Long before tattooists posted all of their work on Instagram there was one way to judge their talent before the needle hit your skin—by checking out their flash. Artists would draw or paint designs on pieces of paper and hang them up at the front of the shop, customers would then pick out a design they liked and get it tattooed. Many of the legends of the industry—Sailor Jerry, Bert Grimm, Charlie Wagner—have had their legacies live on through their flash sheets.
Even as the industry has shifted more towards artists creating custom work through Photoshop, tattoo flash has not lost its importance. Besides the obvious aesthetic appeal flash brings to a tattoo shop, it can also be used as a way to help artists hone and sharpen their skills.
To give you an idea of some of the flash being created today Myke Chambers, owner of Philadelphia's Seven Swords Tattoo Company, was gracious enough to give us some of the flash sheets produced by the artists at his shop.