One Strokes vs. Split Cakes: What’s the Difference?

If you haven’t already experimented with split cakes or one stroke face paints, you’re probably at least curious about how to use them. And what’s the difference between a split cake and a one stroke anyway? Also confusing, is that sometimes split cakes are referred to as rainbow cakes even though they're available in all different sorts of shade combinations, not just true rainbow arrays.

Let’s get to the bottom of what one strokes and split cakes are all about and how you can use them to make fast, impressive face painting designs.

I’ll also cover the tools you’ll need to apply split cakes and one strokes.

Another concern you may have is the price. Yes, these specialty face paints do cost a little more than single color pans, but the advantages may make you change your mind about whether they’re worth the price. 

So let’s get started!

What is the Difference Between a One Stroke and a Split Cake?

Let’s quickly discuss the differences between the two before we get into more specifics about each. To put it simply, a one stroke cake (pictured above on the left) is smaller than a split cake (pictured on the right). One strokes are designed to be applied with a 3/4- inch or 1-inch flat or angle brush. Split cakes are designed to be applied with a half sponge to create colorful bases.

How do I use a Split Cake?

Split Cake

A split cake is a pan of face paint that contains two or more colors. Typically, split cakes come in rectangular pans with about 50 grams of face paint.

Split cakes make excellent base work for face painting designs. Instead of just picking up a single color on a half sponge, you can pick up as many as six at a time.

Not only will your designs have that wow factor, but you’ll save a considerable amount of time. Imagine you have a line of 20 kids waiting and you need to quickly knock out designs like butterflies, bats, puppies and kittens in half the time you normally would. By loading your sponge with multiples colors at once, you’ll be able to get through that line a lot faster.

Another advantage of using split cakes is that you’ll be sure to impress your customers. I can’t tell you how many times adults have asked me about my split cakes and where I buy them. And kids are equally mesmerized by them. 

Take a look at the above cat face paint I made using one of my all-time favorite split cakes, TAG Base Blender Split Cake - Golden Plum. Notice how the colors all blend so well together to create a beautiful design. If you were to use individual solid color pans to create the same effect, it would take you quite a bit of time to accomplish the same look. Not to mention, all those single color pans would take up a lot more space in your kit than one split cake. 

Think of split cakes as a way to face paint faster and more efficiently. You’ll also create beautiful designs that will impress your clients and likely get you booked on more gigs!

Split cakes make face painting more enjoyable and creative. It’s important to have fun on the job and, for me, split cakes help me do just that.

Split cakes are designed to be applied with a half sponge, but you can also use a large flat brush to pick up just a few colors.

Some popular designs that look great using a split cake are Batman, butterflies (try using a petal sponge to apply wings), kitties, puppies, the backdrop for abstract swirly arm designs, and dinosaur masks. The sky's the limit when face painting with split cakes, so use your imagination to come up with something amazing.

Tip: Try using a sponge loaded with a split cake through a stencil and you’ll have your customers asking, “How did you do that?”

Tip: When you hit pan in the center of a split cake, pick up the outer edge colors with a round brush as a substitute for the usual black and white outlines. That way you don’t waste any face paint.

How do I Use a One Stroke Cake?

A one stroke cake is similar to a split cake, but narrower. The typical one stroke container has about 30 grams of face paint. One strokes are designed to be used with 3/4-inch or 1-inch flat or angle brushes. Similar to a split cake, the one stroke allows you to pick up multiple colors at once.

There are all sorts of designs that can be created using one stroke cakes, like roses, eye-designs, rainbows, princess crowns, and dragons, to name a few. The octopus design, pictured above, was made with a one stroke cake and took me less than 3 minutes to paint. You can use a one stroke cake in place of pretty much any solid color you normally use with a flat brush to create designs with added dimension. Experiment and I’m sure you’ll be amazed at how one strokes can take your designs to the next level.

There is a bit of a learning curve with one strokes. It’s important to get just the right amount of water on your flat or angle brush before you swipe it back and forth several times on the face paint. Too much water will result in the colors all bleeding together. In that case, don’t panic, just use a clean towel to blot off the excess water, rinse your brush, and try again. It’s recommended that you don’t spritz water directly onto the cake.

Tip: If the colors are not transferring to the skin when you apply, try spritzing your brush with water. If that doesn't work then load more face paint on your brush. 

Are One Strokes and Split Cakes Worth the Extra Money?

Yes, split cakes and one strokes usually cost more than single color pans. I’ve found that including them in my kit is worth the extra money. As mentioned earlier, they save time. And if you’re getting tips or being paid per face, you know why speed is important. 

I made the rainbow design, pictured above, with Global Fun Stroke Sugar Rush. It took less than two minutes and is a great line-buster design. 

Kids and parents will love watching you paint with one strokes and split cakes. You may be surprised by how many customers ooh and ah over them. 

Tip: If you find that you’re not using a particular split cake or one stroke that much, use the individual colors with a brush just as you would with single color pans.

Can I Make Split Cakes and One Strokes Myself?

Yes, you can make split cakes yourself. You will need a clean, empty face paint container and a knife to cut strips of face paint out of solid pans. It’s important that there are no gaps between the strips of colors or water will pool inside your containers.

I’ve made a few in the past, but the problem I came across, is that in order to get the color combinations I wanted I had to buy a lot of different solid pans of face paint that I didn't end up using. I’ve been buying them pre-made to avoid the waste.

How to Choose the Right Split Cakes and One Strokes

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the fun color combinations out there and quickly fill up your shopping cart with more than you need. Think about the designs you’ll be using the split cakes and one strokes for, and choose colors accordingly. Make sure you’re not buying multiples in similar color combinations unless you know you’ll use them.

I hope you’re encouraged to try out some split cakes and one strokes. They really open the door to more creative designs and dazzle your customers at the same time.

Have any questions about how to use split cakes or one strokes? Don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below!

Vanessa Tsumura is a face painter and writer in Milwaukee, WI.