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

Face Painting is very popular these days and it has expanded so much that not only kids enjoy it but adults to.

Learning how to face paint can be not just a fun activity to distract yourself and have fun with your kids, but also a money making skill that could help you support your family.

If you want to be a professional face painter or a would rather just do it as a hobby, it is important for you to learn how to face paint properly, using the right supplies, techniques and proper hygiene so that no matter what you can have fun and keep it safe. 

how to face paint

In this blog post we will teach you the basic things you need to know to start face painting. Once you learn the basics, you can explore our blog post and learn all of the extra details that will help you turn into a pro.

The structure of this post is such that a complete beginner face painter can easily follow through and understand it all even if she or he has no previous knowledge or understanding on the subject.

We will start our beginner's face painting guide going over the basic face painting supplies you will need to learn how to face paint. This is not a professional set up, but rather a basic kit that will get you going.

We will then go over how to use your face painting supplies, including how to activate your face paints, how to properly load a brush and a sponge and how to use split cakes.

After that we will learn how to wash off face paint, how to clean your suppliers, how to store them properly and some safety and hygiene tips.

Once we have all of that down, we will teach you how to maintain your kit in good shape, and we will give you some fun practice tips so that you can continue to practice your face painting skills.

Lastly, we will provide you with some step by steps of the 10 most popular face painting designs for you to practice and finish learning how to face paint.

1 - Getting Your Face Painting Supplies

A - Best Kind of Face Paints

There are several kinds of face paints out there, water activated, dry pressed powders, liquid paints, grease base, wax based, glycerin based, etc. When you are just learning how to face paint we suggest you start with glycerin based face paints (like Superstar, Paradise) and/or paraffin wax or Acacia Senegal Gum based face paints (like Fusion Body Art, Diamond FX, TAG Body Art, Wolfe FX, etc). These paints are water activated, easy to use and provide good coverage and bold colors.

face paint supplies

Paraffin Wax and Acacia Senegal Gum based face paints are specially good for line work, while glycerin based face paints are better for blending since they are more flexible and take a bit longer to dry on the skin.

If you want to learn all about the different kinds of face paints out there and what you can do with each of them, you should check our The Ultimate Face Paint Guide - Brands Comparison blog post.

I have several kinds of face paints on my kit since each one has a specific use, but my staple brands, the ones I used the most are Fusion Body Art and Superstar. - Anna Wilinski, Professional Face Painter.

B - Where to buy Face Painting Supplies

To start your face painting journey you need to get the right supplies and you should always buy your face paints from a professional face paint store. There are many online professional face paint stores, and we run our own. With over 30 years of experience face painting professionally, we have first hand knowledge of the products we sell and we can recommend the best products for your needs.

Face Painting Store

We suggest you visit our store, to see what we have to offer, but we will list below what we think is a good beginner face painting kit.

C - Essential Face Painting Supplies for Beginner Face Painters

Here is a list of everything you need to get you started.

 I. Beginner Face Painting Palette with the basic colors

Face paints come in three basic styles:

different styles of face paint

  1. Matte or Regular Colors: these colors are bold and can have a very matte finish or a glossy finish. They are great since they offer the best coverage and the boldest looks. 
  2. Pearl or Metallic Colors: these colors are made with special pigments so they look metallic or pearly. They have a shimmery or metal like effect and they are great to add some shine to your design.
  3. UV or Neon Colors: these are very vivid colors that look like they glow under day light and will glow under a black light. They are great to create special effects and to make a design pop but they can be a bit translucent so they require a thicker load to give you good coverage.  

different styles of face paint

different styles of face paint


Either one of those palettes is a good start, depending on your budget. They have the most basic face painting colors. With these you can paint almost any design you wish. Of course, they are small, so they are great for practicing, having fun and learning how to face paint, but if you decide to do this professionally, then you will need something larger.

choose your face paint color

When you are just starting out, the colors you should for sure have are: 

  • White: for highlights and accents
  • Black: for line work
  • Red: for super heroes mostly
  • Orange: for tigers, cheetahs, etc
  • Yellow: for tigers, lions, etc
  • Blue: for water, sky and snow inspired designs
  • Green: for plants, monsters, lizards
  • Brown: for critters, zombies, etc
  • Pink: for princess crowns, butterflies, flowers
  • Purple: for princess crowns, butterflies, flowers

You will notice that you will use black and white the most since almost every design uses black and or white, so you might want to get larger containers of them, like these ones:

II. Face Painting Brushes

We have designed Bolt Brushes with face painters in mind. We created brushes with a medium bounce, an easy to grab handle and the right length to give control over your brush strokes. You will discover with time that different painters like different brushes but this set will get you started and has the brushes you need for line work (pointy round brushes) and to use with split cakes (flat brushes):

Your basic brush shapes are:

  • Round Brushes: these are the skinny pointy brushes, and you will use those for all of your line work and details. You can create outlines to give shape to a design and use them to add details. They are basically like a pen or pencil, to draw a design.
  • Flat Brushes: these brushes are the flat rectangular looking brushes, and they can be use to lay down a base color since their large surface allows you to paint more skin faster than with a round brush, and they can also be used with split cakes to paint using the 1 stroke technique. We will go over that a bit later.

round vs flat face painting brush

III. Face Painting Sponges

Most of your base work (when you lay down colors to create a base for your design) will be done using sponges. Face Painting sponges are designed to be oft to the touch yet firm enough to activate the paint.

I keep over 50 sponges on my sponge bag at any given event, and usually carry at least two kind of sponges: half circle and petal shape.

You can get started with just a simple set of half circle sponges, later on you can add specialty shape sponges, but for now, when you are just starting to learn how to face paint, this set will do it:

Sponges come in a few different shapes, here is a list of the 3 most common ones:

  1. Half Circle Sponges: these are the most common and versatile sponges, great for lying down a base, creating sharp edges, blending colors smoothly.
  2. Full Circle Sponges: these are specially good for body painting since they can cover a large area of the body super fast.
  3. Teardrop or Petal Sponges: these are particularly good for creating butterfly wings.

different styles of face painting sponges

IV. Cosmetic Grade Glitter

No face painting kit is complete, even for a beginner without some GLITTER! Glitter can make any face paint design extra fancy if you use it right. For those starting to learn how to face paint they might feel like the more glitter the better but that is not the case. With glitter is all about using the right amount on the right places. Too much glitter can make your design blurry. Too little and it might not pop as much as you hope it would.

Cosmetic Grade Glitter

There are many kinds of glitter out there, we will cover some of the basics:

  • Fine Loose Glitterthis is the most basic and common kind of glitter. This glitter comes in jars, poof bottles or pumps and it is sprinkled over the design.
  • Glitter Gelthis is the second most common kind of glitter, it can be fine loose glitter mixed with a gel base, or chunky glitter mixed with the gel. This can be spread over or around the painted areas. If going over it you have to be careful to do it very gently so not to activate the face paint below and ruin your design.
  • Glitter Creams: these are fine loose glitter or chunky glitters mixed with a wax base that won't smear the design underneath. They are one of the newest trends in face painting glitter.

different styles of glitter

Now that we have covered the main forms in which you will find glitter we can discuss what kinds of fine loose glitter and chunky glitter exist:

  • Holographic Glitter: this glitter reflects many colors.
  • Translucent Glitter: this glitter lets light go through so it won't cover your design completely, it is great to be puffed over a butterfly face for example. Holographic white glitter is translucent and holographic, making the most commonly used glitter.
  • Opaque Glitter: this kind of glitter is mostly used for glitter tattoos since it is opaque and it covers whatever is underneath, but it is also great to be used as accents over face paint designs. For example, you can use it as eye shadow, or over the lips, or with a hearts or stars stencil to add a little detail over your designs.
  • Fine Glitter: is the most common kind of glitter, it feels almost like a powder and it spreads easily.
  • Chunky Glitterthese are larger glitter particles that create a different bolder effect.
  • Biodegradable glitterall forms of glitter mentioned above come also in biodegradable form. These are usually made from corn based or eucalyptus based polymers. These tend to be considered more environmentally friendly since some can decompose while in contact with fresh water, while others can be composted in industrial facilities.

different styles of cosmetic glitter

V. Practice Board

In order to learn how to face paint you will need to practice, and sometimes it can be hard to find someone to practice on, so we suggest you get a practice board. 

There are several kinds of face painting practice boards out there, the ultimate rage are the colored ones. Although the proportions on these boards are not 100% realistic, the texture is not the same as skin, and you are missing the 3D factor, if you have no one to practice on, this is your second best option. They are super easy to wash off and you can take pictures of your designs and create incredible looking design boards for your clients to look at. 

You can also practice on your arms and legs, but eventually you will need a face to paint on. With a little bit of extra practice, you can face paint your own face.

VI. Water Bucket

You don't need to get anything too fancy since it is just meant to rinse your brushes and sponges. We suggest something wide so it is stable and not too deep since you don't want the water level to be above the brushes ferrule.

If you can't find anything suitable, here is a good option:

This is a particularly great system since it allows you to have clean water every time, and hides the dirty water in a reservoir below.

VII. Brush Holder

Brush holders are designed to protect your face painting brushes while in storage, and to give you an easy an organized access to your brushes while face painting. We highly suggest you get one since it will help you protect your brushes and keep them in good shape for a longer period of time.

There are several great options out there, this is the one we use the most: