Tattoo flashes are predesigned tattoos that adorn the walls of tattoo parlours. They are also stored in large books for walk-in customers who want a tattoo, but do not necessarily care about what they will get. Flash art usually consists of theme or stock characters, such as butterflies or she-devils, skulls and unidentified Asian characters. The way to personalise a flash is to have the artist modify the design to your own taste.
Visit tattoo parlours in your area until you find one with an environment you are comfortable with, and an artist who is willing and able to do what you want.
Look through the artist's "book" to make sure he or she is good with the kind of art you want.
Find your flash. Do so by looking through tattoo magazines, books or on tattoo web sites. Also, check out the flash in the tattoo parlours you visit while looking for an artist.
Draw a basic design of what you want done. You do not need to be an accomplished artist to do this. It is just a way of showing what you want done and in what pattern.
Consider other options once you have the basic idea of what pieces of flash you want to use and have decided how to integrate them. Lettering or dates around a generic flash, cross combined with a picture of a loved one could become a design commemorating a death or wedding.
Discuss the piece with your chosen tattoo artist because he or she will ultimately always modify a design. The artist can help you create or modify a design using flash and he or she will have years of experience doing so. They will also be able to advise you about sizing and how the location of the piece may effect the ultimate design, such as if an Egyptian beetle were tattooed on one's foot near the toes.
Tips: There are no set rules of how to combine design and flash for tattoos. It ultimately depends on what you're looking for. However, a good way to start is by choosing a single piece of flash and slowly layering it, maybe with a design or another flash, until you have a multilayered design that looks unique, even though it is based on a generic flash. Flashes are by their nature generic, so they make for a good starting point to develop an idea.