Tattoo Flash - This paper will make or break your paintings.

Tattoo Flash Introduction

- Choosing and Preparing your Paper -

Materials In This Module:


  • Break down your 10"x14" watercolor block into 5"x7" mini sheets


Good morning masters!

So today we're talking about painting traditional Tattoo Flash. While we're still waiting on contractors to finish getting the new studio set up we're going to take this opportunity to show you how to paint some flash. Over the years I've tried pretty much every single kind of watercolor paper out there. And hands down the best I've found is this Green Arches Block, it says arches at the top. Make sure you buy the 300 g/m, 140 pound press. Make sure you get the "cold press".

Arches Watercolor Block - 140lb cold press - 10"x14"

So the cold press and the hot press, what's the difference? Basically the difference is between the temperature in which they actually press and make the paper during the production process. Because this one has been cold pressed, it means it has a bit more of a tooth on the paper. Which means there's more of a texture on the paper which will help grab and hold the pigment.

You can actually run your hand across the the paper and actually feel the texture on it. This paper is a little more expensive. However you do get what you pay for and there is a noticeable difference in performance between this and the cheap stuff you get at Walmart and other outlet stores. Nothing wrong with that stuff, but the stuff you find at Walmart and hobby lobby, all these craft stores will be a lot harder to get those nice smooth blends with your paints.

Older painting done by your instructor, Jay. This is done on the paper I mention above.

I've also noticed that when you start layering your color on the cheap stuff, it can sometimes start deteriorating and falling apart. I've actually tried doing blends on the cheaper paper and actually rubbed a hole in the paper just trying to paint on it. So if you have the budget, I recommend the professional artist paper, Arches. It's probably 50 or 60 bucks for a block, but lasts a long time and is an investment in your career.

A block of arches paper is just 20 sheets and they're going to be all stuck together when you get it. So the first thing you want to do is open it up. Again, we're using the 10 inch by 14 inch size. If you want to just paint like one flash sheet, this is typically the size 10"x 14" or 11" x 14" and you can kind of layer your designs on as you like. But because we're just practicing, I like doing a lot of small 5 inch by 7 inch paintings.

Cut your 10" x 14" watercolor paper into four 5"x 7" rectangles

So because I have the 10" by 14" watercolor block I can just cut it into quarters and break it down into some nice 5" x 7" pieces. This way I have some nice practice paper and I can just do some little mini flash designs. So the first thing you want to do is take either a butter knife or in my case I'm using a painter's knife.

This is a palette knife for oil painting because we are in the studio here and we have some some tools laying around, but you can use whatever you have handy, just be careful not to cut or damage your paper. What you want to do is carefully find the nice white spot at the top of the paper. You see the black stuff holding all of the sheets together, and at the top you have the actual white paper showing through.

Carefully, you want to stick your butter knife or your painter's knife just under the first sheet of paper right at the top and angle it backwards as show above. Carefully. It took me a long time to figure this angle out. If you angle it too forward, you might tear the paper, so angle backwards a bit. If you're in a rush, you might tear the paper, so angle it back. Be extra careful around the corners in England backwards as you just kind of like go around the perimeter of the paper.

Angle your palette or butter knife backwards as you move forward to prevent tearing your paper

Of course, make sure your knife is relatively clean. I've definitely wasted some paper because I didn't notice that I had oil paint residue on my pallet knife and destroyed a piece of paper that cost a couple bucks per sheet. So carefully go around the outside with a clean knife and you'll be able to pop off that top sheet of paper.

I stick the black insert back inside the block just to protect that top sheet of paper. Now that we have our paper cut off, start feeling the paper. You can feel there is a really rough side. Now feel the other side. The rough side is the one we're going to actually paint on and on the backside you'll feel this nice and smooth. So on the smooth side, since it will be the back of our painting, we can do whatever we want here.

Measure off the halfway point on the backside (the smooth side) - Since we're using 10"x14", halfway will be 5"x7"

The main thing I want to do is take my ruler here and because I know that this is going to be a 10 by 14 inch piece of paper, I'll come up and mark my five inch mark, then I'll go to the other side of the paper on this side and I'll find my five inch mark. You should now have your 5" mark made on each side of the paper. Now I'll do the same thing for the long side. Again, since it's 14" long, I know halfway will be about 7"

Now do the same thing for the long 14" side. Halfway across will be at the 7" mark.

I'll align my ruler up again and I'll find where it's about 14 the size isn't exactly accurate, but we'll get it as close as we can. A little bit of hang off here and here and I'll find where a seven is and I'll mark it. I'll move us up, getting as close as we can, I'll find my seven, again coming across and marking it. So as always, I know a lot of you guys are just starting out. You don't have all this special equipment. However since I'm always doing this type of work in the studio I did buy this Fiskars cutting wheel because I do paint so much flash. I use it all the time. But a regular pair of scissors is just fine for what we're doing.

Line up the 7" marks you made on the top and bottom with your straight edge and pull the pencil back towards you to make a line across the sheet.

Make sure you're drawing on the BACK (smooth side) of the paper!

Find the mark at the bottom, and the one you made up top. Make sure you have a street edge to connect the points. I'll line my straight edge up with both points. As you can see I'm lining up, and I'll come across and come down like this. Of course if you're using your scissors, just go ahead and cut this line straight up.

Now we'll do the same process for our other mark. I'll mark it at the top, and again at the bottom. Line it up top and bottom with our straight edge and now we have a nice straight line. Now our sheet is divided roughly into four equal 5"x7" mini sheets.

Our "10x14" nicely divided into four 5"x7" mini sheets

They may be a little off due to to variance in the paper, but they're all roughly five by seven inches. You might have to trim it just a little bit on the edge if they didn't fit in a frame. But this is just for practice anyways.

So actually what I started doing, because I was painting so many five by sevens for practice, I would mark the top sheet and I would try and layer three or four blank sheets underneath, making sure they're all in alignment and I would just cut three or four at a time.

Whatever you do, just always have nice stacks of these fresh five by seven inch mini sheets ready to go.

Let me quickly show you how to cut these. Remember we're on the back of our paper, the smooth side, not the front, or the rough side. So on the smooth side of the sheet you need to simply cut this with scissors, or I'll show you how to do it with the cutting wheel. First we'll line up our marks for the cutting wheel. Super easy just to expose the blade, but make sure you're pressing down on your straight edge with a firm pressure.

With a firm pressure, hold your straight edge down so it doesn't slide. Expose the blade of your cutter and roll up to cut in one smooth motion.

With one motion, stay against the straight edge and cut off your five by seven. For you guys using scissors? Of course just line your edge up here and slowly and carefully cut along your graphite line. And there you have it. Flip it over to the front side and you had your nice five by seven ready to go.

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