Halloween Face Painting

What makeup professionals know is no longer a secret: You can buy an inexpensive kit of safe, washable face paints and turn your Halloween child into whatever she or he fancies in a matter of minutes!

That's what we learned when we invited Broadway and television makeup artist Joel Mendenhall and his assistant Sadiya Sellers to our studios, along with some willing and curious children. We gave Mendenhall strict instructions: Spend less than $10 for makeup supplies per child (with all materials coming from an everyday drugstore), and take 20 minutes or less to apply the makeup.

The results were stunning. We learned that even the most basic and inexpensive face-painting kit allows you to create professional-level mustaches and beards, animal noses and whiskers, quizzical eyebrows and a scarecrow's face. You can paint on a pirate's bandana that won't come off during the evening's activities. You can paint a panting puppy's tongue under a painted puppy nose.

Fairy princesses can be made more glamorous with fanciful painted eye treatments and glitter, reminiscent of New Orleans Mardi Gras masks. A clown is so adorable after a few simple application steps.

There's more to Halloween face painting than just fun and surprise. There's safety, too. Masks severely restrict vision, leading to accidents. There's also another benefit—with a well-painted face, the rest of the costume can be much less elaborate, saving time and expense.

If you finish off the makeup job with a dusting of powder, it will be less likely to rub off on clothes and upholstery. And at the end of the evening, removing the paint is simple: Just start the cleanup process with commercial pre-moistened towelettes or a wet washrag with baby shampoo, and follow up with a scrubbing with soap and water.

Getting Started

Buy a face-painting kit (from a craft or discount store) that contains the colors you want and has instructions for completing the design that you have in mind.

Although most kits contain safe, washable paints, you might want to do an allergy test on your child. Dab some paint in the crook of the youngster's arm at the elbow. If no rash appears after 12 hours, you can proceed.

Sit your child in a chair that is high enough that you can work on the face without bending over. Tie the hair away from the face. Most kits come with applicators, but you may find that you are more comfortable working with your own. Soft sponges, like stipple sponges from an art store, are good for applying base paints.

Thin paintbrushes or makeup sticks or crayons from the kit are good for making lines. Your own powder puff is best for finishing off the face painting. You can use baby powder to set the paints and brush off the excess with a cosmetic brush.

A Basic Kit

  • Foundation makeup (often white, sometimes in a tube)
  • Four or more colored makeups
  • Black makeup pencil
  • Paint sticks or crayons in various colors
  • Application sponges
  • Application brushes
  • Step-by-step instructions with pictures

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