Face painting is an exciting and creative way to bring fun to any children’s party (some adults love it too!). For parents who are not artistically inclined it can be seen as slightly daunting.

This guide gives instruction on how to create simple face-painting work, which can be completed by anyone armed with a brush and set of paints.

Step 1: products and preparation

Before beginning, ensure the paints are specifically designed for face painting. These should be non-toxic and water-based. If you purchase acrylic or oil-based paints children might have decorated faces for days, which could led to phone-calls from grumpy parents! Paints can be purchased from several different stores including $2 shops, party supply shops and hobby/craft shops. Be sure to select a wide range of colours, with a minimal choice being black, white, yellow, red and blue. These colours can then be mixed to create green, orange and purple.

The above mentioned stores also sell a wide range of brushes. It is best to purchase thick and thin brushes as these will allow you to paint both blocks of colour and small details. Make-up sponges can also be used to apply a base colour to the whole face or to a large area. Buy several sponges to ensure the colours do not get mixed on them.

If you are not confident in your painting abilities it is possible to download free patterns that can be used as guides. Print a few off and do some practice face-painting on willing volunteers to increase your own confidence before the big day! Stencils can also be purchased to help create a wide range of images including hearts, flowers and animals.

Step 2: face-painting time!

If possible, select an outdoor area to complete the painting in. If indoors is the only option, layer the area with newspapers or an old sheet to ensure the paint does not end up on the carpet.

It can be a tad dangerous to ask each child “what would you like to be?” as you could end up with a million different requests. Instead, have a list of options or a set of patterns that the children can select from.

For each child tie any long hair back and do not paint on any scratches, cuts or sores. If their face does have any wounds on it, offer to paint their arms instead.

Start each painting job by adding the light colours and large areas of paint. Slowly work towards the darker colours and finer details. On each child add the one base colour; for example, orange for a tiger or white for a clown. Let each colour dry before adding more detail – otherwise the paint may smudge and you will need to start over. This may require some patience on both the painter and the child’s behalf!

Once the painting is complete, inform the child not to touch their face for 5-10 minutes to ensure the top layer of paint dries completely. Have a mirror on hand so they can admire their wonderful new look before you start on the next subject!

Feeling confident? Here are some extra ideas!

  • Add special effects to the face by purchasing glitter, stamps and temporary tattoos. These can be applied to the child’s face to add extra sparkle and detail that they will love. The glitter can be mixed into the paint, and if you are using stamps/tattoos be sure to leave space on the face for them. They can be added once the painting is completed.
  • Swap your brushes for different painting tools, such as cotton balls, to create various effects.

Some extra tips:

  • Have a fan on hand to assist with drying the paint. Children will enjoy fanning their own face, and it will keep them distracted while they wait for the paint to dry.
  • Young children do not always enjoy the feeling of paint on their faces. They also struggle sometimes to sit still for the entire procedure. In these cases, put a spot of red paint on their nose and you have an instant clown. You could use stamps or fake tattoos to complete the clown look.

Leave it to a professional?

If you have tried a couple of practice face-painting attempts and feel this isn’t really for you, it is possible to hire a professional who can attend the party and create various looks using paint and special effects. Check out www.yellow.co.nz or www.finda.co.nz and search for a face-painter in your region.

It is possible to hire either an independent face-painting professional or a person who works for a party company. In the case of the second option, they may provide a wide range of party services, taking the stress out of organising the entertainment for the rest of the special event.

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