Help for your cheek art butterfly woes

Posted by Elizabeth Mackinney on



Cheek art butterflies were the bane of my face painting existence for my first year in business. I could not get them to come out right. In fact, a few looked just this side of hideous. I dreaded what I knew was bound to happen at an event. A child would request a small butterfly. I’d reluctantly paint my awful rendition of one (generally in sickly pink and/or too-dark purple), douse it with as much glitter as possible, and hope that it’s awfulness was sufficiently disguised in the face of overwhelming bling.

Something had to be done, but I felt helpless, trapped in a never-ending, butterfly-induced nightmare. Butterflies are very popular.

One day I was watching Lisa Joy Young’s tutorial on her Pretty Sitting Fairy design. I couldn’t help but see how gorgeous the wings on her fairy were, especially in comparison to my hideous butterfly wing version. I began to wonder if I could I use the one-stroke technique to make a very simple cheek art butterfly. It was worth a try, because my butterflies could not possibly get worse than they already were.

After trying it out, I was completely satisfied with the results, and when I unveiled the new butterflies at the very next party, they got rave reviews. So this post is for other face painters who feel their butterflies are hopeless. I hope this simple butterfly technique helps you, too.


3/4-inch or 1-inch flat brush
#1 round brush
#3 round brush
TAG Indian Spice small split cake
Diamond FX black face paint
Diamond FX white face paint
Iridescent white cosmetic glitter
Iridescent pink cosmetic glitter


1. Load your flat brush on your TAG Indian Spice small split cake. Normally, I’d be using Diamond FX Monsoon for this, and I haven’t forgotten my first love, but Indian Spice is a gorgeous split cake which I’ve just discovered, so I had to try it out on this design. Also, it contains the frequently requested pink as well as a wonderful strip of pearl copper for some shimmer and shine, making it an easy go-to choice for little girls.

For whatever small split you decide to use, keep in mind that the best choices will contain a very light color and a very dark color. Because of this, I found this design does not work well with a small cake like Diamond FX Blurred Lines, which, although one of my favorites for other uses, has several light colors and no dark ones for contrast.


As you begin to paint your butterfly wings, think of your working surface as a two dimensional graph. You’re going to pull up and away from the central origin at about a 40º angle to the right and a 130º to the left to make your top wings. This is a very simple butterfly, so the bottom wings will be teardrops just below the top ones. Watch out while you’re doing this. You’ll want to keep the center area small—possibly no more than 1/4 of an inch high.


2. Immediately add iridescent white glitter to the central area of the butterfly and iridescent pink glitter to the outer sections of the wings. It won’t stick once your paint dries, and in this case we’re adding it tastefully to enhance the design rather than to cover it up.


3. Outline your butterfly with Diamond FX black and your #1 round brush. If you prefer, now would be a nice time to add a tiny gem for the head of your butterfly. You could also add a few little ones to the wings, so experiment with this. Bling is beautiful!


4. Finally, add some white dots, starbursts, and flowers with your Diamond FX white and the #3 brush. Choose one of the colors from your TAG Indian Spice for the center of your flower petals, and you’re finished.




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.

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