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Tuesday, October 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 40.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Madison tattoo artists offer tips to first-timers
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With the school year well underway, social circles are materializing and new students are getting comfortable enough to start taking some fashion risks. Many incoming students will consider getting tattoos to celebrate their independence.

Tattoos are not fashion statements that can be easily removed or altered. Those considering tattoos should not just seek out a reputable shop, they should take some time to get comfortable and talk to the artists before they make any permanent decisions. Here are some tips for those looking to get their first tattoos.

Don't expect your tattoo to be cheap
A friendly visit to a tattoo shop shouldn't focus on the price of the tattoo. Billy McCoy, a tattoo artist at Spike-O-Matic Tattoo on South Park Street, notes that "a cheap tattoo isn't good, and a good tattoo isn't cheap. Potential clients need to look at the artist's portfolio and find someone whose work they like. Price should be the last consideration."

Be sober
Any tattoo artist worth going to will refuse to work on clients who are under the influence. Drunken tattoos are often regrettable and responsible artists won't do them.

Don't shy away from custom art
Flash, or designs that walk-in clients can find on a shop's walls or in books, is on the way out, says Lenny Sandvick, a tattoo artist at Steve's Tattoo on Williamson Street. Many clients bring in a drawing of the design they want or reference pictures so the artist can create a sketch.

Don't worry about going with something conventional, either
Sandvick has tattooed at least 10-12 Bucky Badgers on his clients and a handful of Motion Ws.

It's gonna hurt
But if you think that getting tattooed for the first time will be the most painful or intense, think again. "A lot of people sit [through the tattoo] better on their first time, because they don't know how it's supposed to feel," says McCoy. "But I don't do the tattoo any differently."

With first-time clients, the artists tend to talk about the process a little more, to ease people along. "But we don't go any easier," says Sandvick. "The tattoo still has to get done."

There's no tattoo stereotype anymore
"I gave a 70-year-old woman her first tattoo last week," Sandvick says with a grin.

Many of his clients have never been tattooed before, and many of those clients get tattooed on their birthdays. The same goes for McCoy.

"You know, it's the 18-year-old on his birthday, and it's the 65-year-old who just got divorced, and her husband hated tattoos, so now she's getting one," he says. "It's all kinds of people. Tattoos aren't just for sailors and loose women anymore."

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