If you’re an absolute beginner at face painting and you’re a little lost when it comes to knowing what you need to buy to get started, then keep reading! This post is just for you.
Face painting is fun. It’s exciting. It’s creative. But getting started can be a little confusing. There are so many products on the market. You could lose hours just perusing dozens of face paint colors and brands online. Of course, if you’re looking to kill some time on the internet go ahead and “window shop” to your heart’s content. And there’s no better way to familiarize yourself with all the products out there than taking some time to view your options.
Top Things You Need to Get Started Face Painting
But to help you fill your shopping cart with just the necessities, check out our recommendations.
#1. FACE PAINT FOR BEGINNERS
Of course you’ll need a few face paints to get started. As a face painter, you’ll be using water-based face paints for the bulk of your work. So let’s break down water-based face paints into 3 categories:
Single cakes of face paint are just a single color in one container. There is a very wide range of colors available and they vary from brand to brand. You can purchase single pans, small kits, and large palettes. Read more about the various brands on the market in this post.
Split cakes are large pans of face paint, usually about 50 grams, that are made up of 2 or more colors. TAG makes two color split cakes that are very economical and take up less space in a kit than two solid 30 gram pans. Most split cakes have several colors and can be applied with a sponge for a quick impressive color base. Or you can just pick up some of the colors with a wide flat brush. Learn more about split cakes in this post.
On strokes are similar to split cakes, but smaller. The typical size is about 30 grams. One strokes are used with a wide flat brush, usually not a sponge. There are all sorts of quick designs you can use one strokes for but common ones include rainbows, hearts, princess crowns and abstract designs. Read more about one strokes here.
Which of These Face Paints do I Need for my Beginner Kit?
For beginner face painters, I recommend purchasing a small kit with at least 6 solid pan colors, but if you can afford it, go for a 12-color palette. For now, you may want to avoid neon and pearl colors.
Good examples of beginner palettes are:
You will go through black and white face paint faster than you can imagine so go ahead and buy a container of each keeping in mind that the bigger container you buy, the more economical it is. Wolfe White and Wolfe Black are a pro favorites, but TAG and Diamond FX have similar ingredients and opacity. I switch between all three brands depending on what’s in stock or on sale. Global or Fusion black is also great for line work.
As for one stroke cakes, start out with one or two. I recommend:
1) A true rainbow color one stroke like Cameleon Single Stroke Colorblock Cake in Rainbow Wow. The more colors in your one stroke, the more practice you’ll need to get the application right. But once you have the true rainbow brush stroke down, you can knock out fast and beautiful designs that will be requested over and over.
2) A blue color combination. With a blue one stroke you can do anything from Frozen princess crowns to batman backgrounds to quick blue animal designs. Lots of options with this one. TAG 1 Stroke in Bluebird is a great choice.
I also recommend buying at least one split cake to start out. Get used to practicing application with a sponge and a flat brush. The choice of brand and color is yours, but you can’t go wrong with a true rainbow split cake like Fusion Body Art Rainbow Cake in Bright Rainbow. Or look at your solid pan kit and notice what colors you might be lacking. No browns yet? Then try Kraze FX Cake in Puppy or one of my favorites, Paradise Prisma Rainbow Face Paints in Furry.
To recap, these are my recommendations for face paints for beginners:
- One 6 to 12-color solid pan mini kit
- One separate container of white face paint
- One separate container of black face paint
- Two one stroke cakes (true rainbow and blue tones will get lots of use)
- At least one spit cake in true rainbow, colors that you don’t have in your mini kit or whatever inspires you to create.
#2. BRUSHES FOR BEGINNERS
Brushes are the next most important thing you’ll need in your beginner kit. There are several affordable brushes that are made just for face painting. You may be tempted to buy brushes at the art supply store (I’ve tried that myself). But the thing is, until you know what you’re doing, I recommend taking out the guesswork and purchasing face painting brushes made specifically for the task. You’ll likely save time and money.
You will need a few different sizes and shapes of face painting brushes. To read more details on brushes and how they are used, check out this post.
The most important brush you will need is the round brush. To start out, buy at least one small and one medium round brush. Face painters all have their favorite brands and sizes, but one tried-and-true brand is Loew Cornell. A #2 and a #6 round brush will get you started.
If you buy one stroke cakes, then you will need a wide flat brush. A 1” flat brush will allow you to pick up all the colors in the cake. Anything smaller will only pick up some of the colors. My favorite 1” flat brush is the Paradise AQ Prisma Flat Brush. It has an acrylic handle which has held up for years. Remember, your face painting brushes will get dipped a lot in water. Eventually, wood handle brushes may start to crack. That doesn’t stop me from using them, but I’ve noticed that my acrylic handled brushes are the most durable.
If you are on a tight budget, I would stop here with the two different sizes of round brushes and the 1” flat brush for now.
You will definitely need some sponges for applying base color. If you are only going to be practicing on yourself or someone else and not painting long lines of children, then you can get by with just a couple of sponges. If you are going to be working right away, then buy at least a dozen sponges. For hygiene purposes, it’s best to use a clean sponge for each child.
As a face painter, you should train to be able to use either brushes or sponges or a combination of both for your designs. The great thing about sponges is that they can be squished into whatever shape you need them to be when using them, and they provide consistent coverage without brush strokes.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to using sponges. Some artists use one sponge per color and reuse them for multiple faces, while other artists use one sponge per person and then put them in a bag to be washed after the event. You will have to decide which you feel is most hygienic and fits your local hygiene requirements. (I use one sponge per person, so I have purchased quite a few sponges over time. For small parties, I usually don't use more than 10 or 12, though.)
Black sponges are a great choice because they don’t show staining as light colored sponges do. Kryvaline Never Stain Small Sponge 10-pack is a good choice. Remember that if you are buying full round face painting sponges like Mehron Hydra Foam Sponge, then you’ll want to cut them in half.
Petal sponges (1-2 sets of six)
Petal sponges have several uses, but the most common is for butterflies. Having a tapered tip which fits nicely at the inner eye makes them a perfect shape for this, as well as for masks and other designs of this type. Some artists also like them for Spiderman eye shapes. I recommend the Always Wicked or SillyFarm brands for their moderate firmness and good durability.
Half-circle or half-round sponges (1 or 2 sets of 12)
Either side of the sponge (the flat or the curved side) can be used with these sponges, and they're great for laying down color or for use with stencils. Excellent brands are Mehron or Wolfe (although these do have to be cut in half), SillyFarm, and Always Wicked.
As you'll do a fair amount of pirate designs, it's a good idea to get at least one stipple sponge for super-fast beards.
Daubers come in a number of styles and sizes and make using stencils less messy. Royal & Langnickel come on a dowel, as do the Darice brand, but the Tsukineko jumbo daubers have a plastic holder.
Sponges may be washed after use. I wash mine in hot water by hand twice to insure all makeup is out of them, and then rinse severals times, squeezing to make sure all detergent has been removed as well. After squeezing the water out of them, I press them in a clean towel to remove as much moisture as possible before drying them.
Everything mentioned so far is pretty much an essential for getting you started. Of course you can leave out the split cakes and one strokes until later, but a mini palette, separate white and black face paint, some brushes and sponges are the minimum I recommend.
There are, however, several more items that you will need to set up a face painting station for gigs, so let’s move on to those items.
#3. FACE PAINTING KITS FOR BEGINNERS
While there are a myriad of small face painting kits on the market for amateurs and dabblers, there is no all-inclusive beginner kit for professional painters. The reason for this is that each painter has her favorite supplies and her favorite ways of setting her face painting space, so it's not possible to account for every variable with one exhaustive kit.
However, this doesn't mean there is no hope for beginners who aren't sure where to begin in putting together the perfect kit. This article will lead the new face painter along a path of selection which will end in having created a customized basic kit for face painting.
Focusing on Face Paint
While it's true that you could accumulate individual colors from the available brands (and in the future you most definitely will), in the beginning it will be easiest to start with one brand which has a palette containing the basic colors you will need. For example, in the beginning I chose Mehron's Paradise Palette and built on it from there as I learned more about the different kinds of face paint.
Now I use a variety of makeup, preferring certain brands (glycerine or wax based or dry powder makeup) for various uses. These are my suggested palettes for a beginner who needs to have the basic colors but doesn't want to spend too much when starting out. Over time, you'll find which are your favorites brands, but each of these suggestions are excellent professional makeup choices and you may choose the one which fits in your beginner budget the best.
OPTION 1: Kraze FX small split palette and Kraze FX solid colors palette, plus at least one extra 25 gram white and one extra 25 gram individual black.
The Kraze FX palettes are not large, but if you're just beginning or need to be very portable, you could do several events with them before investing in more paints. Other great beginner palettes are those from TAG, Kryvaline, Diamond FX, Wolfe, Fusion, and Global. In addition to my large kit, I have several of these small palettes, including both of the Kraze FX palettes, a Wolfe palette, a Kryvaline palette, and couple of TAG palettes. They're all great for small parties or travel situations.
OPTION 2: Fusion Body Art Spectrum Face Painting Palette - Carnival Kit
This small kit is excellent for new face painters because it not only has small splits but the main colors you will need in face painting.
OPTION 3: Paradise AQ Pro Face Paint Palette (containing 26 colors with triplicates of white and black).
If you have difficulty making up your mind about which colors to put in a palette, this has everything you'll need at the beginning. This kit does come with extra white and black, but I still advise you to get some extras, preferably in a brand which is wax-based, such as Kraze FX, PartyXplosion, Diamond FX, or Wolfe, because you'll notice that they flow more easily for line work.
OPTION 4: TAG Regular Split Cake Palette (12 large split cakes consisting of 24 colors), plus one or two extra white and black individual colors in your favorite brand
Keep in mind that as well as the standard colors, TAG offers a lovely pearl (metallic) palette as well. While I don't use TAG for white or black, preferring other brands such as Kraze FX, PartyXplosion, and Diamond FX for those colors, I do use quite a few of the main TAG colors as well as a few of their pearl colors.
OPTION 5: Build your own palette
Always order extra white and black. You will use more of those colors than any others. But building your own palette is a more economical option than buying the colors separately, and you also have the palette which holds your paints during transportation and while at events. I used palettes for a couple of years before acquiring a Craft-N-Go paint station. Brands which offer a build your own palette option through Facepaint.com are FAB, Superstar, TAG, PartyXplosion, Mehron Paradise, Cameleon, DiamondFX, Kryvaline, or Wolfe. For dry palettes, the colors which are applied with a smoothie blender instead of brushes, check out the Elisa Griffith palette, Mehron Intense powders, and Starblends.
In addition to any of these basic palettes, I would also advise that a new face painter acquire at least two or three large split cakes—one rainbow, one with pinks and purples, and one with silver/blue/purple. Paints from the large splits are usually applied with a sponge, so acquire several teardrop-shaped sponges (primarily for butterflies) as well as the half circle sponges.
#4. FACE PAINT BRUSH KITS FOR BEGINNERS
As we already mentioned above, the reason most amateurs experience poor results when face painting is because they use inferior brushes. The consistency of face paint (which is actually makeup) resembles gouache, which is an opaque watercolor paint you may not have heard of. While you don't need the expensive sable brushes used in fine arts, you do need good quality synthetic fiber brushes which have good points, retain their shape well, and have sufficient spring for use with face paint.
Cheap brushes are a waste of money, so invest in good ones from the start. Excellent choices are Kraze FX (rounds), Loew Cornell golden handle series (rounds), Mark Reid brushes (rounds), Silly Farm Paint Pal brushes (petal brushes and filberts), Art Factory Studio brushes, Blazin Brushes, Cameleon brushes, and Bolt brushes.
The brands available specifically for face painting have increased in the past five to six years, and this list will help you choose a good starter set of brushes for you. Most artists have many brushes available during an event (it's easy to become a brush-addict), but these kits will provide the basics you need when starting out. To start, you'll need a variety of round brushes, filberts (flat with a curved top), flat brushes, and petal brushes. Later on, you can add angle brushes and liners (similar to round brushes, but with longer bristles).OPTION 1: Round brushes
Round brushes are necessary for outlining, and nothing sets off your work better than a crisp line. Excellent round sets are the Kraze FX round brushes, Loew Cornell gold handles, or Mark Reids. For my use, I use the Kraze FX smaller rounds, Loew Cornell gold handles in sizes 1 through 6, and Mark Reid #4 rounds.
All the basics are included in each of these sets, but combined you'll have plenty of brushes for a first small event.
Combining these three sets will provide enough basic brush types for any event. No doubt you'll want to add more round brushes for other colors, but this is an excellent starter set
Well known for her delicate, swirling line work, Marcella's brushes are designed to deliver the same for you (with practice). You will also need some large flats to accompany this set.
If you're a fan of Prima Barton, you may enjoy her brushes as well. Build your own set from the basic choices provided.
Other favorite brushes and brush supplies
Prisma AQ Flat brushes
For large flats, these are lovely, and they also come with a protective sleeve for the bristles.
I use a three well system (soap-rinse-clean) while working events and put this in the first well for cleaning during events. It has made a huge difference in cleaning my brushes after events, since they stay cleaner during the event. .
Superstar Brush Soap
For after events, it's best to give your brushes a final clean and allow them to dry completely. Using soaps designed for brushes, rather than harsh soaps such as hand soap or dishwashing liquid, will cause your brushes to last longer.
TAG brush wallet
These are great for transporting brushes safely. I have two—one for my emergency brush set and one for my waterproof paint set.
Remember to take adequate care of your brushes. They should never be left sitting in water, which will cause them to curve and become useless. They should be cleaned with a brush soap after use and stored to dry with nothing touching the bristles.
#3. A FEW OPTIONAL ITEMS
You can certainly get started face painting with just the products mentioned above, but eventually you may want to use cosmetic glitter and stencils. Make sure you buy glitter that is made for use with face paints. As for stencils, you can add to your collection gradually as you build up confidence using them.
You’ll need something to hold clean water to rinse brushes while you are face painting. I use two inexpensive plastic cups. I do the first rinse in one and a second rinse in the other to clean my brushes as I’m face painting.
I also use a small water spray bottle to wet sponges. I get mine at Target for a dollar or so each.
You'll need a container for clean water. I use this collapsible water container with a spigot for hauling my clean water to jobs. This is especially important if you are working outdoors, far from a water source.
A container for dirty water is also important. I don't dump dirty face painting water down a client’s sink or on their lawn. Instead, I carry around an empty, clean milk jug and pour dirty water in there.
I got by for a year without a brush holder, but once I started using one, it made such a huge difference. I keep my brushes in a makeup brush organizer bag and I prop that up on a folding easel made for holding books. This cute Gecko Brush Holder would be perfect for keeping brushes tidy while face painting. A pricier option is a makeup brush holder that can be propped up like this one. Or just use a plastic cup as a brush holder. There are lots of options for holding your brushes that won’t cost too much.
BABY WIPES, CLOTH, PAPER TOWELS
You may need all of the above or a combination of the three. I use baby wipes to clean up messes (on faces, my hands or on my table). Paper towels or a reusable cloth come in handy for blotting your wet brushes.
I always have this handy for keeping my hands clean on the job.
Mesh bags are incredibly useful for keeping clean and dirty sponges organized. They're better than plastic bags because they're not only reusable but they allow your sponges to dry completely after you wash them.
I put a strong magnet inside my mesh bags and that holds them to the metal frame of my table which saves space.
Unless you require your clients to provide one, you will need a table that is lightweight and compact for travel.
If you would like to stand while you face paint, then you need a really good, durable director’s chair for your customers to sit in.
If you are a sitting face painter then you’ll need two folding chairs. You can find great deals online so shop around.
BAG FOR CARRYING SUPPLIES
I use an inexpensive black duffle bag to carry my supplies, but some people use small rolling suitcases or backpacks.
Once you start face painting at gigs, you'll want to keep a mirror for kids to check out their face paint.
Don't forget to display your face painting options. You can display pictures in a poster frame that's lightweight and affordable.
So to recap, you'll need the following items to get started face painting. Some of these are necessary, while many are optional. You don't want to get too many things, especially in the beginning as it can be overwhelming and you can end up spending a lot of money.
- Face paint (individual colors and split cakes)
- Work surface (table or homemade or premade kit such as a Craft-N-Go)
- Water (or access to it)
- Brushes (rounds, filberts, flats, petal brushes, etc.)
- Container for holding brushes while you work
- Containers for cleaning brushes
- Sponges (petal, half-rounds, daubers, etc.)
- Small spritzing bottle of water
- Containers or bags for holding sponges (one for clean and one for dirty)
- Paper towels and/or a cloth towel and/or wet wipes
Optional items which you could live without, but are helpful:
- Menu of available selections (photos, drawn images, or a word menu)
- Easel to hold menu and signs
- Glitter (cosmetic grade dry glitter or glitter gel)
- Gems and glitter glue adhesive
- Promotional materials (business cards or signs)
- Brush soap
- Stickers to number kids and help end the line
- Copy of your insurance and a list of ingredients in your paints
- Miscellaneous items (ear plugs, small scissors, sunblock, mosquito repellent, extra paper towels and wipes, small traffic cones, extra brushes and paints, bungee cords, adhesive Velcro, lip gloss and disposable applicators, hair pins, etc.)
Don't feel too overwhelmed as you look at the list. It is long, but if you start with the basics and add the extras little by little as you feel you need them, you'll end up with the perfect kit which will enable you to service your clients with excellence.
Authors: Beth MacKinney & Vanessa Tsumura, professional face painters & FacePaint.com bloggers.