Video: High Speed Strategies for Face Painting

As a face painter, you'll encounter all types of events. While my personal favorites are those which allow me to make beautiful designs for children and adults, a fair amount of my business comes in the form of high volume events which require simplification and speed of designs.

Within that group, only a few fall into the ultra-high volume category, if organizers have planned appropriately, but every so often you do have an event which requires unusual speed and simplification. In these types of situations, it's important to have the tools available which will allow you to produce the highest amount of designs possible while maintaining your quality.

Large split cakes, small split cakes (one-strokes / arty-cakes), stencils, and a severely limited menu will be some of the most important weapons in your arsenal which will allow you to do your best work at top speed.

High Speed Strategies for Face Painting

If you're at an event, and it's a super high volume event, with thousands of people and you know you just need to go as quickly as possible, but you don't want to compromise your quality, you need to think strategically. For example, you need to consider what supplies you brought with you.

Use Split Cakes

Shop Split Cakes

I have two split cakes here. They are both TAG - one is Dragon and the other one is Flame. So in looking at these two, if a child asks for a dragon, I'm going to use the dragon one. And the reason I'm going to do that, is because there is black on this already. So when I load my brush from the split cake, I'm going to make sure that the black is where I want it to be, and I won't have to add a black outline. So that speeds things up! Every time you have to change brushes, which is going to make a color change, that's going to cost you time. So you want to pick a split cake that's going to help you go more quickly.

This Flame split cake is great for flames, but if I'm going to use it for a dragon, it might not look as intense without that black outline to make it pop. So I really suggest for you to think carefully, and the same thing applies to green for snakes - pick one that's got a little black on the outside because then you don't have to add that extra definition or outline.

Sometimes when people want you to do super high volumes, say for a school event, church event, or some public event, they think cheek art is going to be your friend. But that's not really true. Cheek art is usually difficult to do quickly, primarily because it's small, you have to work with tiny little brushes to do details, the kids move, and that makes it harder, especially with younger children, so cheek art is usually not the best choice.

What you're going to want to do for super high volume, is you're going to want to have split cakes. This is my favorite rainbow split cake at the moment, and it's Ibiza from Global. With split cakes, you can apply several colors all at once very quickly with a wide brush, and then come in with a color like white or black and finish up.

Use Large Split Cakes

In addition to the small split cakes, it's also really important to have a good array of large split cakes, because these are going to allow you to move very quickly. When I do butterflies, I don't ask the kids a lot of questions. I might ask "what's your favorite color?' or "do you like rainbows?", and if they say "I like pink!", I'll pick a pink split cake or one that has pink on it. So I load it very quickly, I can do a butterfly that way, I can use it for flowers, for princesses and fairies, and monsters. It doesn't matter what I'm creating, the colors are all there.

If I'm doing butterflies and I'm trying to move very quickly, all I do is get the shape out with the split cake and I use white to outline.

Use Stencils

Shop Stencils

One of the other things you're going to need as far as equipment, when you're doing something that's high volume, you're going to need some good stencils. Stencils allow you to add texture and detail very quickly without having to take that extra time to do everything with a brush. They are not cheating - it's a tool that allows you to go fast, or to add texture that you otherwise couldn't add very easily just with a brush.

Don't Give Too Many Options

One of the final things that you have to think about as a painter when it comes to ultra high volume, is the options you're going to give children to choose from. I wouldn't make it a very large assortment of options, especially if you're trying to go unusually fast. By unusually fast, I'm talking about designs that take less than a minute to paint.

So this is one of my fast menus, but this is not for that kind of high volume. This menu, as you can see in the video, has a rainbow, flowers, a skull, it's got all the basic things. For this menu, I put it at a moderately high volume event, because I can do these pretty quickly, and then on the back I have some other options like a butterfly, dolphin, Spiderman, Batman, princess, etc...So these are fairly quick, but if I had to go really, really fast, I would probably offer a rainbow, some sport things, like a basketball, and I'd probably use stencils for those because doing the detail on a soccer ball, for example, will take you time.

I'd also add a dolphin, a butterfly, and possibly a superhero. So I wouldn't have very many options for them if I had to go really, really fast. Another one that's really fast for me is a ninja mask. I don't do the green above and below for the Turtle Ninjas, I just do the mask itself and it's pretty quick if you don't add any white highlights.

Think through carefully, and also practice in advance. Time yourself and find out how long it takes you to do each design. Examine the design and see where you can find places where you can trim time down.

Tools for Speed Face Painting

Small Split Cakes
Large Split Cakes


Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in Elgin, Illinois, and her artwork has appeared in The Colored Palette and SkinMarkz magazines. She services the western and northwestern Chicago suburbs, Chicago’s north side, and the eastern and southeastern suburbs of Rockford. Stop by to enjoy more of Beth’s face painting tutorials.