How to Face Paint – Different Face Painting Techniques

Author: Admin   Date Posted:15 June 2020 

We have covered over the last few blog posts all you need to know about activating your face paints and getting a proper load. We learned about all of the different face painting products

We have covered over the last few blog posts all you need to know about activating your face paints and getting a proper load. We learned about all of the different face painting products that Fusion Body Art manufactures, and we took a strong look at hygiene practices. Now it is time to take a look at the different face painting techniques and how to use them to make a final design.

Here is a list of the topics we will cover:

  • 1 – Blending
  • 2 – 1 Stroke
  • 3 – Stenciling
  • 4 – Line Work
  • 5 – Focus Points
  • 6 – Glitter

Each one of these techniques are essential to become a professional face painter and the basis of almost any face paint design. We will provide you with detailed instructions and short GIFS along the way so that you can get a clear idea of what we mean.

Blending Face Painting Colours With a Sponge

Blending two or more face painting colours is one of the first things any face painter needs to learn how to do properly since almost every design requires you to use more than one colour.

This is not complicated once you have a practiced a few times. You do have to keep in mind some colour theories when choosing which colours to blend to avoid creating colours that don’t look good together or that create a colour that doesn’t go with the rest of the colours on your design.

The colour wheel gives you a good idea of what happens when you mix two colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. For example, if you blend Yellow and Red you get Orange. If you mix Yellow and Blue you get Green. But, you also and more importantly need to look at what happens when you mix colours that are directly across from each other on the colour wheel. As an example, mixing Magenta with Green will not look good. Same for Orange and Blue.

TThe image bellow illustrates what happens when you mix the three primary colours. We have also recreated with actual face paint so that you can see what happens when you mix the three primary colours in face paint with each other.

Practice mixing colours and see the results you get. Also, remember you can make a colour lighter by adding some white, and darker by adding some black, but you can also add a bit of red to make a blue look darker, or a bit of yellow to make a green lighter.

Now that you have an idea of what colours will look like together when blended and which ones do not blend well together, let’s go over the blending technique. The first thing you need to do is get your face painting sponge properly loaded using the techniques we have talked about before. This includes getting just the tip of your face painting sponge slightly wet, squeezing any excess water and then loading your face paint by rubbing your sponge against the surface of the cake in a circular motion. Now that you have one colour on your sponge, you can do two things:

1 – Apply that colour to the face and then load a different face paint colour and paint right next to the first colour overlapping in the middle to create that blending. To do this make sure you are tapping your sponge against the skin rather than swiping across. Gently tap where the colors meet to create a smooth blend.

2 –You can load a second colour on the same sponge. That second colour will have to be loaded right under the first one, so that when you go to apply the colours on the skin, they automatically blend.

Either one of these options is a valid one, and each face painter has their preferred method. It is a good idea to master both of them and then choose which one you are more comfortable working with.

Keep in mind that if you choose the first option, you do need to apply this fairly fast as once the colour dries on the skin it is a bit harder to get a smooth blending. Now that we know the how, let us learn four important words in colour theory that you don’t need to remember, but that will help you when painting at an event: hue, value, shade, and tint.

A Hue is the basic colour, usually we define those as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, which are the basic colours of light that the human eye can perceive.

A Value is a different colour that we obtain by mixing two Hues together. Basically, you can alter the value of a Hue by adding another Hue to the original. For example, you can add a little Yellow to a Red, both of them being Hues, and obtain a different value of Red.

A Tint, is a lighter version of a Hue that comes from adding white to the Hue. Tinting is the process of adding white to a Hue to change its appearance, making it look lighter

A Shade, is a darker version of a Hue and you obtain that by adding black to a specific Hue. This is the process of adding black to a Hue to get a darker version of the original Hue.

You can play with colours to either shade, tint, or change the value of them and creating exciting new colours.

Look over the image bellow to get a better idea of what this all means when you translate it into face painting:

Using Split Cakes and Rainbow Cakes to Face Paint with 1 Stroke of your Brush or Sponge  

This technique has been used by artists for many years. It originated in the 1600’s in a town called Pontypool and it has been referred as Tole Painting since then. Within the face painting community we refer to this technique as 1 stroke painting and it means painting a design using Split Cakes or Rainbow Cakes by creating a multi colored design with just a stroke of your brush or sponge.

In order to activate a Fusion Body Art Split Cake you should get your brush slightly wet making sure to wipe any excess water on the edge of your water container. Then, grab your Split Cake and rub your brush against the surface of the cake going back and forward along the lines of colours, holding your split cake almost vertically so any excess water can drip down along the colours and not across the colours as that would make the paint look muddy.

Watch the video below to see how it is done:

To use Rainbow Cakes, we can use a brush and repeat the same technique as a Split Cake, or use a sponge.

On the video below you can see how to activate a Fusion Body Art Rainbow Cake with a Brush (picking just a few colours at the time)

If you want to use a sponge, the entire surface of the sponge that you will use to activate the cake has to be moist. Make sure that all excess water has been squeezed out. If your sponge ends up being too dry you can dip the very tip of it and water will spread over the surface of it.

And this last video shows you how to activate a Rainbow Cake using a sponge:

There are a lot of different things that you can do with Split Cakes, you can look at the chart below for some basic strokes to create flowers, leaves, flames, waves, etc.

You can also use them to make cute check art designs like dolphins, tiger, puppies and more.

The most important thing is to have a very well loaded brush so that you can get an opaque, bold and bright result.

You can incorporate this technique into any of your face painting designs. For example, you can paint a cute full-face cat and then add some flowers around the design using a 1 stroke technique.

Split Cakes are also great for edging butterfly wings. You can sponge a color as the center of the wing and then face paint the edge of the wing using a split cake with the 1 stroke technique.

Watch the videos below to see how to face paint leaves, clamshells, flames and the edge of a butterfly.

How to Face Paint with Stencils  

Face painting stencils are a great way to add texture to a design, but they can also be used as the main feature in your design. Many different companies produce stencils that go from textures, to small check art style designs, to full face designs (although these ones are best to use with an airbrush).

Stenciling requires certain practice, it won’t come out right just the first time you try it, but if you practice you will learn how to do it right every time.

To use a stencil, you should have a face painting sponge loaded with some paint. The most important part is that your sponge should be almost dry. Dry enough that it will not cause paint to bleed under the stencil.

So, grab a dry sponge, dip the very tip of it on water and rub the face paint cake enough so that the paint becomes almost dry. Tap the sponge against your skin to verify that the consistency is right (don’t do that while on the job as it is not sanitary, but do it while you practice until you get it right every time). If the paint feels tacky, or dry then you got it. Now, position the stencil over the skin and gently tap your sponge over the stencil. Make sure to always tap gently so not to push paint under the stencil. Also, always wait until the paint underneath (if you are stenciling over a painted area) is fully dry.

Then, pick up your stencil gently so not to smear the design.

If your stencil is big and it covers a large area of the face, you will need to move your fingers across the stencil as you paint, to make sure that you are always pressing the stencil firmly against the skin when you are applying paint on that area. If you don’t hold the stencil firmly around the area you are painting, then the design is likely to come out with blurred edges.

There are a few fun things that you can do with stencils other than just putting a pattern or a design over the skin:

1 – Creating an airbrush effect by pressing harder with your sponge over the first half of the stencil and then pressing less as you reach the other end of the stencil to make a fade out effect.

2 – Doing a 3D effect by painting first with one color and then gently moving the stencil diagonally by just a tiny bit and adding a color on top by doing another stencil print. This way, if the first color was lighter it will look like a highlight. If it was darker it will look like a shadow.

3 – Reverse Stencil technique, is where you paint the back of your stencil and press it against the skin, instead of pressing the stencil against the skin first and then painting over the openings.

4 – Using glitter with stencils. A great technique is doing a stencil print with face paint and then, without moving your stencil, adding cosmetic glitter on top. This will make your stencil pattern or designs look super sparkly. The face paint is just there to be the “glue” that holds the glitter down and against the skin.

5 – The wipe off effect. In this case, you can paint an area of the skin, put a stencil on top and using an almost dry sponge you can wipe off over the stencil area, revealing the skin under the face paint but with the stencil pattern, creating a negative effect.

Always make sure to sanitize your stencils in between uses by wiping them off with a clean towel, dipping them in a 60% or more alcohol solution (or spraying them with it) and letting them dry out completely.

Different Line Work Techniques for Face Painting  

Although at first you might look at a round brush and think of it simply as a “pen”, in reality, there are many interesting line work techniques that you can do to make a design look extra special.

Thin to Thick  

This technique was developed in the face painting industry years ago, and it consists on changing the pressure you put on your round brush against the skin to create lines that go from thin, to thick. This change in thickness gives the design a more interesting look and it is ideal for example when you are painting tiger stripes.

Now, you don’t have to stick to a round brush for that. You can also use an angle brush, a flat brush, a filbert brush, a script liner brush or a dagger brush. All of those can be used to create lines. In the case of the dagger, filbert, angle and flat brushes, you should make sure to flip the brush on its side to create lines, rather than pressing the entire length of the surface of the brush against the skin.


Teardrops are a face painter’s best friend as they can make almost any design look better. In order to do a teardrop pick a round brush, it could be any size but the number 3 and 4 are usually the best ones to get started with. There are two ways of making a tear drop:

1 – Starting with the tail of your teardrop and ending with the head of it. To do this, approach your well loaded brush towards the skin while your hand is moving forward and as you touch the skin keep moving forward while you start to apply more pressure to the brush until the entire brush is pressed against the skin. Think of it as an airplane landing. Starts with the tail and then the head of the plane gently touches down. Once your brush is fully pressed against the skin stop moving your hand and pick it up.

2 – The other way works exactly backwards. You start with the head of the teardrop and then draw the tail. In order to do that start by pressing down the entire brush against the skin and then gently pick it up moving your hand down while you pick the brush up to create a tail.

Each painter has their preferred method for doing them you should practice both and then decide which one is easier for you.

Keep in mind that teardrops always look best when in groups of uneven numbers, usually three, sometimes five, and they should be staggered in some way, either going from smaller to bigger, from bigger to smaller, or having the larger ones in the center going smaller towards the sides. The idea is not to make them all the exact same size as that does not look as pleasant to the eye.


The last basic element of line work is a swirl. Swirls can be used along teardrops to add detail and flow to any design. A swirl is basically a loose spiral that starts tight on the center and spreads out as it unwinds. For this you should have exceptionally good control for your face painting brush. It takes times and practice, but you will make it. Some people prefer to start from the tale and works towards the center while others start at the center and work their way out, that is your choice.

It is great if you print out a practice sheet, put a clear practice board on top of it and practice until you can get them right. You can download the image below and print it for practice.

How to Work with Focal Points While Face Painting  

When face painting and building a design, it is important to consider the focal points that you should build your design around so that the designs looks balance and it has flow.

Take a look at the chart below, we have marked three different focal points, the one in between the eyebrows, one by the inner corner of the eyes and one by the outer corner of the eye. These are your main focal points and your designs should be built around them. The lines flowing away from those focal points show how a design should flow. Your line work should flow that way to have a good-looking design

You can use these tips when face painting a butterfly, a tiger, fairy wings or even a super hero mask.

You can start by just painting dots on your own face or on a model’s face where these focal points go, and then draw lines as the ones in the chart, just for practice. Then, you can paint these focal points and lines with white face paint very gently on the face, so they are almost faded, and then paint your design over it. This way these lines help you guide your flow. After doing this a few times try painting without the guidelines. You should be able to do it after a few times!

How to Add Glitter to Your Face Painting Designs  

The last thing you should consider to get a great looking face painting design is to add glitter to it. Adding glitter to the right places will make your designs stand out and sparkle.

If you are adding glitter to the base of the design it is best to do it before you do the line work, as putting glitter over your line work might make the line work look less defined and blurry.

You can also add glitter using glitter gels and going over your line work with your gels, or you can use the chunky glitters that come with a crème base to spread over or around some areas of your face painting designs.

Just make sure not to add too much glitter; although glitter is pretty, too much can make your design look too busy and actually lower the overall quality of it.

Now that you have learned all of these important steps to face painting and great looking designs, you should give it a try!

Take a look at the design below painted by Anna Wilinski and see if you can spot how many of the techniques, we mentioned have been used.

We hope you liked our guide to different face painting techniques, and that you give them a try soon, if you haven’t yet!

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Thank you so much for reading and have fun face painting!

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