Mermaid Mask Tutorial by Beth MacKinney

I don't know about you, but I really don't like requests for specific Disney characters. If at all possible, I try to substitute a generic character of my own making for these requests. My reasons are simple. My character will be simplified and designed to look better on the face in addition to being quicker to create.

I'd like to share a step-by-step of one of my Ariel substitutes with you today in hopes that it will make your painting life easier in the future. Is she a twin of Ariel? No. But she is a mermaid with red hair, and I've never had a girl be upset with my mermaid version. (How couldn't they love her. She's cute and loaded with glitter!)


Small split cake from blues or teals (homemade TAG light and medium blue)
Small split cake with red/orange/yellow (TAG)
Skin tones palette (TAG)
Small filbert brushes
1/2-inch filbert or flat brush
#4 round brush
#1 round brush
White face paint (Diamond FX)
Light blue face paint (Paradise)
Pearl blue face paint (TAG)
Gold face paint (Paradise)
Lavendar/lilac face paint (Paradise)
Cosmetic-grade glitter (Mama Clown Ice Blue and Tangerine)


Begin by sponging a combination of pearl light blue and light blue over the forehead and eyelid area. Add a little lavendar or lilac to this mixture in the center of the top of the forehead and around the cheek bones to give the background color some dimension and variation. Leave the area just off the eyebrow on one side free of color. This is where your mermaid's face is going to go, and you don't want the blue to bleed through and give a ghostly pallor to her complexion. (Although you think she'd have one, spending the majority of her time under water.) 

Next, use your small filbert and your chosen color from a skin tone palette to make a half-circle for her face, neck, chest, and arms. Watch out on the arms. They are really a series of three teardrops created by turning your brush on it's side, and you don't want them too long. 

Use another small filbert and create the heart-shaped top for her torso from your small split cake with blues and teals. Keep the darkest color on the outside of her body to add contouring. Switch to a larger filbert or flat brush to complete her body shape and add a tail.

For the hair, you'll want to do a little outlining with a #4 round brush to make sure you have the general shape before you go back in with a small filbert loaded with red and orange from a small split cake. 

Add facial details with a #1 round brush and a medium brown from your skin tone palette. I used to use my #1 a lot, but I've abandoned it for the most part in favorite of my #2 round. For this design, however, because of the delicate facial features, I used it to add two small half-circles for the eyes and the line under the chin for a shadow. If you want to add a hint of outline to the arms, you can do that with the same brown and the small brush. Use gold to place a little starfish in her hair. (You can use pink for the mouth if you like, although brown is okay, too.)

For your highlights, starbursts, and dots, your #4 round brush is fine as long as you stay up on the tip. 

If you're in a hurry or just want a one-eye design, you don't have to add the extra white swirls beneath the mermaid or on the other eye, but if you want to turn this design into a mask, just use your #4 or #5 round brush and white to make it more extensive. 

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.