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Tips for Face Painting Success

Lori has more than 30 years of crafting practice! She enjoys a variety of arts and crafts—but decorative painting is her first love.

This design is easy, even for the novice, and your guests will love it!

This design is easy, even for the novice, and your guests will love it!

Face Painting: Simple Designs With Big Results

Let's be honest—there are plenty of folks out there who have a gift for art. Drawing and painting just comes naturally to them; they have an artist's eye that allows them to see an image in their mind and re-create it with their fingertips. Perspective, size, position, and contrast, all fall into place as they begin to work and the image they create comes alive. Are you one of the gifted? Me either. But that doesn't mean we can't step out and be successful in the world of face painting.

Do not let face painting intimidate you. Whether you want to provide this service at a party or an event or just think it would be fun to try out at a family get-together, get inspired with stories form my own experience and a few key tips.

Helpful Tips

  • keep your hands clean
  • a headband/hair clip helps keep wisps of hair out of your way
  • if a guest has an open sore; paint on a different area, i.e. hand, arm
  • take a mirror; guests love to see the finished product
  • use a clean sponge for each guest
  • smile, have a good time

Getting Started

When I first became interested in face painting I began practicing on myself with acrylic paint. As a novice decorative painter, I had plenty of acrylic paint and brushes: I thought, "why not?" Through this exercise, I was able to see how the paint moved on my skin and what type of brush provided the most success.

My Experience

I only painted on the back of my hand and it washed off with hot soapy water. I do not recommend you do this, I'm merely sharing my experience. As I became more interested in face painting I continued to research this art form and it didn't take long for me to discover there are special paints used specifically for face painting.

My research led me to a company called Snazaroo. Their face painting products are reasonably priced, hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and wash off with soap and water. When I first started using this product I had to place my order online, but now Snazaroo products are readily available in most of your local craft stores. When you do your own research you will find many products from which to choose, and there are a few I would love to try, but in all honesty, the Snazaroo paints have served me well. They are easy to use, the colors are great, you get good coverage, and they last a long time.

Where to Get Supplies

I recommend you visit your local craft store, i.e. AC Moore, Michaels, HobbyLobby, and look at their face paint options. Don't forget to pick up a few quality brushes. A good brush is a key to your success.

Face-Painting Brushes

Not all brushes are created equal. I have found that in most cases, when face painting, whether it be a small birthday party or a large community event, I usually only use three or four brushes. I'm an avid crafter so I have a lot of paintbrushes to choose from and I always take them with me "just in case" but if you are just starting out I recommend you purchase at least five brushes. If you can only afford to buy three that will work; if you can afford to purchase more—go for it!

Variety Is Key

Having experienced painting on wood and ceramic bisque I have my favorite brushes and those favorites hold true even when face painting. I use round brushes most of the time, however, a variety is nice. I find I use the #1, 4, and 8 most often. I also use a long liner brush, usually a 5/10. This is not a popular brush with most people, but it's my favorite. You can load lots of paint in this brush and it's wonderful for those fine lines, i.e., whiskers and outlining shapes.

I am not suggesting that you spend top dollar and buy brushes used by a portrait artist, but I am also not suggesting you purchase your brushes at the dollar store. The quality of your brush does make a difference in your success. You need the right tool for the job. You cannot paint a whisker on a child's face with a thick, fat brush whose hairs are going in every direction.

Soft and Round Brushes

In the craft store, you want to find a brush with soft hairs; hairs that are all pointing in the same direction. The tip of the brush should come to a point and the price should be reasonable. I have used Royal brushes in the past and have been very happy with them. I almost always check out the store's clearance section, you never know when you might find a great brush.

The round brushes are great for drawing your basic objects, i.e. a heart, lightning bolt, star, etc. They are also great for filling that object in with color. If you have experience painting you probably have your own favorites—a flat brush, an angled brush (also one of my favorites)—if this is the case buy/use what you are comfortable with, you are the painter so use what works for you.

As I said, I like the longliner brush—you can also get a liner brush with short hairs— again, purchase whatever you think will work best for you. One of the most important things I can share with you on the "brush front" is to take care of your brushes.

Paintbrush Care

If you are spending your hard-earned cash to purchase brushes, take care of them. Do not let your brushes sit in water, brush ends down. This will bend the hairs - you will not be happy. Rinse your brush after each color and then lay it flat in between uses. When you are finished with your "gig" don't forget to use warm soapy water to clean your brushes. Of course, you can purchase a brush cleaner, but soap and water work just fine. After you have cleaned your brush and have rinsed out all the soap, reshape the tip and then lay the brush flat to dry.

Store your brushes in a container that will not compromise the brush hairs; you don't want the hairs to bend. Sometimes your new brush will come with a plastic sleeve over the hair; do not put this back on your brush. Believe me, it will not go on properly and you will bend the hairs on your brush—not good. Should you be able to get this plastic sleeve on properly, the brush hairs may not dry properly which can cause the brush hairs to deteriorate, also not good. Your brushes are an investment; take good care of them and they will serve you well for a long time.

With just a few supplies—some of which you may have on hand—you are on your way to a fun and successful event!

Supply List

Face Paint


Paper Towels

Baby Wipes

Sample Designs

Clean Water & Water Bowl


Hand Sanitizer

Preparation Means Success

I think being prepared is a major key to being successful. I tend to overthink and perhaps over-prepare, but that works for me. Here is a list of things I believe will add to your success.

Bring References

Having a picture or drawing of what designs I can paint has served me very well. Many children won't know what to choose, or they may be too shy to tell you. Having a photo or drawing available helps children make a decision. Also, this eliminates "the sky's the limit." I am not an artist, there are limits to what I can paint, so being prepared with available designs lets my guests know my limitations. I always take two copies of my designs, one for me to work from and one for the guests to view. This helps with keeping the line moving, too. You can be painting while the next guest is deciding on which design to choose.

Cater to Your Audience

When I prepare for an event I think about the guests who will be attending. Always have appropriate designs for your audience. For instance, if you volunteer to face paint in your son's kindergarten class you wouldn't need to prepare detailed designs; simple, quick, and easy designs would work well. If you are painting faces at a birthday party and there is a theme, i.e., hearts and flowers, you want to make sure there are hearts and flowers included in your sample designs.

Put Together a Menu

In the past I've made a poster showing the designs I offer—now I keep a small binder with pictures printed from the Internet to show what designs I can paint. This works great because I can remove pages or add pages depending on the event. My last event was a community event at my church, so for that event, I put together a small sampling of designs and just held the pages together with a ring clip which worked great.

Most Importantly: Have Fun!

To me, face painting is largely about fun. You have fun creating images and interacting with your guests. At one event a young lady, about nine years old, called me out because I didn't paint her lips red (as the sample indicated), and after I corrected that oversight she nailed me for not adding the white highlight on her lips. How cute, at such a young age she had taken in all the details of the sample and knew what she wanted; details I didn't think would be important to a nine-year-old. How cute indeed!

Face painting takes an event up a notch whether it's a birthday party, a community event, a family picnic, or trick or treating on Halloween. You don't have to be an expert or an artist to enjoy this art form.

If you have any questions or if you would like to share your face painting experiences, leave me a comment. Happy painting!