Wow, that’s a mouthful of a title! Good work Teabag *pats self on back*. If you’re here you’re probably just starting out with SFX, and/or face and body painting, so here’s a huge welcome to this fantastical world! There’s a whole load of posts out there on the internet for beginners to help you on your way, but when I started out I would end up with a billion tabs open in my browser full of conflicting information about which paints were the best, paint to avoid, tips and techniques etc, and after a while it all just made my brain explode into tiny glittery pieces. To (hopefully) make things a little less confusing here 14 things I wish I had known before I started out.
1. Start small
Unless you’re super rich, you’re not going to be able to afford your dream kit all at once. It can be frustrating but at the same time when you finally get your hands on that dream bit of kit you’ve been saving for it’s going to make it so much sweeter and more exciting (I’ll never forget getting my first bottle of liquid latex). For now, you can just dream about the day when you’ll finally get an airbrush, or you own every single colour in a range.
To make it a little easier to decide what’s most important for your kit search for some looks you want to do, and think about the kind of things that you want to try out and build your kit up based around that. If every look your thinking of has latex involved then you should probably get some latex, if it’s mostly about the painting then focus more on getting a good range of colours and consider using homemade gelatin rather than latex (or get a small bottle of latex if your budget stretches to that).
Try not to get too focused on a specific look though, while you want to have the right kit to do the looks you want, you don’t want to end up limited.
2. DIY what you can’t get
Can’t get liquid latex or silicone? Get in the kitchen and brew up a batch of gelatin. Need a load of fake blood? Get back in the kitchen and start mixing. Aside from being a nice cheap alternative, it’s actually quite fun playing around with the different recipes for things and finding the one that works for your project – although if you’re in your boyfriends’ parents kitchen maybe don’t make a batch of stinky as sin gelatin just before they come home.
3. Join the community
There’s forums where you can get a wealth of knowledge from experienced painters and sfx people, don’t be a lurker and just read what others have posted, signup and get involved. One of the best places to get answers to your burning questions is from people that have been doing it for years. Never feel embarrassed to ask newbie questions – everyone starts out somewhere. If you ask a question don’t forget to post back with your own experiences, especially if someone gave you a tip that worked, let them know, and in time you’ll be answering other peoples questions. If you want to get even more involved in the community get on social media, instagram, twitter and youtube are a great place to start connecting with the people that inspire you, and checking your instagram feed to find it full of peoples amazing artwork is the best.
4. Try before you commit
When I started out I did my research and was eager to just grab a load of huge cakes all from the same brand. I decided to get a few small basics palettes from different brands and I’m glad I did because it turned out the brand I was going to go for didn’t work out that well for me.
Always try things out before investing. Bodypainting and SFX aren’t the cheapest of hobbies so you’ll want to get the best bang for your buck.
5. Practice makes perfect
Watching other peoples youtube tutorials for face painting makes it look SO easy but trust me, it’s not. It’s going to take time to work out how to use your kit properly (and not end up with streaky face paint, terrible blending, and false eyelashes that just won’t stay on), and to learn how to make the look you’re going for end up on your face. Keep practising and before you know it you’ll be painting like a pro.
6. Take photos
Seriously, take a photo of every single look you do (even the disasters), it’s an amazing way to see how you’ve progressed, and more importantly, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t. I like to check out the photos I’ve taken the next day and it’s like looking at it with a fresh set of eyes, all the things you didn’t notice because you were so absorbed in painting you’ll suddenly see – the good and the bad.
7. Hair and beauty
There’s a huge amount of hair and beauty involved in face painting, you’re going to need to learn how to contour, how to do smokey eyes and all that sort of thing. The same goes for hair, what’s the point in having an amazing paint job and ruining it with bad hair? Hair is like the finishing touch to the look. Luckily, there’s a tonne of tutorials on makeup and hair on the internet so get out there and start looking.
8. Tutorials and credits
It’s great fun to paint your own creations, but when you start out a good way to learn the basics of how to use your kit is to follow tutorials on youtube. You’ll get a feel for how to do things, different techniques, and you’ll (hopefully) end up with some pretty impressive finished pieces. If you do want to share your creations on social media credit the original artist. Face painters are a close-knit group and if you don’t credit the original artist then you will get called out for it. The same goes if you’ve just used someone elses look for inspiration, always credit people if it’s not your own original look.
9. Ask for feedback and ignore the haters
Not all artists are going to have time to give you feedback, but many people will happily do it. You’re going to need to be able to handle criticism with grace, if people spend time trying to advise you and you respond with some snarky comment then they’re not going to do it again. If you feel people are just being mean and the criticism is not constructive or helpful (i.e “That’s rubbish, you should just quit”) ignore them, don’t get into an argument with a troll, just focus on the constructive helpful advice people are giving you, and of course respond to thank them and ask for any tips they’ve got on how you could do things better/differently.
10. Careful with your kit
People are going to want to play with your kit. Who wouldn’t right? It’s totally down to you if you want to let people play with your stuff. I let my friends use my personal face paints if they want too (with some basic hygiene rules), but if I was doing an event in a club, for example, I wouldn’t let random drunk people touch my stuff. People don’t know how expensive it is, they don’t know how to use it, and they won’t realise how much respect you need to treat it with. Before I let anyone start using stuff I let them know how to use it and give them any appropriate warnings like if something shouldn’t be used near the eyes, or if something will rip out their eyebrows if they get it on them. Don’t leave your kit unattended, and be prepared to sort through and clean up your kit afterwards.
Recently I did a load of friends faces for a fancy dress party and I let them use my face paints, just before we left for the party one of my friends trying to be helpful packed up my kit – including putting all my brushes back in my bag loose and wet. Luckily, because I always sort out my kit after things like that I found all my damp brushes and was able to rescue them before they got misshapen. Overall my kit survived but it did all need a good clean afterwards.
11. Cheaper is not always terrible – but sometimes it is
We’ve all been there, you’re looking at the prices of things and work out that if you went for the cheaper brand you could get X more of it for the same price as the more expensive stuff. In some cases that’s going to be fine in other cases not so much. For face paints I prefer to get less of the slightly more expensive ones than go for the cheapest of the cheap, but when it comes to other things like lipsticks I’m quite happy to get the bargain stuff. You need to figure out what kind of budget you have, and what your priorities are in regards to quality, sometimes you’ll find a magical unicorn of a product that is both cheap and amazing – and then come back here and tell me in the comments so I can get it too 🙂 pretty please!
12. Test it out before you release it into the wild
You’re heading to a fancy dress party, you’ve seen an amazing tutorial online and that’s what you’re going to do, you’re going to be the belle (or beast) of the ball…but wait, you need to test it out!
Some stuff isn’t made to last all day/night and you don’t want your hard work to melt off your face midway through, or for it to be so uncomfortable that you can’t keep it on for more than an hour.
13. Don’t sweat what you don’t have
Yes the demon look would look great with some sclera lenses, and the little mermaid look you’re doing would be great if you had a red wig, there’s going to be a tonne of looks you want to do where there’s something you think would be the icing on the cake, but if you don’t have it don’t worry about it. Don’t let the fact you don’t have something stop you from trying to do the look you want to do. Sometimes you’re going to have to make do with what you’ve got and improvise what you don’t have.
14. Think outside the box
If you’ve ever seen a red pencil eyeliner in a shop and wondered why anyone would want to use red eyeliner, the answer is Zombie looks!!! You’re going to end up using makeup in ways you never realised you would use it, eye shadows are no longer just for your eyes, lip gloss isn’t just for lips, get creative. It’s not only makeup, household items will hold new possibilities, fishnet tights or orange/onion bags are great for mermaid and dragon scales, bath sponges or fish aquarium filters can do a pretty good job on bruises, and all that stuff hanging out in your kitchen cupboard is just waiting to be brewed up into fake blood or scabs or gelatin.
Be careful though. Some stuff isn’t safe – be especially wary of using anything around your eyes that isn’t specifically designed and tested for use around your eyes.
Bonus Tip: Bargain hunt for discounts and free delivery
A lot of cosmetic websites offer discounts when you sign up for their newsletters, I got 20% off my first order of cosmetic goods, and I get emails alerting me to any discounted products or sales.
Face paint/SFX websites usually offer free delivery when you spend over a certain amount – if the amount is higher than what you want to get try and find some people in your area that want to order stuff too and do a group order to get that free delivery.
Another great place to find a bargain is in the ‘sale’ section of sites, I’ve managed to snag some great bargains by keeping an eye on the sales.
Never forget that it’s supposed to be fun, sometimes your looks will be amazing, sometimes they will be total disasters but every look you do, good or bad, teaches you something. It might be great getting likes on social media for your looks, but don’t let that become what it’s all about or you’ll end up doing it for the likes rather than the enjoyment.
If you’ve got any tips or questions let me know in the comments, or of course if you’ve found any of the mystical unicorn cheap yet wonderful products.