Body Painting Basics

Introductory face painting tips for the experienced artist. Andrew Bedno - 2008.09.24

These hints presume you can already paint with acrylics and render most any form on demand, such as flowers, planets, buildings...

  1. Be hygienic! Use hand sanitizer liberally and frequently. Refuse people having unhappy skin, sores, scabs, acne. Sanitize brushes between subjects to prevent cross-contamination.
  2. Get good paints, water based only. For example a Snazaroo wheel kit, 14 colors on a palette. Or Wolfe Brothers or Mehron assortments. Good costume shops such as Fantasy HQ sell them. Any expense will pay for itself many-fold later.
  3. Get some good theatrical glitter, finest grain mica (as opposed to microplastic). Kids demand it.
  4. Good brushes matter. I use synthetics, pointed, in the 1-6 range.
  5. Always stock wet wipes and hand-sanitizer.
  6. Get one or more books with the basic forms: cat, bunny, dog, butterfly, clown, spiderman, etc. Some books do everything full-face, like with a white base coat, I've never bothered.
  7. Use a tiny mister for wetting paints just before use.
  8. Paint layers from light to dark to minimize bleed through.
  9. Color areas first, then apply outlines, shadows and highlights.
  10. Avoid mouth and eyes. Especially with kids use arms and cheeks.
  11. Use red sparingly, as it is the color most likely to stain skin and clothes.
  12. Add to your tools eventually: colored liners, sponges, makeup, ...
  13. Balance complexity and waiting time. Have sets you can do in under two minutes. Details the artist sees at a few inches disappear at a few feet anyway.
  14. Practice on some friends AND take portfolio shots. Halloween's a perfect opportunity.