Face Painting For Beginners: How to Face Paint

Beginners Guide Cover
Olga Murasev, Kelli Zermeño — 26 March 2024 —

Embark on the vibrant journey of face painting for beginners! Whether you have been asked to face paint as a volunteer for the very first time in your life, you’re a mom who wants to enhance your child’s birthday party, you want to make some extra money with face painting, or you want to learn how to face paint just for fun… this GUIDE is for you!

In this detailed face painting tutorial you will find out the best face paint brands, how much a beginner’s kit will cost you and what to put into it. You’ll learn to face paint a selection of pretty, easy and quick designs and much more.

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~ Quick Navigation Content Guide ~

1. GATHERING YOUR SUPPLIES
Face Painting Kit for a Beginner
What is the Best Face Paint Brand?
Where to Buy Face Paint?
What Colors Do You Really Need?
Brushes
Sponges
Spray bottle
Glitter
Stencils
Wet wipes
Water container
Mirror
Face paint choice board
Face painting business cards

2. PROPER FACE PAINTING HYGIENE
How to store your paints
How to clean face paint brushes
How to clean face paint sponges
What Paints Are Safe for Face Painting?
How to remove face paint from skin

3. LEARN HOW TO FACE PAINT
How to activate the face paint
Working with different paint consistencies
How to apply face paint with sponge
Loading a brush
Sponging a background
Linework
How to use a split-cake for one stroke

4. EDUCATION & PRACTICING
Two main ingredients for success
Practice tools and methods

5. FACE PAINT IDEAS FOR BEGINNERS
Main categories and most popular face painting designs
Themed designs for specific occasions and parties
Beginner Easy Face Painting Ideas for Cheeks

6. FACE PAINTING TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST GIG
Do’s
Dont’s

7. FACE PAINTING FOR BEGINNERS: TUTORIAL WRAP UP

Olga Murasev artwork face painting

The face and body art industry is undergoing a complete renaissance and is very quickly evolving, just as any art form does. There are so many techniques and products coming onto the market that it can seem very daunting for someone who isn’t in the industry. So what do YOU need to know?

You don’t have to be a seasoned professional to add a bit of color and sparkle to your child’s birthday, your fundraiser or your local production of The Wizard of Oz. Though you don’t have to be licensed to face paint for fun, you do need to be safe! Inferior paints and products not only ruin the look of your designs but can actually be dangerous on the skin. Instances, where volunteers are using acrylic paint on skin, can cause allergic reactions like rashes and welts, chemical burns and more. But do not worry! You don’t have to spend a million dollars to achieve beautiful results. We make face painting for beginners simple and fun and in no time you’ll be painting like a pro!

Tip: Click here to download this super useful “Top 10 products a face painter needs” handout! It’s FREE!

Face Painting Tutorial: Gathering Your Supplies

Before you can get started on this step by step face painting guide you must have at least a basic set of supplies and materials. Generally, these can be found pretty easily from any face painting shop. You also don’t need to buy every single thing mentioned here but all these tools do have a place depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with your designs.

⭐️Beginner’s face painting step by step kit — a starter kit consisting of the main important products to help you achieve amazing results even instantly!

Buy the Beginner Face Painting Kit

beginner's kit for face painting

Beginner Face Painting Kit

  • White for linework (one pot of 30 or 45 gr) — Party Xplosion, Wolfe FX, Diamond FX, Kryvaline, Cameleon, Face Paints Australia (FPA), Fusion Body Art
  • Black for linework (one pot of 30 or 45 gr) — Party Xplosion, Wolfe FX, Diamond FX, Kryvaline, Cameleon, Face Paints Australia (FPA), Fusion Body Art
  • A palette of face paints of 6 or 12 colors
  • One rainbow split-cake for sponge — optional
  • One small split-cake for one stroke — optional
  • One pearl (metallic) white — optional
  • Five round brushes: one brush of #1 size, two brushes of #3 size and two brushes of #4 size — KingArt 7950 series, Paint Pal swirl series, Alyiah round and ultra round, Bolt brushes
  • one flat 1-inch brush — TAG, KingArt, Paint Pal, Bolt or craft
  • one filbert brush size ½-inch (10 mm) — TAG, KingArt, Paint Pal, Bolt or craft
  • Sponges — half-circle and optional petal sponges
  • Water tub
  • Spray bottle
  • Glitter
  • Stencils
  • Wet wipes
  • Case or bag to store and carry the setup

We’ll speak more about each of these points below as we get into the details around how to face paint for beginners.

What is the Best Face Paint Brand?

Professional face paints are water activated glycerine or wax-based and have been tested for safety, which means that they follow CSPA, FDA, EU and Australian Standards guidelines.

Note: CSPA — U.S. Consumer Specialty Products Association, FDA — U.S. Food and Drug Administration, EU — European Union.

a collage of different face painting supplies - paints and split-cakes

Best face paint brands at the moment include: TAG, Wolfe FX, Diamond FX, PartyXplosion, Cameleon, Kryolan, Global Colours, Face Paints Australia, Mehron Paradise, Superstar, Kryvaline, Fusion Body Art, Kraze FX.
a collection of logos of the best face painting companies

A note on Snazaroo: we are intentionally not including Snazaroo in this list, although statistics show that most face painters just learning to face paint start their career with this brand. Although Snazaroo is a safe product, that follows FDA, EU and CSPA guidelines, most of the paints are not as bright and vibrant comparatively to the other brands listed above. The paint often cracks on the skin and it is more difficult to achieve a uniform coverage with it. It is also very tricky to use for linework and can leave you frustrated.

Some brands like Global and Kryolan also produce liquid face paints. If that’s the only option available on the market for you, you may try working with them. Although, I find these paints more difficult to work with and the results aren’t as good as with dry cake face paints.

Check out the dedicated guide on Best Face Paints to find even more suggestions! Specifically recommended to those who are looking into a professional setup.

Where to Buy Face Paint?

Professional quality face and body paints are rarely found at a craft or discount store. You may find some products on eBay or Amazon, but usually, the price will be higher and/or the quality lower. You also run the risk of unknowingly purchasing counterfeit face paints this way. Most face painting supplies can be purchased online. We recommend for you to check out these shops:

Australia
Face Paint Shop Australia www.facepaintshopaustralia.com
Funtopia www.funtopia.com.au
Face Paint Supplies Perth www.facepaintsuppliesperth.com.au
Face Paints Online www.facepaintsonline.com.au

Canada
Hokey Pokey Shop www.hokeypokeyshop.ca
The Magic Mirror www.themagicmirror.ca
Pigment M www.pigmentm.com
Kryvaline Face Body Art www.kryvaline.ca

Netherlands
FacePaintStuff www.facepaintstuff.com
SchminkenGrime www.schminkengrime.nl
Face Paint Shop www.facepaintshop.eu
Crea Rose www.crearose.nl

United Kingdom
Face Paints Direct www.facepaintsdirect.co.uk
The Face Painting Shop www.thefacepaintingshop.com
Face Paint Supplies www.facepaintsupplies.co.uk
Yorkshire Face Paints www.yorkshirefacepaints.co.uk

United States
JestPaint www.jestpaint.com
SillyFarm www.sillyfarm.com
Paintertainment www.paintertainment.com
FacePaint www.facepaint.com

Read our article “The Great Face Paint Shop Guide” for an in-depth guide on trusted shops and sites all over the world to purchase your professional equipment.

These shops are great, but don’t get overwhelmed by the vast selection!

What Colors Do You Really Need?

Face paints are sold in round or square containers of 30, 32, 40, 45, 60 and 90 grams. As a beginner, you may not need singular colors in larger amounts, but some colors get used far quicker than the others.

White and black are the two most important and widely used colors in face painting, primarily for linework. Invest in a 30-32 gr or even in a 45 gr pot for both white and black.

Best brands of white and black face paint for linework are: Wolfe FX, Diamond FX, Kryvaline, PartyXplosion, Cameleon, Face Paints Australia (FPA), TAG, Fusion Body Art, Kraze FX.

an image of four different face paints from four different brands

Now, think about what additional colors you may need. If you are purchasing for a specific design (i.e. a Halloween costume or theater production) take a moment to think about the specific colors you’ll need to achieve these looks.

Each brand offers three types of paints:

  • regular paints — matte colors
  • metallic or pearl paints — shimmery colors
  • neon (UV) paints — vibrant matte colors that glow in UV light

If you don’t necessarily need specific colors, but want to purchase a variety without breaking the bank, a starter kit or multi-color palette are fantastic and affordable options. You may find palettes made of solo regular colors, solo metallic colors or solo UV-colors.

Examples of palettes of 6 colors each.

Examples of palettes of 12 colors each.

You’ll get a variety of colors in a smaller version and some kits even include sponges and brushes. Take a look at these kits for an idea of what you might want to purchase.

One stroke rainbow split cake
This is an optional addition when face painting step by step, but it can make a big impact. You may opt-out of this purchase if you are on a super tight budget, but it will become a time savior in case you need to work on a long line of kids. A rainbow combination is perfect for the beginning! Children love rainbows! All you need is a flat brush to use it. We will show you how to use your one stroke split-cake in the Designs section.

Large split-cake for sponge
Another optional tool that will help you achieve soft gradients in no time flat!

four different split-cakes from four different manufacturers

Pearl white
Last optional tool that will take your beginner’s work to a new level instantly! Pearly white is super handy to use when you need to soften any regular color and blends nicely on the eyelids and inner corners of the eyes. It doesn’t crack like it can happen sometimes with regular colors and gives a soft uniform coverage on the eyelids skin.

images of three brands of white face paint

Brushes

Now that you have a good handle on what paints to purchase, you’re definitely going to need something to apply them with! For safety purposes, purchase a separate set of brushes to be used only for face painting and not craft painting.

For the beginner face painter, we’ve narrowed it down to just 5 brushes that you can purchase for a WIDE variety of designs. These brushes, with proper cleaning and storage, will last for many years!

Check out our dedicated Best Brushes for Face Painting article for exact suggestion on the brush brands.

We suggest these brushes for the very beginning:

  • One brush of #1 size — for tiny details
  • Two brushes of #3 size — for girly swirly designs and thin outline (one to use only with black and one only for white)
  • Two brushes of #4 size — for building shapes and to outline full face designs (one to use only with black and one only for white)

Linework is the key technique for beautiful face painting, so if you can afford a set of professional brushes, check out these brands: KingArt 7950 series, Paint Pal swirl series, Alyiah round and ultra round, Bolt brushes. If your budget is tight, the following sizes may be purchased as cheaper craft brushes:

One flat 1-inch brush — in case you want to add a split-cake for painting rainbows to your kit.

As a beginner, you will mostly use this brush for painting simple rainbows, which means that this brush doesn’t necessarily need to be professional quality and sometimes even a craft brush can do the job well. Best and most affordable professional flat brush brands: TAG, Bolt flat brush, KingArt.

One filbert brush size ½-inch (10 mm) — for covering the eyelids with paint, building up shapes like kitty cat, puppy or bunny ears.

Just like the flat brush, the filbert brush does not have to be of professional quality if you are following a face painting tutorial for beginners. You can find plenty of nice filbert craft brushes that will work. If you are looking for a face painting brand, we suggest these affordable brands: TAG, Paint Pal or Bolt. Be sure if you choose to purchase a craft store brush for this option, to choose synthetic bristles over natural.

Sponges

Sponges are the tools you will need to cover large areas of skin with paint quickly. For safe face painting, make sure to use one sponge per one child. For this reason, you will need plenty of them even at the very beginning. The best options are half-circle sponges which can be found in a multitude of different brands (they come in full circles, which you will cut in half to create 2 sponges). Simply check out our list of shops above. Additionally, if you can get a package of petal-sponges, they will help you create beautiful butterflies.

an image of two halves of a blue face painting sponge
Tip: Check out our Ultimate Face Painting Sponge Buying Guide for more information of sponges types, suggestions and tips on how to use them.

Spray bottle

A simple fine mist spray-bottle of about 200 ml (7 oz) capacity is enough. You will use it to activate your paints with clean water.

three water spray bottles

Glitter

Glitter comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. It is up to you which one to choose, just make sure you use cosmetic grade glitter only, which can be purchased in face painting shops or in makeup departments.

Craft glitters can be cheaper and look very similar, but craft glitters can be made from tiny particles of metal, and if it gets into eyes, craft glitter can scratch the cornea, lead to corneal ulcers and even cause blindness. It can also stain on the skin or even cause an allergic reaction. So avoid craft glitters at all costs.

Tip: Check out “7 Clever Ways to Use Glitter in Face Painting” for some fabulously eye catching ideas!

Stencils

If you want to speed up your work or you aren’t that good at painting freehand yet, add stencils to your kit. They come in all sorts of shapes and textures and you can find plenty of cheap ones at a craft store or online and can work well as a start. You can even find themed stencils to match a party theme like Frozen or Transformers.

Check out our Ultimate Face Painting Stencils Buying Guide for more details and also to find out what other professional extra stencils we recommend!

Wet wipes

You will need wet wipes for several things:

  • to clean your paints
  • to wipe your fingers and setup from any extra paint
  • to wipe off any painting mistake you might make from a child’s face

However, try avoiding using wet wipes too frequently, or replace them altogether with paper towels or natural fabric moisturized with water and oil (olive or coconut). There are also some brands of organic/bio wet wipes, that are chemical free and biodegradable.

Water container

Any brush tub will work fine for the beginning, though a properly chosen container of water can speed up your work due to quick brush rinsing and also help make your workspace look more tidy and more organized. Yep, that’s an important thing as well, don’t you think?

Here are the tips that will help you find the best option:

  • Choose an opaque container instead of a transparent one.
    Even though it is normal that your rinsing water will become dirty after the first rinse, you don’t want to pay extra attention to this. Most likely you won’t be able to change your rinsing water for each new client. An opaque water bowl will look more tidy on your workspace.
  • Make sure you have enough rinsing water in it (approx. 1-2 cups).
    Don’t be cheap with a few drops of water for rinsing, that won’t be enough for a proper rinse of your brushes. But don’t go too crazy with the amount of water you use, more than two cups are way too much. It won’t help you rinse your brushes better, and will just be in the way.
  • Choose a tall container rather than a wide one.
    A size of a regular big glass of 400 ml (13 oz) will work the best. Wide containers occupy too much space on your workspace, show your clients how much dirty water you have and even make the process of rinsing more difficult.
  • Choose plastic or metallic container.
    Your tub should be resistant to any damage. You will be working with kids, so make sure none of your setups can break easily and harm your clients. Avoid glass tools, including the tub.

Mirror

A plastic mirror is the best option when it comes to face painting step by step. Children can drop it easily, so make sure you look for a plastic option or at least covered with a plastic foil that will prevent fragments from detaching and harming your clients in case of damage.

Plastic mirrors can be purchased online or in big craft shops.

an image of a boy being shown his face paint design in the mirror. he is amazed on how it looks.

Face paint choice board

You can use an album or a menu board with images for reference. The key question here is whose work you will be displaying? Since you are a beginner you most probably won’t have a portfolio with your work. A word board could be a good option for you, in this case, it also affords you the ability to grow creatively without having to stick to your original designs, or constantly update them.

A good face painting for beginners option would be a menu board like this one that is sold on Etsy.

Another option would be printing some artwork of other artists, but make sure that you keep the logos on and explain to your clients that those are only images for reference and that they don’t belong to you. This is important because:

  1. You are using someone’s else intellectual property and you can get in trouble if you decide to do face painting as a job. You’ll have to build your own portfolio in case you decide to transform face painting into a business.
  2. Again, if you decide to make face painting your business, your clients will see that the result they get differs a lot from the images of the menu board and this can harm your reputation.

Making a design board or face painting menu? Save yourself so much time by finding all the ideas you need in our Ultimate Face Painting Ideas Guide. You’ll thank yourself.
Face paint ideas guide with a preview of seven different designs

Face painting business cards

If you are considering transitioning face painting into your job, then you may want to add business cards to your kit. There are a ton of business articles that can we discuss on our blog in case you decided to take this path. For instance:
Starting your face painting business. Investments & hidden costs.
How to work fewer hours and earn more money.
How much should I charge for face painting? REAL PRICES

Proper Face Painting Hygiene

Proper hygiene is an often overlooked but important component of effective face painting. At a minimum it’s important for ensuring your supplies stay in good shape but, especially when you’re painting multiple faces, it’s always best to take proper measures to ensure the cleanliness of your tools. Maintaining perfect hygiene will ensure both you and your clients have the best possible experience.

How to store your paints:

Storing your paints is very important. While you don’t necessarily need a professional quality kit, you do want to protect your paints from dirt, moisture and germs. If you keep them safe and clean, they will last for years! And, if you will be using your paints fairly often, a proper carrying case will serve you well for ease of transport, keeping your paints safe and ease of clean up. You can store your paints in a converted carrying case such as a small suitcase, gun case, makeup case or even scrapbooking case. The options are endless, use what is available to you! Purchasing from thrift shops or Amazon can get you the best case for the lowest cost.

a collage of different face painting kits

How to take care of your paints:

  • Keep all your paints clean and dry in between gigs.
  • Use wet wipes to clean the surface of your paints, gently rub the dirt in circular motions in singular colors or pull the wipe along the stripes in a split-cake.

How to Clean Face Paint Brushes:

  • Sanitize your brushes once in a while during your work. We prefer using a product called Brush Bath by Silly Farm to sanitize my brushes, as this product is specially designed for face painters and maintains its sanitizing effect when diluted with water. Beauty So Clean sanitizer also works great but is more expensive and is effective only when applied on dry brushes and makeup.
  • Always store your brushes clean and dry.
  • Make sure that the bristles are not touching each other or any other surfaces, so they do not bend and always have a sharp shape.
  • NEVER leave your brushes soaking in water.
  • Wash every brush separately with soap and running warm water after every single gig and let them air dry flat in a cool dry place overnight. You may also leave them to dry hanging with their bristles down.
  • Do not store wet brushes with their bristles up, as it may cause water leaking under the ferrule and ruining the brushes.
  • After your brushes are clean and dry, sanitize them.

How to Clean Face Paint Brushes Between Clients:

  1. A three-pot washing system is the most popular — one main container with a sanitizing and washing product such as Brush Bath by Silly Farm (more sanitizing suggestions below), a second plain water to rinse off and a third for activating paint with clean brushes.
    • 3 separate pots allow you to quickly empty and refill each one as you need or you can use a brush bath with three separate sections.
    • Sometimes a 4th pot for the first wash-off of paint helps to reduce the muddying of the main 3 pot system.
  2. Change your water regularly between clients. Muddy looking water doesn’t look professional, and a quick water change shows that you take hygiene seriously.
  3. Dry your cleaned brushes slightly on a dry, clean cloth so that you’re not leaving water dripping down under the ferrule and ruining the brushes.
  4. Use a storage system to hold your cleaned brushes OTJ until you need them next — silicone brush holders, pool noodles, brush wallets are preferred as they keep the brushes away from each other and are quick and easy to access.
  5. Make sure that the bristles are not touching each other or any other surfaces, so they do not bend and always have a sharp shape.
  6. NEVER leave your brushes soaking in water bending the bristles, and do not leave them flat on a towel where they can pick up germs or be easily grabbed by grubby hands!

Want to know what are the best types of brushes for your kit? Check out our Best Brushes Guide for our recommendations.

How to Clean Face Paint Brushes After the Job:

  1. Wash every brush separately with soap and running warm water after every single gig and let them air dry flat in a cool dry place overnight. You may also leave them to dry hanging with their bristles down.
  2. You can wash and sanitize your brushes at the same time using a product called Brush Bath by Silly Farm to sanitize my brushes, as this product is specially designed for face painters and maintains its sanitizing effect when diluted with water.
  3. If you are sanitizing when your brushes are clean and dry, Beauty So Clean sanitizer also works great but is more expensive and is effective only when applied on dry brushes and makeup.
  4. NEVER leave your brushes soaking in water.
  5. Do not store wet brushes with their bristles up, as it may cause water leaking under the ferrule and ruining the brushes.
  6. Always store your brushes clean and dry.
  7. Make sure that the bristles are not touching each other or any other surfaces, so they do not bend and always have a sharp shape. Invest in a quality brush wallet to keep your clean and dry brushes in great shape between jobs!

How to Clean Face Paint Sponges?

  • Use one sponge per one child (this is a legal requirement in some, but not all states/countries).
  • Never leave sponges soaking in water during work.
  • Wash the sponges with antibacterial soap under running water or through them in a special bag in washing machine or dishwasher at 90°C (194°F).
  • Leave the sponges to dry out well on a clean towel overnight.
  • Sanitize your sponges with Brush Bath or Beauty So Clean sanitizers.
  • Store and carry the sponges dry and I never leave them in airtight places when they are wet because this can lead to bacteria and mold growth.

What Paints Are Safe for Face Painting?

Safety is of the utmost importance, especially when painting on children. Professional quality face paints very rarely cause a negative reaction. Professional face paint shops, whether in your community or online will need to be your go-to for obtaining products. Craft stores do not carry professional quality products, you can find brands like Snazaroo in these stores, but the quality is quite lacking and will not give you good results.

Tip: Read our blog post “You Booked Your First Gig!” for tips on hygiene and other important points before you start.

Paints that are NOT acceptable for face painting:

  • Acrylic paints, gouache, watercolor or any other craft paints
  • Cream paints (however these will work for theatre makeup)
  • Alcohol activated paints
  • Cheap face paints that don’t follow the follow CSPA, FDA, EU and Australian Standards guidelines
  • Any other paints that weren’t specifically designed to be applied on the skin

an image of face painting supplies that you shouldn't use

Cheap face paints and craft paints have a high concentration of additives that can cause unpredictable skin reactions. Even if a craft paint has a “non-toxic” label, it does NOT mean that it can be used as makeup.

All craft paints contain formaldehyde. The only difference between them is the amount of this toxic substance that they contain. “Non-Toxic” simply means that the amount of formaldehyde is not toxic if a paint gets accidentally onto the skin (under the nails, on fingers). However, this is not the same as covering a large area of skin with this paint, especially the face.

Recent studies show that formaldehyde causes cancer because it is easily absorbed through the skin and mucosa. And what’s more, formaldehyde is easily inhaled due to its volatility. Acrylic paints are supposed to be used in well-ventilated areas only because the formaldehyde evaporates as they dry out. Now imagine if this paint was applied next to the eyes, nose, and mouth of a child. No surprise that the vapors will get directly on the mucous membranes and will cause irritation.

These children were painted with unsafe paints. Notice the painful and dangerous reactions in their skin! Under NO circumstances should you use or allow others to use paints not designed specifically for skin.

How to remove face paint from skin

  1. Do NOT start by using water. The water will only wash out the top layers of the paint, but won’t break up the pigment and may pack the pores of the skin more with paint. So, start by using soap.
  2. Use liquid or bar soap with a few drops of water (baby soap is generally safe around the eye area).
  3. Massage painted area with fingertips until a muddy consistency is formed.
  4. Use a wet wipe, makeup remover wipes or moisten a paper towel to wipe away the paint.
  5. Rinse face with warm water. Repeat steps #2 — #5, if necessary.
    Do NOT use scrubs or alcohol! Just gently rub the skin and remember, that sometimes it may take a couple times to remove the paint completely.
  6. To remove tough areas, use any gentle oil without a strong fragrance. I personally prefer coconut or olive oil.

Staining can usually occur due to two reasons and oil work great for both of the situations:
The paint got onto the eyelid area, which has a high concentration of glands that secrete oils. These secretions will adhere the pigments and they can be difficult to wash away with simple soap and water. So just apply a little bit of oil on the eyelids and massage them gently, you will see how the pigment will break down. Then just wipe it off with a wipe or a cotton disk.
The paint has a strong pigment. That usually happens with waxy paints like blue, teal, green and sometimes purple. Glycerin based paints usually don’t stain. The paint can also stain more on dry skin, because of being absorbed by dry top layers of the skin. Again, removing with oil will help greatly.

How to Face Paint: Overview

After collecting your supplies and understanding the basic hygiene principles, it’s time for the fun part, learning how to do face painting! Here we’ll show you exactly how to do everything you need to complete a successful design from how to make face paint to properly using each of your tools. Learning basic proper techniques to use while you are painting will go a long way in helping you to create professional quality looks in a fraction of the time.

Tip: Click here to download this super useful “Top 10 products a face painter needs” handout! It’s FREE!

How to activate the face paint

  • Add water by spritzing the paint with the spray-bottle or drop a few drops from the brush.
  • New paints may need a little more water to activate. You may either spritz it with water or work the paint with a wet brush.
  • Wax based paints will require more water to activate, especially the regular and the neon ones. Glycerin based paint will require less water, because they are soft enough already and you can get creamy consistency almost immediately.
  • Make a little well down to the plastic in the center of your paint. Collect the activated paint in the well. This will let you have a good amount of paint to use during the gig without spending more time on reactivation. Also, it will prevent your paint from getting gooey, because you will have all the water in the middle, above the plastic and the dry paint around the well won’t absorb the extra water.
  • Rotate your brush on the paint surface and load it up to the ferrule. Be gentle to the bristles and try to keep the tip sharp.
  • At the beginning of each gig, spritz all of your paints with water and leave them to activate while setting up. Used paints will have a dried up cream on the surface that will reactivate pretty quickly once you add some water to it.
  • Vary the amount of water and the time of activating the paint depending on the desired consistency.
an image of a face paint with a arrow pointing to where you need to collect the activated paint
Tip: Read our post “5 Tips for Crisp Lines in Face Painting” for more information!

Working with different paint consistencies

Proper paint activation and consistency is key. There are five main paint consistencies that you should know about.

Watery consistency — for creating splashes, drips, and drops, which are mostly used for creating squirted and dripping blood. If you dilute this consistency, even more, you can also paint shadows with it.

Inky consistency — for linework with black or any other dark paint. Consistency should be slightly more watery than creamy.

Creamy consistency — the most used paint consistency, as it releases the entire vibrancy from the paint. Especially important for linework with white waxy paint, as well as for cases that require thick coverage with other colors.

Sticky and dry consistencies — for stenciling and for such advanced techniques like blending and dry brushing.

a boy with a zombie dinosaur face paint with arrows that point to the focal points
Tip: You can find out more about paint activation and how to work with different paint consistencies in our “How to Activate Face Paints to Get Amazing Results” blog post.

How to apply face paint with sponge

  1. Spritz the paint.
  2. Spritz the sponge.
    • Rotate the sponge in between your hands to spread the moisture.
    • The sponge should be moist, but when you squeeze it there shouldn’t be any water leaking out of it.
  3. Dip one tip of a sponge into paint and rotate your sponge along the entire surface until the paint in the container is dry.
    • Your moves should be confident.
    • The sponge should slide on the paint, but resistance by the end of loading means that you achieved the right consistency. If the paint in the container is still wet when you remove the sponge, that means that you will have watery paint on your sponge as well. This can cause dripping and ugly splotches.
    • If you feel resistance while loading, that means that you don’t have enough water in your paint. Spritz again.

Loading a sponge

Loading a brush

  1. Spritz the paint with a very small amount of water from a spray “mist” bottle.
    This is the easiest and cleanest way to activate your paint. But remember, only add a little at a time until you find it is a perfect consistency. If your paint becomes too wet, it will not be easy to work with and may take several hours to dry out enough to be usable. If it’s too dry, you can simply add a little more.
  2. You can also add water by dipping your brush into your rinsing water and dripping a couple of drops on the paint.
    However, in this case, the water may contain pigments from other colors that can steal from the vibrancy of the paint you are activating.
  3. New paints may need a little more water to activate at first. So, just spritz your new paint a couple of times with clean water and leave it to activate for 5-10 seconds before using.

Loading a brush

Sponging a background

Well laid sponge work makes a huge difference in whether your designs look amateur or professional. These are the areas you will be mostly using your sponges and tips on how to apply face paint with sponges:

  • Sponge a base color
  • Blend two colors with a sponge
  • Sponge a stenciled pattern
  • Sponge a color from a split-cake

Linework

  • Invest in pro round brushes.
    This is the case when the quality of the brushes is really important and can take your lines to a completely new level quite easily.
  • Hold your brush perpendicularly to the surface.
    No matter what kind of linework you do, always hold your brush perpendicular to the skin.

Linework in face painting - how to hold your brush

  • Get the right paint consistency.
    Getting the right paint consistency will help you obtain vibrant colors and sharp lines. Creamy and inky paint consistencies are what you want for linework. Use creamy consistency for your white lines and inky (slightly more watery than creamy) consistency for your black and colored lines.
  • Thick to thin and thin to thick.
    The most pleasing effect in face painting is achieved when your lines have sharp ends (or at least one end) and thick bodies. Vary the pressure on your brush to obtain lines of different thickness. This skill is very important for a face painter, but it may take months and even years to achieve perfection. Don’t give up if your hand doesn’t listen to you, you’ll eventually perfect applying face paint with your brush.
Notice the thick parts of the lines and the thin and sharp tips in these designs. Their alternation creates balance. Both of these designs are being studied at the International Face Painting School.

two images of a girl with two different face paint desings

  • Practice all essential lines and line-clusters
    Make sure to practice, as frequently as possible each type of line. There are six main lines in face painting:
    • regular teardrop
    • reversed teardrop
    • thin-thick-thin line
    • swirl
    • double swirl
    • tiger line
  • Use separate brushes for white and for black.
    You will be surprised how this simple trick will change the vibrancy of your designs! Don’t contaminate your “white” brushes with black paint and your linework will always stay clean, crisp and vibrant.

(NOTE: Do you feel like your sloppy linework is ruining your face painting designs? Don’t worry! We’ve got you! Linework is the KEY SKILL that must be mastered to obtain flawless results in face painting.
Take our FREE “Improve Your Linework in 3 Days” workshop!
We guarantee that completing this workshop and implementing the proven and tested methods within will boost your linework to a whole new level! Get started now.

Free Online Workshop - Improve Your Linework in 3 Days

How to use a split-cake for one stroke

A split cake is a tool used by face painters to create beautifully blended looks, literally with the stroke of a brush. Quick rainbows, butterfly wings and more can be elevated with the use of the glorious little creations. One strokes are also intended to be used with sponges. These larger versions will allow you to create beautiful tigers, masks and more in a fraction of the time and with added wow factor.

More in-depth instructions and details can be found in our companion blog entry How to Become a Professional Face Painter and Get Paid.

Roses are #2 on our Top 10 must-learn face painting designs! With this rose tutorial, you can learn to create stunning roses that are fast and simple with one-stroke technique. We break down the steps so that even a beginner can paint like a pro!

Learning How to Face Paint like a Pro

There are two main ingredients for beginners who want to become successful face painting artists:

  1. Learn how to face paint from the best in the industry.
    Don’t waste money on workshops with no-name artists. Bad habits are very difficult to eradicate.
  2. Practice consistently.
    Practice every day or every other day. Train the steadiness in your hand.
  • Start by reading this Guide.
  • Watch free face paint tutorials on our YouTube channel.
  • Read our Face Painting Blog.
  • Join face painting groups on Facebook — Share your work there and follow what other artists are painting. There is a ton of inspiration and motivation in these groups.
  • Enroll the International Face Painting School and learn the art of face painting starting with the very basics under the thoughtful guidance of a professional instructor.
    The amount of detail put into these courses is second to none. We have students who range in ability and experience from absolutely none to professionals with years of experience. These face painting courses and the personalized instruction will take any aspiring artist from amateur to professional. You will also get plugged into our very active online community of fellow students who will encourage and enlighten you on your journey. The best part? You will forever have access to the School and any updates and new information that gets added over time!
    Take a look at the amazing achievements of some of our students!
  • Take a class with a professional instructor. There are a handful of super talented artists with amazing teaching skills and great experience in hosting workshops. A one day workshop will typically cost you around 100-150 EUR, but it is totally worth the investment if it’s with a leader of the industry.

Practice tools and methods

  • Your own face — the most available option at any time.
  • Your forearm and your thighs — great for practicing your linework and other techniques.
  • The back of your husband/kid/friend — a great way to practice your work on a vertical surface.
  • Other people’s faces like your kids, neighbors, relatives etc. — works for practicing designs and taking photos for displays/portfolios.
  • Practice pads and practice heads — in case your skin is very tired of way too much painting, these are well worth the investment in case you want to transform face painting into a business.

You can get awesome face painting practicing boards from Jest Paint — check out the many options here.

Congratulations, now you know how to face paint and successfully complete a professional and fun design. We hope you found this step by step face painting tutorial helpful and are confident enough in your skills to get started. The only way to know for sure is to start so pick a design you want to do and get painting!

Face Paint Ideas For Beginners

Main categories/most popular face painting design ideas for beginners:

1. Kitty cat — one of our most loved household pets and a popular choice for young kids.

There are lots of ways to paint a cat and we’re here with the inspo you need. First up is our cute and classic kitty — check out our tutorial below.

 

Already confident in your standard Kitty, why not try this gorgeous and glamourous Kitty by Annabel Hoogeveen one of our Elite Course graduates…? This magical design will be a huge hit with older children.

a woman looking at the camera with a light blue kitty face paint decorated with flowers

2. Hello Kitty — Still a firm fav for many young girls.

Hello Kitty is a simple and effective design to master. Need help? Check out Olga’s great tutorial below:

 

3. Minnie Mouse — Those iconic ears and bow are ageless.

Choose a classic Minnie look like in Olga’s video tutorial below or try an elegant floral mask like the one by NataliSta.

 

It’s always great to have variations for teen clients! Our Minnie Mouse step-by-step tutorial is an adorable mask design. It’s great for any age and sure to be a favorite for the women and teens who love Disney but may want something more elegant!

4. Butterflies — One-stroke butterflies are fast and effective and should be on everyone’s menu board.

Check out this stunning butterfly tutorial by International Face Painting Instructor Elodie Ternois.

smiling woman looking at the camera with a gradient purple, blue and green butterfly face painting on her

5. Puppy — another much loved household pet that’s a popular request.

Often kids ask for the color/type of dog that they have at home or a toy that they love. Have lots of colors on hand and use this simple base design to get you started.

a girl looking at the camera with compleated dog face paint on her

6. Wild Cats — Tigers / Cheetahs / Leopards / Lions

Wild cats are one of the MOST requested designs for face painting. Children and adults will assume that any painter can do them ALL, so you need to be prepared!

Luckily for you, we have all the bases covered with tutorials for a Colorful Tiger, Popular Leopard and Beginner-Friendly Cheetah and Lion designs that everyone will love.

boy looking at the camera with a cheetah face painta girl with a lion face paint design painted on the upper half of her face

Want to see what the pros are capable of… Check out this amazing realistic Lion by Olga Murasev, founder of the International Face Painting School.

 

7. Princess — Whether it’s Frozen fans or pretty princesses, this design request is high on the list for little girls.

There are so many variations of this popular design. You can find more perfectly princessy inspiration in our Face Painting Ideas Guide.

Want to impress Frozen fans – try this majestic Ice Princess design by Kristin Olsson.

girl with a ice princess face paint on her

Another option that is similar to Princess and very versatile is Fairy face paint! You can paint any kind of beautiful flowery crown or rainbow design with an enchanted fairy silhouette! The possibilities are endless and magical. This design by Simona Rad is perfect for older girls wanting an elegant look.

8. Batman

One of the top two superhero requests – the classic Batman.

 

Make sure you have a few different options for this popular design. Check out this cute cartoon character mask tutorial for a different Batman look that will be sure to impress.

9. Spiderman — Are you even a face painter if you haven’t been asked to paint Spiderman?

By far one of the most popular and iconic designs for boys and girls alike.

 

Check out our range of tutorials of the iconic design – pop art classic Spiderman full forehead, a great Spiderman mask that avoids the eyelids being painted, and a pretty in pink Spidey option.

spiderman-face-paint

10. Unicorn — Unicorns are super popular OTJ designs and they’re also very versatile!

You can build a design around the eye, above the eye, part of the eye, over the cheek or forehead. Take off the horn, and you have a cute pony or add wings to create and Alicorn!

Here are three classic designs to try.

 

This Unicorn Eye design is elegant and refined, perfect for older girls. Elodie’s Rainbow Unicorn is an especially popular request and working on the cheek gives you more space.

Unicorn-Tutorial-Step-by-step

11. Rainbow

Beginners and pros alike are achieving incredible results with this line-busting, one-stroke Rainbow design!

The tutorial will teach you how to load a one-stroke rainbow without getting muddy colors, tips for how to get nice clean images with stencils, and so much more.

Rainbows are an awesome addition to lots of designs like this sponged rainbow eye butterfly by Elodie Ternois with one-stroke rainbow forehead feature.

Rainbow Butterfly Face Paint

12. Skull — Skulls are a huge crowd favorite, and not just at Halloween.

direct image of a girl with a completed skeleton face painting looking mean

Skulls are a great standalone design or pop on a patch and bandana for a scary pirate. Check out Elodie’s fantastically frightening Skull tutorial, or for a girlie version, try a classic Sugar Skull look following our video tutorial below.

 

13. Dragon

Dragon designs can look overwhelmingly difficult, but we have created this very effective one-stroke Dragon design that’s surprisingly simple but loses not of the impact!

We love the gold shimmer in this design but you can choose any vibrant one-stroke to suit.

 

Want to learn the most popular designs? Our World’s Best Face Painting Ideas Guide has top requested designs for boys, girls, Halloween, Christmas, themed parties, and more!

Themed designs for specific occasions and parties:

Halloween: all sorts of scary stuff like monsters, skulls, zombies, vampires, ghosts, bats, pumpkins, black cats, witches, haunted houses etc.
Easter: bunnies, Easter eggs, cross etc.
Christmas: holly, reindeer, snowman, Santa, Grinch etc.
Character Themed: Pokemon Party, Frozen Party, Minecraft Party, and all sorts of different themed parties.

Beginner Easy Face Painting Ideas for Cheeks

It is always handy to have some very quick and simple cheek designs that can be used on younger, less patient kids or when you have a large line to whip through quickly. Check out our top cheek designs below for some OTJ inspiration.

Mermaid Cheek Design (Stencil)

You can also easily replace the Mermaid stencil here with a Fairy or Butterfly stencil for a super quick and effective design.

Butterflies

It’s great for cheek designs that you can create as big or as little as you like. Check out this awesome OTJ tutorial by Fairy Fox Design using one-stroke butterflies or this cute design by Simona.

 

One Stroke Flowers

Flowers are a quick and effective design that you can work from the cheek up and around the eye. Not sure on one-stroke flowers? Follow this simple tutorial by Face Painting 101.

 

One-stroke Dragon

Utilising one strokes you can create quick and effective designs on the cheek and around the eye, like our One Stroke Dragon:

 

Dolphins and Sharks

Dolphins, sharks and even fishes are great designs for the cheek.

Characters — Pokémon, Minecraft, Mini Mouse

Characters are a great option for the cheek whether you use stencils or hand paint, you can craft a design around the space that you have available.

Cars and Sports

Cheek designs are great for boys with bangs who won’t want to clip it up to show off their designs! Below are some of our favorite cars and sports designs which can easily be placed on the cheek:

Scary spiders, scratches and skulls

These spooky cheek designs are fantastic for something quick and effective.

Christmas Cheek Designs

There are lots of great Christmas designs that fit nicely on cheeks. From Snowmen to baubles to trees, they’re all great for primarily being positioned on the cheek.

Also have a look at our Olaf tutorial for a cute Winter design that’s always super popular.

 

Thanksgiving Cheek Art

We love these Thanksgiving-inspired cheek designs too – those rosy cheeks are just perfect for pumpkins.

Want to learn all you need to know about creating effective cheek art and much more, then check out our Beginner Face Painting Course.

Face Painting Tips For Your First Gig

This is an exciting milestone! Your first gig will give you invaluable experience and help you set the tone for future jobs.

Once you feel like you are ready to move on to the next level, read our next post, How to Become a Professional Face Painter and Get Paid for additional tips on
— Professional kit and setup
— Insurance and licensing
— Advanced painting designs, and more!

Do’s

  • Dress up appropriately (no mini skirts or low cut tops).
  • Use wet wipes for cleaning your hands and setup.
  • Decide on 10-15 faces to start with. Practice them and get them down solid.
  • Pee before you start. You do NOT want to find yourself an hour into a busy gig with a 20-kid-deep line having to stop and run to the bathroom!
  • Take plenty of drinking water. If you allow yourself to get dehydrated, especially at hot outdoor gigs, you can find yourself in a serious medical emergency. Also, for gigs over 3-4 hours, take yourself a healthy snack.
  • Protect your workspace! Kids are going to try to touch your stuff! They just are. Accept it now. How are you going to deal with it? You don’t want to terrify them by yelling… Be firm, ask them not to touch your things when they try. Be sure they understand it’s not allowed. But, if you get an extra rambunctious child, be prepared to tell them they cannot get their face painted if they do not behave.
  • Take photos of painted children only with parent permission. Some parents may have personal reasons for not allowing their children to have their photo taken and especially used for advertisement purposes. Getting permission is vastly important.
  • Enjoy interacting with children.
    No matter what you do, even if you do very simple and basic job, if your art makes children happy, then you’re doing amazing! Because that’s why we all do it! For the sake of those priceless mirror moments!

Dont’s

  • Don’t use perfumes. Small children (and even some adults) can be extra sensitive to perfumes and some may have allergies. And of course, if you’re a smoker, you should never smoke near, before, or during your job, especially around children.
  • Don’t paint on sick children with infectious diseases like flu, cold, herpes, chickenpox, measles etc.
  • Don’t paint on kids with allergic manifestations or skin damage: allergic or contact dermatitis, asthma in its active phase, broken skin like ulcers, wounds or blood crusts.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself! Don’t panic! At the end of the day, you are an artist, not a doctor. There aren’t going to be many life or death situations on your hands, so relax! There will be weird or unusual circumstances that come up eventually… accept it now. But when life happens, remain calm and look for a solution. Take deep breaths, and remember to laugh. You can turn a stressful situation into a good laugh if you are able to simply step back and look from a different perspective.

Face Painting for Beginners: Tutorial Wrap Up

Honestly, we could go on for days about how amazing the face and body art industry is. We’re a little partial.

We hope you liked our detailed face painting for beginners tutorial. If you decide you really only want to get into this for fun, that is totally okay! It IS fun! You can be the star of your 6-year-old’s birthday party when you’re the one who knows how to face paint!

But in the instance that we’ve piqued your interest in a career you had no idea existed before… don’t stop here! You’re just getting started!

In our online Beginner’s Course, created by world-leading instructors, you will learn the crucial face painting basics that will help you get started with confidence.

You’ll learn all of the face painting basics plus 20 easy yet impressive designs that you can use right away on your next gig! These cute cheek designs are some of the first that you’ll master.

Perfect for beginners on a budget looking for a professionally run, accessible online course.
An excellent choice for entertainers like princesses and clowns looking to add face painting to their offering.

Or for parents who want to do face painting for their kids or help out at the local school or community events.

Whatever your reason, our Beginners course is the best first step in your face painting journey. Learn fabulous and popular designs like the below, at your own pace online. What are you waiting for?

Beginner Course: The best solution on the market for you who want to SET A SOLID FOUNDATION in your face painting skills with minimum investments!
Learn More >>
a banner for the Beginner Face Painting Course

Did you enjoy this guide? Hit “SHARE” and let your fellow face painters know about it!

 — Olga Murasev, Kelli Zermeño

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