I have gone a little bit face painting crazy.
Some of you have seen it on my Instagram, some on my Pinterest, and some of you could also have seen it here on the blog, particularly when I have been making shrovetide costumes for the girls. I just find that it’s lots of fun being able to paint the girls and their friends, and it is kind of addictive.
First of all, as a face painter, I am a happy amateur. I try my way through the different products and knowledge sources out there, but I am no expert. Having said that, I receive so many questions about my face painting, and I have long wanted to gather it all in one blog post, and share my rookie view on it all. The stuff I can do now, I learned from the internet. A few years ago, I actually did receive a gift card for a face painting class for Christmas, but by the time I was ready to use it, the face painter no longer offered classes. If anyone knows about classes for amateurs in Denmark, I would still love to do that.
I started face painting when Ronja was around 3 years old. She was going to shrovetide as a princess, and I didn’t know how to do anything costume-wise. (That’s actually also when I started to sew.) When I was a child, we used a kind of face painting crayons that were really not very good, and with that in mind, I wanted to get water colours. I found a 6-colour water palet from Grimas and a random brush, and that got me started. I will begin by going through the products I use, and afterwards you will find my shopping links and my sources for inspiration and learning. Now, my collection of face painting products has grown considerably.
Here you see it all: I have a box for paint, glitter, etc., and one for brushes and sponges, and finally a water container which is also a brush holder for when you are painting. And that’s it really.
Paint and glitter
As I mentioned I started out with Grimas, and that is the paint I am still using, even if I have expanded my colour-selection a bit. I have more colours than the ones you see below, but I have customized the selection I keep in my box to the ones I use the most. I mostly use these for the base of the design. For white and black details, swirls, edges, webs, teardrops etc., I find that the opacity of the paint isn’t good enough to cover the base colour, which is why I started to use Diamond FX for details, and that is just awesome. I have a few Snazaroo paints as well – mostly because I came across someone selling a pile of unused colours at a low price. I used them to make my own split cakes (because those are so expensive to buy).
Making your own split cakes is easy, but it does require you to have a selection of colours, that you are willing to cut up. I found this tutorial on how to do it, and these below are two of the ones I made. You can make great effects using split cakes – either by stroking two of the colours with a wide flat brush (known as a one stroke brush), or by using the entire cake with a sponge – f.ex. when making the base for a butterfly.
I realized that I was always using a white for blending colours, or for creating two-coloured flowers. After a while, I bought a new white one – that way I have one for blending, and one that I never use for blending.
I have a hair band in the box as well, to get all that hair away from little girls’ faces. Glitter is a must - the first glitter I used was a bit too coarse to have the right effect, so I got these three, that I have been using for a long time now. They do the job.
Ronja made me a box that says “Time for glitter”. I only recently purchased some sequins to add to face paint designs (when I was doing the Elsa-face paint) – and what more appropriate box to keep them in than that?
I keep glitter and glue for glitter tattoos in the box as well – I have been trying that out a few times. That too is a hit with the girls – check out Lisa’s video of it here.
This is one thing that I’ve definitely learned a bit about since I started painting – mainly due to lots of errors. My first brushes weren’t helpful in getting me the results I wanted, and I actually went through quite a few. I couldn’t do accurate brush strokes, they didn’t pick up the colour well and besides my obvious lack of experience and practice, I was certain that I should be able to do better. Then I found the below guides to face painting brushes, and put a set of Mark Reid signature brushes on my birthday wish list. I wish I had done that sooner – they are sooo much better than everything I have been using previously. Good brushes don’t do it for you, but they make a world of difference.
Guides to face painting brushes:
If you go on to buy good brushes, make sure you clean them well after you have finished painting. This will preserve the brushes longer, and make sure they stay well shaped. I use the Master’s Brush Cleaner for this, entirely based on recommendations found on the internet, and it works great.
Sponges are great for applying the base for the design. I use round sponges, cut in half, which works fine. My brush box is new, and I love it. It keeps the brushes well contained without bumping around and is just one of those nice things that do the job they’re meant to.
Besides these brushes, I also keep some less expensive ones in my box, for when the girls (especially Frida) want to paint me. Of course, you can use anything as a water container, I’ve been using a large glass for a long time. This one from Loew Cornell however, is great with its two water compartments, brush holder, and different solutions for easy rinsing.
It’s hard to tell someone else how to get started on face painting. For me, YouTube has been my primary source of inspiration and learning. I quickly found that the quality of the tutorials posted there was better than the quality of the ones I could find in books, and often the designs were of a higher standard as well. Also, some of the people that post tutorials on YouTube are amazingly pedagogical, and you get to see every little flick of the brush that they make while listening to their opinion on products, techniques etc. Which channels that help you most, will depend on what kind of designs you want to make – check out the list below to get closer to what your ideal should be. There is a good chance you will be able to find what you are looking for in the large selection on YouTube.
Small selection of the best face painting channels on YouTube (in my view):
- Lisa Joy Young – my personal favourite – great designs, variety and product reviews
- Silly Heather – the first one I followed
- Ashlea Henson
- Sparkling Faces - among other things, she has some great basic technique videos, like this one
Pinterest is also a great source for inspiration, and you can pin your favourite designs to your own board, which makes it easy to save and retrieve the ones you like. I will let you do the discovering, but search for face painting and you will find lots and lots of designs. I use a lot of very specific searches, such as “face painting design green” if I need to find inspiration for a green mask.
My own face painting board on Pinterest is this one: Face Painting - I post stuff that inspires me, as well as my own designs on the girls and their friends.
Shopping for face painting supplies
I am in Denmark, and in order to avoid paying customs duty I try to shop either in Denmark or the UK, so of course my webshop preferences reflect that. That said, I have my eye on a few US shops as well. Below, I’ve just listed a few of my favourites. Many of the shops around are kind of lost in the past when it comes to webshop solutions and design. Still, if I find what I need, and the service is good, I don’t consider that disqualifying.
- Dramashop.dk (DK) - this is where I purchased my Grimas paints – nice selection, quick delivery
- Facepaint-UK.com (UK) – great selection in brands and products (Grimas, Diamond FX + many more)
- FacePaintingTips.co.uk (UK) – they have a US shop as well (Diamond FX, Paradise TAG)
- Silly Farm (US) – totally wish I was somewhere near that shop – they seem to have everything (not Grimas though)!
Do let me know, if I left out your favorite webshops, though – I’d love to have your suggestions as well.
So what do I do with it all?
Well, the truth is, I paint because it is fun. It’s something I do in my spare time with the girls – either when they or their friends ask for it, or when I beg them to allow me. (Yes, when you have painted long enough, there will come a time, when they more or less lose interest.) It is very much like my sewing – a place to direct my creative energy. No pressure – all fun. I did paint as a volunteer at a Greenpeace-event a while ago, which is where the below photo was taken.
I hope that at least some of this is useful to you if you ended up here – if you have additional questions or requests, do give me a shout in the comments or send me an email. And enjoy!