Techniques for Face Painting

This post may contain affiliate links. I may make a commission if you purchase through them. :)

Face Painting has grown from painting simple flowers or Bozo the Clown into a splendid art form.

Whether it’s a blue butterfly on a cheek, or a full-face character, there are plenty of great paints and a wide assortment of tools for every level of artist, beginner to expert!

Let’s take a look at the paints and techniques used to bring Face Painting to life.


There is a wide variety of paints available for face and body painting. Choose only paint approved by the FDA to avoid potential health risks. These paints are available in individual colors and in kits with instructions. Along with standard colors, there are metallic and fluorescent paints offered in many sizes and prices.

Face paint is water based and is highly concentrated. It may be applied with a brush or sponge for different effects and does not dry out or crack once it is applied. It can be painted in layers, and good quality paint is concentrated to assure that colors stay vivid, even when layering. Paint is available as cake or pan color, liquid paints and paint suitable for airbrush.

Glitter and rhinestones can be used for more glitz and metallic powder adds subtle reflective highlights. Craft glitter is not suitable for use on faces. There are specially manufactured products, and safety here is important. The paint acts as adhesive for these accessories, and they are fun embellishments.

Application Tools

Face paint can be applied with a variety of tools. There are specialty brushes as well as stencils and stamps. Large areas are easily applied with sponges. Have a selection of tools available and make sure that they are well cared for and kept scrupulously clean. Have a number of sponges and brushes available, so repeated cleaning between color uses is minimized.

If the student has minimal artistic skills, stamps and stencils are great for breaking into this craft. They are available in many shapes and sizes as kits or as individual components.

There are specialty brushes and applicators available, many of which are similar to watercolor brushes, and experience and experimentation will prove which work best for you. Cosmetic brushes and sponge blenders are also another source of tools and can be purchased in drugstores and beauty supply stores.

The Body As A Canvas

Like any craft, there is a learning curve to face painting and the more practice a student has, the more confident and skillful he will become. Many starving artists have gotten into face painting as an ongoing money making opportunity. Outdoor festivals and events have become great places for the face painter to set up a booth and paint an ongoing stream of kids and kids-at-heart for fun and profit. Hiring out for private parties is also an option. This is a sure way to get lots of practice, get out of the studio and meet scores of interesting people.

Face painting is not like working on an acrylic painting, and the artist needs to have a plan in mind when he begins. This is not a time for experimentation. The “canvas” is going to get restless, have an itchy nose or need to use the bathroom. Spend time drawing and designing in the studio. Face painting magazines are available, and the student can find many photos and illustrations on the internet. Build up a morgue of reference materials and practice, not only drawing but painting these designs as well.

A good way to do some two-dimensional practice is to draw a life-size basic face and paint designs on it with acrylic or watercolor paint. The artist should make one good sketch and reproduce it on a copy machine. In that way, he does not have to waste time drawing a face every time he wishes to practice or work on a design. By creating the life-size sketch, he is able to work out size issues before attempting it on a human canvas. If the artist intends to use both adults and children, it would be useful to have sketches of both, as there are differences in both size and proportion between the two.

The aspiring artist may be surprised to find that there are more than just faces to paint. Body painting has emerged as a whole genre of art, and there are magazines, books, websites and even conventions devoted to the craft.

This is not a solitary style of art. To practice, the student needs a steady supply of willing “canvases.” Introverted artists, barricaded in the studio, are not the sort of individuals who will find this an appealing medium in which to work.

However, for the artist who enjoys whimsy and spontaneity, this may be an interesting trip to an alternative universe of creativity.

In addition, it is not a permanent sort of artwork. It is transient and ever mutating. The artist will never get the same results twice. That is the enjoyment and excitement of this slightly offbeat form of art.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *