Upon entering a tattoo shop, usually you will see tattoo images on the wall or in binders consisting of flash art, from which you can pick your design. These tattoo designs are hand drawn by the original artist ( usually on cardboard, on paper, or durable card stock for later lamination). The artist can either have individual pieces of flash or group them into sets. Usually these will consist of a simple line drawing without color, which helps your artist copy the tat easily, as black lines are easier to follow than tattoos that already have the color. The original artist will also provide a full-color version so that you can see how the tattoo will look when finished.
Your artist will first make a stencil of the flash tattoo, giving you a "temporary tattoo" that he/she can then follow the outline when applying the permanent tattoo. This way you can see how the tattoo will look and can make changes, if needed, before the ink is applied and cannot be changed. Of course, it is always best to make your tattoo your own by using the original flash art as a starting point for your tattoo, adding or taking away elements as you and your tattoo artist see fit, giving your tattoo its own uniqueness.
Be aware, though, that the original pieces of art, once drawn, carry a copyright status and fall under the same laws as other copyright material in which the original artist can take action against the tattoo artist and the person who supplied the art if these pieces are obtained illegally. Since this has become a large problem with the use of the Internet, companies have set up sites where flash artists can upload their own art and give paid members the right to download, copy, and use the art without fear of copyright infringement. So even though you can probably get away with stealing someone eles's art, participating in bootleg flash tattoo art hurts the whole tattooing community. It not only hurts the original artist, who have spent their time and talent creating the design, but it hurts the tattoo community as a whole, as a great artist can become discouraged through this type of theft and quit creating, leaving customers with less design options.