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Custom vs. Flash Tattoos: Why Custom Tattoos Are Better

I may have a girl-next-door vibe, but I've got four tattoos (and want more!). Don't judge a book by its cover . . .

Taking the time to plan out a custom tattoo design ensures that you'll end up with something that's as unique as you are. Get some tips on how to design a custom tattoo.

Taking the time to plan out a custom tattoo design ensures that you'll end up with something that's as unique as you are. Get some tips on how to design a custom tattoo.

Forget the Flash—Custom Designs Are the Only Way to Go!

Whether you're getting your first or your fifth tattoo, the art that you put on your body should be as original and as unique as you are!

Try to steer clear of the shops with posters and flash books lying all around. Pick a flash design and, chances are, you won't be the only person walking around town with that exact same butterfly or Betty Boop tattoo. And what does that say about you? It says that you pointed to a picture in a book and said, "Put that on me." That's it.

A unique individual such as yourself deserves a piece of artwork that will better represent them, not just a carbon copy of a design in a book that countless other people may have also picked!

Research Designs Before Going to the Shop

I'm not saying that you can't go in there with an idea in mind. Maybe you really do want that butterfly or Betty Boop tattoo. But don't let the tattoo artist delegate what design you end up permanently etching on your flesh! Do your homework! Research!

Look for pictures, images, and designs that appeal to you. You might find that you really like one design aspect in one tattoo design, but also like another part of another tattoo image. Collect pictures of the tattoo parts and pieces that you like and share them with a tattoo artist that specializes in custom work.

These guys and girls are called artists for a reason. If you show them what you like and discuss what you have in mind, they will surely be able to come up with a way to blend all of your ideas into a design that you can preview before getting the tattoo.

My initial tattoo idea looked a little like this.

My initial tattoo idea looked a little like this.

How I Planned My Tattoo

Here's an example of how I went about "designing" one of my tattoos. I knew that I wanted to do something all black, with swirly/fine lines, the letter "J" (which is the initial of several people that I care about), and a heart, but hellllooo—what's so creative about a heart and a letter? Not very original, so if that was the tattoo I was going to end up doing, I wanted to make sure it came out exactly the way I pictured in my head.

Finding the Right Heart

So I started off searching for my heart on the internet. The center heart pictured isn't exactly the same, but it's pretty similar to the one I liked.

Next, I looked for designs for a swirly letter "J."

Next, I looked for designs for a swirly letter "J."

Finding the Right Letter "J"

Then I had to find the "J" that I wanted to go in the center of my heart. Since the heart was going to be kind of swirly and girly, I needed to find a similar "J" that would blend in.

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Let's say I liked the "J" on this coffee cup. It's pretty close to what I was going for.

Combining the Elements in a Doodle

I actually sat around and doodled for a bit, copying and tracing the heart and the J, making sure that this was really what I wanted to have tattooed on my back. Obviously, I'm not the artist, but I wanted to go into the tattoo parlor with a clear idea of what I wanted the final product to look like.

Sharing My Plan With the Artist

I made an appointment with an artist that came very highly recommended by a friend and took in my feeble attempts at tattoo sketches. I explained to him that I wanted a swirly black heart, with the letter "J" in the middle, and maybe some swirls and squiggles behind/through the heart.

The finished product.

The finished product.

My Finished Tattoo

Sure, like I said, it's not the most original of tattoo designs, but since I was the one dictating what elements I wanted to be included in the artwork and not just pointing at a picture in a book, I knew it would be one of a kind!

All of my tattoos came from designs I saw somewhere or came up with on my own:

  • A flash design that I liked but wanted to change a little (an ankh with a heart at the top instead of just a regular loop).
  • My heart/initial (as described here).
  • Stars (there's nothing at all original about stars, but I had a special idea in mind for where I wanted them to go and how I wanted them shaded in).
  • A swallow and flowers (again, a swallow tattoo isn't very original, but I specified how I wanted it to be colored, etc., and what type of flowers I wanted).

What to Do Before Getting a Tattoo

Before you get a tattoo, remember:

  • Do some research!
  • Pick something that's meaningful to you, and look at books, magazines, and websites to find art that you like!
  • Find a custom artist in your area and share your ideas with him/her first. Request that a sketch be made before you even think of letting a needle pierce your skin.
  • If you don't like the sketch, make some changes or adjustments, or, if need be, visit another artist!

I don't need to tell you that tattoos are permanent, so you need to be totally happy with your design before you even think about getting the tattoo!


Boots Iacono from Northern New Jersey on July 03, 2012:

I agree... and this is coming from someone who makes all his own flash. I only use flash to get the spark of an idea going... I always change it for the particular person I'm working on. Great Hub!

Little Kim from Any town U.S.A. on March 14, 2011:

I have 10 tattoos and all are not unique. But few people will have what I have. My 2 tiger stripe tribal tatts I know no one has , custome work. Forever Tattoo in cape coral, fl. Anson is the greatest!!

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