Whether you’re working on a cosplay you’ll wear repeatedly at conventions or just a one-time Halloween costume, knowing how to use body paint is often essential if you’re portraying an alien, mythical, or supernatural character. But before you decide to dedicate your effort and money into transforming yourself into someone with an unnatural skin color, you should be aware that this is a task that will take a really long time if you want it to look good, and even longer if your character shows a lot of skin.
The two types of body paint most commonly used are Snazaroo and Ben Nye. While Snazaroo is cheaper and more easily accessible, it’s more ideal to be wearing for a few hours on Halloween as opposed to all day at a convention. It’s water activated which makes it a good choice for sensitive skin and light tints; it doesn’t work so well for full-coverage as it tends to look a bit patchy if you’re not extremely careful, and if you’re wearing it someplace really warm it may start to come off due to sweat. Most people recommend Ben Nye because it is cream based, so the application is a lot more opaque and smooth. Although it is considered to be higher quality, it still requires careful application to avoid streaks.
In this tutorial I’m using Snazaroo because I’m cheap.
1. The first step is optional, but it’s often very helpful. Start by applying lotion, moisturizer, primer, etc so that your skin is smoother when the paint is applied. This will help it stick better. Make sure you wait until the product is completely dry and absorbed on your skin before moving to the next step.
2. You’re going to need a sponge to apply the body paint (beauty blenders work great but don’t use one if you don’t want it stained the color of your body paint). If you really want to you can use a paint brush, but a sponge is ideal because it doesn’t leave streaks. Wet the sponge and then squeeze out the water. The sponge needs to be wet to activate the paint, but if it’s too wet the paint won’t show up on your skin.
3. Dip the sponge in the color and start dabbing it onto your skin. It’s important that you dab it on even though it will take longer as opposed to brushing it on, because the coverage will be darker, more even, and you won’t get streaks. Here’s what both methods look like on my arm so it’s easier to understand the difference between how it will turn out. (the patch on the left was dabbed on, the patch on the right was brushed).
4. Continue applying the paint until the surface of your skin is completely coated in one layer. Don’t expect it to look completely even right now because it’s only your first coat. The color will look blotchy and uneven, but you need to wait for it to dry before fixing it with additional coats. When painting your hands, make sure you get paint in all the creases where your fingers bend.
5. Keep applying additional layers of paint until the color looks even and smooth, making sure to wait in between coats for the last to dry. If you try to apply more paint while the previous layer is wet, you’ll end up rubbing off the paint you just put there.
6. Assuming that you’re painting your face in addition to certain areas on your body, contouring is necessary (additional makeup is usually necessary depending on character, but I won’t go into detail about that here since this is just a general body/face paint tutorial). Having a single color of paint all over your face will make it look pretty featureless and flat because it won’t have its normal shadows and shine, so emphasizing light and dark areas helps a lot.
It’s important to know that contouring for masculine characters should look different from contouring for female characters, so this picture should give you a sense of what each should look like.
For the light and dark areas, you can either use a lighter and darker shade of the same color of your base paint, or you can use colored eye shadow for the same effect.
7. Lastly, you will need to seal your paint. This is possibly the most important step but it’s one that many people don’t know about. It’s imperative that you seal your paint (on your face and especially the rest of your body) because if you don’t, the paint will rub off if you touch anything. For the sake of both not ruining your own costume as well as not leaving behind a mess at a convention or someone’s house at a party, always seal your paint. There are multiple ways to go about this, but what I use is baby powder. It’s available at any convenience store and doesn’t change the color of your paint as long as you don’t use too much. Simply brush baby powder using a makeup brush all over the painted areas of your body.
That’s it! I hope this was informative and helpful for anyone wishing to try body paint for the first time.
Grace Guildener | ’19