Gilding the butterfly tutorial

Posted by Elizabeth Mackinney on



“Gilding the lily” is an idiom that refers to adding extra ornamentation to something that is already beautiful. When it comes to face painting, gilding the lily is okay. In fact, nine out of ten times, the person in the chair prefers that we gild the lily as much as possible by loading the design with plenty of extra sparkles and gems. This week I’ve been experimenting with taking some of my favorite designs, such as this butterfly inspired by Lisa Joy Young, and applying a product which I’ve come to enjoy using, primarily because of it’s beautiful shimmer: Mehron metallic glitter powder. If you want an amazing metallic effect, this is the way to go. It’s like putting your metallic face paints on steroids.


Mehron silver glitter powder
3/4 inch flat brush (or 1 inch)
1/2 inch flat brush
#2 round brush
#1 round brush
Diamond FX split cake (small) Monsoon
Paradise silver face paint
Diamond FX black face paint


1. Using your 3/4 or 1 inch flat brush, load your brush from the small Diamond FX split cake Monsoon. You can try a different split cake if you like, but I like the dark and light contrast in the Monsoon split cake, and splits that don’t have that dramatic potential don’t work as well for this type of design. Place the edge of the brush at a 35 to 40 degree angle and draw it up on its edge away from the center of the butterfly before pulling down and back toward your starting point. Doing this three times will create one of the upper wings. Do a mirror image on the other side.


For the bottom part of the butterfly, switch to the 1/2 inch flat brush and again start your stroke by twisting away and down from the center of the butterfly. Do this again to create the other half of the small bottom wing, and repeat on the opposite side of the butterfly. (It will be similar to a leaf shape when you’re finished.)

2. Spritz your Paradise Brilliant Silver, which is a beautiful color in its own right, with a water so that it’s quite wet, and then carefully tap a small amount of the silver glitter powder into it before stirring with your brush. (If you add the powder first, it’s going to go everywhere when you spray the water. Even when it dries, it may pull loose from the face paint, so if you add the powders to a metallic, keep a lid on that color for awhile afterwards so it doesn’t go all over your kit.) If you have some small utensil, you can scoop out a little of the glitter powder and add it that way instead.


Use the #2 round brush to create a smooth silver outline for your butterfly. Metallics can be a little harder to spread smoothly, but the Paradise Brilliant Silver is one of the easiest to do this with while still maintaining a metallic finish which isn’t sheer.

3. With the #1 round brush and the Diamond FX black, create a tiny butterfly body, head, and antennae. On the inner side of the silver outline, put in a black outline, which will heighten the dramatic affect of the dark blue area.


4. As a final step, outline the exterior of the wing with your black, tapering off to a thin point as you approach the center of the butterfly. This gives the butterfly a finished look and even lends itself toward the idea of tribals, with the fluid black lines. Normally I’d be adding some white highlights and starbursts at this point, but I didn’t feel the white went well with the silver, so I left them out. I also felt the contrast between the black and silver was strong enough to stand on it’s own, although you can feel free to experiment with this if you like.


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

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