I wish someone had provided a simple supply list for me when I became a face painter, because it would have saved me both time and money. While I researched as well as I could, I still had a tough time making decisions about what to buy, and I learned the hard way when it came to most business decision. So if you're new, this post is meant to help you make good choices from the start and set up every aspect of your business.
Not ready to become a professional face painter just yet? Check out these in-depth articles for beginner face painters:
Face Painting for Beginners: What Do I Need to Get Started Face Painting
12 Face Painting Tips and Tricks for Beginners
If you're ready to dive into the professional world of face painting, keep reading! In this article, we'll talk about all the tools and practices you need to get started as a professional face painter:
Must Have Face Paint
Brushes and Sponges
#1. Use Professional Supplies
Face painters often do not begin face painting with the idea of becoming professional face painters. I've met numerous artists who began their face painting journey as a volunteer at an event because they had a level of artistic ability or a willingness to help out. While even an amateur should still use real face paints and good hygiene practices, once you cross the line from amateur volunteer to paid professional, a client who hires you will have certain expectations, and those expectations will include professional supplies.
The size of your kit will be determined by whether you're a minimalist or whether you're a must-pack-everything type of person, but for a minimal professional kit, you will need the following items.
There are many brands of face paint available, While you can use almost all brands for all purposes when you get used to them, I would recommend glycerin based paints for large areas of color (feel more comfortable on the skin and easier to blend) and wax based face paints for line work (flow more easily from the brush). To choose a good basic palette in a brand of face paint which will be easy to use, check out the post on the Best Face Painting Kits for Beginners.
- A palette of basic colors
- Metallic/pearl/shimmer colors (Even if you don't buy all colors at first, you will at least need silver, gold, and white.)
- Extra white face paint
- Extra black face paint
- Several small split and large split cakes (Including one large and one small rainbow)
For more information on black and white face paint, check out the ULTIMATE GUIDES:
The Ultimate White Face Paint Guide
The Ultimate Black Face Paint Guide
See ALL available face paints!
Most artists have duplicates of the various sizes of brushes because they may not use the same brush for different colors. This is especially true for white and black, which are used so frequently. For the round brushes, you would
- #1 or #2 round brushes for small details (at least one for white and one for black)
- #3 or #4 round brushes for teardrops and moderate lines (one for white, one for black, and a few for other colors)
- #5 or #6 round brushes for tiger stripes and bold lines (one for white, one for black, and possibly one or two more)
- Small petal brush for double-dip press flowers
- Medium petal brush for double-dip press flowers
- 1/4-inch (small) filbert brushes
- 1/2-inch (medium) filbert brushes
- 1/2-inch flat brushes
- 3/4-inch flat brushes for use with small split cakes (You may also use a 1-inch flat brush or a large filbert for split cakes, depending on your preference. Flat brushes have longer bristles, and brights are the same shape, but have shorter bristles.)
- Medium angle brush for leaves and roses
- Half circle sponges (at least 12 half circles)
- Petal sponges (at least 12 petal sponges to begin)
Still not sure which brushes to choose? Check out this comprehensive article on choosing basic brushes:
Optional Brushes and Sponges
These brushes are used by many artists but not as often by beginners. Although you may decide to add them later, they are not imperative in the beginning.
- Lining brush (also known as a rigger or script brush) for long, slender line work
- Flora brush for large double-dip flowers
- Small angle brush
- Large angle brush
- Dagger brush
- Stipple sponge for beards and stippling affect
#4. Miscellaneous Supplies
Never rely on a client having a work surface for you, even if they have promised to have one for you. In some cases, it will not be large enough or stable enough. Always carry your own, just in case you need it.
- Brush bath for cleaning brushes during and after events
- Brush easel for holding brushes at events
- Chairs in case the client does not provide them (If you stand to work, you may want a tall director's chair or a tall stool for guests to sit on. Keep the weight restrictions in mind since you will sometimes paint adults at events.)
- Small table to hold supplies in case the client does not provide one
- Gems and jewels
- Glitter glue adhesive for applying gems to designs
- Paper towels, wet wipes, and or a black towel
- Water for cleaning brushes
- Container for water
- Drinking water (which should not also be the container of water you are using for face painting)
- Scissors, bandaids, earplugs, lip balm, breath mints
- Lighting (Not something you usually think about until you need it, but I would advise having several LED rechargeable lights you can carry with you to illuminate your work surface and the person you are painting.)
- Easel for menu display
- Stencils for adding textures (You can get complete sets, but it's good to begin with at least a dot stencil, a reptile texture, and a floral stencil.)
- Menu of choices for guests (This will be especially important for you in the beginning, when you may not feel confident taking requests which you have not tried previously. A menu can be a word menu or an image menu.)
#5. Institute Professional Hygiene Practices
Check out this video on how to clean face paint brushes properly!
Again, once money changes hands, you have entered the professional world because you are being paid by a client for a service. The expectations are higher if you are being paid. Research the hygiene regulations (if there are any) for your part of the world. If you are in an area which does not impose hygiene regulations on face painting, use common sense, and always go the extra mile to insure your brushes, sponges, and kit are clean and organized during and after events. Your kit doesn't have to be fancy, but it should be clean and organized.
Do not think that clients don't notice. They do, and some are particular. They may not mention to you that your kit looks like an unhygienic disaster, but if it is, they might go elsewhere next time they need a face painter.
Learn more about proper face painting safety and hygiene.
#6. Create Professional Paperwork
Do you remember the quote from Shakespeare, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them"? As it turns out, when you run a business, you have paperwork in the form of contracts, subcontracts, and spreadsheets thrust upon you, like it or not. In fact, the vast majority of the work you do while running a face painting business will be in the form of office work rather than actual face painting. The better you plan business documents, the more streamlined your business will be.
Research contracts from other artists and performers to decide what you would like to include in your own. Generally, your contract should include the following information so there is no possibility for misunderstanding. Contracts can be more than one page in length. In fact, it will most likely be at least two pages. Try to be concise rather than wordy. Most people, unfortunately, do not read contracts, but you still need to have a complete contract for them. Some may make small written changes to your contract. If these are reasonable, it's okay to accept them and initial them.
Not sure how to create a face painting contract? I've created one for you, so all you have to do is fill it in with yours and your client's information!
Head on over to FacePaint's 411 Facebook Learning Group to download the spreadsheets!
While you're there, make sure to join the FacePaint 411 Learning Group - you'll get tons of useful information, design ideas, tips and tricks, and an amazing face painting community.
- Client's name (If client is a business, school, or organization rather than an individual, it is important to list it on the contract. Your contract is not with an individual from the organization, but with the organization itself.)
- Event address
- Day and date of event
- Client's actual address (If this is different from the event address and you plan to send annual reminders for booking face painting, this is important. Just make sure you don't confuse the event address and the actual address and go to the wrong one for your event.)
- Client's phone number
- Contact's email address (It's a good idea to get an email address for a secondary contact when dealing with a corporate client in case there are personnel changes.)
- Primary and secondary contact for the day of event and cell phone number for each (This is especially important for corporate clients, in case someone is ill on the event date or leaves for a new position or new company.)
- Parking, unloading, and loading instructions
- Event theme (This is optional information, but many clients include it.)
- Approximate number of guests who will participate
- Approximate ages of guests
- Entertainment start time for the performer/artist
- Entertainment end time for the performer/artist (As a beginner it will probably be just you as a face painter, but at some time in the future, you'll need to accommodate requests for multiple performers, so you may need a multi-performer contract for this.)
- Payment preference for the retainer (The retainer is nonrefundable and is often 50% for corporate clients.)
- Payment preference for the balance
- Event total for how many hours and for what service
- Cancellation and rescheduling policy (More on this below.)
- Statement of where any legal issues arising from contract contention will be settled (This is also important, especially for corporate clients. While it is unlikely you'll end up having to take legal action for any reason, you should state any legal disagreements will be settled in a court which is local to you so you don't have the expense of traveling to a court in some distant state or country.)
- Place for signature, date, and name of client or corporate contact under a statement that the client has read, understood, and accepted the terms of the contract
- Artist terms and limitations (This section will include everything from what parts of the body you are not obligated to paint at an event to how many guests you can provide designs for during an event. See below for more info on this.)
#4. Cancellation Policy
Your cancellation policy is not just what will happen if the client cancels, but what will happen if you need to cancel. It's a good idea to state on your contract that in case of personal medical emergency or death in immediate family, you are allowed to cancel if you are not able to find a suitable replacement for yourself. Also, if your rates are different from the artists in your area, you need to state that the rate for the performance may change slightly if you have to cancel.
Generally, there are no client cancellations for weather. The client has the burden of having a plan in place in case there is rain. This must be stated in the contract.
Some artists believe that calling the deposit a retainer or a booking fee is a protection against having to return it. This is not the case. It is the way you phrase the nonrefundability clause explaining the retainer/deposit/booking fee which is important so that it is clear that you are not penalizing the client by keeping it.
An example would be, "Client agrees to pay a nonrefundable deposit of —% of event total. Client understands and agrees that Artist will not book other events during this time. If Client cancels event for any reason, Artist will suffer losses which are difficult to ascertain. As such, Client agrees that such —% of event total is forfeited by Client and paid to Artist as liquidated damages and not as a penalty. Client and Artist agree that such amount is reasonable."
In other words, you set aside that time for the client, and if he or she cancels, you lose money. It's a loss. You need to be paid for the time they reserved, regardless of weather.
Occasionally you run into a client (usually a park district or festival) who has a rain date for an event. Explain up front that if they want to reserve both dates, it's going to take two retainers. We cannot set aside time for clients if they aren't willing to pay for having the date saved, because we will book other events on those other dates.
Artist Terms and Limitations
While there are few people who kick back with a cup of coffee and your contract for some light reading, you still need to state all terms of your performance in your contract. This should include the following.
- States that artist will not paint any part of the body she feels uncomfortable painting
- States that artist is not obligated to paint designs which she feels are offensive or derogatory
- Defines what artist breaks will be allowed for longer events
- Defines which forms of payment are accepted for retainers and balances
- States artist's ability to cancel performance and leave with no penalty (receiving full payment) in case of illegal activity or dangerous activity on premises which may result in injury or damage to artist or her kit and is not rectified by client at artist's request
- States that artist is not responsible for children during event and does not supervise children—parents are completely responsible for their children during events
- Number of designs (party or high volume) artist can provide during event
- Statement of well-child policy
- Potential staining understanding by client
- Climate control policy (For example, that the client has agreed to provide a sheltered/shaded, dry area for artist to set up in, and that artist does not allow smoking in vicinity of kit. State your temperature parameters here as well. How cold can it be before you need client to provide a heated environment? How warm it be before client must provide air conditioning?)
- Statement that artist is not responsible for face paint which gets on furniture, clothing, or venue
- Guarantee of your paints being FDA compliant (if they are—neons are not)
- Client's agreement to pay for accidents or injuries to artist and/or artist's kit if caused by guests or employees
Eventually you will need to provide a subcontract for anyone who you send to an event to represent your company. Take note of what information is on the subcontracts which you receive from other artists. Just as with your client contract, your subcontractor contract needs to be completely clear so you cover all questions anyone representing your company might have. If you haven't worked for anyone else yet, then this list will help you understand what needs to be on your own subcontracts.
- Your own name, business name, address, and phone number
- The subcontracted artist's name
- The type of service the artist will be providing (For example, this could be face painting, glitter tattoos, airbrush tattoos, balloon twisting, etc.)
- Event address
- Event date
- Performance start and end time
- Amount of time previous to the event which artist is required to arrive by in order to be set up on time (Generally an artist should arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of time to set up. In some cases, corporate clients may request you arrive 60 minutes ahead of time. If an artist representing you is late to more than one event, that is a red flag, and you should strongly consider not using that artist again in the future.)
- Event contact with cell phone number for emergencies
- Parking, unloading, and loading directions
- Payment directions (Will you have to pick up a check and send it to the booking artist or not?)
- Subcontracted payment amount you will pay artist/performer after event
- How to handle time extensions if requested by the client
- Acceptable and unacceptable clothing to wear for event
- What may or may not be communicated to the client during the event
- That no business cards or promotional materials other than that provided by the booking agent may be used at the event (If someone is representing you, they must understand that they will not try to pick up clients for their own company during your events, but will only make reference to your company if clients inquire. Some artists ride a line in this respect and will admit that they run their own company if asked. People can be inquisitive, and it's hard sometimes to deflect their questions politely, but remember who you work for at subcontracted events and be loyal. You'll want the courtesy returned when someone is representing you, and you do not want to acquire a reputation as an artist who cannot be trusted.)
Your subcontracted artist does not need to know what you are charging the client for the event. In some areas, there is a generally known amount which subcontracted artists work for, and most artists charge rates which are similar. The booking artist with the client will take her fee for servicing the client off the top.
This can range from a set amount for the agenting artist ($50) or a percentage (20%). For example, if the booking artist charges the client $125 per hour for a two hour event, then the subcontracted artist would receive $100 per hour, and the booking artist would receive $25 per hour to cover time setting the event up and paying for any fees incurred (transaction fees, etc.). Or if the event were three hours, it's possible the booking artist might take $50 to cover time and fees and $325 would go to the subcontracted artist, or the booking artist might take 20% ($75).
Click here to download the 2020 Sample Business Spreadsheet!
Spreadsheets will help you organize your work information so that if you diligently record all information during the year, taxes should be much easier at the end of the year. You may also create spreadsheets which help you track the quotes you send out, record how much you pay other artists who work for you on occasion, and which show your business growth year after year.
Your event spreadsheet might contain the following columns, if you're in the United States. For taxes, you usually need to categorize your expenses for the year. This is why you may have quite a few expense columns which subtotal into the main expense column. In this way you can tell at any time during the year how much you're spending per category, or how much your total expenses have been so far.
- Client and event information including addresses, phone numbers, emails, and the original source through which you obtained the client
- Projected gross earnings from events (With the amount the original contract was for.)
- Actual gross earnings from events (This amount may be higher due to event extensions or tips.)
- Hours for each event (This isn't completely necessary, but if you're a person who likes statistics, it may help you find out how many performance hours you're putting in each year and you can track your growth over time. It does not reflect office hours you put in, however.)
- Subcontracted artist payments (Expenses)
- Supplies and equipment (Expenses)
- Insurance (Expenses)
- Internet (Expenses: website and phone bills fall under this category.)
- Leads and marketing (Expenses)
- Training, workshops, and classes (Expenses)
- Transaction fees (Expenses)
- Tollway fees (Expenses: If you live in a state where you drive on the tollway.)
- Expenses (Main column)
- Notes column (This should have all event notes in it and you can keep updates on themes, loading instructions, etc.)
Your future self will thank you many times at over at tax time if you have a good spreadsheet set up, so don't think that you should wait until the end of the year to prepare one. Do it before you take on your first client.
#7. Get Professional Insurance
You might be able to get by with no insurance for non-corporate clients, but that doesn't mean that you should. As a professional performer, you have a responsibility to your clients. Liability insurance is very affordable, and there are several excellent companies which can provide insurance for you. For most corporate clients, school clients, 501c clients, and park districts or even to perform at certain public venues, you will need to show proof of insurance or provide additional insured certificates.
Keep in mind that your liability insurance does not cover your kit being stolen or damaged, however. That requires a different kind of separate policy.
#8. Get Professional Training
New painters usually don't have a budget for training at the beginning, although the classes, conferences, and workshops you later pay for will be well worth it. In the meantime, you can check out some great artist Youtube videos and tutorials, but one handy resource is the Facepaint.com 411—Learning Group on Facebook. It's filled with video tutorials, webinars, contests, and documents to help you get the knowledge you need at the beginning.
For more face painting courses and tutorials, check out these articles:
#9. Have a Professional Appearance
Your appearance matters at events. When I hear artists complain through social media of not being taken seriously by clients, the first thing I wonder is what they wore to the event. If you show up in an old t-shirt and jeans, it's not a surprise that no one takes you seriously. You don't look like a professional dressed that way. You look like a person who is doing face painting as a hobby.
When you're dressing for events, you should take a few things into account. Does your client have a theme which you need to match? For example, if the event theme is western, then jeans, cowboy boots, a western-style shirt, and possibly even a cowboy hat would be appropriate for you to wear. Is the event at a swanky hotel and will the guests be wearing evening attire? Then you should dress in something which you can work in but will be considered more formal—perhaps a dress blouse and dress pants with comfortable but upscale footwear. Is the event a tropical themed backyard summer party? In this case, a bright sleeveless blouse with capris and leather sandals will be appropriate.
It may be that you have a specific costume that clients expect when they hire you. This happens when artists work as specific characters, such as princesses or as super heroes or as clowns. In these cases, make sure the client really wants you to appear in costume for his or her event. Sometimes they do, but sometimes they do not, so never make assumptions. Always clarify this in advance so you are dressed to give clients the service they require.
And a final thought on clothing since artists often do multiple events on any given day—make sure you have changes of clothing with you in case you need to make a clothing switch from casual to character to formal between events.
#10. Keep a Professional Attitude
Some people believe that an attitude is something which they don't have much control over, but this is not true. It may not be easy to have a professional attitude while dealing with a difficult or demanding client, but it is possible, because your attitude is a choice. Emotions are generated by either the negative or the positive thoughts we entertain, so staying on top of your thoughts will help a great deal. You'll find the more you chose to have a professional attitude each time you encounter a difficult situation, the easier it will become over time. If you receive an unusual request or are asked for a discount, for example, do not be offended. It doesn't hurt for someone to ask this of you, and you can politely decline without giving any reason for it.
You're going to encounter all kinds of people in your work. Most will be wonderful, but a few will not. But those difficult people aren't performers (unless they are subcontracted artists for you) and they can indulge in the luxury of wearing their emotions on their sleeves or being ornery if they want to. You, however, do not have that luxury. No matter what attitudes you encounter in the people around you—good, bad, or ugly—you must keep a professionally pleasant, amiable (albeit firm when it comes to business policies) attitude at all times, whether in a phone conversation, a typed email, or a personal encounter. The way another person treats you is never an excuse for you to lower yourself to that level. This means even when you feel upset, you cannot display impatience, irritation, or anger toward your clients or their guests. Also, your language, especially since you are working with children most of the time, should be polite and kind, and should never include swearing or derogatory speech of any kind.
If you've been having a bad day, put it behind you. Do not allow personal issues to bleed over into your performance life. Whether you feel wonderful or terrible, you have to show up to your client's event with a smile on your face, prepared to make their guests have the best time possible insofar as it relies on you to do so. And with this in mind, an event is never an appropriate place for you to share your personal sob stories with clients or guests. Be discreet with your personal life and keep it private, because it is unprofessional to vent or unload on your clients or their guests.
Beth MacKinney (Marengo, Illinois) is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz. Her artwork has appeared in The Colored Palette and SkinMarkz magazines. She services the western and northwestern Chicago suburbs, Chicago’s north side, the greater Rockford area, and southern Wisconsin. Stop by Clownantics.com to enjoy more of Beth’s face painting tutorials.