How to Become a Children's Face Painter

By Heather Vale ; Updated September 15, 2017

Painting children's faces can be fun and rewarding. As a face painter, you are often supplying the catalyst for hours of imaginative play. Being a good painter is only the first part of the equation; turning a face-painting passion into a business or regular hobby takes a few steps and some hard work. And, needless to say, if you're planning a kid-focused business, it's important to love children.

Things Needed

  • Quality non-toxic face paints and face glitter
  • Soft-bristle brushes in various sizes
  • Cosmetic sponges
  • Mesh bag for dirty sponges
  • Hand sanitizer or baby wipes
  • Paper towels
  • Hand-held mirror
  • Mixing containers or palette
  • Face-painting templates, stencils or idea books
  • How-to book or course
  • Digital camera
  • Portable card table and folding chairs

Tip

Quality face paints are the most important purchase you will make. Good paints made for skin won't stain, are non-toxic, and don't hurt when they dry. They come in liquids, creams and cakes, and you can choose your favorites or mix and match.

Warning

Do not use acrylic paints or any other paint that's not designed for working on faces and bodies. Do not use loose metallic glitter that's made for crafts -- stick to glitter cosmetics and gels that are safe for use on skin.

Learning to Paint Faces

Before you start looking for faces to paint, practice your painting techniques. Painting on a live "canvas" is very different from making a static piece of art. Learning the types of designs you can do is the first step, and using a live model is next.

Purchase Supplies

As you go through the learning process, you will want to learn new techniques. Buy the supplies you need to paint faces. And you'll need a digital camera to document your designs and create a portfolio.

Learn the Techniques

Basic information on how to get started is readily available on the Internet at no cost. For more details, get a book on face-painting, or take a course -- either local or online -- that will walk you step-by-step through best face-painting practices and techniques, such as when to use a brush and when to use a sponge. Children's face painting can be very complicated or quite simple; through the learning process you can figure out what style best suits your skills.

Practice Painting

Find a child -- a relative or friend is best -- who's willing to be your face-painting model. Of course, ask the parents' permission if it's not your child. Try different designs on the child's face, over a course of several weeks, and take pictures of the results. Put the photos into an online portfolio, post them on your website or social media pages, or print them out to create a portfolio book you can show potential clients.

Establish Your Designs

Most face painters only offer a limited selection of designs that kids can choose from, which makes the process much simpler. Use the photos of the designs you want to specialize in to make a book or display poster that children can look at to select their favorite.

Warning

Whether practicing or working for clients, never paint a child's face if he seems to have a skin condition, such as eczema or a cold sore, that could be contagious or exacerbated by paint. Quality face paint is generally safe and non-toxic, but it's not meant to used on broken or highly sensitive skin.

Finding Clients

Now that you're confident in your face-painting abilities, it's time to find clients who want to hire you -- or who will let you practice your craft in public, if profit is not your main goal.

Register Your Business

If you're planning to charge for face painting, register your business based on the laws in your state. You can start as a sole proprietor, but there might be benefits to starting an LLC or other corporate structure. Speak to an accountant or attorney to figure out the best course of action.

Create Business Tools

Once you're set on your business name, get some business cards printed with the business name, your name, contact phone number and email address, and your website if you have one. If you have a website, showcase photos of your work.

Look for Events

Scour your local paper to see what children's events are coming up that might benefit from a face painter. Approach any children's day care centers, play centers and schools to see if they might like to host a face-painting day, or if you can be part of their carnival day. And place an ad in the paper or an online resource like Craigslist to let people know you're available for parties and events.

Set the Price

As you start off, you might have to work a few events for free or just for whatever tips people offer. Eventually you can charge the event planner or parent a flat fee for your services, and that fee should be in line with what clowns, jugglers, magicians and other children's party entertainers in your area charge.

Working the Events

Once you have an opportunity to paint faces for real, you need to approach it professionally, whether you're being paid or not. Word-of-mouth advertising is powerful, and if one client likes you, she might refer you to others.

Set Up the Area

Set up your card table and chairs. Place some of your business cards on the table as well as your book or poster of design choices and your painting supplies and mirror. Don't be afraid to put out a tip jar if you are just working for tips. Also keep paper towels and hand sanitizer or wipes within arm's reach for both you and your patrons.

Prepare Yourself

Wash your hands before you start painting, and use the restroom so you won't have to leave your station unattended during the event.

Start Painting

Once one kid gets her face painted, you'll be inundated with more. Paint each design as quickly as you can without sacrificing quality -- an average of 10 faces per hour is a good goal. When you're finished with each child, show her what her face looks like with the hand-held mirror.

Clean Your Tools

Clean your hands and paintbrushes after each face painting, so you don't transfer germs from child to child. Also throw any used sponges into a mesh bag as you go -- it keeps litter to a minimum; later, you can toss the whole bag in the washing machine.

About the Author

Heather Vale is a writer, interviewer and seasoned journalist. She has authored news, entertainment and informational programming in TV, radio, print and online media. She is also a certified childhood fitness and nutrition specialist with a background in mind-body-spirit health, self-help, business, technology and pet breeding. Vale holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in visual arts from York University.