Choosing What to Paint… Design boards vs Winging it

By Silly Heather

Goku Anyone- (2)

When I first started my face painting journey I printed and photo copied pictures from the Snazaroo picture forum, and Marcela’s books. I spent a fortune laminating them at kinkos and after 4 or 5 events my first picture book was taken. My second attempt at a nice display board met its demise at an event where a rain storm came through and ruined it, and my last display banner was a victim of pregnancy brain when I left it at a school carnival and they disposed of it. So after three failed attempts at a display board I resolved to say I have resorted to winging it and using my voice to get the kids excited enough to let them paint them.

super cool set up by square banks face painting – Theresa Bennett

There is a definite benefit to having a display book or display banner. Mark Reid has operated a successful face painting booth at the Texas State Fair for over a decade. He prefers using a set display board with pricing.

Mark Reid's Face Painting Booth at the Texas State Fair is non stop because their awesome designs can be seen from the midway
Mark Reid’s Face Painting Booth at the Texas State Fair is non stop because their awesome designs can be seen from the midway

His artists do not deviate from the menu and that method creates consistency and meets expectations of their customers. Marcela has been painting at the Alaskan State Fair for close to a decade and she also works from a board, but only as a reference for “style” rather than exact re-creation. Here are some of the benefits of using and having a display board:

  • Easy design selection
  • if display is large enough it can be a great means to create a crowd and encourage more customers
  • it can simplify your offerings
  • looks professional
  • helps move the line faster (in most cases)

The downside to using a display board:

The best feeling (1)

  • You have to paint, photograph, and print the images you want to use
  • If you use pictures from the internet you need to first get permission
  • One more thing to carry
  • Typically need to be updated every year to reflect new designs and improvements
  • Customers expect their design to look exactly like the picture, so you have less creative freedom to change things up or deviate from the design

Personally I love the element of surprise when I paint children. As I explained, I lost three displays and no longer wanted to keep losing money, so I do not have a display board. So you might be asking…what do you paint, how do the customers know what they want, and how do you convince them you are a great painter?

Here are some tips to be able to work without having to use a display:

  • Paint your own face with a cool design. I ALWAYS paint myself when I am on the job. Mainly because I like the kids to see my work. I get asked all the time who painted my face and when I explain that I paint myself to show the kids my style people are always impressed. And many times kids ask me to paint them just like I painted myself. By painting your own face, when you show up to your event you look and match the party, and you create confidence because your designs look good before you ever open your kit The best feeling (2)
  • Get excited! About what you are about to paint. When a child sits in my chair I out on my biggest smile and say “Hello handsome/beautiful I am so excited to paint you today would you like a butterfly, princess, flowers, a rainbow, a unicorn or a magical special design?” I try to use an enthusiastic voice to get them excited about what I was capable of painting. 90% of the time the kid in my chair chooses one of the first 3 things I offer. For those that don’t immediately choose one of the things I mentioned, I ask them what do they love. Do they have a pet? Whats their favorite color? And for the pickiest customers I tell them to think of their favorite thing and I will google it to see if I can paint it because I am the best painter ever! (LOL)The best feeling
  • When kids ask if I have a picture book or choice menu I tell them that I love to be creative and try to paint anything they want. … This can create a pickle sometimes as I find myself with the strangest requests but it frees me up to change colors, be creative, and constantly change my offerings without having to change my display.

So the next question you are probably ready to ask is… whether you choose to use a display board or not what designs make the cut? And how do you know what designs to offer?

Its simple… there are a few classic designs that will NEVER go out of style. They are

  • spiderman
  • batman
  • tigers/cats
  • butterflies
  • princesses

Outside of those designs, the best way to gauge inspiration and design ideas is to talk to your customers (the kids) ask them what they love, what they want for Christmas and pay attention to the designs on their clothing. As the mother of 2 sons when I shop for them at Target or clothing stores every season there is a ” popular theme”. Currently, Star Wars and Mindcraft are trending, so it makes sense to have a Star Wars and/or MindCraft design ready for when a customer asks. Just as a hairdresser attends classes to learn about new cuts and color trends, face painters need to stay on top of trends to stay competitive. I have several clients that call for themed parties, my last party request was for Dragon Ball Z. Because of the wonders of technology I am able to research Goku and characters and accommodate my clients.Goku Anyone-

During the holidays as kids sat in my chair I would ask them what they were asking Santa for, for Christmas. Over 20 different kids at different events told me they were asking for Emoji clothing. I had never heard of that, but immediately I went to work designing a face painting emoji design.

Goku Anyone- (3)

It didn’t require much effort or research to come up with a design and chances are the millions of Facebook forums can help you with inspiration too.

Here are a list of forums that help with inspiration

FABAIC Forum– SO many great ideas flow through there daily

Sally Ann Lynch and Her Training Boards Sally Paints and Posts everyday make sure you follow her for inspiration

Olga has been busy creating awesome Youtubes with fast easy instructions and she has been helping with popular trending themes

If you are New to face painting and want to chat with other newbies for advice and inspiration check out the New Face painter forum  

FABATV is the BEST resource for unlimited inspiration and learning. Every month we add new classes to the library so you always have a place to inspire and learn from


So whether you are just getting started or have been painting since the dinosaur ages, ONLY you can decide what works best for you. If you are going to create a display board and need images to use, you are WELCOME to use any of mine (just make sure you can paint them) if you want to use someone else image please make sure you ask their permission. It can get super awkward  when an artist sees their work on someone else’s display. My best advice is don’t stress over being able to paint everything under the sun, practice and perfect 10 really general designs and hide some cool “hey bet you didn’t think I could paint that” in your back pocket and pull them out only when necessary. Kids have really low expectations in most cases, they are happy with very little so when you deliver a lot you are golden!

If you have a really cool display you want to share please send it my way or tag me in it. I love to share good ideas and inspire others. Happy painting my friends


<3 Your Paint Pal


2 thoughts

  1. Thank you for your continues support and inspirations. I believe we have the best support team in the world of all the businesses I’ve seen. You and all the other artist in our industry have encouraged and inspired me in ways I never dreamed. I’ve learned more in 3 years as an artist because of you and others then I ever learned in 30 yrs in the Corporate world. I’m so blessed to be a part of this industry. I to now use a word board and allow the creative and inspired juices flow with each and every design customized to each person. Thanks again and God Bless

  2. My company was just debating if this was a need or not. I personally do not like using a board, but like the blog states it does move the line faster (at times). I believe we are deciding to go with basic designs on a board, but also paint my face and talk to them as you described, but when I do this it seems more inviting to the customer. Face Painting is always about the visual and having it on your face shows your skill and most of the time for me the girls always want the same. I do love the face painting fourm, but as I keep reading these blogs, there is so much information in them!!! I love it!


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