How to Face Paint

Two Parts:Gathering MaterialsPainting

Face painting is fun for any occasion, whether you're painting faces at a birthday party or preparing faces for Halloween. Face painting can be a hobby for some, or even a full-blown career for many talented artists. Whatever your goals are, the possibilities for exciting and original designs are as wide as your imagination! Follow these steps to learn how to face paint.

Part 1
Gathering Materials

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    Purchase the right face paint. Having the right face paint should be your first consideration. Keeping an eye on safety, variety, and quality will help you paint the face of your dreams.
    • Put safety first. Use face paint that is cosmetic grade and contains only FDA compliant materials so it does not cause damage to the person whose face you are painting. Make sure the paint is cosmetic grade and contains a list of ingredients. Improper face paint can cause rashes, allergic reactions, or may even do permanent damage in extreme cases. If unsure of allergens and your client, have the client or parent read the ingredient listing. Avoid the following items:
      • Watercolor pencils, markers, or pens. They may be "washable" on fabric, but that does not mean they are OK for skin.
      • Acrylic craft paints. They may be labeled "non-toxic" but that does not make them skin safe, or "to be used as a cosmetic".
    • Avoid oil-based paints. They are difficult to remove and easily smear.
    • Gather a variety of colors.
      • At the very least, you'll need black, white, red, blue, and yellow paint. You can mix these colors to create every color in the spectrum.
      • If you don't have the time to mix colors, choose a color palette with at least 8-14 colors.
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    Get the right brushes. Without the right brushes, the hard work you've put into choosing the perfect colors won't pay off. The right brush can go a long way in helping you paint a face with as much detail and precision as possible.
    • Variety is key. At least three types of brushes are crucial for a balanced look:
      • A #2 round brush should be used for fine details.
      • A #4 round brush is necessary for larger details.
      • A 1-inch flat brush can help you pick up multiple colors.
      • As you expand your repertoire, brushes of different thickness can help fine-tune your design.
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    Purchase makeup sponges. Makeup sponges are useful for quickly applying paint to a large area, or for adding a base color.
    • Start with at least three sponges. You can cut them in half to make six.
    • Having different sponges for different colors can help you avoid having to wash the sponge during a painting session. The same is true for brushes.
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    Purchase glitter to add some sparkle to your art. Gel glitters are recommended for their ease of use and controlled application. However, keep in mind that glitter can get a bit messy and may get on your paints or parts of the face you did not intend to paint with glitter.
    • Remember safety. Your glitter should be FDA-approved as well. The only safe glitters for face painting are made of polyester and are round cut. Never use craft glitters as they can be made of metal and can scratch sensitive skin and eyes.
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    Purchase stencils, stamps, and temporary tattoos for variety. Having these extra tools can add some pizzazz to your finished product.
    • Stencils are perfect if you're not confident about your painting skills, or if you're simply short on time. Some classic stencils include hearts, flowers, and moons. Make sure to have different sizes of stencils to accommodate different faces.
    • Face stamps can be filled in by using glitter and face paint and can be a great addition to a painted face.
    • Temporary tattoos can be used even more quickly than stencils. However, some people's skin doesn't react well to them, and they can take longer to remove.
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    Gather other materials for special effects. Sometimes the perfect look requires texture or something face paint alone cannot provide.
    • To create bumpy noses, soak a bit of cotton wool in the paint, place it on the face, and cover it with a tissue before you paint over it.
    • For warts, simply cover wheat or puffed rice with a bit of paint.
    • For an extra-ghostly effect, apply a light coat of flour to your subject's face after you're done painting.
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    Have the right furniture. It's important to have the right furniture to store your paints and to make you and your subject comfortable.
    • Have a flat surface, such as a table or desk, for your painting materials.
    • Also, have two chairs, one for the face painter, and one for the person being painted, so you are both comfortable during the process.
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    Be prepared for cleanup. It's just as important to be ready to clean up a mess at it is to have the proper materials for painting faces.
    • To prevent your subject from getting splashed with excess paint or water, you can use a plastic trash bag with a holes cut in it to act for protection. Simply cut the bag at the end of the process to avoid ruining your work.
    • Have trash bags and towels to clean up as you paint.
    • Have washcloths and makeup remover for your customers.
    • Have access to a sink or water so you can wash your hands in between customers to prevent the spread of disease.
    • Have soapy water or disinfectant to clean your brushes and sponges.
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    Don't forget the mirror. Your subject would like to see what your masterpiece looks like--a mirror is crucial not only for showing off your finished work, but also for helping your subject see your progress along the way.

Part 2

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    Ask the person being painted what design they want. It's crucial to get a sense of what your customer wants before you begin. Clear communication about his or her needs is key for the success of your work.
    • Have a board that shows what you can offer. This can help people make a decision and will save time as well as show off your skills.
    • If you're working with children, you should be ready to provide the child with ideas in case he or she is indecisive.
    • If you're working with a big group, you should make sure that the person who is next in line also knows what he or she wants to avoid delays.
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    Have a finished product in mind. Once your subject makes a decision, it's important to have an idea of what the finalized face will look like.
    • If you plan on using any glitter, special effects, or tattoos, make a note of this, so you don't end up adding them too late in the process.
    • Think fast. Kids are impatient and may change their minds if you take too long.
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    Prepare your canvas (the person’s face). Be sure to clean the skin of any existing makeup or product.
    • Never paint someone with open cuts or sores on their face because this can cause them harm and may spread infection to your other customers. Opt to paint their arm instead.
    • Tie hair back and secure flyaway that might interfere with application.
    • Watch out for long earrings or any other jewelry that may interfere with your process.
    • Have your subject practice sitting still as you clean his or her face. If it's a child, putting a hand on the back of his or head can be helpful.
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    Work from light to dark. It is much easier to paint over lighter colors than dark colors.
    • This will make it easier for you to add darker colors as you move forward, and to avoid having to start over.
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    Work from broad to detailed. You should apply a solid base of color before you move into the finer details of the face.
    • Use a sponge to cover a face in a certain color before you begin the details.
    • Thick brushes work for large swathes of color.
    • Thin brushes work best for fine details.
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    If necessary, add bumps and warts. Don't forget to add these special effects early on so you can paint over them.
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    Wait for your paint to dry after every coat. Having patience will keep you from blending or smudging the paint you have worked so hard to apply.
    • Let the first color dry before you apply a second. If you don't wait, then the two colors may mix together and you will have to begin again.
    • Fill in the colors slowly after you wait, making sure not to mix them, so you avoid smudging.
    • Instead of one thick coat of color, apply several thin coats of color to avoid cracking.
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    Apply extras when necessary. If you planned to use glitter or stamps, make sure you've worked them into your painting plan.
    • Glitter can be mixed with paint and applied any time.
    • If you're using stamps or tattoos, make sure to leave room on the face for them.
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    When you're done, give the face time to dry. All the time you've spent on creating the perfect look will be ruined if you don't give it enough time to settle.
    • Instruct the person you’ve painted not touch their face for about 5 minutes to allow it dry
    • Alternatively, use a hand held fan to dry the paint more quickly.
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    Hold up a mirror to show your customer the result. He or she will be impressed by your efforts and will be ready to show off his or her new look.
    • Take a photo of your subject to show future customers.
    • Have your subject show off his look for your customers, or potential customers. This will help you gain credibility as a face painter, whether you're trying to make a living or just looking for more potential subjects for the fun of it.


  • Always practice a new design before painting it on someone to be sure you can do it quickly and neatly.
  • Experiment with different painting utensils such as q-tips, cotton balls to achieve different effects.
  • Mixing the paint with a little bit of water on a saucer makes it flow better.
  • Look at another face painter's art online and sketch a simplified version with a pencil.
  • Use cosmetic face paints with anti-microbial properties to prevent spreading germs from one person to another.
  • Ensure that the paint is not contaminated with food or debris between clients--especially allergens such as peanut butter. Faces should be clean and dry before painting.
  • If you plan to do face painting professionally, it would be advisable to get Public Liability Insurance.


  • Only use face paints that are clearly marked for use ONLY on skin, which are "FDA approved". Acrylic, oil, or craft paints are not safe to use on the skin.
  • Very small children usually don't like the feeling of face paint because it's cold and may tickle them, so just plop a blob of red paint on their little nose, and you have an instant clown!

Things You'll Need

  • Face paint
  • Brushes
  • Sponges (natural sea sponges are the best)
  • Glitter
  • Lots of clean water
  • Plate
  • Towel or washcloth
  • Mirror
  • Paper towels
  • Handheld fan (to help paint dry quickly)
  • Display board (to show people which designs you can paint)
  • Hair bands (to keep their hair out of their face if needed)

Article Info

Categories: Kids' Crafts