About Face Painters

Face painting has been around for much longer than you might think! Defined as “the application of cosmetic paint to a person’s face,” face painting has been used for thousands of years.

Origins of Face Painting

From hunting camouflage, to religious decoration, to military subterfuge, face painting has been applied to everyday living in many ways. In today’s society, it is used most commonly as entertainment.

The use of face paints can be traced back to the indigenous people of Australia and Africa. During ceremonies, tribespeople would adorn their faces and bodies with clay, charcoal, and other natural pigments.

Their choice of colors would depend on the available raw materials located in that region, such as red clays and blue dyes from berries. In North America, face paint was an integral part of Indian culture.

Effects would be added to the decorations by using dust or feathers, or any number of other things that could be locally found. The evolution of body painting has now split off into various forms of decoration. Most noticeably you see the art of henna forming in India and the Middle East.

Body Painting as Art for Entertainment

Beginning around the 1960’s, a more modern interpretation of body painting began to emerge. The liberal thinking that evolved during that era spurred a large number of artists to become professional body painters, for artistic purposes as well as entertainment and product promotion.

The more skin that was bared, the more the artist could paint. Body painting today often covers the whole body, instead of just the face or arms.

Some artists utilize the natural contours of the face and body, while others simply use the body as they would any other canvas.


There are body painting festivals held all over the world, including Austria, New York, and New Mexico, to promote this type of art form.

Face Painting for Military Purposes

Face painting in military situations is used not only to blend in with surroundings, but also to stop the reflection of the sun on exposed skin. Natural oils in the skin will reflect light, so paints are applied to dull the appearance of lighter skin against darker backgrounds. A two color combination of paints are generally used, with shiny areas (nose, forehead, cheekbones) painted darker colors, and naturally shadowy areas (under the eyes, chin) are painted with lighter colors.

Additionally, the back of the neck, hands and arms are also painted. Research into paints used for the military has been extensive. Camouflage paints can withstand the rigors of sweat and heat, and can be used from the Arctic to the Desert.

Theatrical Face Painting

Face painting is an essential part of theater. One of the most famous theater productions to incorporate face paints is Cats Most of the actors in the show learned how to do their own makeup, from start to finish. Many musicians also incorporate heavy makeup and face paints into their performances.

Face Painting in Sports

Face painting can also be seen at sporting events. Fans will show up with their favorite team colors and logos on their face, or even over their entire body!

Professional Face Painters

Professional painters use a variety of colors and paints that are made specifically for application to the face. The FDA has approved many different brands of paints, such as Snazaroo, Mehron and Kryolan. Painters can start with a small pallete of primary colors and mix and match to suit their needs. Various sizes of brushes and sponges can be used to create different effects. Special cosmetic glitter can also be used.

You can often see children and adults getting designs at carnivals and events. Face painting is a popular way to entertain guests at events.

Airbrush face painting has come into vogue in recent years. Airbrush artists paint freehand or use stencils to create a detailed image on the skin in a few short minutes, with the use of an airbrush gun. Traditional brush paints can then be applied over the airbrushed picture to bring out details. Airbrushes can blend and smooth paints a lot quicker than painting by hand, and many professional face painters include an airbrush gun in their tool kit alongside their brushes and sponges.

Holidays like Halloween and Mardi Gras mark popular seasons for face painters...

Realistic Face Painting

Face painting is often entertainment and simple fun, but occasionally, it dips into the realm of high art.

Face Painting for Parties

There are many different ways a person can spice up their party with face painting. You can go all out and get your whole face covered, or just get a little glitter here and there. Face paints are guaranteed to brighten up your day, at least until the next time you take a shower!