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Products For First Time Face Painters: Notes to my former self (Lesson #1-stenciling)

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

I am leaving this blog post to my past self. Just in case they ever perfect time travel.... This is where I want my younger self to start her face painting career.

Dear me: start here with your face paint product purchases. The spray bottle can be any, even a spray bottle from the $1 (now known more as the 1.25 if you can believe it!) store. The kabuki brush could be any as long as it is small and flat across the top. I do like the Pro Face line, but have used other no name brands successfully. You might find it in a packet of brushes at the $1 store.

Next thing, to my former self, I would highly recommend the BAM #1039 star stencil. And also, you must learn how to use it well. If you can learn 1 single stencil, you can translate that skill to all possible stencils. Some stencils are flimsier but can still be used.

One quick note is that you do not need, nor should you, clean off the stencil in between stenciling. Wait until you are through with the stencil using it for multiple stencil uses on one client.

When your client leaves, then use the 3/4" brush to gently rinse your stencil over the water container.

Now, add in some basic first time purchases. It's not a perfect picture but there is a 1/2 round Kryvaline black sponge for face painting. It is smack dab on top of the black duct tape. :( The next item is a brush cleaner of some kind. My pink brush soap is The Face Painting Shop brand. The two smaller brushes are the Kryvaline brand round sizes #1, and #3. When I first bought rounds (round brushes) I spent probably over $100 just on rounds that ended up not being used nearly as much as these two Kryvalines. The first large brush is the 3/4" short angled brush from The Face Painting Shop. It does not have to necessarily be these, but it should be designated face painting brushes; regardless.

Now, this is the hard part. I recommend getting a palette of high quality water activated face painting colors. Please ignore any brands that you can buy at the supermarket. It's kind of like making chocolate chip cookies with imitation chocolate chips and 'vanillan'. The one shown here is Mehron Paradise AQ in the most basic colors. Mehron face paint smells divine! The huge drawback is that it is a palette that is generally fixed paint pots. An advantage is that it has an attached mirror. This brands palette is one of my favorites because the colors are so deep. There is not a prettier red for a spider man design. If you have more money to spend I would re-direct you to the Kryvaline kit for professionals. This one (not pictured) has brushes, sponges, the paint pots are all free to hold. I will pro-hack this kit in a future blog post. However; I will assume you are less able to afford this $70 price point item at this time. A backup 32 ounce TAG or other comparable white face paint pot is also on the list.

Things not photographed: needed to be added are a few more basics: a few sheets of paper toweling, a cup or mug half filled with water in which to rinse brushes, and thick white paper to practice on.

Now let's get some practice in!

The easiest and most valuable method for face painting with a stencil is that the spray count is two. Two spritzes on the kabuki brush is enough water to activate a paint that is not going to slide underneath the edges of the stencil. If you use 2 spritzes on the paint OR on the brush and the design does not want to pounce onto the paper below, try 1 additional spray on the paint itself. Re-try the stencil pattern over paper.

With 2 spritzes directly on the kabuki brush bristles only I swirled over the blue Mehron until it seemed pretty dry. I was able to pounce on the stencil about 7 small and one large star noted at the green 1. Without adding more water I moved the stencil to spot 2 and tried 3 more stars. You can already see I need more water on the brush, at this point 1 more spray and swirl into the blue again might be all I would need to not have faded stars. Without adding more water I moved the stencil to spot 3 and it was very obvious I needed more water. The stars became very faded.

This time I switched to a different dry kabuki brush. I sprayed the bristles directly 2 times. Then I loaded the red until it felt very dry. The stars at the green 1 were accomplished from that load. Then I gave the bristles only one more spray and re-loaded the brush on the red and moved the stencil to spot 2 and was able to pounce the new stars here without any fading. Then I spritzed the brush bristles 1 more time, re-loaded on the red and was able to pounce over the moved stencil at spot 3 with no fading. So this is the point at which I felt the stenciling was perfect. Let's try a little more water. If we can discover where the stencil starts to bleed and ruin the design, we will gain some knowledge as to when we need to pull back and not ruin our face painting designs. When I first started stenciling I would ruin designs ALL THE TIME! Simply because I over hydrated my brush (or my paint). I began using only dry stenciling with Starblends Mehron because I got sick of ruining designs! Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of designs that do NOT look fabulous without the proper moist stenciling patterns.

So, here we can see that 3 sprays worked pretty well. The design still looked decent at 4 sprays but by the time I got to 5 sprays the design started to leak onto the underside of the stencil. When in doubt, stick with one or two sprays after the initial load up and do fewer stars at a time.

Also, this is watercolor paper which is pretty absorbent, so keep in mind to try stenciling on your leg or calf to get used to how the stencil works on skin. Practice often until you feel confident that you won't ruin your designs.

Keep in mind that on a hot dry day you might be more likely to ruin a design as you often need to increase your # of sprays by 1 or 2. Try not to get crazy with it, at 90 degrees outside it might take 3-4 to load and 2-3 in between loads. The speed that water dries out in different weather varies. I have been guilty of smearing the stencil because it's so hot I overestimate my water needs. :(

I hoped this helped you with stenciling dear new face painter (or younger me...).

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