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How to Paint a Fun Camping Scene

Camping season is upon us, something my family and I love to do all summer long! Right now all the campgrounds are closed due to Covid, but we didn’t let that stop us! We took our camper down to my in-laws’ house last weekend and camped in their driveway, for a socially distant, outdoor visit! It was good for all of us to get out beyond the grocery store, and see some humans we know in 3-D! So, since we’ve had camping on the brain, I thought I’d put together a tutorial for you! Watch the video below, or right here on YouTube. Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel for more tutorials to come! Thanks for stopping by, and happy painting!

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Step by Step Video Tutorial: Silly Snake!

I came up with this design years ago, and it got a lot of great reaction on social media! So, I thought I would put together a step by step video tutorial for you! This is one of my favorite and most popular snake designs. It can be easily adapted to fit within the time you have, and adjusted based on how wiggly your canvas is! 😉 You can add or leave out the background texture, or just do a solid color. Add extra glitter details, or leave them off. Here I added a little red liquid bling to the tongue! You can even add real google eyes in place of the painted iris/pupils! Try painting the snake in fun colors like pink or blue…the possibilities are endless!

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Achieving Clean, Crisp Stencil Designs

The popularity of stencils in the face & body art world has grown immensely in the past decade, as is evident by the sheer number of options available out there! In the past, body artists mainly used stencils for airbrush (because they are essential to controlling your paint), or as a “cheat” for those who weren’t able to paint basic shapes freehand. Today, however, stencils are considered an essential tool, valued by even the best and most talented professional artists. As professional artists, given endless time and an inanimate canvas, many of us are quite capable of painting intricate repetitive designs. However, the reality of our jobs is such that time is a huge factor. Stencils allow us to create intricate textures and impressive designs in a timeframe that matches the length of patience our models have to sit still!

Halftone patterns are great for super heroes and that comic book feel! I like to use it as a background to extend a design too, like this Minion.
This design is done entirely with stencils, using the Bam-Pax Hero set.
Stencils can be used in reverse as well. Here, the flame stencil blocks out the flaming foreground to paint the black background.
I use stencils most often to add quick and intricate textures, like cheetah prints and this reptile scale pattern!

Most artists who are just getting into stencils will tell you that they are way harder to use than they originally thought. It’s that classic conundrum of professionals making something look SO easy! Stencils are supposed to make designs perfect, uniform, and fast, right? Well, if you don’t choose the right combination of tools and techniques for your design, and don’t practice enough to get a feel for those tools’ limits, it can result in disaster. Stencils take skill and practice, just like anything else.

Before we talk about the 3 main challenges of stenciling, let’s take a quick look at the types of makeup and tools available, because understanding these options will help you choose the right tools for the job.

Types of Makeup

Generally there are 3 types of makeup that face & body artists use with stencils. Pressed powders, water based makeup and airbrush. For the sake of this post we’ll just talk about powders and water based makeup because they are what most face painters start with, and come with the biggest challenges as far as getting a crisp image.

As you can see, they both have their pros and cons. I personally use both types of makeup for my stenciling, and which one I use depends on the design. Hopefully by the end of this post you’ll get a better idea of which makeup works best for what you’re doing.

Stenciling Tools

Once you choose the makeup you want to use, you need to choose a way to apply it. Here are a few of my favorite tools for stenciling.

Foam Blenders – Use these when you’re applying powder.
Small Pore Sponge – Use these when you’re applying water based makeup and covering larger areas with your stencil. (Larger pore sponges can work well on sturdy stencils too)
Finger Daubers – Use these when you’re applying water based makeup and want more precise control, for example, you only want to use a small portion of the stencil. They can also work for powder based makeup. Press/dab if the stencil is very delicate; twist/scrub if it is more durable.
Mini Kabuki Brush – Use these for water based makeup, especially on very intricate/delicate stencils. It can be pounced or swirled. Use these if you don’t want to accumulate a lot of dirty sponges/daubers as they can be rinsed between colors more easily.

There are three big hurdles we fight when painting with stencils. Prickly bits, water, and contrast/coverage.

Prickly Bits

I tend to categorize my stencils into two camps: delicate and sturdy. Delicate stencils can be gorgeous but finicky and easily broken. I don’t banish them from my kit…I simply have to treat them more carefully. Sturdy stencils can be used and abused, and still work just as well years down the road. Does your stencil have super intricate details, or large shapes? Does it have any pointy, delicate pieces that can easily bend or lift away from the surface? I like to call these “prickly bits.” Prickly bits are those small, pointy shapes that protrude into an open space in your stencil. Having tiny details and prickly bits in your stencil can make things more challenging. Sponges tend to catch on prickly bits, bending up your stencil, and so do wipes when you’re trying to clean them off.

If you’re not sure whether your stencil has “prickly bits,” gently curve/bend it while looking down the edge. If it has delicate areas, you’ll see them stick out around the bend.

Prickly bits!
Sturdy Stencil; no prickly bits!

Tiny, intricate details are also very easily lost if you don’t have the right tool to paint with, or just the right amount of water. Here are a few tips for conquering those prickly bits:

  • Use a mini kabuki brush instead of a sponge. Stencils must be flat and tight against the skin where you’re painting in order to create a crisp design, and sponges can easily catch on those prickly bits, bending and pulling up your stencil and messing up your design. A mini kabuki brush can be brushed/swirled over the stencil or pounced over the design without catching. They are also easy to clean, and help keep your fingers clean!
  • When applying your makeup in a brushing action (as opposed to stippling), be sure to brush from the outside of the stencil inward, or in the direction of the prickly bits rather than against them, to avoid catching them whenever possible or forcing paint underneath them.
  • When cleaning stencils with delicate, prickly bits, dunk them in your rinse water first. This loosens the paint, and then you can lie it flat on a towel and press to dry and remove paint.
Prickly bits can catch on sponges.
Try a mini kabuki instead!

Water

Most professional artists use water based makeups, so it’s a bit ironic that water is one of the biggest enemies of a clean, crisp stencil design. Too much water, and your design will bleed under the stencil, leaving more of a blob. Too little, and you won’t see the entire shape/texture. This is one of those factors of stenciling that simply takes practice to master. Once you get the feel of how much water is just right, you’ll start seeing better results. In general, it’s best to use as little water as possible for a clean, crisp stencil design. Here are a few tips to help control your water levels:

  • If you want more precise control, use small daubers instead of a large sponge. Our finger daubers and mini daubers do a great job of applying paint in precise areas, while giving you just enough sponge to do the job. The more sponge you have, the more likely you are to soak up too much water. Daubers tend to be thinner and make it easier to control the water.
  • If you’re covering a larger area, use a sponge with small pores like our foam wedge sponges or mini petal sponges. Larger pores are more likely to soak up more water than you need.
  • Glycerine based paint (such as Paradise) tends to be more forgiving than wax based paint when it comes to stencils. Load your sponge or kabuki with as little water as possible, so that it is more tacky than wet.

Contrast & Coverage

Achieving a good contrast is essential for the viewer to be able to see your design. A perfect stencil transfer doesn’t do much good if it blends in with the background it is on. When creating a dark stencil design over a light background, this is less of an issue. But painting light colors over a dark background can get problematic. There are ways around this issue though!

  • Powdered makeups tend to be a little more translucent, so they work best when you apply a dark powder over a light background.
  • Powdered makeups work best when they have a base to stick too. See the examples above for the difference when applied over bare skin vs makeup, primer or glycerine. Notice the change in contrast.
  • Be careful not to let powder “fall out” mess up your design! After loading a lollipop blender, give it a little tap over the makeup cake to knock off loose powder.
Give your blender a light tap to remove excess powder and reduce fallout.
  • Water based makeups are good to achieve opaque coverage directly on bare skin.
  • When painting a light stencil pattern over a dark background, the background color can bleed through. To combat this, lay the stencil on, use a clean brush or makeup wipe to remove the background paint inside the stencil pattern, then apply your light color makeup and remove the stencil. This will keep your light color bright because you’ll only have skin behind it, vs the darker makeup background.
Use a wipe to remove the background color.

This enables you to put bright, lighter patterns against darker backgrounds!

While unfortunately there is no one “trick” to achieving perfect, crisp stencil design transfers, there are methods to help guide you down the right path as far as how to achieve that crisp, clean look. Which method to use is determined by many factors that vary depending on the design. I hope that this post has given you a better understanding of what methods and tools work best for the task at hand! Got more questions I haven’t answered? Have a great tip to share for achieving great stencil results? Post your thoughts in the comments!

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How to Clean Your Brushes

(This is the 3rd in our “cleaning series!” Click here to see our post on cleaning your brush tub, and click here to see our post on cleaning your practice head!)

Taking good care of your brushes is absolutely essential if you want to have clean, crisp linework and brushes that last more than one gig!

This is what I do to my brushes at the end of each gig or practice session.  It’s the same method taught to me by my college painting instructor….

First, pump a small amount of liquid hand soap into your palm.

Next, add just a tiny bit of water.

Now, swirl your brushes around in your soapy palm in a circular motion.

Rinse the brushes…it doesn’t hurt to repeat this process either, until your soap and water are clear in your palm. 

It’s always a good general rule when using a brush to avoid getting any paint so far into the bristles that it touches the ferrule.  However, in our industry and the speed with which we work, this can be almost impossible for face painters. 

If you find that you have paint up inside the base of the bristles and the ferrule, after you do one cleaning and rinsing of your brush, add some more soap and water again.  Then, with the brush pointing up, firmly grasp the tip of your brush with your fingertips, and the handle with your other hand.  Work the soap and water down into the base of the bristles and the ferrule by moving the handle in a circular motion, as if you were cranking a fishing reel.

You’ll see the soap work it’s way down into the ferrule, while the spinning motion will scrub the bristles together, loosening paint.  Now, thoroughly rinse the brush to get the paint and soap out of the ferrule.

Once your brushes are clean and rinsed, gently dry them and squeeze excess water out of the bristles with a towel.

(If you really want to get serious about extending the life of your brushes, check out our new assortment of Loew-Cornell brush cleaning jars, pads, and fluid!)

You’re not done yet! 

This next step is really important, and critical for keeping a nice point to your brushes.

Grasp the base of your bristles with your fingertips, right where they come out of the ferrule. Pull the brush back while you squeeze and re-form the bristles into a nice point.

Clean, formed bristles, ready to air dry.

Do the same with your flat brushes, only with these you will press them flat as you pull the brush back.

Now, lay them FLAT to dry. I lay mine on a towel.  Never store them with the bristles pointing up while wet.  This allows the water to seep down into the ferrule, eventually loosening it from the handle and sometimes even rotting the handle.

Better yet, you can even hang them upside down to dry.  This draws the moisture down and out of the bristles.  We actually carry a wonderful little Brush Well made by Loew-Cornell ($6 on Paintertainment.com), which not only stores your brushes safely so that the bristles aren’t touching anything, but the foam that holds the brushes and the string attached also allows you to hang the entire container upside down for drying.

Once they are fully dried, they are safe to put away in your storage container of choice!  Or, if you use the brush well, simply screw on the lid and you’re ready for your next gig!

Got any other cleaning and care methods that you swear by? Please do share with us in the comments!  Thanks for visiting and happy painting!  🙂

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Dramatic Celebrity Face Paint Ideas for Halloween Costumes

Nobody wants to show up for a Halloween party and be asked, “so who are YOU supposed to be?!”  Choosing a Halloween persona that incorporates face painting is a great way to achieve the full effect and really look like who you’re trying to look like!

There are many movie characters, musicians & celebrities that can easily be mirrored with a little face paint! Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking this Halloween…

 Lady Gaga – Pretty much anything goes, but the above looks can be achieved with Aquacolor paints in the color of your choosing using brushes, paired up with some glitter, glitter spray, or go all out with some acrylic rhinestones attached with eyelash adhesive or spirit gum!

The Mad Hatter from Alice – Use some clown white or aquacolor white for a base, applied with a round or wedge sponge.  Then feather on the pink/red around the cheeks and eyes using Aquacolor paint with a wide brush or a sponge. (Don’t forget the makeup remover if you use the clown white or other Supracolor paint as it is not water based)

The Queen of Hearts from Alice – Use some clown white or aquacolor white for a base, applied with a round or wedge sponge.    Then add the blue eyelids and red heart shape over the lips using blue and red Aquacolor paint or supracolor paint and a brush.  Use a fine brush and black Supracolor or Aquacolor black for the little mole and black eyebrows.  OR, try a black Pro pencil or a bottle of Detailz!  You could even achieve this whole look using one 6-color Supracolor palette. (Don’t forget the makeup remover if you use the clown white or other Supracolor paint as it is not water based)

Captain Jack Sparrow – Use a brush with some Aquacolor white, black, and green to paint his extra eyes!

The Joker – Try wrinkling up your face while blotting on some Aquacolor white paint with a sponge.  This will help achieve those “cracks” of no paint where the wrinkles are.  Then get some red for the mouth and apply with a brush, and do a mix of black and green around the eyes.  Put a little extra water in the black and red to allow it to bleed into the cracks and you’ve got yourself one creepy looking Joker face!

KISS – Try some clown white or aquacolor white for a base applied with a round or wedge sponge.  Then add the black details with a brush and black Aquacolor paint.  Use metallic silver around the eyes if that’s the face you choose!

Blue Man Group – That’s an easy one!  Get an all black outfit and paint your head blue with Aquacolor paint! Use a round or wedge sponge to get quick coverage. (Pick up a skull cap if you’re not bald, or go all out and shave your head!)

Be sure to sign up for our FREE e-newsletter too if you haven’t already…the next one will be coming out in just days and will include a cute step-by-step Halloween bat cheek art design, as well as some really cool “sugar skull” designs!

Got something awesome planned for this Halloween involving face paint?  We’d love to see how it turns out and post your photos!  Contact me if you’d like to share your costume ideas, past or present!