How to Start and Run a Face Painting Business - The Complete Guide

Starting a face painting business is an exciting thing and we would love to walk you through all of the steps necessary to become a professional face painter and get your business going the right way! 

Fundamental Basic Face Painting Kit

Don't be overwhelmed by the information in here, we have organized it in a way that you can go from task to task, making sure you complete the first task before you move on to the next one. Follow this order and you will be good to go in no time!

Also, if you first just want to learn how to face paint before you look into everything else, then we highly suggest you read our How to Face Paint - A Face Painting Guide for Beginners and Parents blog post. It is a very complete guide to help you learn how to face paint with easy steps and instructions.

How to Face Paint - A Face Painting Guide for Beginners and Parents

1 - Market Research: all about Face Painters in your area

The first thing you should do before you consider becoming a face painter is to do your market research. This will allow you to establish if there is a need or could be a need for a face painter in your area, and second, what does the market look like right now. Here are a few things to consider:

A - Is there a need for a face painter?

First of all, determine what you area of service will be, what cities, and how far you are willing to travel on any given day for a gig.

The best way to know this is to ask yourself some basic questions: are there events in my town were face painting could be used? Can people in my area afford a face painter? Do people in my area know what face painting is?

Market Research

If you can answer yes to all of those questions then likely there is a need for a face painter in your area. Make sure you do your research to get the right answer, don't just base it of what you think. Ask around, visit public events, see if there are any other face painters out there, talk to event organizers, make observations at birthday parties, etc.

B - How does the market look like?

Now that you determined that there is a need for face panting services in your area, you need to study the current market.

Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself: are there any other face painters in my area? Is the market saturated? Can I compete with those who are already established? What kind of services do they offer? Are there mostly new or well established face painters? What is the average price range in the area? Can I be profitable if I charged a similar price? How often can I expect to be booked in any given month? What is the seasonality in our area?

In order to answer those questions you will need to do a little bit of research online, ask other painters in your area, talk with event organizers and agents, check websites like GigSalad and GigMasters. Write down all of your answers, organize them and you will get a good idea of what the market looks like.

C - What can I expect to earn?

Keep in mind that overall the current going rate in the USA for a professional face painter is about $100 an hour for someone that can paint between 10-20 kids an hour (depending on how detailed the designs are). Some painters charge more, a few charge less. There can be extra charges for travel, or discounts for booking more hours, etc. This is just a rough number so you can have an idea of what you can expect to earn. Also, keep in mind that most of the time painters are booked mostly on weekends, so you can expect to have anywhere from 1 to 4 or 5 gigs over a weekend. In general the demand for face painters is higher from March until October, with a low season between November and February. This is not exactly the same for every state.

How much money can I make face painting

Based on our own research in the USA, on average, a painter with a well established business that works mostly just on the weekends can earn around $25 to $30 thousand dollars a year. There are some painters that earn a lot more than that because they have an entire team working with them, and others that earn less because they are just starting out or because they do not take as many gigs as they could due to other work or family situations. 

Keep in mind that face painting can be a second job or side job, or it can be a full time job depending on your needs and the area you are at. The larger the city the more demand for face painters there is.

D - Market research conclusion 

If you determine that there is a need for face painters in you area, that you will be able to compete well in your market and that the average earnings are within your expectations, then you can move to step 2.

Keep in mind that starting from now, you might have some expenses. Please make sure to keep track of them using an Excel file and keeping copies of your receipts as some of them, or most, might be deductible from your business' taxes.

2 - Establish Your Business' Legal Status 

So, you have decided that you want to get started, now it is time to get you going. The first step is to get legally established. We suggest you begin by coming up with a name for your business.

A - Determine Your Business' Name

In order to come up with your business name you should do some research. See what others around you chose as a name. Come up with a name that is easy for people to remember, that will stand out from other names out there, that is easy to spell correctly when doing a search online and that no one has already registered with your town, your state, or on a website, Facebook Page, Instagram account, etc. Make sure that your business name will look good with all the words smooshed together for a website or email address as well. Sometimes when you push words together they create new words that you might not want showing up. 

Once you come up with a business name, is time to get it registered.

B - Register Your Business

Usually you can get a DBA (doing business as) certificate from your local town and you can register your business name with your state if you file to incorporate your business as an LLC. This is an important step as it gives you some rights over your business name. If you know you will do this for a long time and want to have some extra protections of your business name, you can register your business name as a Trade Mark with the USPTO. You can do a trademark search before deciding on your business name to make sure no one else can claim rights on it: http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=tess&state=4807:4w369.1.1

If you use a business name that someone else has a trade mark on, you could have issues when registering for a domain name or Facebook page.

legal status of your business

If you need help filing a TradeMark application, LegalZoom can help you out. They can also help you out when forming an LLC.

C - Establish Your Legal Structure

Once you have decided on your name and registered it with the authorities, it is time to establish your legal structure. It is best to consult with a lawyer first, but usually people go for the LLC structure as that is one that will not complicate your tax filings yet it can provide a level of protection to your personal assets. Check with an accountant and a lawyer on the best way of doing this and the legal requirements going forward to keep the protections that LLCs have.

You can read more about the Legal Status of your Business on our blog post: How to Run a Face Painting Business - Legal/Tax Status of your Business.

D - Do you need Any Special Licenses?

Now that you are established, you can check with your city and state to see if they have any special licenses to run your business. As far as we know, in the USA, face painters do not need any special licenses (like makeup artists, or hair dressers). 

E - Get all of the Legal Documents you Might Need

You will be running a business so you will need at least the following documents (these might vary from state to state):

- Business Tax License (some states require you to have it)

- Contract to be sent to your customers. You can download our FREE contract sample here.

- Articles of Incorporation (if established as an LLC)

- Trade-Mark Confirmation (if you filed for one)

- Trade License (if required by your local authorities)

3 - Get your Basic Face Painting Supplies

In order to start practicing and learning new skills you need to have the right products with you. You can expand your kit once you have gained the necessary skills, but before you get to that we suggest you get a basic training kit. You can get all of the mentioned face painting supplies at our store, JestPaint.com.

A Face Painting Palette with some basic colors and split cakes:

A basic set of face painting brushes:

A set of face painting sponges:

A water cup:

A brush carrying case to protect your brushes:

A sponge carrying bag:

Opalescent White Glitter (to spray over your designs):

A set of practice boards to practice your designs:

A few basic stencils:

Now that you have a basic kit, you can start learning how to face paint and practice.

4 - Learn How to Face Paint and All About Face Painting 

Now that you have decided that you want to be a face painter, that there is a need for one in your area and now that you have a legal name and a business structure, is time to start your education! 

Not only do you need to learn how to face paint specific designs, but you need to know how to activate the paint, how to use brushes, sponges, stencils and split cakes. You need to learn sanitation and hygiene tips, the difference between face paint brands and types, how to care for your brushes, etc.

Learn to face paint

The first step before you learn how to actually face paint is learning about the paint itself. Then you have to learn about activation, different tools, techniques and more.

A - The Different Kinds of Face Paint

We have written a long post about all of the different kinds of face paints out there, what they are best for and how to use them. Please follow this link for an in depth review: The Ultimate Face Paint Guide - Brands Comparison.

The most important thing you should know is that you should use water activated face paints. Face painters prefer this style since you don't have to set them with powder because they dry to the touch, you can paint fine details with them and they wash off with soap and water, which parents love. You can seal water activate paints with a makeup spray if you need them to be extra durable. We suggest you start with a brand like Fusion Body Art since it is easy to use, provides great quality and it is very affordable:

The three most common kinds of face paints are: Acacia Senegal Gum based, Paraffin Wax based and Glycerin based. All three styles are very good and versatile kinds of face paints can be used for both line work and base work. Having said that, painters usually prefer Glycerin based paints for bases and the other two for line work. Make sure to check the blog linked above for a much more in depth explanation.

B - How to Activate Face Paints?

Water activated face paints come in solid cakes (like makeup compacts with removable lids) and they require the use of water to activate the pigments. 

To start, get a cup of clean water (or a water container like our airtight stainless steel brush washer or Rinse Well ) and dip your brush or sponge in it. When dipping a sponge, only dip the tip of it and squeeze out any excess water. When dipping your brush, make sure to remove any excess water from your brush using the edge of your water container, before heading to your cake of paint. 

Once your tool of choice has been moistened you can go ahead and activate the makeup by slowly rubbing the surface of the cake with your brush or sponge. You can do back and forth movements or circular movements. It is important to take care of your tools and never press to hard. Your face painting brushes are delicate tools, you should never press it down making the bristles spread open or bend at the ferrule, just gently rub back and forward over your face paint cake, maintaining the shape of your brush, until you obtain a creamy consistency on your brush.

How to load a round brush

If you feel that the cake is too dry and you are not able to get a creamy consistency on your tool of choice then you need to add a little bit more water to your brush or sponge. If on the contrary you feel that you have added too much water and the paint is running, then rub the paint a little longer so that it absorbs the excess water, or tap out some of the water on your brush into your face paint water cup, or on a cloth.

how to load a flat brush


It is always best to start with a rather dry sponge or brush and add more water as needed, than to use too much water at the beginning and then have to deal with drippy paint.

C - What are the Best Brushes and Sponges?

Choosing the right tools for the job is a very important step. Not all tools are created equal, but there are many good quality brushes and sponges that can do the job. We have designed a full range of brushes and sponges specifically created to face and body paint. 

Your face painting sponges should be soft and gentle, made from hypoallergenic materials and have small pores. Do not try to use latex sponges or makeup wedges as those are not meant to be used with these paints and will not give you a good finish.

The most basic sponge shape that you want to have in your kit is the half circle, as that is a very versatile sponge that can be used for blending, sponging a background, stenciling and more!