When Sonya was two, we went to tons of festivals, back in the days when we had time for tons of festivals (now, too many soccer games and dance competitions means we have to pick and choose, prioritizing the best and, er, cheapest). I learned very quickly that my kid likes face painting, and also that face painting was a ripoff.
Okay, fine, it’s fine. Creativity and self-expression and all that. But ten bucks for something that the kid won’t even see for more than a few seconds, that wipes off on mom’s shoulder within the hour? The value for the cost just isn’t there.
So I bought a cheap face painting kit (affiliate link, in case you want to make me rich). It couldn’t be that hard.
And it wasn’t. It isn’t. The trick is that kids don’t give two craps about the quality of the art, which worked in my favor. Fifteen bucks for a face painting kit, twenty minutes of prep before each festival, and for all of eternity when we see a face painting stand, sorry, we’re already covered!
In addition to the fact that you can’t paint a face that’s already painted (that sounds like a challenge), all of the mystique is washed away if your lame-o mom is painting your face multiple times a week.
Over time, I’ve gotten fancier. I found that the basic Snazaroo paints work well, and I picked up a megakit with like 40 colors at a craft store, for another $15 or so.
The supplies (affiliate links below):
- The stencils are dumb and you can’t keep them on a wiggling toddler’s face without smearing the paint and they aren’t worth your time.
- The only thing that matters is 5 seconds after you have finished, when the kid looks in the mirror. All the paints I’ve ever tried have eventually smeared, so for the most part, the cheap Snazaroo paints are good enough.
- You can use any paint brush, but it’s nice to have a set with different widths (those are the ones I bought long long ago. I have since replaced them with whatever paint brushes I happen to find, because somehow little hands constantly steal them from my kit).
- All colors are the same except no they are not. Most of the paints you get are fine. But the edge lines, black and white, are one hundred billion times better if you have good quality paint for them. The high quality paint is called “Tag,” and I recently ran out of pink and red and bought Tag versions of those, too. I’ve been painting at least one face per week for the past 7 years, and have barely made a dent in the black and white that I bought way back when. It’s more expensive, but the quality is much, much higher, and they last foreeeeever.
- I’ve also gone through a couple of sponges, but I haven’t bought a new one in a long time. They are nice to have on hand but they also get kind of gross, and you can do the same thing pretty much with a brush (brushes are worse at dabbing and blending, but you can manage).
- Glitter makes everybody happy, but be careful, you need to have face painting glitter. Regular glitter can get into a kid’s eye and cut their cornea, which I guarantee will ruin the festive atmosphere. I have done the more expensive poof bottles (don’t cut too much off the top, or you poof like…CLOUDS of glitter) as well as some cheap stuff from the Walmart aisle with the face paint. They’re both fine. Be warned, your vet will make fun of you when you take your dog in and there’s glitter underneath the dog’s collar. And your students will say, “is that…do you have glitter on your nose?” and never take you seriously again, and the glitter will infect your ear canals and under your fingernails and it will never, ever be fully vacuumed. But, I mean, if it makes people happy.
- Edge everything in black or white. A billion times better.
- Use the back of the brush to make little circle dots. Little circle dots under an eye makes the whole thing pop.
- Use Google Image search (for example, “butterfly face paint”) for inspiration. Then, just try to make your kid’s face look like the kid in the picture.
- Kids don’t care about fine art.
- Everything looks pretty great from afar, and nobody’s getting super close to your little girl’s face, and if they are, you need to call the police instead of worrying about the quality of your face paint.
- There are entire forums devoted to face painting, but you can lose a lot of your life by scrolling and getting ideas that you probably will never put into practice. Here’s the important information: Tag brand stuff is expensive and good, line everything in black or white, wash your paint brushes. Everything else is just drama drama drama.
- If you use too much black, your child ends up looking like a chimneysweep in short order, and it can be hard to get off, especially on the eyebrows or the edges of the face. Your best bet is to use black fairly sparingly.
So there you have it. It’s easier than it looks and it makes your kids happy and saves you at least a hundred thousand dollars over time.