How to Choose the Right Tattoo Design | Painful Pleasures Community

How to Choose the Right Tattoo Design

With so many options out there, how do you decide on the tattoo design that is right for you?  Check out this article to discover the differences in flash art tattoos and custom tattoos.

by PainfulPleasures Last Updated: May 13, 2021

With so many options out there, how do you decide on the tattoo design that is right for you? Many people hold great meaning in their tattoos, and use them to represent a major life change. Tattoos tell a story of where you’ve been and what you’ve done. They are a constant reminder of where you were in life at the time you were tattooed. Regardless of whether you choose a flash design or opt for a more personalized custom tattoo, chances are the tattoo will be meaningful to you regardless.


Tattoo flash is predesigned artwork used for tattoos. Shops that have flash will generally have a large selection of different popular designs that are categorized by theme. For instance, if you want a tattoo of an anchor, you can browse through drawings of many different style anchors, and choose which one you like best.

Flash tattoo art is commonly used for walk in customers, or people who decide to get a spur-of-the-moment tattoo. Some people choose a design based on beauty or art. A tattoo doesn’t have to have a deep meaning, but it should be a work of art that makes you happy and feel good about yourself. Flash designs can be great if you aren’t a very art savvy person, and not really sure of what you want, or how you want it.  Flash can also be very helpful to provide ideas and inspiration so you can use certain aspects in a custom tattoo. You can find examples of flash tattoo in books sold through Painful Pleasures, including Scatterbrain Tattoo Flash, Flash Collection Book from Steve Soto, and a Flash set from Brazil, among others. (link to each).  For more inspiration, check out the Painful Pleasures Gallery to see both custom and flash tattoo art tattoos from all over the world.


Custom tattoos are one of a kind. They  require you to have a good idea of what you want or to trust the artist to freehand (discussed below). You’ll have a consultation with the artist, and discuss ideas and plans together. The more references you can show your artist, the better, because communication and understanding are very important. You can bring in photos, sketches, and color examples, so that your artist has a clear idea of what you want and can begin to elaborate and come up with your dream tattoo.

Some custom artists will also do what is called “freehand”.  This means they will draw directly on your skin instead of using a stencil. Some experienced artists prefer freehanding as stencils can’t always conform to the body correctly. A good tattoo will flow with the shape and contours of your body, so that it looks natural and organic. Freehand drawing can be very helpful for large tattoos, or on awkward areas of the body.

Many custom tattoos have significant meaning because you are using your own artistic sense to create the design, and communicate with your artist on what details you want to be revealed in your tattoo.

Check out Tattoo Books at Painful Pleasures to see custom tattoo pieces from people across the globe.  You can also check out our gallery to see both Custom and Flash art tattoos.

When choosing Flash Art versus Custom Design, be sure you know the limitations of your artist. If your artist recommends freehand, be sure to ask to see many pictures of previous freehand work that he/she has done.  A tattoo is permanent, you want to be sure your artist has a good track record and can draw and tattoo the dream tattoo you are looking for.

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