Top 10 Techniques for Amazing Face Painting

three children with spooky face painting on their faces
Olga Murasev — 06 September 2023 —


Have you ever wondered what differentiates outstanding designs and… all the rest? How are painters achieving polished designs OTJ even when they’re working fast?

Solid fundamentals and good technique.

Doing the little “easy” skills well is actually the key to doing the advanced impressive techniques well!

Here is the list of my top techniques and skills that always help me achieve outstanding results and that will definitely make a difference in your skills this Halloween season.

So, if you’re ready to get hired more for private parties and make more money doing PPF at those booming fall festivals, let’s dive in!

1. Base Coating

When the base coat is splotchy or dull, the rest of the design will look messy. To set the stage for your designs and help colors pop, apply a smooth and even base coat of paint.

young girl with her eyes closed having makeup applied on her
A large sponge can help you cover the full face quickly, as seen in this gif where Heather Saxon Porter is preparing the base for a creepy doll Halloween design.

If you’re having trouble getting a smooth coat, you’re probably not using the best paints for base coats. I highly recommend using glycerin-based paints for the best coverage. Paradise by Mehron and Superstar/FAB both make an excellent white for bases—comfortable and full coverage.

Face Paint Buying Guide
Learn more about types of face paint and how to use them to their advantage in our Face Paint Buying Guide!

2. Brush Techniques

Linework: Use fine-tipped brushes to create intricate linework for details like outlines, spiderwebs, or princess crowns. Having a steady hand will assist you in achieving crisp linework in a single stroke.

young girl with three purple roses face painted on her lef eye
Milena Potekhina is adding beautiful flourishes to turn these roses into a complete Halloween design. You can find more fun Halloween designs in our Halloween Face Painting Guide!

If crisp linework is challenging for you, check out our 3-day Linework Workshop, which is entirely free!

Free Online Workshop - Improve Your Linework in 3 Days

3. Blending

Creating smooth transitions between colors is essential for realistic and impressive designs. There are multiple ways on how to blend:

  • sponge blending
  • dry brushing
  • pulling one color over another
  • brush blending

The Professional Course at the IFPS covers these and many other techniques in detail. To give a brief overview, you’ll need to work with both creamy and dry paint consistencies, and the best brushes to use are the filbert, chisel, and special blending brushes.

Tip: Glycerin-based colors are better for blending than wax-based paints. Pearl and metallic paints, due to their soft consistency, also provide smoother bases and blending. For more information on types of paints and their best uses, check out this guide.

4. Highlights and Shadows

Understanding how to apply highlights and shadows can add dimension to your designs. White and black paints are the primary colors used for highlighting and shadows, but more options can take your designs to the next level, such as pressed powders, eyeshadows, and the ability to work with different paint consistencies.

You can learn more about activating your paints correctly and using all five consistencies to your advantage in this blog post.

frightent child with a spider painted on its face

Why do you need this specifically for Halloween? Because this kind of creepy realism is a crowd-favorite for the spooky season and can elevate your design from basic to professional in a blink of an eye.

Want to know how to apply realistic 3D effects? Our Professional Course students are learning highlights, shadows, and 3D effects in detail! Sign up today to become a certified professional in as little as 3-6 months!

5. Textures and Patterns

Sponging textures: There are several tricks for creating textured effects with sponges. To start, I recommend using paint with a dry or sticky consistency. By lightly dabbing the paint onto the skin with a yellow porous sponge, you can achieve a stippled effect that works well for bruises, stubble, and rough skin. Pulling the sponge over the skin and flicking it can help achieve a realistic fur effect (btw, other sponge types also work for this technique).

lady putting face paint on herself

In this clip, Shawna Fae is using a sponge to create fur texture in our new monkey face paint tutorial! She polishes off the fur later with some brush line work and sponge blending. You can view the full tutorial here.

Stencil Use: Stencils are great for adding texture or intricate little images like bats, spiders, pumpkins, or even character faces. You’ll need dry paint consistency, a sponge or a finger dauber, and a steady hand for successful stenciling.

young boy having his face painted

Wies is quickly applying cheetah print with a stencil to this fast and easy design. View the full tutorial here.

young girl having her face painted white and orange
Tip: Working with paints may result in messy stenciling if the consistency isn’t right. Fortunately, there’s another effective way to stencil, which Ilse Kusters demonstrated in her class for the 2023 Halloween Summit. Here is a short clip of her using powders for stenciling.

6. Splatter Technique

This is ideal for creating a spooky or distressed effect. Dip a brush in paint, then tap it against your finger or another brush to create splatters. You can also flick it against a business card or other stiff paper.

gothic lady having blood face paint applied on her mouth

Blood splatters are perfect for Halloween designs! You can view this full vampire design by Olga Murasev on our Youtube channel.

7. Detailing and Fine Lines

A fine-tipped brush is essential for adding intricate details, like small veins, fine lines, and delicate features.

The quality of your brush makes a huge difference to your success with these types of details. If you’re struggling with this, try a #0 and/or #1 from our Brush Buying Guide. The quality of your tools may be the only thing standing between you and success!

8. Glitter and Sparkle

Adding glitter can enhance your Halloween designs. Apply glitter gel or loose glitter to certain areas for a magical or spooky touch.

Learn everything you need to know about glitter products and applications in our Festival Glitter guides Part 1 & Part 2!

9. Stencils and Templates

These can be especially handy for creating intricate designs like spiders, webs, and other Halloween-themed patterns.

girl has an unfinished painting of a organge pumpkin on her left cheek

In this clip, Milena Potekhina teaches a fun Halloween design using Milena Stencils. You can buy your own Milena Jack-o-Lantern stencil here.

10. Storyboarding

The most challenging yet the most important skill of all!

Planning your designs in advance and adhering to the fundamentals of composition, placement, and a consistent style will help ensure a smooth painting process and consistent results.

As a face painting instructor for over a decade, I have observed thousands of canvas artists who struggled with face painting, attempting overly intricate work that was unbalanced on the face…

Conversely, many face painters who started from scratch at my School achieved incredible results by following the fundamentals I taught them.

These are the secrets that are unknown to the majority in the face painting industry, but they have proven to be the key to success for thousands of artists across the globe.

And guess what? For the first time ever I will be sharing these secrets with you at the Upcoming Halloween Online Summit for Face Painters.

Bad news – since this is a LIVE class, we can only accommodate a limited number of attendees for this class and the spots are selling out way too fast.  So if you were on the fence, book your spot NOW before it’s too late.

An essential tool for planning out designs are face painting practice boards. They’re great to map out ideas on because you can clean them easily to make quick adjustments as your ideas evolve.
I really love Svetlana Keller’s Sparkling Face boards. You can buy them here.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Experiment with different techniques and designs before Halloween to build your skills and confidence as a face painter.

Our Ultimate Halloween Face Painting Ideas Guide has the best design inspiration for the season! Examining and practicing great designs is another way to improve your art, and this collection is a perfect place for all your Halloween painting needs!

Discovering additional $$$: Airbrushing and Special FX

Should I offer airbrushing for Halloween?

Adding airbrushing to your Halloween face painting services offers multiple advantages.

  • The technique’s precision enables intricate detailing for designs like skeletons and special effects, which will set you apart from other face painters.
  • Airbrushing’s efficiency is especially beneficial for high-demand events, allowing you to serve more clients quickly.
  • It excels at seamless blending, creating realistic shadows and highlights, ideal for adding depth to Halloween designs.
a creepy woman with a realistic zombie face paint
Tip: One of the world’s best airbrush artists, Blanca Plata, taught this vampire transformation in her class at the Halloween Summit 2023.
  • Special effects such as wounds and scars become impressively realistic with airbrushing.
  • Its uniform coverage ensures consistent, professional results, making your designs stand out.
  • Airbrushing’s versatility extends to UV-reactive designs that dazzle under blacklight, enhancing the Halloween experience.

Photogenic and trend-forward, airbrushed designs offer clients memorable keepsakes. By incorporating airbrushing into your repertoire, you offer unique, intricate, and photogenic designs that meet the demands of Halloween enthusiasts and event organizers.

Should I offer SFX as a face painter?

Incorporating Special Effects (SFX) into your services offers versatile benefits beyond theater and movies. SFX attracts diverse clients seeking unique transformations for events like Halloween, themed parties, and photoshoots. Elevating your artistry with intricate details enhances your overall face painting skills.

SFX’s seasonal demand, especially during Halloween, increases bookings and revenue. Standout offerings set you apart in the market, while photogenic results attract attention on social media. Private events like birthdays and corporate gatherings also benefit from SFX.

Exploring this avenue fosters artistic growth, even if theater or movies aren’t your focus, and opens doors for collaborations across various industries.

Not sure how to get started? Our 10 Essential SFX Tools for Halloween Face Painting post is for you! Learn everything from what to buy, what to DIY, and how to use these tools!

 — Olga Murasev

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