Instructables
Picture of Choosing, using and applying body paints
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One of the questions I get asked from time to time, and have seen answers to around the web, but not usually condensed is: What's the best type of body paint/cover for my costume?

It depends on a few things:

1) How much money are you willing to spend per use and on equipment?
2) How often will you be wearing this costume?
3) What percentage of skin are you covering?
4) How much time do you usually have to prepare?
5) Do you have to drive somewhere painted up, or can you do it at your location?
6) How long do you expect to be this color?
7) What other difficulties will you experience with colors/brands?

I will try to answer each of these questions for each type of skin covering product.  Additionally, if you have Photoshop, you can tidy up professional or even snapshots pretty easily.  If you don't have Photoshop, please don't download it illegally, and don't ask me where you can do so - I will not help you do this.
 
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Step 1: Tools and equipment

Picture of Tools and equipment
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Something I advise heavily when costuming is to own an entirely separate kit of brushes, sponges and wedges for costume makeup alone, especially if you plan on doing more than one painted character on a regular basis.  For nearly every type of body/face colorant, you can use your regular brand of make up over top of it.  Little is more aggravating than getting to the convention, unpacking and realizing you left your favorite black mascara back home in your real makeup back - or worse, left your blue paint behind.  I rarely use wedges any more, but they're useful to keep in a mobile make up kit.

Suggested tools, at minimum:

Small baggie of wedges, 10 or so
Spirit gum
Spirit gum remover
Black mascara and eye liner, neutral lip gloss
Black pencil and shadow
A set of around 15 brushes include a wide eyebrow brush, a kabuki brush, brow brush and wide and narrow flat brushes
Spare eye shadow applicators and lip brushes
Hair pins and ties
Cold cream and/or facial wipes
False lash sets
Stippling sponge
Spare bottle of contact solution and contacts case
Small tube of concealer
Primer
Small bowl with airtight lid, for mixing
Travel-size Q-tips case
White pencil and white shadow

If painting your feet, legs or other large portion of your body, put towels on the floor, toilet and sink.  If your'e in a hotel, call for extra towels - the hotel staff like cleaning make up less than taking extra blue tinted towels from your room.

Something I cannot say enough is: do not buy cheapo make up when buying colors for costuming.  Feel free to pick up cheapo stuff for color tests, but don't use only them.  I try to buy makeup made in the US, and that is cruelty-free.  Try to buy unscented makeup when possible.  You won't use your shadow brushes as often as your regular makeup, so make sure you dispose of them once a year and replace with fresh ones, even if you haven't run out of a particular color.  Your brushes can become bacteria nesting grounds, so treat them well and keep them clean between uses.
When I used to face paint professionally I loved Ben Nye and another I used was Grimas face paints. Just recently I saw a face painter using really wild colours and the metallics were the best I'd ever seen and they are by an Australian company called TAG.

Great instructable very detailed.
Olivia2 years ago
Nice compare and contrast. I did pro face painting for about 10 years; towards the end I did a few local conventions. My favorites were Snazaroo and Tribal Ink.

Snazaroo is GREAT for full-face application. It's water-based, and behaves similarly to regular make-up. It's hypoallergenic and washes off with soap and water like a dream. (It's also not very expensive; you can buy it at many craft stores. Good for beginners and pros!)

Tribal Ink is alcohol-based for spray-ons...I agree that you should only get into those if you or someone you know is experienced with airbrushing. The investment is NOT cheap. However, I did a few (close to) full body applications and the results were great, and my customers loved how LONG everything lasted. The less oily your skin, the longer the paints last.

Anyway, my two cents. :)
fluffydragon (author)  Olivia2 years ago
Thanks for the comment! I have not used Snazzaroo myself yet, but I have heard many good things about it. If you have used it and would like to write up a little Pro/Con paragraph, I'll gladly add it to my powder slide :)

I plan to experiment with it myself at some point, but I just haven't yet.
Sure!

Snazaroo:

Pros:
- great color selection; mattes, pearls etc.
- a little goes a long way;
- water-based; washes off easily
- solid cakes; nothing to spill
- hypoallergenic, very gentle on skin
- can be used in an airbrush if you have one!
- works well with others; I used Snazaroo with other materials (glitter, latex glue, glitter gel, regular make-up etc) with great success
- website is FULL of painting tips and tricks

Cons:
- some colors don't show up well on light skin
- doesn't stand up to sweat and oil
- reds tend to stain skin (red was the only color I found this problem with)
- batches may vary; some times I had GREAT results with a color, then re-ordered and it was just ok
- website stuck in the 1990s ;)

Hope that helps!
KimS326 days ago

I just wanted to thank you again for the tips you gave me. My daughter was happy and even though we are totally new to body painting your tips helped immensely. She didn't complain about the fumes thanks to your "blow a fan in her face" tip. More importantly, the green paint didn't get all over our friends car or anywhere for that matter. Without your tutorial I know we would have been leaving green streaks everywhere!

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KimS32 months ago

Really appreciate this tutorial. Thank you for spending the time to put it together. I am planning on painting my daughter green for her Gamora GotG costume. She is only 10 and I don't imagine she will be as cooperative as necessary for the task. First, I'm wondering if the Ben Nye liquid paint would be the way to go for this? Or any other tips to make this as painless as possible. Also, wondering how much I would need for face, chest, arms and hands?

fluffydragon (author)  KimS32 months ago

Thank you for the comment!!

Oddly enough, I ended up painting my friend because she volunteered to be our Gamora at DragonCon. We used straight up green Snazaroo in a cake form, using half water, half Final Seal and a very thick make up brush, I worked up the green cake until it was slick enough to apply, then just slathered it on. It still ended up taking around 45 minutes to cover her arms/hands/chest/neck, and it would have stayed on a lot better if I hadn't forgotten to pack my Neutral Set powder. The Final Seal dries faster than water alone, or even the liquid paint alone, so you might be better off with this just for speed purposes. You can also have her sit in front of a fan while you paint, and that'll help keep fumes out of her eyes when you have to do her face - the Final Seal doesn't smell that strong but it will irritate the eyes for a minute or two when painting within a few inches of eyes. leave the palms/inside of fingers, inside of elbows and armpits to do last, since they're most prone to rubbing right off again. This way does need two coats to cover properly, but one can do, and one cake of Snazaroo should last you 2-3 full paint sessions of 2 coats each.

We used a very large makeup brush, it was probably around an inch and a half, and held a lot of paint. We used a smaller, thin brush to dab around the eyes and nostrils. You can use this smaller brush and some white paint for her facial designs, if you want to.

The Neutral set is dusted on with a very wide, dry fluffy brush after the paint is dry - go bonkers with it, it's white, but it'll fade into the paint and shouldn't lighten it up much.

Either using the pre-mixed paint or a cake, I wouldn't skip the Final Seal or Neutral Set.

Omg, my thanks again for taking the time to reply to me and for the extra tips! If I could just bother you for one other question? I see that Snazaroo makes 3 different green colors that look like they could work for Gamora. Do you know the name of the color you used for your friend? There is bright green, grass green and lime green.
acuritomai3 months ago

Thanks for the guide! Vital information for those, like myself, who are experimenting with body paints!

LaceyD1 year ago
Thank you so much for this! I am doing cosplay for the first time, have very sensitive skin, an no idea what I'm doing. This really helps! So much detailed information!
Phil B2 years ago
The James Bond movie "Goldfinger" came out in the mid-1960s. It showed a dead girl on a bed who allegedly died because she was painted head to toe with gold paint. The paint had allegedly closed her skin pores so her skin could not take in oxygen. Is there any factual need to keep pores open lest someone die or did the movie employ a lot of license? I am sorry to make your first question something that is not really part of your main point. Thank you for a nicely done Instructable.
chuckr44 Phil B2 years ago
No you will not die immediately if you cover your skin with latex. Over time the skin will get waterlogged, and die off, and that would introduce infection, but it would take weeks, just like if you have a bandaid on for weeks at a time. The skin gets white, and a bit soft, and when you peel off the band aid and the skin dries, it might peel off.

In "Wizard of Oz" the actor who played Tin Man died shortly after filming because of inhaling the dust that made his skin silver. Notice I said "dust", it was not a paint.
"In "Wizard of Oz" the actor who played Tin Man died shortly after filming because of inhaling the dust that made his skin silver. Notice I said "dust", it was not a paint."

Which actor are you talking about here? Buddy Ebsen, who was initially to play the tin man, but was allergic to the make up and died at the age of 95, or Jack Haley who took over the role who died at the age of 80?

Facts. Use them.
The dust didn't kill him, but it made him pretty darn sick:

http://www.snopes.com/movies/films/ozebsen.asp

Also see:

http://mythbustersresults.com/pilot3
I remember as a kid reading somewhere that in ancient Greece they used to paint an unfaithful wife in gold paint and were left to suffer and die. Theories abounded about the skin not being able to breathe which would cause death, I subscribe to the fact I'm sure the paint was highly toxic and this caused the poor woman's death.
That's a persistent myth. She didn't die from the paint.
http://www.snopes.com/movies/films/goldfinger.asp
Truehart Phil B2 years ago
There is the slight danger of overheating if you cover your body in latex paint completely, but they also tested this on Mythbusters. They had Jamie painted head to toe and had him run on a tredmill for a given amount of time. They had paramedics on hand to monitor him and while he did get a little hot he was fine. So, short answer is yes, the movie took some liberties with science.

FluffyDragon did a pretty good job of explaining the pros and cons of each paint / makeup. I have done some haunted mazes and worn latex prosthetics, etc. and they do get warm even when your outside in 40 deg F weather. Latex doesn't breath at all, but if you don't have it completely covering your body you should be fine.

My personal favorites are cream-based makeups and airbrused accrylic paint. I have sensitive skin, but haven't ever had much of a problem with these as the cream I can put on as light as I want and it comes off with water. The accrylic paint also just comes off with water, but if you ever wipe at it it will flake off. That's why you never wipe, always pat.

Just my two cents.
fluffydragon (author)  Truehart2 years ago
OH neat, I didn't see that mythbusters, I should look it up :) I knew it wouldn't really damage anyone, skin, lungs, or otherwise, but it's still not my favorite for body coverage. I can totally see it done for a super hero though.
fluffydragon (author)  Phil B2 years ago
In the wizard of oz, the original scarecrow had to be removed from the role because he got sick from the aluminum powder. I'm not sure how they fixed the situation, but it did lasting damage to his lungs and health.

As far as I know, there is no truth to the idea that skin will take in oxygen-but if you put things on your skin that are not certified for cosmetic use, most people will have problems.. For example, you should never use water colors or kid's paints for painting skin.

The main reason I mentioned it on the latex paint was that if you sweat, there's no where for the sweat to go except to lie against the skin, either trapped under the latex or damaging the latex. You definitively will not die (from lack of oxygen) if you can still breathe through the mouth and nose. Sweat kept against the skin will not really damage it either, but I wouldn't want to try it.

I'm curious about the type of 'gold paint' used in the bond movie - She probably died of toxic poisoning rather than her skin pores sealing shut.
painting1892 years ago
I think make fun thing is very nice.Body paint is very interesting.But choosing a healthy paint is also very important
smiller152 years ago
I'm rather a big fan of the ben nye oil/grease base foundations and colours- you can get a lot of subtlety of coulour and blending. and when your finished powder and hit it with a barrier spray of sorts and you're good to go. I played a character that I had to be out in the heat performing with- and I never sweat off my makeup and it was resistant to kids poking me in the cheek and what not. Now I naturally have a drier skin sort and don't really sweat at all- so that may be more an advantage to me than others. Another trick I do before days and places I know are going to be hot and sweaty while using this makeup is that I wash my face first- hit it with a barrier spray- apply makeup- powder and hit it with a spray again. And I've been able to keep my makeup on from 6 in the morning till 9 or later at night with minimal to no damage to it.

Now I do have to use makeup remover to get it off- it does laugh at traditional soap and water- but I've found that those cloths with makeup remover impregnated into the fabric are a godsend when one is exhausted at the end of the day.

Now the rubies and the halloween store variety are well a joke- and I would never use them. If that is your only experience with grease based no wonder you despise them. 'cause I'm right there with you.
Mackramer2 years ago
Fun fact: Buddy Ebsen was the original Tin Man but had a negative reaction to the aluminum powder in the make up. It was later changed from a powder to a paste and painted on with brushes. Ebsen was replaced, but went on to star in the Beverly Hillbillies and Barnaby Jones.
Ebsen had respiratory problems and severe cramping from the aluminum powder. He thought he was going to die. Oddly enough, Ebsen was supposed to play the Scarecrow but Ray Bolger, who was set to play the Tin Man, got to play the Scarecrow instead due to a contractual agreement. Jack Haley, who plays the Tin Man in the film, got an eye infection from the aluminum paste that was used as the replacement make up and delayed production further. The moral of the story seems to be, don't play the Tin Man, because Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man that he didn't already have.