I started body painting in 2008 and I had no idea where to look for real, FDA approved, face and body paints. Here is a compilation of the most popular brands in the industry today and a little about my experiences. I’ve also included a bit of accessories. Kit sponges and brushes are split to their own entry.

I fit everything into a backpack. I ditched the train case about a year ago. It was just too heavy and I do not enjoy the luxury of paved paths and elevators so frequently. The green sack is for overflow, extra supplies— makeup wipes, paper towels, model food, etc. My portable massage table may be the heaviest thing I own but the most useful (for the model and my back). I bought a flat sheet and tie-dyed it purple and that’s my throw for the table. Easy to wash and takes up hardly any space. There are also two collapsable TV dinner type tables that I keep around in the event that my next venue does not offer table space.

SillyFarm sells the paint trays but they’re not worth it. The insert will eventually come apart. I replaced it ONCE and then gave up on it all together. Depending on the size, you can fit one or two extra cakes per tray without the liner. I also gave up on keeping the lids, unless they’re brand new.

Paints for brush painters are sold in what is called a cake. They are water activated. Cakes commonly come in three different sizes. The most common for the working professional is the 2.5 ounces or 45 grams. Larger cakes are available that are offering simply more paint or a wider cake for more surface area. These are about 3.5 ounces or 90 grams. I’m not sure if cakes of that size would fit well in any palette. On the other end of the spectrum we have the smallest cake, which weighs in at .14 ounces or 30 grams. Those are normally refills for pre-made palettes.

Wolfe 30g and 90g. Kryolan 2.5 oz in the background

Every brand pretty much makes a matte, a sparkly metallic, and a UV line. Kryolan’s matte make up the base of my kit. This brand has been my main paint since I went professional. It’s one of the best for my style of work. This brand is not known for being bright, at least not in my experience, but it blends nicely and goes well with any other brand you might purchase.

Wolfe Black and Kryolan Black Respectively.

I love to pair Kryolan colors with the extremely bold black and white of Wolfe FX. Coming from an oil painting background, I see the value in having a mix of opaque and translucent paints. Pairing the two brands offers some really cool textural effects, especially in the context of photography. My style isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for maximum coverage, you might not care for this brand. Kryolan metallics are not over the top either. If you are looking to turn a person into a gold or silver statue, I wouldn’t recommend this line.

Wolfe FX is known for BOLD. You can spot their paint from across the room! Any painter will recommend their Black for linework. Not only is it extremely opaque but it has a different texture that really allows for awesome control. Wolfe UVs are brilliant! I picked up one of their small, 6 color palettes (I call them “taste testers”) and I love it. I need to try one of their metallic taste testers but they are frequently sold out. Their metallic yellow is impossible to get a hold of. I think we have Iron Man to thank for this. The unique formulation of their products, which includes a wax, protects your designs from moisture. It is hard to sweat off this paint but still allows for easy cleanup with soap and water. The downside to the resilient formula is the loss in blend-ability.

I love love love Mehron Metallic Powders. It took me a while to give it a shot. Even with so many painters recommending it to me. To really get the most of the metallics, you should also purchase the mixing liquid. So just to give the powder a shot, you have to spend about $14. I figured I could buy a Kryolan metallic cake for $14 so why would a bother with a two step process that cost the same? As I said above, Kryolan is not the one you want to use to turn someone into Gold, this stuff is.

Mehron StarBlend is basically a giant eyeshadow pan. These are pressed face powders, you can add water if you want a less dusty application. I recommend StarBlend if you are working with younger children and you like to paint full-face designs. Instead of painting a young clown’s face in thick white paint, you can opt for a thin layer of powder. These are also good if you are doing a lot of stencil work. This brand’s liquid line is my go-to for matte airbrush bases.

Paradise is worth mentioning here because it is produced by Mehron. When people talk about Paradise makeup, the first thing they mention is the smell. It smells really good! Among the ingredients are Aloe, Chamomile, and Cocoa Butter. This is great news for your skin but also another consideration for allergies. That aside, Paradise has great coverage, smooth application, and the line blends well. What more do you need? Paradise Black has been compared to Wolfe FX Black for creating beautiful outlines.

Ben Nye is the go-to brand for all things theater makeup. I use Ben Nye Concealer Wheels, stage blood, and dust/charcoal powders for makeup and effects and I love them! Their eyeshadows are wonderfully pigmented as well! When it comes to body art, I hear good things about MagiCake but I have not tried it. I did try their MagiColor Aqua about 10 years ago… I thought it was horrible. It is a liquid paint, and it doesn’t mix well. The colors became muddy- very quickly- as they blended together. It’s hard for me to talk bad about Ben Nye but I really wouldn’t recommend the liquid paints.

Spray Bottles, how I love thee. I keep water and alcohol in spray bottles for sake of ease. I find it a lot less messy and more controllable when spraying the water onto the cake instead of dipping brushes or sponges into a cup. When it comes to cleanup, misting the cakes and brushes with a bit of rubbing alcohol from a cheap spray bottle is way easy.

Glitter. That is all. Especially if you work with kids, doing double time as a face AND body painter. If you plan to buy glitter in bulk (or if you prefer powder pigments), 99 cent travel jars are awesome! They’re at wal-mart, drug stores, and craft stores. P.S. Opt for makeup grade glitter instead of craft store glitter. Makeup grade simply means that it will not harm the eyes. Smaller, non-abrasive bits.

Baby wipes and makeup wipes are great to keep around. They’re great for touch-ups as a body painter but especially when working large festivals, where children are likely to be covered in food.

Ben Nye Final Seal is great if you plan on doing a lot of studio work that requires the paint to hold up for an extended period. It’s a lot like Aqua Net in a pump bottle with a Spearmint scent. The concept is the same…or be like the drag queens and just mist your look with Aqua Net. Liquid glue the paint into place! Now, if you’re idea is to do a lot of festivals, you’re going to go to Wal-Mart or what have you, the day after Halloween, and purchase the equivalent of your weight in clearance Glitter hairspray for just under $20. That stuff could glue the Moon to the freakin’ earth and it’s glitter-tastic. Seal body art instantly in an outdoor festival environment without messing with loose glitter.

Now, start building your kit! You don’t have to get it all at once either. I definitely didn’t have the money to pickup a $120 palette when I started. I bought black and white first, just to try different brands. When I found a brand I absolutely loved, I picked up the primaries and worked my way up from there. If the opportunity arises, take some classes! Get out there and network. There is so much to be learned, even more so if you are thinking of going into business.