If you’ve ever been to a family fun fair, you know face painters make bank. You’ve seen the long lines of kids waiting for their Spiderman, unicorn, or fairy princess design. And you’ve seen their parents, breaking out their wallets. Face painters can earn more than $100 an hour expressing themselves and delighting kiddos.
Do you want to give face painting a try? Artistic flair helps, but you don’t need to be the next Picasso.
“If you can paint simple and fast, there are tons of places you can work as a face painter,” Anna Wilinski, co-owner of Jest Paint, said.
Wilinski, who started painting faces at age 10, says your personality is even more important than your paintbrush.
“Number one, you have to like being around people,” she said.
Are you a creative people person with at least a bit of business savvy? Here’s how to start your face painting business.
How to Start a Face Painting Business
1.Get the Gear
Face painters are independent professionals who bring their own gear to the gig. Here’s what you need to get started.
A beginner’s face painting kit will run you about $50, depending on which one you choose. Make sure you end up with brushes, sponges, and paint.
And glitter. Kids love glitter.
Each brand has its pros and cons, so if you can, try before you buy.
“Connect with other face painters and try out their kits first,” Wilinski recommended.
If that doesn’t work out, start small. Buy the smallest size of paint before shelling out for the value pack.
Know what’s in your paint. Parents will ask.
Running a business around other people’s parties has a downside: you come to them, they don’t come to you. Leave room in your budget for gas.
“I highly recommend getting insurance to cover yourself… in case somebody has an allergic reaction or falls out of your face paint chair,” Wilinski said.
One year of insurance starts at around $100.
There are a million different ways to promote your face painting business. Social media (free). Social media advertising (not free). A website (usually not free).
But there’s one form of promotion every face painter should invest in. Business cards.
You will be doing your work in person. If you have a stack of business cards on the table, you will get leads. You can buy a pack of 50 from Moo for $21.
2. Find Some Gigs
Does the idea of chasing down children’s birthday parties make you want to quit before you paint your first sparkly star?
Consider joining a children’s entertainment agency. These businesses round up face painters, balloon sculptors, and clowns to send to family fun events. In other words, they find the work, you do it.
The downside of joining an agency is that they don’t find that work for free. They take a cut of your earnings. Still, it can be worth it.
“If you just want to paint like crazy, go for it,” said Wilinski.
If you do decide to rustle up some gigs on your own, here are some places to look.
Children’s Birthday Parties
Kids love getting their faces painted. Parents want their kids to be happy. They’ll pay you to help.
To get these gigs, target parents. Word of mouth is your friend. Wow one parent and others will follow.
Family Friendly Events
Events where families are walking around, searching for entertainment are perfect for face painters.
Look for opportunities to rent booths at seasonal fetes, county fairs, and outdoor markets.
Adults secretly want to get their faces painted too. Pitch yourself to companies for corporate retreats.
3. Make Beautiful Art
How do you get good at face painting? Hint: It’s the same way you get to Carnegie Hall.
“Practice, practice, practice,” Wilinski said.
She even keeps a face painting kit in her kitchen.
“When I’m cooking something that takes a long time, I’ll take breaks to practice my brushwork,” Wilinksi said.
Make sure your practice sessions include the classic face painting repertoire.
“Hearts, stars, rainbows,” Wilinski said.
To level up to more intricate designs, search online for face painting resources.
4. Charm Kids and Parents
Art is only part of the job. You also need to interact with your clients.
“Ninety percent of the time you’re making people happy,” said Wilinski. “But sometimes you’re dealing with long lines in 90-degree weather.”
Speaking of lines: Line management is key.
“The last thing you want is the line ganging up on you,” said Wilinski.
Some artists assign each kid a number, painting it on their hand or writing it on a name tag. That way, they can go play while they wait.
Kids aren’t the only customers you need to impress. And grown-up events come with their own set of challenges.
“I’ve had to deal with drunk adults,” Wilinski said.
Her advice? Be prepared for anything.
5. Run Your Face Painting Business
How do you actually get paid? There are two standard formats: Per event or per face payment.
If you have a booth at a fun fair, you’re probably going to be charging per face. It’s common to have three price tiers — $5 for a simple shape, $10 for something a little more complex, and $20 for an intricate full-face design.
Children’s parties, corporate retreats, and other private events tend to be paid hourly or with a flat fee. The standard rate varies widely: location, event type, and experience all affect the number. “It could vary if you live in California or if you live in small-town Wyoming,” Wilinski said.
Wilinski provided an example. “If you’re gonna charge $50 an hour, you could say ‘I’m new, I can only paint this many kids per hour.’” Once you’re more experienced, you can charge more. “I might charge $150 at a corporate event, but give a discount to $125 for a private party.’”
You don’t want to set your prices too high to get booked — but you don’t want to undercut other artists, either. If you charge below-market prices, it could hurt other face painters.
“There’s room for everybody,” Wilinski said.
Contributor Ciara McLaren is a freelance writer with work in HuffPost, Insider and Codetic. You can find her on Substack (@camclaren).