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Become a Master at Halloween Face Painting With This Step-by-Step Guide

Anyone can make magical makeup effects with this guide and a little practice — yep, even you!

Sarah Burns · about 1 month ago

Face Paint Cover

Every October, parents are suddenly expected to become masters of dramatic costuming and dazzling makeup artistry. If you’re not a pro makeup artist, or feel like you have no creative skills to speak of, helping your kid fulfill their spook-tacular fantasies can seem pretty scary. But never fear, Halloween help is here! We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to create amazing face-painting effects for Halloween.

Worried You're Not an Artist?

Not an Artist

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That’s okay! You don’t need to be a trained artist to pull off a cool face paint design. Fortunately, most face painting designs follow the same basic steps:

  1. 1.

    Prep the skin and your work area

  2. 2.

    Block in color shapes from lightest to darkest

  3. 3.

    Add details in black

  4. 4.

    Add highlights in white

Gather Your Supplies

Face Paint Supplies

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There’s no need to break that piggy bank. Before you buy, gather up all the materials you can find at home — you’ll probably find you have way more to work with than you thought! Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Black eyeliner

  • Paper towels

  • Face wipes

  • Cotton swabs

  • A cup of water to add to the face paints

  • Paint brushes of various sizes

  • Lipstick, blush, and/or eyeshadows

  • Reference image of the look you’re trying to achieve

  • Work surface (consider covering this area in old newspapers to catch any spills)

  • Comfy seating for the person being painted, and the person painting

  • Face, hair, and body glitter (check out The Glitter Guide for our rundown!)

  • Water-based, kid-friendly makeup palette with different colors

Water-based, kid-friendly makeup brands offer lots of color variety and are easy on the skin. We recommend Snazaroo Halloween Face Paint Sticks for outlining and for adding highlights, and the Snazaroo Face Paint Kit Ultimate Party Pack, which contains pretty much every color you’ll need to create endless designs. Store in a cool dry place, and you can get year after year of Halloween creations with just this one pack!

Get Ready

Halloween Prep

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Especially if you’re new to face painting, a bit of prep work is a must! Follow these steps to set up for face-painting success and you’ll save yourself time, money, and stress. 

  1. 1.

    Gather all your materials ahead of time — so you’re not scrambling to find extra black eyeliner while you're right in the middle of painting a row of skull teeth.

  2. 2.

    Figure out your best work space — it might not be the bathroom! Consider the lighting, the comfort of the face painter and paintee, the mirror placement, and how to position everything you’ll need within reach.

  3. 3.

    Practice makes perfect! Doing a practice run or two before the big day can save you a lot of stress in the long run.

  4. 4.

    About 30 minutes before painting time, wash and dry the area to be painted, and apply good face moisturizer. This will help protect the skin from irritation, and will make the makeup easier to remove later.

  5. 5.

    Give yourself ample time to apply your face-painting creation, so there’s no need to rush the details!

Have Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive Skin

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Avoid allergic reactions, irritated skin, and watering eyes with these basic guidelines.

  • Always do a small “patch test” on the skin before covering the face in makeup.

  • Avoid using cheap drugstore Halloween makeup kits around the eyes; opt for actual eye makeup made for sensitive eyes, or avoid makeup around the eyes altogether.

  • Make sure to apply a moisturizer for sensitive skin at least 30 minutes before you begin.

  • Don’t scrub the skin when it’s time to remove the makeup — make sure you have a gentle makeup remover on hand!

Streaky Colors?

Mom Face Painting

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You’ve covered your kiddo’s face in makeup, but it’s transparent and uneven. Now what?

  • Water-based paints need to be applied in layers, and the first layer will probably look the streakiest. Wait for each layer to dry completely before applying the next. 

  • If you’re accidentally removing the layer you just did while trying to apply the next one, you’re probably using too much water. Blot your brush, and wait for the layer to dry before fixing.

Made a Mistake?

Cat

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It happens to everyone at some point — even professionals!

  • Don’t panic! 

  • Water-based makeup can be easily touched up or erased with a wet cotton swab. Wait for the area to dry completely before covering it up, or trying again.

  • Work with it! Mistakes happen, and face paint doesn’t need to be perfect. Chances are your mistake is more noticeable to you than to anyone else, and sometimes it’s best to press on, trust the process, and complete the look. When you’re finished, you’ll probably find that mistake really doesn’t look so bad after all!

Trouble Taking It Off?

Removing Face Paint

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Resist the temptation to scrub, and try these more gentle methods for makeup removal when the witching hour comes to an end.

  • First, remove what you can with a gentle makeup remover facial wipe, like this one by Cetaphil. Then wash with your usual facial wash, and pat dry with a microfiber cloth. 

  • Red pigments really like to hold on. Skip the scrubbing and skin irritation; use a dab of mineral or baby oil on a soft cloth, and hold against the area so it can be absorbed into the skin first before wiping away. No mineral or baby oil? Canola, coconut, and olive oils will work just as well. Wipe away excess oil with micellar water and a soft cloth. 

  • Give your skin some aftercare with a soothing face mask! Pro-tip: store them in the fridge for a cooling skin treat. The Fashion Angels Moisturizing Avocado Face Mask 4-pack is perfect for a post-trick-or-treating sugar-free pick me up. 

Now that you've mastered the face-painting basics, learn how to make these amazing looks!

Make a Tiger, Dog, Fox, Doe, or Zebra

Make a Mermaid, Dragon, Unicorn, Sun, or Moon

Make Spooky Halloween Designs With Face Paint

Transform yourself into a zombie, a skull, a creepy doll, a pumpkinhead, or even a horned monster with these spooky face-paint how-tos!

Find Costumes, Toys, and Not-Too-Spooky Stories in Our Halloween Collection