Beginners Guide to Body Painting

So you want go body paint.

This post is going to address basic tools and equipment you will need to start this very fun form of body art. I will even post a YouTube video at the end, “How to Paint a Rose” (not my best video but I am making more).


First thing to keep in mind is that this will take some time. Most of my paintings you see on this website took from 1 to 6 hours. For body painting I am considered a rather fast painter. When more detail is needed, expect even longer. So, if you are painting for an event or something that has a defined deadline, perhaps painting a test run is a good idea until you get an idea how long this will take.


Most importantly this should be fun. Your model should have a great time. If they are not, then you are doing something wrong. The biggest mistake in body painting you can make is to not put the needs of your model first.


The Basic Equipment

-brushes

Size and style are mostly up to you. A good body painting brush will have bristles that will not come off (shed) when painting on someone.

I once had a client that saw a hair on her body that was not the same colour as her own, and she got the misperception that I was being unsanitary. I had to show her that the hair came from the brush itself. Not a fun conversation. 

Best place to pick up brushes is not the makeup store but the art store. (Most makeup stores don't sell brushes suitable for body painting) I find that most painting and brush  techniques closely translate to painting on a human skin. So, I have a set of Sumi brushes I have for that very reason (Separate from my Sumi brushes for my Japanese brush work .... Don't want to get those dirty) 

-make up sponges 

Various Textures and styles.  

-regular sponge

I have found that most sponges work nicely. In fact, most of the time, I just go to the "smart dollar store" head to the automotive section and get one of the really nice sponges used for washing cars. They are soft and you can cut them down to size. It’s important to NOT reuse a sponge for health reasons.. so when you are done with that bodypainting session dispose of them.

-body paint

Later I'm going to have a few links where to get the best bodypaint.

-Rubbing Alcohol

For cleaning surfaces and brushes. I always make sure that I clean all my equipment and working surfaces before and after a session (Yes that means I clean it twice.... No model has ever complained about too much cleaning ) Alcohol is available in two strengths, 70% and 90%. both should work

-palettes

I like to use old Tupperware container lids that have been retired from food storage. . (It's something I picked up from my mother.) Yogurt lids , Paper plates anything that have a flat surface can be used. Much better than sending them straight to the landfill or recycling.

-squeeze bottle for water.

I found a catsup and mustard squeeze bottles at the local dollar store. They work perfectly for bodypainting. I have painted the bottles so they no longer look like I’m about ready to order a plate of hot chips. The yellow I use pure water and the Red I use IPA

Note that I did not mention you needed a model. That is a whole different topic! But keep this in mind if your goal is to get people nekid you will have a hard time finding models. If your goal is to create art you will have more than enough volunteers. If you don't understand how that works perhaps body painting is not for you. 


It is good to have an idea what you want to paint. There is nothing wrong with doodling but let the model know that is what you are doing. A model shouldn’t be waiting around for a few hours to find out all you have done is a few doodles when they are expecting something more complete. In contrast, if they know you are just trying your hand at this, they have the correct expectations and can just sit back and enjoy the sensation of the brushes across their skin (and perhaps take a nap). 


I recommend having a few sketches of the design already in mind before you paint. Something to be aware of is, just like tattoos, the design is going to wrap around a curved surface so your very straight lines may not end up where you expect them to be. 


Emulsify the paint by scooping (I use a pallet knife AKA a “Flat ) out a little of the paint into a palette then add water. The mix should be a little thicker than milk. This varies widely depending on what brand of body paint you use and sometimes the color of pigment can affect this.


Scooping the paint onto the palette does two things. 


1 allows you to mix and blend colors without tainting the original paint containers. The first time you get Any red into your white body paint you will know what I am talking about!  Let's just say red socks and white dress shirt, hot wash.  Get the picture?  


2 sanitation. By scooping the paint onto a pallet you are preventing any of the paints from being inoculated with whatever your model might have. Even normal microbes growing in your paints could ruin them or get introduced to your next model. Yes using proper sanitation fluids like rubbing alcohol or Sanitizer will kill 99% of the germs, but if you want to go professional this is a standard you need to get used to.  


Then here is the part you have been waiting for!!!!!! Place the brush on the model. 


How you create your design is up to you. Some artists like to think by drawing lines all over the body then filling in the spaces in between with color (similar to tattoos) others like myself I try to paint in layers. Both work and I find it is really a matter of style. 


When applying the paint you want to try avoiding "lightly" touching the model as this can tickle (not as important as it sounds but for very ticklish models it's a good trick to know) . Use a firm and steady pressure. Allow the body paint to dry using a hair dryer or a reasonable amount of patience before changing colors and painting over that area again. You can paint over a wet area with a different color if you are trying to get a blended effect. This is something you are just going to have to try to play with.


If you are using the correct body paint product, clean up should be rather quick . I tell my models to avoid fancy soaps or body scrubs as they were not designed with body paint in mind and may "bond" with the makeup making a bigger mess. (buy me a drink and ask me about the disastrous black panther body painting session some time... Get ready to laugh ) the best soap to use is DISH Soap!!! I am not joking!!! Made to remove oils and grease nothing works better and it's cheap!


After the model is done, have her take care of her skin by using lotions as they would normally. Also important to inform the model they may find spots they have missed for a few days. Not uncommon after having your body painted to scratch an ear and come back with blue on your finger.  Often this is where you have them bring a friend into the shower with them to help clean up.


Things to be aware of!!!

-Avoid using (canvas) acrylic as bodypaint (link)

-A happy model will bring you more models 

-Take breaks and don't let the model lock her knees

-Remember body painting takes time

-A floor covering is a good idea as body paint is messy. 

-Be armed with good equipment (links)

-If painting the model yourself does not do the trick hire a body painter 

Myself in Sydney 

Craig Tracy Painted Alive Bodypainting

Leroy Roper Art Body Art Backdrops & Photography