the Face Painting School

Discover the Art of Face Painting

7 tips on etiquette for pro face painters

face painter's etiquette 101

AS an avid reader, viewer and user of online forums, I often see the same old problems rearing their ugly heads when it comes to face painters and etiquette, or the lack of it.

It goes something like this: a new face painter enters the scene, borrows (steals) images painted by other face painters and then passes them off as their own. This may be on their website, Facebook page, or on a menu display at an event. The ignorant newbie is often  blissfully unaware they are infringing on another artist’s copyright; they are just trying to get started and think this is perfectly OK.

Of course, it’s not OK, and it probably won’t be long before word gets back to the original artist/s and then there’s likely to be some hard questions to l answer, and sometimes hard feelings.

But it doesn’t need to be that way. A little etiquette goes a long way.

Because I was a new painter once too (and no, I’ve never passed off another’s work as my own), I thought I maybe I could help new painters become familiar with the ‘unofficial’ code of conduct many professional face painters and body artists work under.

In my opinion, the best way to avoid friction and enjoy positive, rewarding relationships with other face painters is to always act ethically, courteously and professionally, with a little common sense thrown in. But more than that, following a few simple guidelines will help you to grow your business into a trusted name with your clients as well. Even if you’re a volunteer or amateur painter, there’s still many good reasons to pay attention to etiquette.

My list of etiquette tips for face painters isn’t exhaustive, and if you’d like to add some ideas or have a comment, please feel welcome to share your thoughts at the end of this post.

1. Before you pick up a brush, make sure you understand and practice basic hygiene and invest in good quality cosmetic paints.  Nothing will destroy your reputation faster than using sub standard products and operating without care for hygiene;

2. Brush up on your face painting skills by watching video tutorials, taking a workshop, joining an online forum, and above all – practice, practice, practice. Which brings me to point #3…

3. It’s OK to copy other face painter’s designs. Most new face painters start this way as they attempt to develop and master new techniques. But you’ll quickly get the face painting community off-side if you try to pass off another artist’s work as your own. And being a tight-knit community, it won’t be long until the word gets around and you’ll have to answer some hard questions. The trick is, YOU  paint the design, either on a model or on yourself. Take some photos and then use these to promote your services. Even if it’s a close copy of the original design (which it’s unlikely to be as nearly all artists paint in their own way), at least it will be YOUR work and not false advertising. A big no-no if you are charging for your services. Alternatively you can paint the design on paper, a practice head, board, or a foam cut-out. Yes it takes time to build up a portfolio in this way, but we all have to do it, and you’ll have something to share without infringing copyright, which is not only unethical but it’s illegal;

4. Build your own business brand (identity) and don’t steal someone else’s. Imitation may be flattering, but it’s certainly not appreciated if you’re a competitor in the marketplace. Besides, you want to set yourself apart from your competitors, not make yourself a carbon-copy. Take some time to think about the personality of your business and then incorporate this idea into every promotion you do;

5. Network with other face painters. Most are friendly and very approachable, as long as they don’t feel threatened by you asking a million questions during a gig (or event). While most face painters well welcome the opportunity to share the workload with someone they can trust and rely on, be aware – if there’s limited prospects you may be competing for the same customers, and that can lead to friction;

6. Don’t spam the Facebook wall of other face painters or business pages. If you want to introduce yourself, do it personally by phone, email or private message. If you want to comment on a photo or post, do it via your personal profile.

7. You’ll often get asked to donate your services. It comes with the territory. Sometimes it can be for a cause close to your heart and if you’re happy to do it. But unless you want to paint every weekend for free, don’t be afraid to set some limits and use your discretion. And beware – many event organisers see face painting as an attraction they can skimp on by offering the unwitting face painter a chance to ‘expose’ themselves in return for donating services. There’s no harm in asking if there’s a budget for activities – and if the other children’s attractions, like jumping houses and petting animals, are being contracted. If you are trying to build a business and donate your time, skills, and materials to these types of organisers, you are not only doing yourself a disservice, but also the industry as a whole. Chances are, you’ll be forced to work at break-neck speed and won’t have an opportunity to promote yourself at all. It’s likely your work won’t be up to standard either, due to the speed and pressure of a long line of impatient kids and parents, so that big chance at exposure will actually backfire. I cover this topic in more detail in my recent post: The vexed issue of charity – to give or not to give.

So there you have it: my 7 tips on etiquette for face painters. Did I leave anything out? Should I have called the piece ‘the 7 sins of face painting’ instead? If you have any questions, comments, or additions, please post them below. If you know someone who might benefit from reading them, why not direct them here?

Happy painting :) Kate

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About Kate

Hi, I'm Kate and I'm the author of a few blogs - including the one you're reading now. I run a handful of small businesses, and work part-time as a journalist with a daily newspaper. I've worked or studied in media for close to 20 years; in animation, advertising, sales, and journalism. I discovered the joy of face painting and balloon twisting in 2011. In 2012 I launched North Coast Markets to help promote regional markets, events, festivals and fairs - and stall holders like me who attend them. This year I have added the Australian Face Painting School to my growing list of blogs, to help face painters of all levels, but particularly new face painters, to improve their skills.

16 comments on “7 tips on etiquette for pro face painters

  1. Rosina ONeill
    March 25, 2013

    Love your blog. Will definitely send people here to read it. Thanks for taking the time to write it

  2. facepaintingschool
    March 25, 2013

    Thanks Rosina, appreciate your kind words and thanks also for being the very first person to comment on my blog :) Kate

  3. Ellie
    March 25, 2013

    Hi, as a Newbie, to find this simple yet very important information all in one place is great! You are worried that you may step on someones toes, or that you may accidentally use something that belongs to someone else and not realise you are causing offence etc! I’ve always been ‘aware’ of taking care to try not to do anything to upset or offend….but it could happen without you intending for it to. Therefore, reading through this is a great refresher for us Newbies who are trying to learn so much…that the brain becomes clogged. Thank you for taking the time to put this together. All of the time and effort is very much appreciated :O)

  4. facepaintingschool
    March 25, 2013

    I was a newbie myself not so long ago. It’s important to remember we all started sometime. Glad you enjoyed the post. :)

  5. Barbara Smith
    March 28, 2013

    Good job. I have a lot more rules, but they are a little bit more advanced. We just had to kick out a (pretty good) artist from our face paining Guild… she broke SEVEN of our guild rules in one single gig!!! These rules govern how artists should behave toward one another (ethics and support govern) and also how best to represent yourself and any artist you may be working for.

  6. Suzanne Wild
    April 2, 2013

    When I started out I photocopied a hand drawn, and very basic, face outline and drew my designs on to those. A year later (I’m still very new) I’m still using those same drawings. Some have been updated, some have been thrown out. Every gig someone comments positively on my old drawn designs.

  7. sanborntonfarm
    April 5, 2013

    Excellent post! I have new painters that call me up all the time and ask questions, I’m always happy to answer as much as I have time for, but now I will have a good place to start them off!

  8. facepaintingschool
    April 5, 2013

    Thanks Barbara. I think we both agree it’s about acting with ethics and courtesy, and if we’re going to make a business out of it – acting like professionals too :).

  9. facepaintingschool
    April 6, 2013

    Good tip Suzanne!

  10. facepaintingschool
    April 6, 2013

    Thank you!

  11. Christina Davison
    April 6, 2013

    Spot on advice. Thank you for sharing this in a well spoken and thought out way.

  12. Pingback: Henna By Heather » How to Decline to Work for Free – with Grace

  13. Henna By Heather
    April 6, 2013

    Great post! It inspired me to also write this, where I’ve linked back to you:

    http://hennabyheather.com/henna_blog/how-to-decline-to-work-for-free-with-grace/

  14. facepaintingschool
    April 6, 2013

    Thanks Heather. I enjoyed your post and I’m happy to have had a part in it. I think most of us enjoy supporting charities, but there needs to be some thought given to how we all handle the relentless requests. Love your email responses. Thanks for commenting and sharing.

  15. Audrey Ryan
    April 22, 2013

    Thanks for sharing this very informative blog. It’s really very important to know these stuffs before we proceed to face painting. I really wanted to try this, but i don’t have the talent to draw. :) -http://www.metropolitanpainting.com/

  16. Pingback: » How to Decline to Work for Free – with Grace Artistic Adornment

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