A Beginners Guide to Body Painting!
My first encounter with body painting was at my first trip to IMATS! I just wanted to sit and watch everyone’s creations come together, I could have stayed there all day! Body painting can be a really daunting prospect when it’s something you haven’t done before, but once you start you won’t want to stop!
What Paints Should I use?
Everyone has their own personal preferences with regards to body paints, the same way you do with face painting, and most people will start with brush and sponge. For body painting I find softer paints give a much more even coverage and blend into each other better than harder paints. I love Superstar and Mehron for covering big areas but I will still go back to Global and DFX for linework and detail aspects, but if I’m honest, my choices are largely based on the colours I want to use. You’re also going to want to think about getting some bigger brushes if you don’t already have any, as well as some blending brushes.
But I can’t draw?!
Does that stop you face painting? No! I had no artistic background before I trained as a hair and makeup artist, which is where I started face and body painting. I’ve found that actually my drawing has improved hugely since I’ve been body painting, and I understand so much more about shade and light, we all have to start somewhere! Some of my favourite pieces have been really really simple and really fun to paint, and require zero drawing skills. The picture below was one of my first body paints. It was the photographers idea, and all we did was take Mehron metallic silver powder, mix it with baby oil and cover our model. We got some photo’s at this stage before literally throwing handfuls of Holi paint powder at her. Because we had mixed the Mehron powder with oil and not mixing liquid (because it would give a shinier result), the powder paint was constantly moving, and no two photo’s are the same, which was awesome! We then also dribbled some of the silver paint back over the powder paint to break up the solid blocks of colour. It was unbelievably simple, but so much fun and still one of my favourite pieces.
Where do I start?
If you want to start body painting but you’re not sure about ideas, pick a Halloween character and paint them! Halloween month is now in full swing, and we’re all busy promoting ourselves for the big day, so pick something that you can use to promote yourself for Halloween! The Joker is a classic and will not only be a great start to your body painting portfolio, but will be a great addition to your face painting portfolio. It can be really hard to come up with ideas when you don’t have a theme to paint to (I hate that feeling when I get someone in my chair and says ‘paint anything!’), so I am going to set you a challenge, yes YOU! If you have been thinking about starting body painting but you have been too nervous, I want you to find a willing friend or family member and paint them as the Joker. You can stick to the top half of the body if you want but I want to see what you get up to, tag me on Instagram or Facebook or wherever you post it! Like so many other things, once you start, you’ll wonder what you were so worried about.
This is why I think the Joker is a good place to start. It’s really important to think about the composition of the body and how it will affect design choices in your body painting, and painting clothing can be a really helpful exercise, not only in composition, but also for thinking about shadows and highlights, and making something look more 3D.
Also think about the muscle structure and the natural shapes and contours of the human body. It’s a really good exercise in understanding composition, will help in designing other pieces, and can be really useful if you decide to paint cosplay designs or zombies etc. Another really good exercise for composition, especially if you want to paint something more illustrative, is to look at heraldry and tattoo designs. Pick a theme and think about image placement, what aspects are more important, how can you fill dead space?
For me, body painting works best when you look at why are you choosing to paint on a body and not a canvas. How will your painting be affected when the body moves, and how can you use this to your advantage?
What if I make a Mistake?
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, that’s what baby wipes/re-usable eco cloths (would HIGHLY recommend, they are phenomenal!) are for! I also think it’s really important to acknowledge mistakes, to think about why something didn’t work and how you could do it differently next time, whether it’s a particular colour combination, a different brush or something you just didn’t like.
Where are the other painters at?
There are quite a few body painting groups and events that go on throughout the year, a lot of people also do their first body paints at these events too. We have all done our first body paint at some point, we have all been in that position where we don’t know anyone, we’re worried no-one will like what we paint and we’re scared that everything’s going to go wrong. So far I have found everyone I have met to be really encouraging and supportive, you’ve got nothing to worry about! Go to the the events, the festivals and the competitions, there’s always someone else in your position, and someone who will know about other events so you can do more painting!
What do I bring to my first body paint event?
A lot of the times, models bring their own underwear and nipple covers. I always bring spares in a variety of sizes and colours just in case. You’ll also want glue (pros-aide) and remover to stick those pesky nipple covers down and to remove them at the end, and cotton buds to apply the glue. In terms of what underwear to buy, I like Primark Seamless thongs. They’re quite easy to paint over and don’t suck up as much paint as cotton. Monster Pasties are by far the best nipple covers I’ve come across, but they are quite expensive. No Nips are also great, and they also make a line of ‘No Toe’ foam latex crotch covers which are a great alternative to thongs if you’re model is happy to wear them as there is no disruption to the paint. Everyone has personal preferences with underwear and nipple covers, it’s a case of finding what you get on with best.
It’s also a good idea to bring food and water. It can be a long day painting and, it hasn’t happen to me yet, but my worst fear is a model fainting, so make sure you keep checking in with them to make sure they’re ok and that they’ve had enough food and water. Also try to remember to let them sit down while you’re painting so they aren’t standing still for long periods of time. Temperature is also really important. Sometimes the venue where you are painting has no heating, or they’ll put you right next to a door so it’s a good idea to buy a portable heater. They’re pretty cheap and not too big so you can fit them into a suitcase with the rest of your kit.
Also you’ll need some form of floor and table cover. Believe it or not, not everyone enjoys colour and glitter explosions (although for the life of my I can’ think why!)
Ok I think I’m ready, What now?
Just do it! Get those paints out and find a victim ….*ahem* willing model, and show me how you get on! I wanna see!
I hope you have found this useful. If you have any questions or want some information about upcoming body paint events please ask me, I don’t bite! Also please let me know if you have a topic you would like me to cover in any upcoming posts.