September 9th, 2016
We defy anyone to be immune to the awe and intrigue of bodypainting. The earliest and most primal of make-up styles, if your hands are itching to pick up a brush and try it for yourself then you’re in luck – whether you’re a bridal MUA or SFX artist, we at Warpaint have put together the ultimate bodypainting starter kit for you, complete with advice from professional bodypainters. It’s time to get painting!
Let’s start with the most the important part: the paint. If you have a background in Special FX make-up or prosthetics, you’re probably quite aware of the many different kinds of paint out there, but if you aren’t sure of the differences or what you really need to get started, here is a quick rundown of your options.
Water-based is probably what most people would immediately call to mind when you think of bodypaint; these are generally the type used for party face paints, and are very similar to actual cakes or palettes. Water-based comes in two types: glycerine- or wax-based. If you are starting from scratch and want just a few colours to begin your kit, glycerine-based aqua paints are a great place to start. As both activated and removed with water, if you mess up or want to change part of your look, it’s very easy to remove. Make sure you have wipes on hand and you’ll be fine. This also means that whoever you paint on, whether it be yourself or your model, need only to hop in the shower for the look to be washed away quickly and easily without excessive staining.
The other big benefit is their flexibility – with just a small amount of water they’re so easy to mix, allowing you to create almost any shade you could possibly want. You can experiment with the amount of water you add, allowing you to play with the transparency or opacity on the skin. When left to dry properly for a few minutes, you can layer colours over one another quite easily as well. Wax-based, on the other hand, is considerably less comfortable than glycerine-based; thicker in texture, and heavier, they do create more pigmented and opaque lines which make them perfect for outlining. They’re quicker drying than glycerine-based paints so you will have to work more speedily as well, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re pressed for time on a project.
However, every hero has their hamartia and water-based paint is no exception. Aqua paints will last a while in the right conditions, but will come off if your model gets particularly sweaty. If you’re only learning or practising it shouldn’t be too much of an an issue to avoid overly hot environments, though its certainly something to bear it in mind when you start doing jobs which might require your model to go under hot lighting.
Another easy trap to fall into is buying a bunch of cheap water-activated colours or children’s face paints, thinking that you need a wide variety of colour, even if they are of poor quality – don’t worry, you don’t. Cheap, kiddie ones are not designed to be used professionally, so won’t create the same look as the pro ones and will probably stain skin for a while. Instead, Paintopia co-creator Catriona Finlayson suggests investing in the primary colours, which can be mixed to create almost any basic colour you could need. The next step would be to purchase good black and white paints to help create lighter and darker shades of the colours. Playing with highlights and shadows is a crucial skill when dealing with a live, 3D canvas, so this is one area where you shouldn’t skimp.
Finally, liquid cream can also prove very helpful when it comes to painting a large base colour, or if you prefer working with the texture and fluidity of a liquid. They’re great for covering hair and easy to use when you require a quick fix of pigment.
If you’re looking for glycerine-based paints, it’s worth looking at the Mehron Paradise AQ Paint (£10.49), Graftobian Pro Paint (£12.99) and MAC Chromacake (£22.00) – although these are highly pigmented and have a tendency to stain – don;t say we didn’t warn you!
Cream is another option, and if you already work with prosthetics and SFX, you’ll probably own a cream wheel. While you might regularly reach for them to create bruises and other contusions, if you have them on hand they are a great place to start for your bodypainting. They’re also better suited than water-activated on latex prosthetics or bald caps. If you are looking to start learning both SFX and bodypainting, a combined purchase could work well and potentially even save you money. These do take a while to dry, but can be set with translucent powder to give it more staying power. Do be careful though – because these creams do not require an activator it makes them easily transferable to everything your model comes into contact with.
Once you have your paints it’s time for tools. To apply an all over base, Cat recommends Fantasy Worldwide Sponges (£4.50 for 10). She would also suggest avoiding latex sponges, as when used with water-based products they can leave your paint looking smeary and patchy. Stipple sponges, the same as those used for SFX make-up, can create some fun textures and are great for experimenting with; try the Screenface Stipple Sponge (£2.00) or the very fine Stipple Sponge (£1.75).
As for brushes, the Cameleon range is a good place to start with the 1” Flat Brush (£8.00), with its wide handle and ease of control, yet the thick brush is ideal for applying a large base. An alternative 1” brush would be the Loew Cornell brush (£7.10), which has really densely packed bristles to pick up plenty of paint, and will last years if treated well. For thinner lines, Cat doesn’t recommend anything smaller than the Cameleon Number 4 Liner Brush, (£3.50) as it can create the delicate lines whilst still being easy to control, and holds enough paint to make the lines visible and worthwhile.
For stippling effects, Cat endorses using a flat top, angled kabuki brush such as the Royal and Langnickel [R]EVOLUTION® ANGLE KABUKI Brush (£18.49), or indeed the Crown KB8 Angled Kabuki (£7.99) as a slightly more affordable option. You could also use a stippling brush, which may already be in your beauty make-up kit. A readily available option is the Real Techniques Stippling brush (£11.99) which you can pick up from Boots or Superdrug.
Finally, whether you’re nervous about putting paint to skin or like to plan your designs using face charts, you can purchase wipeable practice boards (£8.00) which are available for the face only or indeed the entire body. Speaking of the entire body, we would also recommend keeping a stash of No VPL underwear in your kit that is the same tone as the model’s skin – or as close as you can get – along with plenty of nipple covers, such as these disposable Pretty Perfect Nipple Daisies (£3.99). Also handy is a setting spray, such as the Kryolan Setting Spray (£20.50), to keep your art looking perfect for longer.
We hope we’ve whetted your appetite, and a huge part of bodypaint is learning which products, applicators and techniques work for you. It’s a discipline unto itself so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t all go smoothly – take your time, practice and happy painting!