Face Painting Tips for Fantastic Halloween Costumes

face painting tips for halloween

It’s no secret that I love working on art projects! Oil painting has been a love of mine for a while and my foray into pour painting was great fun as well! It seemed only natural that I have some face painting fun come Halloween and while I have done some face painting in the past I have gone out of my way this year to try a different type of paint and some new techniques! This makes it worthy of a Learn Something New article for face painting tips in my opinion!

My kids love going out on Halloween with face paint. Not only is it fun to get done (who didn’t love getting your face painted at the fair when you were a kid?) but it seems to garner a lot of compliments while out trick or treating. Certainly more then a mask does and well… my kids can be vain. They like compliments! A lot of parents I speak to though tend to shy away from the idea of face painting. They either question their abilities or the time it takes to get it done.

I am here to tell you that neither of those things should keep you from trying it out! It’s so much fun and your kids will love it! If you’re lucky they will even brag to their friends about how you did it when asked. If your a mom and you have put on make-up then you got this, if your a dad well, you’ve colored before I’m sure and it’s all the same despite the canvas!

Learn Something New with Kristin

Feature 8 – Face Painting Tips for Fantastic Halloween Costumes

face painting tips add on the finishing touches

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We all know what face painting is I think so I feel like we can skip the whole ‘what is’ section here and get right to the nitty-gritty!

Face Painting Tips – What Equipment do I need?

Face painting at it’s most basic requires very little. Close to Halloween, you can find numerous kits to get you started in almost any big box store. I’m pretty sure I even saw some in our local dollar stores when I was there last. However, it can be a bit overwhelming if you have never tried face painting before! It turns out there are numerous kinds of face paint and picking out which one will work best for you can be a bit of a learning curve! Here’s a quick rundown along with the pros and cons of each.

Types of Face Paint

  • Grease Based Face Paint – Grease based paint is pretty popular in the theatre and you can find it in most stores during Halloween. It’s easy to put on thanks to being a cream-like texture and tends to blend well thanks to its wet nature. However … it also never dries so it will smudge and wipe off easily if you’re not careful. I have used this in the past for the kids make-up and it looks great at first but tends to be a bit of a mess by the end of the night. It will work fine if your kids are older and have the self-control not to touch their faces or if you are only going to be using it for a short time.
  • Cream Based Face Paint – These are nice because they come in small tubes and there is very little waste! Like the grease paints, you don’t need to use water or anything to activate or thin them and they tend to be nice and thick with good coverage. While they do dry, it takes a while! Plan to have a good bit of time between doing the make-up and going out or putting on the rest of the costume if you don’t want to deal with smudges.
  • Powder Based Face Paints – Think of these like eyeshadow…but for your whole face. Like eyeshadow, you can use them wet or dry. These can sometimes be a bit pale when it comes to colors and tends to show up better if they are put over a base of something else. Using cream paint for the base and powder paint for the details tends to work well. These paints can be really messy though, use a towel to keep the fall out away from your clothes and prepare to be a little bit frustrated by small bits of powder ending up where you don’t want them.
  • Glycerin & Wax Based Face Paint – These are the types of face paint that often require water activation. Just a small touch will do! They often come in the familiar palette of circular disks, most kits also include a brush and sponge. These tend to be thinner paints and colors like white might take a few coats to built up. This is the first year I have tried this kind of paint and they are by far my favorite! They dry really quickly which means you might have to work fast if you want to blend colors BUT your kids won’t destroy all your work if they get an itch on their cheek. These seem to stay on as long as they don’t get wet and wash off very easily with a baby wipe or wet washcloth. A great bonus when everyone is tired after a night out!

face painting tips materials needed

Other Equipment

Once you have picked out the type of paint your want then I highly suggest investing in a few more tools to make your life easier.

  • A Set of Small Sponges – If your kit did not come with these (most do hunt around for one that does!) then I highly suggest picking some up.
  • A Better Paint Brush – While most face painting kits come with a brush they tend to be of terrible quality. If you are going to be doing any sort of detail work (fur, scales, or thin lines) then you want something with a nice good point on it. You can pick up a set of brushes for pretty cheap and the extra dollars will save you a lot of frustration and headache when you don’t have to fight with the blunt low quality brush your kit came with.
  • A Glass of Water and some Q-Tips – If you are using water-activated face paint then you will need some water to keep your paints going. I also suggest having some q-tips handy, They are great for erasing small mistakes, just dip them in water, erase the problem spot, let it dry and repaint!
  • Old Cloth or Rag – To wipe your paintbrush clean between colors.
  • Wet Wipes or Baby Wipes – For clean up afterward!

**Extra Note** – If you are using white in your design I highly suggest keeping a second glass of water, paintbrush or sponge on hand and ONLY using it for the white. It’s far to easy to end up with grey, tan, or pink through contamination if you don’t. You can clean your brush as much as you want but it only takes a teeny tiny amount of stray colors to ruin your white.

face painting tips, starting with a base layer

Face Painting Tips – Step One. Apply the Base Colors

This is easiest to do with a sponge. Just dab on the basic colors you want to show up. Layer your white if needed but don’t worry overly much about making sure it all looks perfect. Your base layer will probably look pretty terrible, you will probably start to wonder how on earth you are going to pull this off. Don’t worry – just keep layering on your colors and try to ignore the hideousness.

All you are trying to achieve at this point is a super basic guide for the rest of your work. For my youngest daughter’s fox costume this year that included the white cheeks and orange/red forehead (didn’t get a picture of the added red blend, whoops!) and muzzle. For my oldest daughter’s panda costume, it was a simple white face with black blobs around her eyes.

face painting tips, adding on some of the details

Face Painting Tips – Start Adding the Details

Let your base layer dry. It’s much easier to add the details if you don’t have to worry about smearing everything underneath! Thankfully the glycerin and wax-based paints tend to dry really quickly! Now is the time to start adding the details. I found it best to work with the lighter colors first and save anything in black for last. Black is just harder to get off the brush and tends to dirty up your water.

Fur like effects can be easily achieved by using small strokes of a slightly darker color than your base (red or brown for the fox, light tan or grey for the panda). It can be helpful to pull up a picture of the animal on your phone or computer so you can see which way the fur grows and make your stroke accordingly. Don’t worry if every line isn’t perfectly straight or thin. It’s fur. Fur can be wild.

Scars are best done by layer multiple colors in a jagged mark. If it’s a fresh cut or scar start with a pale pink outside edge and gradually make it darker towards the middle.  Of course, you can also just buy and apply fake scars. A cut with stitches is just a red line with black crisscrossing it. Warts for witches or goblins can just be circles with a slightly darker edge on one side to give them depth. Maybe a thin brown or black line if you want to make it a hairy wart.

Don’t stress about the details. Have some fun with it and just break everything down to its basic components.

face painting tips add on the finishing touches

Face Painting Tips – Add the Finishing Details

Let your first round of details dry. This is the time to outline eyes, add noses, whiskers, and other details that typically layer over top of your basic ones. It’s much easier to layer paint to add details then it is to try and color in small sections. Example – if you want to paint on glasses its 1000 times easier to paint glasses over your base layer then it is to try and paint in your base layer around the glasses.

This is also the perfect time to add any dark or black details. This way your water and brush won’t be contaminated and mess up your lighter base colors.

Face Painting Tips – Enjoy your Night!

Face painting doesn’t have to be hard! It can be pretty easy as long as you envision your creation from the bottom up. Start with the base and slowly add the top details until you are happy with your work. If you make a mistake don’t sweat it, use the Q-tips or a corner of a baby wipe and wipe it off then repaint it! I really hope these face painting tips encourage you to give it a try if you already haven’t!

I have found that the hardest part of face painting is getting the kids to sit still while I do it. Especially when outlining the eyes or the nose as those are fairly ticklish spots. Just go slowly, give yourself plenty of time so you don’t feel rushed, and let them get up and move around while you wait for the layers to dry! Most of all…remember to have fun! That’s the whole point!

face painting tips for halloween

Have You Ever Tried Face Painting?


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Face Painting Tips for amazing Halloween costumes! #facepainting #facepaint #halloween #facepaintingtips #paintingtips #halloweencostumes #halloweentips #partytips #children #kids #holidays #DIY #DIYcostumes< />




  1. These turned out great. Face painting can seem daunting, but these tips makes it sounds pretty easy, especially giving the kids a break along the way.

    1. Author

      the breaks are a life saver, inevitably they develop the inability to sit still or 500 million new itches on their face right when you want to start on the detail work haha

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