You are not getting this post from face painting experts. You are getting this post from people who have done youth ministry, library work, camping, and more, and have had a fair share of children’s faces to paint. These face painting ideas, tutorials, tips, and tricks are for those of you that aren’t pro’s and will never be ;).
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keep scrolling to get to the tutorials!
Use good face paint.
The number one tip is to spring for the better face paint. A good paint to use is Snazaroo face paint. It is easy to use, doesn’t leave rashes (most kids will absolutely react to the cheaper paints after a short period of time!) and washes off nicely. Often it can be found at your big box stores. Or order it on Amazon. Alternatively, you can try making your own face-paint.
Many people make the mistake of starting their face painting attempts with smaller designs on cheeks, thinking that they will be easier to accomplish than the full-face options. They are sadly mistaken. The smaller the image, the more detailed and precise you will need to be in your lines. A flower on the cheek is a hundred times harder to make than a full-face flower. A soccer ball on the cheek is harder than an entire superhero on the whole face, simply because of how precise your lines need to be on that smaller scale. So if you’re just starting out, go big. Or, be sure to use really, really good brushes!
Simplify your color palette.
Sure, a butterfly with five different colors can look really cool. But more often than not, it will turn into a hot mess. You are probably better off using one or two colors for your butterfly/monster/animal and having it be more simple than if you try to include too many colors. The colors, when not properly dried and defined, blend into each other and make a mess. So if you do use multiple colors, be sure you let them dry completely in between applications. It’s recommended that you use a black to define lines, and then one more color. That’s it. At least until you become more experienced.
Watch the eyes.
When we look at photos of awesome face painting skills on Pinterest, we usually see examples that have paint all the way over the eyelids and under the eyes. And while it is true that your face paint will look best when it is so close to the eyes, this practice is highly discouraged, especially with kids. It is just unwise, especially with smaller children who may be rubbing their eyes or crying. You don’t want them to get that paint in their eyes; it hurts. So be okay with face painting that is a little less epic than you saw on Pinterest. You’ll have happier kids.
Be mindful of ages.
Keep in mind the age of the child you are painting when choosing a design. Small, small children often rub their eyes making a design with a lot of paint near their eyes less than ideal. Perhaps a nose and whiskers would be better suited. Also, if your child is young and you are painting their face for Halloween night, do it as close to the time to leave as possible. And be sure to carry along some wipes if they do start rubbing. Using good paints helps ensure there aren’t tears if paint gets in the eyes, but to be sure…wipe it off if they just can’t seem to stop rubbing. A crying lion is never as cute as a smiling face!
Simplify your steps.
While many designs are enticing because of how amazing they look, watch for simple designs and faces. Children don’t really care too much how perfect you get it. But they certainly want their face paint to resemble what they ask for! There is no need to go fancy with a princess face, or a cat, or a lion. While it might be fun for Halloween night to get fancy, keep it simple (especially if you are face painting for many children). Do it simply, and well.
Watch your color layers.
Start with your base, let it dry, and apply your additional colors on top. Be sure to let the paint dry in between coats, which is why limiting your color palette in a design is a good idea. Often you will use the lightest colors first and work your way to the darker colors.
Use your fingers.
Start with clean hands, always. And don’t be afraid to use your fingers to apply base coats of paint. The natural oils on your skin help spread the paint quickly and evenly.
Q-tips work great!
Q-tips are great for applying face paints to many children. You can dispose of them after each child, they go on smoothly, and they can be changed with each color.
Inexpensive paintbrushes work well.
They are inexpensive and easy to find. Use a make-up remover wipe on the brushes in between children and for each color. You can even set them in a glass of soapy water to wash after you are finished. Or because of how inexpensive they are…toss them out!
Many of the paints are quite thick. Feel free to dip your brush, q-tip, or whatever you are using it a small amount of water before placing it in the paint. This will help keep the consistency from being too thick (which makes it less itchy for the kids!) and spread more easily. Just be sure it isn’t so wet it drips down the face, and if you’re painting multiple kids make sure to keep the water sanitary.
Take off your face paint soon.
As mentioned, face painting can cause irritation (even with the best paints) and also has the potential to stain the skin. Remove the paint as soon as possible after your event, and using a makeup wipe to do it. Soap and water works, but you risk getting paint in the eyes and on your clothes, and it takes quite a while to remove all the paint making for unhappy children. Pick up Neutrogena Cleansing Towelettes to do the job; they work great. If those things can take off waterproof mascara, they have no problem with face paint! And they are surprisingly gentle, so you can use them on smaller kids. One quick wipe or two and it’s off! These are also great to clean brushes between colors.
Below are two full-faced videos.
Adjust the butterfly a bit to make a princess. Don’t include the antennae and body, use a smaller black outline (ending just under the eyebrows works well), and add a bit more in the way of colored dots. And sparkle…always sparkle! The lion is a basic animal concept. Go ahead and adjust it for various animals. Use a gray base and black whiskers for a cat. Perhaps gray and pink with big ears for a mouse? For young children skip the brown base coat and go straight to whiskers and ear!
These face painting tutorials are not perfect.
Face Painting ideas and tutorials!
This is a favorite for little girls, usually in pink or purple with LOTS and LOTS of glitter. Thankfully, it’s simple to do!
- Draw 3 teardrop shapes on the forehead. The largest of the three is in the center of the forehead with two smaller ones towards the side.
- Use a series of dots to create the “crown” across the forehead and connect the 3 shapes. Outline the teardrop shapes with dots as well.
- If desired, use black and sparkle to add dimension.
This is another favorite for little girls. It goes well with fairies, princesses, angels, and any sort of girly costume. A few pink swirls and a bit of sparkle is all it takes to get this done! This one looks a bit like an octopus. If you take a bit more time you could have a non-octopus version, and even a full face of swirls and sparkle!
- Create a swirl or two starting at the eyebrow and down towards the cheek. This isn’t an exact science!
- Use a contrasting color to add a border of dots along the swirl.
- Use color to add a bit of dimension to your swirl.
- Glitter. Add lots of glitter!
Change up the colors to match your child’s costume. You can tell here that cheap face paint was used.
- For older children, add a base of color around the eye (take care not to get too close). For younger children, skip this step.
- Outline the patch with black. Add a nose, line from nose to mouth, and several “whisker” dots.
- Use red to give your “dog” a tongue.
- Add a little line of black on the tongue for dimension.
We used cheap face paint on this tutorial so you can see the difference even that change makes on how good it looks. The paint we used also ended up staining for a couple of days. So, use good face paint!
Learn how to paint a mask if you learn anything. You’ll use it repeatedly. Change the colors, eliminate the base color, change the shape a bit…the possibilities are endless for how you will use this one! Use good quality face paint to be sure this looks good (and not uneven).
- Apply a base coat (green for a Ninja Turtle). We’ve recently had a reader clue us in to a little trick. Put on a base of yellow, let it dry, and then put on your green. The green will be stronger, and there won’t be as much staining! We are so lucky to have awesome readers who let us know about these tricks!
- Outline the eyes first, creating the mask shape as you go out.
This one was really popular with Mario costumes (or is it Luigi?) and pirates. It’s a good one to know how to do. And super easy!
- Use a brown bottom layer and apply in a mustache shape.
- Outline the shape with black and add additional dimension, if desired.