Cartoon Thanksgiving Turkey Tutorial


It seems like the stores went from Halloween straight to Christmas this year, so I decided to create some Thanksgiving tutorials so my favorite holiday doesn’t get lost entirely as the holiday season approaches. I enjoyed painting on Margi Kanter’s team this last weekend at an event, and you can see a lot of her cartooning influence in this design. I hope you have as much fun painting it as I did!


Paradise light blue face paint
Paradise light brown face paint
Paradise dark brown face paint
TAG yellow face paint
TAG orange face paint
Global red face paint
Diamond FX white
Diamond FX black
#2 round brush
#5 round brush


1. First, sponge Paradise light blue around the temple on the left as you face your subject and down and around the eye on the right. This is going to be your sky background. Since the turkey is going to be primarily warm colors, such as yellow, orange, red, and brown, the blue will complement those colors and balance them.



2. You may not feel comfortable going straight to the coloring in step, so if you feel you need to outline your design first, pick up your #2 round brush and the Diamond FX white to make a turkey outline so you know where it will be placed on the face and what it will look like.


3. Switch to the #5 round brush and use the TAG orange to write “GOBBLE” over the model’s right eye. (This will be your left.) You’ll want to use a wax-based paint for lettering, just as you do for outlining, since it flows so much better from the brush for this type of work. (Global, TAG, and Wolfe are examples of wax-based face paints.)


On the opposite side of the face, color in the solid blocks of color, again using your #5 round brush. I begin with the turkey’s eyes and head, and then color in the rest of the body.


4. The Global red is a good color for outlining your lettering and adding dots and starbursts. I also added some orange and yellow dots as well with my #2 round brush.


For highlights, rather than using white, I chose TAG yellow. It created nice highlights for the lettering without being too stark and white.


5. Using the #2 round brush and the Diamond FX black (or Wolfe black or Global strong black), carefully outline your cartoon turkey. In this design, the feathers came a little too close to the eye for my model, so keep that in mind as you’re creating the initial shape for the turkey. If you haven’t done much cartooning, check out some of the cartoon eyes at the end of the tutorial and experiment with options to give your turkey different moods, such has happy, worried, silly, angry, etc. Also, study various cartoonists to how they handle eyes. Find the styles you like the best and practice them for your designs.


6. Add your highlights with the Diamond FX white and the #2 brush. The highlights will bring extra life to the image.


Here are a few basic cartoon eyes which will give your turkey different emotions.


I hope you have a wonderful November and a Happy Thanksgiving!

Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in the NW Chicago suburbs. She also writes for as the Chicago Face Painting Examiner.