Oh those puppy eyes! Tips for Closing  the Line

By Marcela Murad

Closing the line is one of the biggest challenges face painters have on the job. How can we end our day without leaving anyone angry, upset or disappointed? Start by keeping in mind that no one really cares if we have been painting for 8 hours straight without a break, that face painting is tiring on our hands and muscles, that we have another gig to attend or anything else. Their only concern is that their children have a chance to get their face painted.


Following are a few ways I handle wrapping up the line. My hope is that they inspire you to design and prepare your unique way of saying “no more” with a smile. Attitude is everything!
  1. Have someone else do the dirty work! 
    When I arrive at a gig where they are expecting a large crowd, the first thing I do is find the person in charge. I introduce myself and thank him/her for inviting me to their event. As I make friends, I bring up the fact that I have to leave on time for a valid reason- such as having another event to attend. After a short explanation of how difficult it is to cut the line when it is time to go, I ask if it’s possible for them to send me someone to help. I then ask if it’s okay to call them on the phone to remind them when I feel time is right. I also ask for an additional phone number and person to call in case I can’t get ahold of them. At public events this works wonders because a lot t times they sent me a security guard or someone with authority. If they send me teenagers  I make sure to take a moment to talk to them to instruct them not to leave their post at the end of the line and to be firm in saying no. As long as I don’t have to see the disappointed puppy eyes, I’m fine.
  2. Use a number system
    The best way for crowd control and closing the line is by using a number system. Some paintersScreen Shot 2015-07-28 at 12.04.02 AM give out tickets, some print numbers and laminate them, others paint the numbers on their hands. All of these work in small settings such as a birthday party, but not very well for large crowds. The best number system to use is stickers. Any sticker will do, but Silly Farm sells some specifically for this purpose. Using a magic marker, I write the numbers down estimating how many faces I may paint on that day. Here are some suggestions on how to use them best:

    • For events where I’m getting paid by the hour I start giving them out to the ones waiting  in line when I finish setting up saying: “You are number one, you are number two” and so on. The reason for doing this is that some small children may not understand what the stickers are for or may be too young to recognize the number. I then add that their turn will be when I call their number and explain the word  “patience”. The second thing I do is put the sticker on their clothing instead their hand to avoid them loosing it. I then place the roll in the corner of the table where parents can help themselves as they arrive. When the child sits in front of me, the first thing I do is take the sticker off and place it on top of the table where I can easily see it. This will help me to always know the last number I called.
    • Every once in a wile I stand up an announce to the crowd that it takes an average of three minutes per face and if anyone wants to get something to eat or use the bathroom that they can do so without loosing  their place in line. If I call their number before they return they will be able to cut the line. When busy and deemed necessary, I look at the number on the last sticker  in front of me and ask if there’s anyone with a number lower than the one mentioned. Another thing I do is keep thanking everyone for their patience.
    • When working a pay-per-face event, I highly recommend bringing someone with you to handle the money. The easiest is to have all the facepainting prices the same, but if not, you can have a different color sticker for each price range. Having more than three options will complicate using this number system. When the person pays for the face painting the child is given the sticker. The stickers cannot be pre numbered, and the assistant will have to write the customers number on the different colored stickers. When the child sits in the chair you will automatically know how much they paid for the design and at the end of the day you will know exactly how many faces you painted and how much you collected.When you are ready to close the line, hand out any remaining stickers to people waiting, and put them away. By using the numbered stickers it’s very simple to turn away new customers by politely explaining there are no more numbers left. However, I feel that is important to ad an explanation to keep them from begging or getting upset.

    Sorry I have another event that I must arrive on time.

    The event planners asked me to close on time so they can break down the event.

      Using humor is the best way to diffuse stressful situations, and because my background is in clowning- this is what I do. Feel free to use it if it fits your personality.

      When is time to run out of stickers I set up my alarm to ring so I can pretend someone is calling me. I get excited to find out is my mom and I stand up to talk to her so that everyone can listen. She tells me that she’s making pizza with peanut butter and pickle juice  for dinner and that I better get home on time otherwise my little brother Chubby is going to eat everything. As I let the kids know that I really love pizza with peanut butter and pickle juice, I also tell them I gave to finish painting everyone on line and then I gave to rush and can’t paint anymore.  Next time I get asked where the numbers are I repeat the reason why I have to go.  By the third time the kids waiting on line will repeat it for me.
  3. Speedy Gonzales Facepainting
    What about the ones that refuse to leave? The ones that will wait and beg, demand or try to bribe you into just one more? Speedy Gonzales to the rescue!  I start by telling them to allow me to put most of my kit away and then I’ll see what I can do. I keep my black and white, the blush, self stick jewels, a small brush, glitter and my water bottle out. (All these items can fit in my pocket). Most of the time the kids that beg are girls, so I line them up in a row, put blush on their cheeks an the middle of their forehead, stick a jewel, and ad some teardrops and glitter. I do all of them at the same time, and it takes me less than three minutes. If there are boys in the mix, the only choice they have is a cat. Blush on their checks and eyelids, cat nose, whiskers, eyes and glitter. By the time I’m finished everything is already put away and it is a lot easier to say no when I can point to that fact. Heather Green just shared a great post on her 5 favorite fast designs to close the line- check it out here! She even included a step by step tutorial video you can view on our Paint Pal youtube Channel.
    HOWEVER… what about the late comer with the big puppy eyes looking at you begging, without saying a word? I just can’t say no- so here is my best trick yet. Since I have all I need in my pocket, I explain to the parent that if I start painting after turning down others that it will start a riot. I suggest they follow me to my car and I’ll see what I can do. I hold the child’s hand as the parent follows me, carrying my stuff. While they help load my car I finish painting their kid using the items in my pocket. A small jewel can add a lot of value, and after doing this “special favor”, parents not only ask for a card, but actually call me for their party and  give me a tip!
  4. Signs and ropesUntitled design-2
    Most people will pretend not to see the sign stating that the line is closed  no matter how big or visual it is, but having a sign telling the time the line closes from the very beginning can be helpful.  A good way to avoid this is by roping the area behind it. Stations and barricades are available at many large events and they can be requested when you arrive. If not, use two chairs, two garden stakes, or anything that can be used to mark the perimeters with the rope by making a U shape starting at the corner of the tent and using the chairs to form the U shape.
    I don’t like making a child wear a sign that states they are the last person in line. Too much responsibility because we all know many adults will not respect it and will stand behind them anyway. But if you feel it works well, then is up to you.
We love to hear from you. Please share with us your own methods for closing the line.
Don’t stress and have fun!

One thought

  1. This is a very informative blog, especially for someone who is just starting out. I know when I first started I never knew how to go about closing the line out. I’ve done a few things, but the most effective way is the number system. Giving the responsiblity to someone else to close down the line never has been very helpful. The quick speedy way helps also. i find it a lot easier to speed my ways through girls than I do boys…. However you look at it, love the blog… I might try to write some tips myself and blog about it. Keep up the work!

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