Facepaint UK Blog


Sep 1, 2021

Aggie used to be our resident Agony Auntie. We’ve reproduced the questions and answers here as not much changes in the land of face painting! Everything she covered is just as pertinent now.

Charity Case?
Hello Aggie

I have found lately that I am being asked to face paint at lots of fund raising and charity events, where do you draw the line and do you have any good tips on how to deal with this without losing out financially. Charity work is a tender subject and I'm finding that I'm getting a bit lost in what’s acceptable in terms of my business. Thanks, Z

Hi Z, It can be a problem to be overloaded with too many of these kinds of requests, especially if you suffer from twinges of guilt in the face of good causes, but there are several ways to approach it.

There is no reason why you, as a sole trading small business, should donate your time and skill to a charity just because you deal with children. Your time and skill is the only asset you have to sell! It may be worth letting them know that you try to earn your living from doing this, I think many people believe that facepainters just do it for fun! Other businesses that they approach may have much healthier profit margins and can tax deduct goods donated. You can't even tax deduct your time, and you may lose out on a paid booking as their event is likely to be at the same prime times as everyone else's.

You may like to select one or two charities or deserving causes that you feel personally drawn to support, and draw the line there. Then you can genuinely say that you have filled your quota of charity work for the month/year.

You could offer options that mean that they get the facepainting that they want to enhance their event, you get a reasonable return and they may also even get a little extra income. Point out that your attendance will add something extra to their event and that any income is secondary, overall enjoyment and quality of the event is also important. Even advertising facepainting is a bonus for them to attract visitors. If you feel that they are only interested in the money you could raise for them, perhaps decline as they are likely to be disappointed.

These are options that may work:

1. You attend and give them 10% of your takings. This is at your risk as they may not have a great attendance. Some people advocate 10% of profit, but my feeling is that this is overly complicated, and they are likely to feel that you are not being honest as they will have little or no understanding of how much paints and materials cost. You might like to deduct any substantial travel expenses, but I wouldn't advocate travelling too far.

2. You attend at their expense and give them all of your takings. You may like to offer a discounted rate, maybe 20% less than your normal fee as there is no risk to you. Make it clear that there is a discount on your invoice by stating the full price, and then deduct the discount. They will probably end up subsidising the facepainting - let them know how many you can do in an hour @ £x per face and let them do the maths.

3. They make ask for you to pay a 'pitch fee'. In this case you need to be absolutely sure that there will be good attendance, so ask if the event has happened before and what the attendance figures were. Ask if there is anything else to attract children or is it the sort of event that only adults are likely to be interested in. Is it at a time of day when children over age 3 will be in school? Remember that you will probably only paint children, which can be one child attached to 2 adults, I would say you should only consider this if the attendance is over 1000 people, and in general it's not the best way to go unless it is a very low fee (maybe £20) and you feel you can make enough to cover the fee and come away smiling.

Do not let them set the price for facepainting as they may suggest something stupid like 50p or £1. If they really think that people won't afford more than that, either they may be ignorant of the market price, or they are in a genuinely poor area. Do try to find out which it is!

Be clear about how many people you can paint per hour, many imagine that you will get through hundreds in the blink of an eye and make the legendary mythical fortune!

If you are doing discounted work, try and keep it local so that you can hand out lots of business cards and treat it as an advertising opportunity. This doesn't work as well if it is outside your 'catchment' area as you are most likely to pick up private parties which are short bookings that you won't want to travel so far for.

Most work comes from being seen, so it really can help your business even if you're not earning what you would like to, but make sure they understand that it is a discounted or special rate. You don't want them telling their friends how cheap you are!

Do try to find out what the attendance is expected to be. Your time is valuable, with the best will in the world there's nothing worse that wasting it on an event where nobody turns up. They can be very positive about the event that they are spending their time and energy organising, but what is the reality from you perspective?

If you do agree to attend, treat it as any other professional booking, don't back out because you get a better offer, arrive on time and act as you normally would. You never know, next time there could be a bigger budget!

If it is clear that they are not going to afford any outlay, suggest that they buy a small palette of paints (from Facepaint UK?) and have a go themselves. They may come back to you next time when they discover how difficult and expensive facepainting is!

In my experience, hiring a professional facepainter is not a good way to raise funds, but it's a great way to create a successful event!

Good luck,


Corporate Rates
I have become a little stumped on charging a different rate for corporate events.
I have been charging and quoting the same rate as my hourly rate for parties and found that line ups have been long and I have noticed that I would have earned more money charging per face. I have always been a little stuck on finding a comfortable rate of my services. I have been face painting in Canada at the local markets and I only have one other facepainter that I am in competition with. Facepainting in the little city I live is limited and they have not seen it done at a professional level, which is to my advantage.
The lady whom I am in competition with has no training and her paints are not great as the selection is really only from costume rental shops, so as you can imagine not great.

I have been charging 6 dollars per face, 100 dollars for an hour and an extra 50 dollars for any hour after that. This is for parties and events.

I do think that I should be charging more for corporate events but honestly I'm stuck on what to charge.

If you have any ideas Aggie on how to charge for such parties and events I would be most grateful for your advice.

I hope you have a clear idea of what I'm getting at as when I return to Canada next spring I will be setting my self up professionally and I am desperate to get it right and feel comfortable in what I am charging.

Thank you so much Aggie, I really appreciate this service as there is only so many times you can ask others there opinions who are not in the business.

Many thanks, Z x

Dear Z,

Corporate work is generally priced differently, this is for two reasons.

1. You are guaranteed a sum for the work, which is usually longer than a party, so a higher amount for 'going out for the day' but less per hour. In general going to a booking at all is regarded as the bulk of the cost.
2. Even if you feel would have made more as pay per face (if it has been busy); you don't have the risk that you won't!

If you are finding that you spend a lot of time fighting with the queue or are seriously compromising what you do to accommodate long queues on a regular basis - something is wrong. Either the customer has underestimated the popularity or is trying to get too much for their dollar. Do it once in innocence, but not twice, suggest a second painter for the next booking.

Or maybe you didn't make it clear what your potential is. Many people who make a booking will have no idea what is reasonable to expect unless you tell them. This goes for quality and speed. It is an opportunity to be positive about your skills, and realistic about how fast you are for such good work (not how slow!) 10 an hour is the norm. Most painters can do more than this, but after about 15 an hour quality is bound to suffer. The London School of Facepainting does run a class on Speed Painting that covers what detail you can afford to lose and still produce work to be proud of.

Do your best to manage queues with signs/ticketing/queue minders if necessary. It will make life easier for you, and you can concentrate on painting.

I'm not familiar with the value of Canadian Dollars, but $6 per face against $100 an hour would imply that you are expecting to complete over 16 an hour, which is high. That's about 3 1/2 minutes per child, including getting them in and out of the chair, telling you what they want and making the experience enjoyable. A tall order!

Then again for a 2 hour booking @ $150 it's more reasonable at about 12 an hour, but you are still expecting a lot of yourself, if you think $6 a face is about right.

Equally, on pay per face you need to be aiming to earn more to cover the risk that you won't have many customers and some icing on the cake if you do. This is why the two pricing structures aren't comparable.

So, to set a rate for longer corporate work (let's say 5 hours?) you almost need to work from the other end - how much are you happy with for a potentially very hard day's work, and the travel involved? How much is going to be acceptable to the client? Is it being booked by someone who is used to booking other entertainers? If you can find out what Balloon Modellers charge locally it would be a good guide to what you can aim for, though in the UK they tend to get considerably more than face painters for some reason. Maybe they are more visual/in costume/some have an 'act'. More are male and expect to make a living, whereas historically women have tended to accept less as a second household income. However, if you don't ask, you can't get a higher rate. Take the risk on asking for more if your rates are a lot lower than other entertainers.

You've not said what the rate is that you are charging for corporate events that you're not happy with, but if it is $100 + $50 an hour for 5 hours = $300, that would equate to 60 faces @ $6, and about right for the number you could do in a 5 hour day with breaks, in fact it should be difficult to better it.

Do be sure to state that you will need one or two breaks, depending on the length of booking, don't expect people to know what you need to be comfortable.

Your competition may not be up to much at the moment, but that may change! It is also a good idea to have someone else to call on for bookings that need more than one painter, so think about actually befriending them, and helping them to improve, or training someone new. Obviously this needs to be thought about carefully.

I hope this helps, let me know if you still have any questions.

Best wishes,


I'm being offered low rates

Hi Aggie, I've recently been contacted by another painter who is offering very low rates for 'corporate' work at Christmas Parties. What do you think the minimum rate should be? A 'Pro Painter'

Hello 'Pro', There is no minimum rate, and of course it will also depend on how long the booking is for, and how far you are expected to travel.

It can be difficult at Christmas time, in one respect rates ought to be higher as it is a busy season, on the other hand
it is an opportunity to work really hard and tuck some money away for the quiet New Year period. You can often get 2 or 3 bookings a day
and this makes it worthwhile accepting lower rates, but you may put your health at risk working so hard.

There are several ways that rates get devalued.

One is simply that face painters aren't recognised as professionals, and indeed some are not. Some will think that £80 is fantastic money
for a couple of hours with kids and turn up with a small palette of dirty paint, a couple of brushes, some dubious sponges, no glitter
and even less idea. It is important that professional painters separate themselves and maintain a decent rate of pay and reject offers
that are below what one might expect from experience. There is work available, and the more we charge (within reason) the more likelihood
there is that it will be recognised as of value, at least as much as balloon modelling! Once respect is generated by maintaining high standards,
so is more work as face painting becomes more universally recognised as desirable.

Another is that the customer is genuinely short of funds; this could be a charity or a local group that is organising a jolly. It is up
to you whether you decide to support these folk, but there should not be an agent taking a commission on work like this, and you should
be put in direct contact with the payer, and be able to negotiate with them, they may be able to find a little more if you can be persuasive!

All too often painters like to set themselves up as little agents and make extra money by taking a commission. There is a justification
for this if they know their job and know their painters, and are prepared to be responsible for prompt payment (even if things go wrong
with their client). I have heard many stories of ‘new kids on the block' setting up with grand ideas of world domination :) and booking
dreadful 'painters' in desperation when the crunch comes because they have been very greedy about 'commission' or priced the work badly.
They also manage to persuade the odd decent painter to 'help them out'. Many find it difficult to say no, especially to a fellow painter
offering hard cash. However, these people rarely last long; it is actually a very stressful position to be in!

Helping them out does not help anyone else who has invested in developing their face painting business properly. It doesn't take long
for rates in general to slide downwards, and it can take a long time to persuade them up again, especially if decent results for low rates
have been achieved. It is also worth being cautious about requests to 'help out' with your contacts. If they don't have enough of their
own, this could be a good indication that they are inexperienced and/or not paying enough.

There are many agencies that perpetuate low rates on a 'take it or leave it' basis that can be very disconcerting. You can easily believe
that these rates are normal, such is their confidence. In one respect they are, for those agents, but again if you take the work, you are
assisting in face painting being seen a something people do in their spare time for a bit of fun and some extra pin money, and eventually
you will need another job to make a decent living.

The only exception I would make is students that have the right idea, but need practice in the real world to help them on their way. This
should be clear to the customer, and a lower rate is acceptable, but agents should not be relying on these people to fulfil professional
bookings. They would be well advised to have them shadowed by a more experienced painter who is unusually prepared to generously share
their expertise.

In truth, low rates should net low quality; everyone should get what they pay for!
Display Book

Hi again, This weekend I'm doing facepainting at a school fete for 4-11 year olds. I was wondering if you could send me some images to create a small flip book for the kids to choose from. Got a wonderful range in the books I've bought, but I don't want to photocopy them and I'm not gonna have time to make any personalised drawings of them before then. So any of the quick basic ones covering all the main animals/monsters/decorations would be received extremely gratefully. Many thanks B

Dear B,

I'm afraid you are asking for a personalised display book, and it's not available!

It is seriously frowned upon to display other people's work to choose from, be it photocopied from a book, which contravenes copyright, or otherwise. All face paint internet sites probably state that images are copyright, and you should respect that. Facepaint UK is happy to share specific images for you to be inspired by, or to solve a theme problem or an unusual request, but not for display purposes. I'm sure you will appreciate why. Your display should reflect what you can paint, not just the design.

Why don't you make a display of the names of faces you are confident painting (like tiger, butterfly etc.) written down? This is also very useful if there are several painters with different styles working together. Just write the names on pieces of card, backed with velcro so you can choose which ones to put up on something fuzzy like a display board, or blue tack and a nearby wall would be just as good!

Take pictures of what you do and build up a portfolio of your own work over time, and you will have something to show that will be a true reflection of what you are offering.

Good luck with your event, I'm sure it will go well.



(Update – there are now some laminated display design cards available. We don’t sell them as they do not honestly reflect the skill of the painter displaying them, which is misrepresentation).

Sponge per child?

Dear Aggie, I recently came on your course! Had a great time too ! I am painting for a school xmas fayre on Saturday. Would you advise a clean sponge for every child?........I'll need 100's if that’s the case?......Help..... S

Dear S,

In answer to your query, we do not necessarily advocate a rule of one sponge per child. Whilst it is a nice idea, and we really should promote it as you will use loads more paint and sponges which we can sell you :) if your hygiene practices are good, there really is no absolute need. We would stress that you should be alert at all times for disease or anything that may be contagious, and not paint anyone inappropriately. If there is any doubt after you have started to work on a child, you should put all equipment used in that instance to one side for sterilisation later.

In fact, the supposed security of 'sponge per child' may even make people less careful about contagion and even expose the painter to greater risk. We feel it is better to do a careful safety check as advised on the Starting Professional Facepainting course that you attended before you begin, and if you still feel better using a clean sponge per child, all well and good.

Your equipment should be kept clean in appearance and in fact at all times. Paint generally contains bactericides that assist in germs not multiplying in the pot, something that a sponge per child cannot contend with, you would need to only load a clean sponge once per child, and also use scrupulously clean rinsing water each time using a clean vessel (a disposable cup would do) to take this to its ultimate degree. You would also need to sterilise your brushes between each customer, simple rinsing would not do, and it is not a good idea to add anything to your rinsing water. You can get alcohol based brush cleaners that will sterilise once they are dry, but it will ruin your brushes, especially natural hair ones as the alcohol strips the natural oils.

All this can be a good idea if you are working in a hospital environment where disease abounds and normal immunity is compromised, for example when patients are undergoing chemotherapy. However, the reality of talking these measures for routine face painting is extreme and we think quite unrealistic in relation to the risk presented. There is more advice on working in hospital settings we can give you if this is of interest.

We would suggest that you have a good supply of sponges available to use, about 30 - 50 is usual, so that you are not tempted to use a dirty sponge for lack of another if you have any doubt, or just that you have been using a sponge for a while. I personally find that, for example, my 'pink sponge' needs renewing after using about 3 uses as any blending done with other colours will have made it murky. It is also a good idea to have some spare sponges in your car or kit in case you leave the clean ones drying at home! It's happened to us all!

We have heard that some people in queues are impressed by the use of clean sponges per child, of course everyone will have different ideas about 'dirt'. The widespread introduction of products impregnated with Microban (and other antimicrobials containing Triclosan, which causes concerns) would indicate a degree of paranoia is rife, despite advice that we are all becoming too clean for our own good, and immune systems that are unchallenged are actually more vulnerable.

More information on Triclosan here: http://www.townsendletter.com/May2006/healthrisk0506.htm

All the best,


Peter Pan

Dear Aunt Aggie: I've a 4th birthday party to attend soon with the theme 'Peter Pan' and pirates. Have you any ideas? I think they are likely to be wearing Peter Pan hats/pirate hats, so I can't really paint that on them. Help! xx

Peter Pan themed parties are always a problem, especially as you say - they may already be wearing hats. However, have a little think about what Peter Pan does, perhaps he has few bumps and scrapes on his adventures. You can do these with face paint, or Derma Wax etc., or there are the transfer tattoos of cuts and bruises at Facepaint UK that look very realistic. Little boys would love these! They can be on the face or arms. Obviously pirates like Captain Hook are much easier with eye patches and beards and moustaches, and scars again, try to make them each a bit different. You could also think about a crocodile with a ticking clock! You might also consider some Grimas stars, these are available in gold, silver and multi colour, and can be stuck on with Vaseline or 'stubble paste' (which washes off easily) as the fairy dust that make him fly. They are a bit more 'masculine' than glitter.

Of course, for girls there’s Tinkerbelle, we quite like this quick and simple version by Ashlea Henson if you don’t feel up to painting a convincing fairy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-eYVg7SB7k

Good luck,


Clowning around

I have another party coming up which is clown based - do you have any ideas I could use?

Clowns are a fairly standard face for facepainters, the tradition is that the face is painted white and an expression added on. However, you can usefully break these rules, especially on dark skin as it really doesn't suit a white base. There is also the 'hobo' clown that boys (and girls) may like, there is one in 'Funky Faces', both this and 'Creative Facepainting' are packed with ideas that you will find useful if you have many jobs with different themes. The best white base can be achieved with Grimas Cake white, this is easy to apply evenly without nasty streaks, and colours can be put on top of it without picking up the white underneath so they stay bright. If you have a dark child, and they insist on wanting a light base, it’s a good idea to use Grimas 704 as a pearly base which will please them and look very pretty, but you can also do a 'no base' clown like with perhaps a gold or bronze base so that they don't feel short changed. Make it as neat and colourful as possible, perhaps copying the colours in their clothes. There is a lovely step by step Clown Girl in our archives that you might like to look at. Of course you can't use any of the actual images for displays; they are all subject to copyright. But you are welcome to paint them yourself, and use those photos.

Best wishes,


Christmas Conundrum
Dear Aunt Aggie I have a problem!!!!!! This is the back ground - I contacted a very large retail outlet (3 million customers a year and a large percentage of this over the Christmas period) to see if they would be interested in having a face painter attached to the Santa’s Grotto. I had an interview with one of the directors and it all went very well, but he is a tough businessman and strikes what seems a hard deal. It has been suggested that a trial period is the norm (which I can understand) and I have to give them 50% of any earnings, and not pay any rent for the space. They have said after the trial period we can re-negotiate. So my questions are:

1) What would you consider a normal split of earnings after a trial period? Or should I push for a daily pay instead, but I don’t think they want this.

2) Is it a good thing to tie my self up every weekend for 2-3 months, or do you think there would be more interesting opportunities being more freelance over the Christmas period?

3) Or an easy option would be to see if Bibi would like to take this on, and just employ me and others to do the job. Potentially I think it could be huge, but just don’t feel I have the resources. I don’t know enough face painters that might be interested at this time of year to fulfil the needs of the job, or the skills to manage it all.

I look forward to hearing from you Aunt Aggie

Dear Grotto Girl,

Well done on being proactive in looking for opportunities!

I would press for payment. Christmas is a busy time of year, and if you are looking at providing painters in more than one location, you will find it very difficult to get cover on a 50/50 basis. Think about the maths, how much can you charge, how many faces are you really likely to do and what is 50% of that? Don't forget that mornings will be quiet and you will be anxious to do a long day to maximise income. Think about offering the job to someone else, and whether you think they would react well, why should you be any different?

Why are they even thinking of earning anything from the venture? I'll bet the grotto is costing them a pretty penny, why should facepainting be anything different? I think you have to persuade him that the best you can offer is to subsidise a set cost with any income you can bring in to soften the outlay, but your income should be guaranteed. Worst way, look at getting a lowish basic fee, and then share any income 50/50.

Managing many locations is almost a job in itself, can be very stressful when people pull out because they have a better offer (or have 'flu') and difficult to get recompense for the work involved, the painters may even be resentful that you are earning a 'profit' on their work.

Over the years I have learnt to avoid any situation where you pay rent or are regarded as being done a favour! No other area of entertainment has to negotiate this way.

I hope this helps.


Lil' Wrigglers

Hi Aggie, What is the best way of dealing with wrigglers? I do worry that one day I will end up getting really angry and start shouting! I hold firmly the top of the head but for some that's not enough and designs get ruined when the kids move. Should I try and assess what they'll be like when they sit down? And then not go for anything too complicated? And if they really struggle do I settle for something on the hand and just explain to the parents, if they can't sit still it's impossible? I find boys can be more easily distracted, so Spidermans can be ruined and it makes my work look shoddy, but I feel like a bit of a failure when I can't manage it. And secondly - what is the best queuing strategy? Thank you!!!!

This can be very tricky. One of the things that affects ability to sit still is the age of the child - are they old enough to appreciate what you need them to do to be painted? I don't think it's a good idea to paint children under 3. It might be worth letting them know that they need to sit still to have their face painted before you begin. Then, if they wriggle, you can say that they are not being still enough. I also think it's a good idea to make sure that it is the child that wants to be painted, not the parent that wants their child painted. If they can't tell you want they want for themselves, this can be an indicator that they are not that willing.

The other thing may be to let go of how perfect you expect the design to be, maybe have some quick versions for wriggly kids that aren't so dependent on them sitting still for very long. You can usually tell if they will sit well quite soon when you apply the base, and do just a mask area with a little web for Spiderman for example. It certainly seems that the children who want to be Spiderman are the wriggliest, so you do need some tricks up your sleeve for this one as it is so very structured.

It is also important that the child is sitting up with a straight back. It makes it easier for them to lift their chin, and makes them realise that having your face painted is 'special' as there is a special way of sitting.

It can be difficult if you have pictures on display as the parents may expect it to be exactly the same You could try working without pictures, or having some showing simple designs on small children to give a hint as to what's appropriate.

You shouldn't be fighting with a child to paint them, or ignoring that they are struggling to get away, no matter what the parents say, and you should never give in to the suggestion that the parent holds the child's head while you do it. Imagine how that must feel!

There is no perfect queuing strategy, but you need an orderly queue in one line however many painters there are. You also need it to start some distance from you (like the end of the table at least) so that you are not crowded or jostled. To close a queue you can number them on their hands or hand out raffle tickets, but you will need to make it clear with a sign or a responsible adult at the end to stop people innocently joining. At a busy event it is unfortunately a bad idea to allow people to wander off with tickets or numbers, they may or may not come back at any time and you will spend a lot of time sorting out 'who's next'. I wish it were otherwise! However, numbering can work well in limited situations like a small party where they might want to go off and play games, but don't get lulled into a false sense of security that you are not under pressure just because they are not breathing down your neck!

I'm not sure what problems you are having with your queues but this answers the most common problems.

It sounds like you need to be a bit more assertive and confident all round! Once you’ve cracked that you’ll find that you can have a genuine smile on your face J

Good luck!


Proper Make -up

I've been asked a few times about doing photo shoots, none of which has come to anything, but if it does, and they just wanted "proper" makeup, what kind would you recommend? I saw on facepaint-uk that there is a palette of Grimas cream based skin shades, would these be suitable for photo shoots? Would they need powder on top? Is water used?

The Grimas cream make-up is designed more for theatre use where sweating is an issue. If you ever need to use it, a palette is a good start; you won't ever need to use much. You will need compact powder, or transparent powder which is a better 'catch all' to fix the product and prevent shine. You will need latex sponges to apply the cream, and no, water is not used. Grimas also make a huge range of ‘proper make-up’ including foundation, eye shadows etc. which are very well respected by professional make-up artists. The lip palettes and eye shadow/rouge palettes are also a good way of getting a good range in a neat format. Strict hygiene procedures apply for make-up, you need to start with scrupulously clean everything per person, disposable applicators/mascara brushes etc. and have proper brush cleaners that will remove grease/sanitize brushes that are re-used. As with face painting, it requires a lot of knowledge to specialise, and if you find the a make-up artist is the true requirement, do not exaggerate your skills, See if you know anyone that is already qualified, quite often face painters do both, professionally.

Camera Shy

I just wanted to run something past you which you may have also experienced.
I’m increasingly getting parents using their mobile phones to film me painting their child, which I find rather distracting and invasive. I don’t mind photos in the least but filming feels different somehow.
On occasions when I have said quite politely and gently that I prefer them not to, some have become quite aggressive.
Have you had this at all? And if so, have you said anything or do you just let it go?

Am I making too much of a fuss here? V xx

Hi V, A question for me is, are they filming it because they love their little darling, or because they want a record of how it was done. Most likely the former, and if you are not in the video (apart from your hands) there’s not a lot you can say. It is disquieting though. I’m sure if they had a proper camera they would ask first, it’s almost like because it’s small it doesn’t count! Saying that, I have done plenty of events where media or hired recordists ram a camera in your face without asking, and I am so tempted to poke my tongue out at them! People watching you is one self-conscious hurdle to get over, actually recording your every move, something else. Of course performers quite rightly say ‘no videos’ as their ‘act’ is something they don’t want out there being stolen, but we don’t seem to warrant the same privilege, perhaps because we are paid less?

I’m sure they’d go nuts if a complete stranger came up and started videoing their child (I’ve had that too).

They probably feel that their child is their territory and aren’t thinking about you at all. I’ve often had camera flashes go off directly in my face (or bright video lights) rendering me temporarily blind!

Have you thought of confidently suggesting that they video it when you’ve finished? You can say it will look so much better, keep it as positive as possible and smile. If they persist, ask more firmly ‘could you wait till I’ve finished?’ it’s not the same as saying no, and might be better received. If your suggestions fail, perhaps positioning yourself so that all they get is the back of your head is the answer?

Lost my nerve?

Dear Aggie
I guess I'm feeling a little lost as to what to do now. I have got my ad in yellow pages, put posters up and even have a morning painting at a local cafe. I know my facepainting business will not happen overnight but at the same time I'm wondering if I'm not putting enough into it. I'm not feeling the rush of adrenalin that I get from the classes.

I am also wondering if I am ready to go for my FACE membership yet. Do you think it might be an idea to try to register with an agent or something? Would it be enough that I have the insurance?

I know I sound paranoid but I just enjoy face painting so much I don't want to lose my eagerness and have to pack my paints into the shed because I lost my nerve. love T

Dear T,

Don't Panic! It sounds like you are doing all the right things. Just keep doing nice faces in the café and people will soon ask for your card etc. and the birthday parties will start happening. It is a tricky time of year as kids go back to school and everyone sits back and relaxes.

To keep your painting adrenalin flowing, why not ask some volunteers over and paint them up with designs of your choice. Make sure their parents know it is for face painting and you will be taking photographs for publication. Then take lots of photos both indoor and outside as sometimes the light is better. Kids reacting together and painted makes a good happy shot for publicity plus close ups for your portfolio. Also get someone to photograph you and your set up all clean and beautifully set out. If the kids are good and photogenic ask them if they would like to be your models and do a regular session once a month or so. That way you can have a Halloween publicity shot and a Christmas publicity shot etc.

You also asked about joining The Face Painting Association. FACE is an association for professional face painters and helps keep its members in touch by holding events and a quarterly magazine. You will need a fair amount of practice under your belt to pass their assessment. It is not an agency, but it does have a data base on their website.

Choose carefully if registering with an agent, they are not all helpful about prices but if you find a good one then it is worth working hard for them and developing a good relationship. You will find agencies by looking at event organisers on the internet and checking if they already feature face painting. Check how it is presented as an idea of how much they respect the profession. A responsible agent will ask for Public Liability Insurance, so you will be at an advantage. If you were to join FACE you would be obliged to get their insurance as part of the package which is why some agents like to use FACE members.

Good luck with your painting.


The Irish Question
Hello ..I was wondering if you had any ideas on St Patrick Day ?
A green butterfly of some sort or a shamrock design ??
I find green very difficult to get off as it tends to leave a yellow stain, are there any greens that are less likely to stain than others? I was thinking of using a cake underneath but it will take more time away from the design. Colleen :)

Hi Colleen, You will get asked for flags and all sorts, people will have ideas of their own! But you could also do green, white and orange butterflies as a more interesting way of dealing with this challenge. I have sent you some pictures for more ideas. As for green staining, most do a little, but it will remove with soap and water better then with baby wipes which tend to seal it on. The worst are the metallic greens. They are lovely, but do stain more. Dry skin presents a bigger problem with staining, in which case I would prime with Grimas cake white for sure. It doesn't take long, and better safe than sorry! You can be generalised with it, going over the rough area of the design; the whiteness is light and won't detract from the overall effect.

Hope this helps,


Dark Skin

Dear Aunt Aggie: I am so pleased you are around for my questions. Thank you.

I have just got another job from the web site, it really does work! The party I am going to work at is mostly going to be black and Asian colour skins can you suggest some products from the face paint uk site that I can purchase for this event, that will really be effective, I think most of my kit suits white skin.

Best Wishes C

Dear C, The best products to have in addition to your usual kit are Grimas Pearlised Gold and Bronze. These would replace instances where you might use pearlised white (for example on a princess base) or yellow, which is difficult to apply to dark skin effectively. Decide whether to use gold or bronze by the depth of skin tone, in general use gold for Asian or light tones, Bronze for darker skin shades. If a child requests a design with a white base (for example a vampire, clown or skull) try using pearlised white instead of your usual white and be creative with your interpretation. White bases generally don't look great on very dark skin.

Other than that the usual colours are fine, you may find a little difficulty applying them over 'oiled' or heavily moisturised skin, blending with the pearlised products will help here too. The school occasionally runs a 'Painting on Dark Skin' workshop, there isn't a date set for that at the moment, but look out for it coming round again.

Good luck!



Overwhelmed, or too many children

Dear Aunt Aggie: I have found that after a fairly quiet couple of months I was quite overwhelmed at my first "ultra busy" event. Luckily it was for a friend at a "special" price so I didn't feel too bad! What I want to know is as my speed has gone down to about 7/8 faces per hour should I reflect this in my price temporarily? Also when you have umpteen impatient kids waiting in line and you're working on "that face" that still doesn't look quite right to you - when do you give in, call it a day and show them the mirror (trembling inwardly!)? Any advice welcome? Thanks - signed "Temporarily Overwhelmed!"

Dear Temporarily Overwhelmed,

Do not feel bad for being overwhelmed by children it is quite reasonable to paint 7 children in an hour. That is approximately 8 minutes per child so probably five minutes per face of actual painting. What is more worrying is if you have difficulty in getting a good result with a particular child. It could be the child is fidgety or difficult in some way, or it could be a design that you have problems with. I would suggest a variety of tactics to overcome the different problems that you experienced. When a design is not working, revert to good colour choices and known successful lines and finish off quickly. Not every face has to be a work of art. With Boys it is often a good tactic to say "Gosh you look really horrible" with admiration in your voice if it was something scary. They are often delighted. Alternatively say "You look fantastic”, they will usually believe you and as they probably will not have a great deal of mirror time your white lie will not be discovered. With girls, add plenty of glitter.

If time is the problem, it is possible to paint all of the queue at once! Choose something like a flower cluster or spider and web or if you have rainbow paint a rainbow motif. Paint exactly the same on each child standing in the queue. Explain that they are all going onto your "face paint conveyor belt” then move along the line painting one component of the design, then start at the beginning again with the next component. The children will be fascinated to see the design developing on all their faces and nobody has to wait. It does remove choice but it is a gimmick which sorts out an unmanageable queue.

Do not over estimate how many you can do to your client. If they are expecting full faces and happy children it is unreasonable to expect you to bang them out, children need time to choose and admire the result as well as you needing time to paint them. Get your client to book two face painters (or more!) if they have large numbers of children attending.

It is important to establish how many guests there are likely to be at a party so that you don't start off too complicated then get swamped with lots who want the same design. Equally you don't want to start out too simple, find you only have 5 children to paint, finish them in 15 minutes and be twiddling your thumbs embarrassingly for the next hour!

Many very experienced face painters state 10 - 12 as their average number of faces per hour because they prefer to produce high quality work rather than get medals for quantity. It is the quality of the faces one paints that I personally feel justifies a professional price (although personal costs are also a consideration, for example one may have child care costs that mean it is not worth going to work for less than a certain amount). When face painters claim 20+ faces an hour they are working in an extremely pressured way and may even have assistants to manage the children and to whisk them away. We do not do any favours to our fellow artists by exaggerating the speed at which we work.

You could think about reviewing the designs you are offering, or have up your sleeve. Are there time consuming details that aren’t adding as much as you think? Simple designs around the eye area (done well) can be just as stunning as full face designs.

Best wishes


Should I stack shelves?

Hi Aunt Aggie, My problem is a tricky one that has woken me up at 3am after tossing and turning for hours trying to find a solution! I have been working as a facepainter for 10 years now. I started off teaching myself through books and painting anyone who would let me; working for donations and for charities to get experience. There were no facepainting courses in those days so my learning took some time! Studied make-up at college, learning more techniques that way, including catwalk; tv; FX; body art etc. I have found recently that my two main sources of work have dwindled, and I noticed that a face painting friend of mine is now being offered work from my usual agent and my other face painting friends, who last year were offering me work, but are now offering it to my friend before me. I am somewhat depressed about this as there doesn't seem anything I can do, but I have a family to support and can’t just give up. My friend is very good at facepainting, and has learnt in 2 years what I have learnt in 10 and more, mostly due to the great courses which are now on offer which make it easy for people to learn. Her style is popular, but as such has squeezed me into a corner! What shall I do? I don’t have the time and money to go back to college now... shall I just give up being a face painter and get a job stacking shelves instead?


Most painters who started 10 years ago taught themselves! And some of us did really well that way. However, you are right that facepainting has moved on in leaps and bounds in the last 5 years, and it is essential to keep up as expectations really are much higher now. I think this is a good thing, the standard of some 'professional' facepainting was (and still can be) pretty awful, and it is only right that those that have put the effort in are rewarded.

There aren't any full time college courses in facepainting, so you don't need to worry about that! But there are lots of short courses on offer, including The London School of Facepainting amongst others. These are run on a day by day basis, and really don't cost that much when you consider the rewards. There are also conventions and conferences, which admittedly cost a tidy sum to attend, but can be worth it for keeping up with the trends, attending workshops and networking with other painters. There are also lots of painters showing their work off on YouTube, find one that you like the style of and see if that helps you to improve by trying it out. Grab some kids and get practicing, but don't get too depressed, everyone has crises of confidence now and again.

Don't forget that this is a fairly quiet time of year - which makes it a good time to get some advancement under your belt before the summer bookings make you forget these sleepless nights through exhaustion!

You could also put some effort into getting some new contacts, get in touch with some other agents and network with other local painters. Times change, and agents can get lazy about who they contact, so remind the one that you've worked for that you exist, perhaps get some new photos of your work to them and do a bit of marketing. You will feel more in control if you do something more positive about your circumstance than thinking of tins and shelves!

Good luck!


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