10 Steps to Face Painting Faster

As much as face painting is about style, talent, and creativity, it’s also about speed. As a professional face painter you’re expected to paint a certain number of faces within an hour. We’ve all found ourselves in those situations where we seem to have more faces to paint than time will allow. How you handle the situation can make the difference between a successful gig and one that may have you wondering if this business is for you after all. Don’t stress! With the following tips you can face paint faster while keeping your cool.

1. Use Split Cakes and One Strokes

Check out this detailed post about split cakes and one strokes that can help explain why you should include them in your kit. They not only bring your designs to the next level, but they really speed up the face painting process. Load up a one-inch flat brush with colors from a one stroke and make a dazzling two-minute princess crown. Or use a smaller flat brush to paint dolphins, fish, rainbows, flowers, bats, and birds in a fraction of the time it would take using separate colors. Not only will one strokes and split cakes speed up the face painting process, but your designs will have that wow factor that makes customers come back for more.

2. Place the Mirror Out of Reach

A little trick I learned along the way is to keep the mirror on the other side of my table and out of reach from kids who are sitting in the face painting chair. Instead of handing them the mirror after they’re done, I ask them to hop out of the chair and go around to check themselves out. It may seem like a little thing, but doing this saves me about 20 seconds per child. And when you’re face painting 15 plus kids per hour that adds up!

3. Organize Your Workspace

When you are trying to get through a long line, it is so important to have your workspace set up in an efficient way.

  • Make sure your water cups are not placed in a position where they could spill all over your face paints.
  • Keeping your brushes organized in a brush holdermakes it so much easier to grab what you need quickly.
  • A professional face painting palette keeps face paint containers nice and neat. You can also buy palette inserts to go inside cases.
  • I find that using a works-with-everything iridescent glitter speeds up the face painting process. If you prefer using several different colors, then try organizing your glitter with a holder.
  • Declutter your table. Review the products you put out at each gig. Do you really need all that? Store or get rid of what you don’t need.

4. Let Go of Perfection

Sometimes you just don’t want to stop until everything looks perfect, but when you need to face paint quickly, you’ll have to let go of perfection. Stopping to wipe away a little stencling outside the lines here or going over teardrops there is not only unnecessary, but will slow you down considerably. When it comes to minor imperfections, there’s little chance anyone will notice. Save your flawless details for face painting competitions!

5. Don’t Use A Sign In Sheet

A few years ago at a very busy weekly gig, I decided that having kids sign in would be a great alternative to having them wait in line. They could play at the nearby playground until their names were called. I’m not going to lie, the parents and kids loved it, but the sign in sheet was a huge time-waster. Unless you have someone to manage the list or you’re doing a small private party, I don’t recommend using one. You’ll waste precious time trying to make out names written by four-year-olds and waiting for the kids to stop playing and run to the chair. You’ll also have to deal with problems like trying to figure out why someone was accidentally crossed off the list or waiting for kids who left without crossing off their name. Not to mention, your voice will be hoarse after hours of shouting out names. Once I ditched the sign in sheet and went back to a line, I ended up painting more faces and making more money.

6. Take Control of the Line

Use a next-in-line mat to keep kiddos from hanging out around your face painting supplies and chair. Nothing slows down a line like having to stop what you’re doing every few minutes to tell kids to stop stepping on your toes, literally. Having a defined line beginning with a line mat that’s a safe distance from your feet, chair, and face painting supplies, will save you from having to explain over and over again where kids should be standing.

If you’re donating your time for a fundraising event, ask for a volunteer to help with line management.

7. Simplify Your Designs

If you’re in a hurry, skip time-suckers like outlining teardrops, stenciling, sponging over eyelids, and highlights. I know! Those things always make a design look so impressive, but you can get by without them. You can cut your face painting time in half by not layering on all those details and your designs will still make kids smile. Then, at your next birthday party when you have just a few kids and more time, you can detail to your heart’s desire.

8. Use Good Quality Face Paint

Know which face paint works for you. Using a good white face paint is super important and will allow you to brush on those teardrops and swirls without having to waste time on second coats. Good preforming, opaque base blenders are also important so make sure your face paints do the job.

9. Memorize The Designs

Stopping to study your menu board pictures as you face paint will definitely slow you down. Think of each design as a series of shapes that fit together to make the big picture. This will make it easier to face paint quickly and confidently. If you must use pictures to guide you, then make copies of what’s on your menu board and keep them beside you or position the menu board so that you can easily see it from where you are face painting. If you are working for another face painter, ask that they send you pictures of their menu board in advance.

10. Say No To Special Requests

I know, I know, this one sounds a little harsh and we all love a challenge sometimes. But nothing puts the breaks on your speed like a kid ordering off the menu. If a child asks you to paint their favorite cartoon character, for example, and you have no idea what they’re talking about, then you will double or triple your face painting time by trying to figure it out. First you have to look up the character on your phone and then figure out how that will translate to a face paint design. Then you’ll likely have to hold your phone in one hand (tapping the screen regularly so it doesn’t sleep) while painting with the other. Sound familiar?

You can politely decline special requests by saying something like, “Wow, that sounds really fun, but when there’s a line I have to stick to the designs on my menu board.” I’ve used this line plenty of times and it’s never failed me. You can also explain this in writing on your menu board to avoid the conversation.

What do you do to get through a crazy long line? I’d love to hear in the comments section!

Vanessa Tsumura is the owner of 3 Cartwheels Face Painting in Milwaukee, WI.