Genevieve is a mom who specializes in festival face painting in North Carolina, USA.
Babysitting can be tough once you’ve run through your entire repertoire of entertainment ideas. What do you do next?
Well, I have a sure fire way to delight your audience… Face Painting!
Don’t worry if you’re a novice, I am going to walk you through the ins and outs of the pure joy of face painting. This is a customizable, entertaining and creative activity that can last for hours. The best part is, you don’t need experience or art classes to begin.
The great thing about face painting is creativity! If you are completely lost, ask the kids about what they are interested in, or who the coolest superhero is right now. Not only will you build a bond with them, but you will have something to talk about while you paint their faces.
If you have plenty of time to kill, you can let the kids scroll through pictures on the internet and find exactly which design they like.
Getting ideas straight from the kids will narrow the decision making down, and let you know what designs to choose and prep for. Don’t be surprised, I have met several little girls who liked dragons, and some little boys who wanted a rainbow. Never put kids in a box, they will always surprise you!
Another great way to get inspired is to look at Instagram or Youtube. There are so many creative artists out there who love to share their designs. If you are stumped on what to paint, scroll through and pick something colorful.
Artists are normally flattered when you admire and use their ideas. If you decide to share the picture online, make sure to tag and give credit to the original artist. They will appreciate it!
Please only use paints that are created for cosmetic use. There are many reasons to choose high-quality paints, but the number one reason is safety. I know that buying materials to entertain your clients can add up, but please don’t skimp out here.
Buying paint from a Halloween store or a Dollar Store can come with risks. Many of the paints sold there are made in China, where they do not have FDA regulations on materials.
These days it seems like more and more children have allergies than ever before, so you are running a risk in using chemically laden paint.
My favorite store to buy face paint from online is SillyFarm. After all, it’s created for face painters, so you can be assured that all the products on the site are safe to use.
Painters from all over the world buy from Silly Farm. They have a wonderful selection of brands and products. I like their quick shipping and great customer service.
You can certainly order from Amazon, but please make sure your paints are coming from a trusted name brand that ensures quality materials. No knock-offs allowed!
If you are looking to buy face paint from a local store, this will be a bit more challenging.
As I mentioned above you don’t want to use any artist paint like acrylic, oil or watercolor on the skin. However, I have purchased face paint from a craft store before. In fact, my very first Snazaroo face-painting kit came from the craft store called Michaels. Make sure the paint is created specifically for face painting.
Remember which brands are trustworthy while shopping if in doubt google it. I stay away from Halloween stores, and dollar store type paint.
Since you don't plan on becoming a professional face painting artist, you most likely don't want to invest $200 in an entire collection. I understand! I don’t want you to burn all your hard earned money before you have a chance to make it! There are several low cost and budget-friendly starter kits that have everything you need.
Starter kits are the best bang for your buck. They come with a brush and several colors of paint, sometimes they include extras! The paint pots are small, but enough to do dozens of designs. Some kits now come with stencils or glitter to make your designs really pop!
Most of these kits will have a standard paintbrush inside and that's really all you need.
If you are only purchasing solid paints, I have a few brush recommendations for starters. Look for brushes that have a round tip. You can do many designs with just a standard brush. By using different stroke techniques you can do anything with a single brush.
Round brushes can be found in many stores, and the brush quality is not as crucial as the paint quality. You can pick up a brush or brush set for only a few bucks.
Paint, like any craft, can be quite messy. Parents don’t generally enjoy cleaning up a mess after a long day out. Try to lay down some ground rules beforehand - so the kids know the rules of this activity.
Keep the paint in your reach at all times, and don’t let little fingers get dipped in the paint. Let me tell you, one little finger swiped across black paint can show up in the oddest places. This is not fingerpainting, so make sure they know that you are in charge of the brush at all times.
One thing I like to do is keep the mirror away from the kids until I’m finished. This keeps them in suspense and they carefully await the end result.
If you let them hold a mirror or keep showing them the progress, they can get confused and criticize your work. “Hey, why does my rainbow only have yellow?” You get the idea… My advice is let them look only after you’re all finished.
Kids can be prone to dropping hand-held mirrors, so I just hide the mirror until I’m done.
While we’re discussing mirrors, I purchased a handheld mirror from the Dollar store. It is plastic and kid friendly, however, you don't have to even use one. You can just guide them to the restroom to have a look in that mirror, it is safer that way.
Don't worry if your design doesn't look like Pablo Picasso’s artwork. Kids are very forgiving and have great imaginations. If you can't paint a full spiderman mask, no worries! All you have to do is paint a spider on the back of their hand with black paint. Next, put some webbing lines on the underside of the wrist with white paint- BAM- Instant spiderman!
When you are painting, you want to visualize step by step strokes. If you need help with this, pull up a youtube video in advance and practice on your own hand or leg.
I like to take a design apart mentally. This means looking at a design in shapes, and putting them together step by step. Think of a really cool lego creation, each piece is built block by block to create something amazing.
You can think of the strokes you are painting in the same way you look at legos. Your spider is going to have a circle for the belly, then circles for the eyes, and then lines for the legs. If you view complicated designs like this, it really makes it much more doable.
There are lots of videos on youtube for tutorials. Some of my favorite youtube Artists for this are “Sophies Tips”, “Lisa Joy Young” and “Ariel Paints”.
Another face painting tip is to use stencils. Oh, how I love stencils! They can make intricate designs quick and easy, with no experience required!
like to search Etsy.com for stencils since you can find some epic stencils on there! I found some cool Harry Potter stencils on Etsy that were inexpensive, that would otherwise be really complicated. Try searching under “cupcake stencils” for smaller ones that will fit on a cheek or arm.
This is something you will have to play by ear so to speak. Most children are little wiggle worms, but when the brush and mirror come out - they freeze like a statue. It’s much the same way some kids are wild and misbehaved when the parents are home, but for the babysitter, they're perfect angels.
The same rule applies for face painting.
I have only had a couple of true wigglers in painting hundreds of clients. Kids seem to settle right down, and some are so still it shocks us. I have complimented parents on having the stillest kid in the whole show, and they looked like I slapped them with a fish!
If you do have a wiggler in your presence I have some great tips for you to try out
If these tips don’t seem to work, I have several more tips here in this article: 21 Ways to Help Face Paint a Wiggly Child.
With all kids, and especially wigglers, never paint near the eyes, nose or mouth. Younger kids are more prone to automatic eye rubbing when they get tired. Getting paint in their eyes is not going to be a great ending for the night.
A great way to work around this for younger kids is by painting designs on the back of the hand. It’s a pretty wide area and they can see the paint without standing in front of a mirror.
Remember, your excitement and expressions create the atmosphere, so don’t criticize your work! Just go with the flow and keep smiling. If you mess up and need to wipe it off and start clean, just roll with it.
The design will be washed off later, so this is not something to fret about. This activity is about fun and enjoyment - you are not in an art contest - remember that!
After you have their face or hands painted up, the real fun can begin. Remember you aren’t the parent, and you are allowed to be a bit more relaxed and fun! This is where you can put your paint into action, and let your hair down.
Let’s say you painted that really awesome spider. Now, you can play and use your imaginations to put on a skit or role play for 30 minutes. You can even go as far as bringing a camera or set up your smartphone and make a little video. Replay and retake as needed.
This can be something out of the box for kids and allows you to let your hair down - depending on your personality of course. If you are the more serious type, you can play director! The point is to extend that imagination a bit longer and make the fun last.
I love wet wipes! Hopefully, the parent will have some around if the kids are smaller, but fear not they are pretty inexpensive. If you forgot you can grab some paper towels from the kitchen and dampen them for easy paint removal.
Cosmetic grade paints are removable with soap and water. If for some reason certain colors stain the skin like red, black or green, there is a sure fire way to lift the stains.
The kitchen holds the answer.
Coconut or olive oil soaked on a cotton ball or damp paper towel will lift those bad boys right off the skin.
You don't need to cause friction, just soak and gently rub until the stain is gone. If you need to, you can try the oil method a second time, let the skin rest and try not to be too abrasive and cause redness or irritation by rubbing too hard.
Usually, it's the darkest colors that do this, since they are heavily pigmented, try to avoid darker colors with sensitive skin.
Chances are, the kids will want to leave the design on as long as they possibly can. This might be something they have never had the opportunity to experience!
It’s inevitable… the kid smeared their sleeve all through the face paint- what do you do? Well, don't panic. Face paints are soap and water soluble, so the paint should lift right out.
Here are some tips to remove face paint stains:
It happens more and more these days, as allergies in children are on the rise. Redness, itching skin, or hives can be the first sign of an allergic reaction.
If you are worried about kids having an allergic reaction, or the parents are unaware of any allergies, you can do a patch test on the back of the hand beforehand. Simply place a bit of paint on their hand and wait 20 min. If there is no redness or irritability on the skin you can proceed.
If you choose high-quality paints, the risk of an allergic reaction happening reduces dramatically. Always check with the parents first, and if you still have any doubts check the brand website.
If you're buying face painting equipment to use while babysitting you can claim it back on your tax. See our tax guide for details: How to write off babysitting expenses.
Face Painting is such a joyful time, there is no need to rush.
Make sure you keep steady rules laid down, have a plan of action, and enjoy! The rest of your time babysitting can be a playful and entertaining time full of imagination. I hope you enjoy your painting session with the kids you babysit.
If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me via my website or on Instagram. I hope this inspires you and that you find joy in face painting.
Genevieve is a mom who specializes in festival face painting in North Carolina, USA.
Edited and Illustrated by:
Kidsit Founder & Editor in Chief, Father of Three, Artist, Illustrator, and Web Designer.
Published: 11 January 2019