The tattoo holiday you didn’t know existed

Hundreds gather for discounted flash tattoos on this unique tradition held every Friday the 13th

Regina Estrada working on Jen Lee at Gold Leaf Ink Studio (Ricardo Olivares / Golden Gate Xpress).

Friday the 13th is a time for watching scary movies, feeling chills down your spine and getting discounted tattoos. 

 A “tattoo holiday” is how Regina Estrada, owner of Gold Leaf Ink a tattoo studio located on Market Street, describes the unique tradition held every Friday the 13th in tattoo parlors across the country.  

On Friday the 13th, countless people will line up for a parlor to receive a flash tattoo, a preset tattoo you are often unable to tweak and or resize and can be done in one sitting, at a discounted price.

The flash sheet contains pre-designed tattoo designs known as flash tattoos for customers to select from (Jocelyn Hernandez Gomez / Golden Gate Xpress).

The strange tradition is said to have begun at Elm Street Tattoo in Dallas, Texas where the very first Friday the 13th 24-hour event was held and thousands lined up for tattoos in 1996. 

 Since then, thousands of tattoo parlors across the country have joined in on the tradition every Friday the 13th. Usually the event includes long lines that sometimes wrap around the parlor, but due to recent public health concerns Estrada went for a more organized approach to avoid large numbers gathering outside Gold Leaf Ink.

People walk by Gold Leaf Ink Studio on Friday, March 13th. The shop usually has a long line on this tattoo holiday, but the studio changed the way they approached this event because of COVID-19 (Ricardo Olivares / Golden Gate Xpress).


“Now we are doing things super different it has never been this organized,” said Estrada.

Once the clock hit midnight on March 13th, the shop accepted direct messages via Instagram and composed a list on a first come first serve basis to avoid encouraging public gathering and spreading any viruses. If someone made the list, they were contacted with their slot time to receive their flash tattoo. 

“We got probably about six or seven hundred DMs all time stamped at midnight on the dot,” said Estrada 

Normally on flash days such as those on Friday the 13th hundreds would line up outside Gold Leaf Ink and the staff would hardly have time to catch their breath. 

Regina “Push” Estrada tattooing Jen Lee at Gold Leaf Ink (Ricardo Olivares / Golden Gate Xpress).

 “Usually we don’t have a minute to breath. We don’t eat, we don’t go to the bathroom We don’t anything for like eight hours at least sometimes twelve or fourteen hours, but it’s always fun we meet a lot of really cool people a lot of first timers and then they always end up coming back for more,” said Estrada. 

Sierra Skye is the shop apprentice at Gold Leaf Ink and has worked numerous flash days, but this is the first flash day where she has a chance to sit down. 

“It’s really about the experience of like getting in line really early and just picking a tattoo off the flash sheet…I feel like people bond a lot like people in line so there is a community aspect,” said Skye. 

Composing a list and assigning time slots before the actual flash day allowed the staff to work smoothly without the stress of having hundreds in line outside. 

Prices vary depending on the tattoo parlor and artist, but typically they’ll range from $100-$200.

Matthew Quintana, a 19-year-old psychology major at SF State, got a flash tattoo in December at the Moth and Dagger tattoo studio. 

“When I was headed to the shop I was so nervous. I really didn’t know what to expect, I just knew I’d be getting a needle in my arm and I’d have ink on my body till I die,” said Quintana.  “But it was great, my artist was a chill guy and did everything pretty quick. Love how my tattoo turned out.”

When Quintana got his flash tattoo during a Friday the 13th flash sale, the tattoo parlor also combined the deal with a toy drive for the holidays. Flash tattoo designs were  $80, but if you had brought a toy to donate it was $60. 

“Honestly I was feeling kinda spontaneous. I loved my artist’s designs and I was able to get it at a good price so I just said okay let’s do it,” said Quintana

This was Quintana’s first ever tattoo and after the experience at Moth and Dagger, he plans on getting more. 

“I’m trying to get another one soon. I honestly love the style of traditional tattoos so I feel like getting one kinda opened up a can of worms for me,” said Quintana. 

Friday the 13th is one of the few opportunities you can get a tattoo on a budget. Although this Friday the 13th flash day differed from other because of public concerns, that did not stop over 700 people trying to get a discounted flash tattoo. All it takes is the courage to hop in line.