob

For Rob K., the idea of having a tattoo design that other people could have as well was not an option, “My sleeve is mine, and I didn’t want anything off the wall that might also be on someone else’s body”. His sleeve tattoo is a fully custom piece, which he left mostly up to an artist that he trusted to complete, “I knew the general elements of the sleeve…My guy took a rough outline of my arm and did a stencil of the Koi-Dragon, that was the feature piece. Then, the rest of the tattoo was laid out with a Sharpie on my arm before each session. I couldn’t be happier with the final piece”. Getting a custom design is one of the best possible ways to guarantee that you’ll have a tattoo that no one else in the world will have a copy of.

Having a Say

Jeremy wanted a unique design, but he also wanted to be sure the final product was something he’d be happy with, “I wanted to have a design that nobody has had before. I would not get a flash design because, if it’s on my body forever, I want to have the biggest say of what goes on there. There’s nothing like the feeling of picking and choosing every element to your tattoo and being able to show it off forever”.

He believes that avoiding tattoo regret can be easily done by getting something custom designed, where you’re part of the process, “…if you really help design your own, and choose your own elements, you should be able to love it forever…Everything you put your own energy into making will always be more rewarding in the end”. Going custom was a success for Jeremy, “It came out exactly as I wanted too and I couldn’t be happier”.

Amy B.

Amy's Tattoo

Amy has a powerful story behind her tattoo – she was in a horrific car accident which nearly cost her her life. Thankfully, doctors were able to save her, but she has a permanent reminder of what she’s overcome in the form of scars on her legs. After making a full recovery, she wanted to turn these marks into something beautiful, “…after seeing and dealing with people’s negative reactions to my scars, I knew I had to reclaim my body for my own. I worried my mother would not approve, and she didn’t at first, but as she has a significant amount of scarring herself, she understood my desire to want to decorate mine”.

After several years of searching for an artist she could trust, she chose a tattoo artist, August Moon, to work with her to come up with a meaningful design to go over top of the scarring, “With a singular experience as dying and coming back, I felt it would cheapen my experience of life and death to decorate my scars with something seen on thirty other people”. Once she saw the final product, she cried literal tears of joy, “I could proudly proclaim it was my leg again”.

There are a number of situations wherein getting a flash tattoo can be the right way to go, but in many other scenarios, a custom tattoo design is the only way to truly tell your story. Whether that means commemorating something big that you’ve overcome, or simply wanting to have a unique design, going with a custom tattoo can be the best choice when you’re looking for inspiration.

Do you have a custom tattoo design or flash tattoo? Let us know in the comments!

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