Saturday, 31 January 2015

4 Reasons Why I Don't Use Snazaroo

Snazaroo Face Paint is one of the most popular and most well known brands of face paint out there. It's not as expensive as other brands, and from starter kits, to face painting 'how to' books, this is one of the few face paints you can easily find locally. They even brand themselves as....

 Bold Claims

Because it's relatively easy to find, this is the go to paint that I recommend to beginners just starting out and figuring out if face painting is really 'for them'. I also meet parents who want me to recommend a face paint brand for them to use for casual home use. Most people's familiarity with face paints are usually limited to Rubies Cream Based Face Paint and face paint 'crayons'. They also know these products just don't work very well, and when they see my table with actual working face paints, it blows their minds right out their butts.
Everything you need for a craptastic face.

I don't want parents to think that they have to use either a sub-par product or poster paint, when there are other safer and more effective options out there. I also know my face paints are rather pricey, and usually have to be ordered online, so when they ask I tell them to check out Snazaroo.

But as a professional face painter this brand is not something I would use or keep in my kit.

Here's Why:

4. Muted Colors:

I've always found the colors of glycerin based paint (such as Snazaroo and Mehron) to be fairly 'neutral toned', and wax base paints (such as TAG, and Wolf) to have more saturation on average for their pallets. Snazaroo paints don't have the same 'pop' that wax based colors have through out most of their brands color section.


Here are some painted faces from the Snazaroo Website using Snazaroo face paint

     Design/Photo Credit: Juliana            Design/Photo Credit: Tracy                           Design/Photo Credit: Cheryl Holley

Now compare with similar colors with using the brand TAG.
Photo/Design Credit For All: Ilea

Note The difference in the shades of Green, Blue, Pink, Yellow, and Orange

Here is a direct swatch comparison of Sanzaroo and TAG under the same lighting conditions.

And it's not just Snazaroo that has this issue. The same is true for most Mehron colors.
                                      Mehron                                                                       TAG

Mehron                                                                       TAG
Photo/Design Credit For All: Ilea
Some times muted more natural colors can be an asset. I now use what is left of my old Mehron face paint colors for my FX work from time to time because I find the colors are more 'real' looking.
 Photo/Design Credit For All: Aryn (my husband)
Also that's me as the model both times ;)

I have tried Snazaroo for similar FX and props, but it just cracks, fades and wipes off WAY too easily, and I ended up having to repair it, even with a spray sealer! What a nightmare. Mehron holds up way better as a glycerin based paint, and held up even better with some spray sealer. 

For face painting however I want to go with the colors that stand out the best. I want to make the biggest visual impact, because the nature of the face painting business is to be bright and eye catching.

You gotta have those 'wow' colors.

3. Dryness:

Snazaroo seems to dry up and crack in the puck like the Death Valley Desert. They also have a tendency to crumble, and fall apart, which could cause a mess in your kit. This is also not something you often see with other brands (if at all).

While the cracking doesn't effect the usability of the paint, I like my paints looking new and clean when they sit on my table as it makes everything look cleaner, and presents a better image to the public.

This cracking and dryness happens because Snazaroo doesn't have as many emollients in their final composition in comparison to other brands. An emollient is a fancy term for moisturizer, and having them in the paints provides a protective film that keeps the paints from drying out. Not having enough gives Snazaroo paints a 'chalky' feel to them and even a little bit of moisture such as perspiration can more easily reactivate the paints while on the skin and ruin your design.

This dryness also leads to another problems like...

2. Fade:

This is different in the lack of saturation the colors initially have. Even though Snazaroo might go on the skin as bright and opaque, it doesn't last. What happens is that the paint then slowly turns into a powder form and then most of it falls off, leaving behind a light layer of pigment. This is again, a result of the lack of emollients in the paint.

It's thought that since Snazaroo was made to be specifically used as childrens' face paint, and not as a theatre or stage paint, the company didn't find it necessary to make the paint to make-up industry standards. Thus originally it was not made to have the staying power that other brands have.

Some would argue that you can just add more layers, but this takes more time, and worst of all too many layers and your paint will start to crack on the skin.

I want my face paints to last until you want to take therm off, and not fade after 15+ minutes of wear. If it's only good enough for a photo taken right after then it's not good enough in my books. I also feel it's a little dishonest to the customer, to see a design board of bright colorful faces, have that expectation, but then less then an hour later having your design fade. Like buying a new car, and then it turns into lemon after only a few miles of normal driving.

1. Control:

With it's chalky texture I found it was more prone to being blotchy, or watery when used, and if the kid was wearing sunscreen? Forget about it! I would say it's WAY easier to use then dollar store paint, but it still has it's quirks to work with.

Lastly the fact that I have to fiddle longer to make the consistency of the paint work for what I'm painting. Line work is the worst with Snazaroo; it's never as dark as I want it to be and often requires a few layers to get it right (which is a time vampire). Too many layers and you again get cracking. You can buy other Snazaroo Brands like 'Sparkle Snaz' if you want good line work or a solid base color, but I feel you are just paying more for a product to do what the original product should have been able to do in the first place.

As for Snazaroos claim at being the 'safest' face paint out there, I find that highly suspect. I haven't found any evidence of studies that would rank it any safer then other professional brands.

Over all I found Snazaroo just had WAY too many issues when compared to other brands. You'll notice I mention the TAG brand a lot on this post, but that's mainly because it's the brand I use most often, But I also have some DFX and Global in my kit. Brands I would recommend if you are looking for an update from Snazaroo are. Wolf, DFX, TAG, Chameleon, Global, and Ruby Red.

Some professional face painters swear by Snazaroo and their paint of choice, though I feel it is more of a good stepping stone for beginners, as many face painters are quick to move on from this product once they have tried other products.

If you haven't used anything else you are likely to think this face paint is the cats' meow.
Toys R Us 10/10 Review

My personal opinion is that there are far superior products out there if you want to take your face painting to the next level.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Attention Grabbing Face Painting Tent

There is always the big question on "how to make your tent inviting for clients when at a festival"? What kind of tent? What colors do I use? How should I design my banner?
What will draw people to my awesome face painting tent?


You want to draw people in an grab attention, while at the same time identifying as a "Childrens Tent" (ie: stuff for kids). Ok it's more then color and rainbow, it's also overall design, but we'll touch on that also, for now let just stick to the basics of advertising for your audience.

1. Rainbow
Parents and most of all kids are already indoctrinated to know that rainbows mean kids stuff. You see it with Day Cares, Disneyland, Candy Shops, and of course Toys R Us among many more examples. Rainbow is eye catching and alluring to kids because of this indoctrination, and also because
 of course  - OMG colors!!


This is why my 10 foot banner sign doesn't have any logo on it, no phone number, no website, no company name. Just FACE PAINTING in giant rainbow letters.
^ My pimpin' Banner ^
All that other stuff (websites, phone numbers etc) can be found inside the tent, but that banner is the best investment ever. I can use it for ANY event, even ones where an entertainment company hired me and thus I can't use my own contact information.

Unfortunately at my smaller gigs I can't bring this banner, such as at farmers markets where I only have a little space to set up. In this case I still try to have a simple rainbow sign, that the main point is 'face painting', and add as much color as I can.
Here is an early 'ghetto sign' I made from cardboard, colored card stock and glue.

Lots of mistakes here. I was trying to make the letters on my sign 'fun' but it was too cluttered and the letters blended into each other too much. On my 'sandwich sign' the words 'face painting' are in a cursive font - pretty, but hard to read. This is a really old setup, look how tiny my table is :p back when I was using Mehron too.

But some good things I did was to have a table cloth, hang fake flowers, paper lanterns, and fairy cutouts on the umbrella. This created movement and a theme to my setup which made it more inviting.

Here is my current setup for this farmers market:

Bit better this time. Same tablecloth, flowers, etc. Obviously have a larger kit now, and disclaimer table signs (ie: the "I'm not a babysitter" and "I don't paint sick Kids" sign). Also notice that big butterfly? Yeah baby, that's a wonderful eye catcher, I have a purple one of the back of the models chair too.

In this newer setup I changed up my sandwich sign, and my main sign. My sandwich sign is better, has my company name on it only, but I want to update my main face painting sign again, I think I was still being too fancy with the fonts when I made it 2 years ago. I want to make the letters bigger and in a cleaner font.

But that's a 'small setup' example, let's look at some larger setup tent banner examples to help illustrate the point of having a big clear sign, and how color can say a lot about what you do.

Compare These Two Tents Signage

Omg.... so much info....

Boom baby! Face painting in your face, for your face, on your face!

While they both have rainbow, which one has more prominent rainbow? Which sign is clear? If both these tents were at the same event, and you asked me which artist I thought was better just by a glace at the tents - I would pick the first photo. If you asked me which tent would get more traffic? The 2nd one. The message is just more clear and simple.

Again, lets Compare.
can barely read the 2nd line....
Omg! the Colors!

Same answer as before. I think the first set is more professional and established with it's clear price keys and wall of photo examples inside the tent. But curb appeal, and pzazz? Dude the 2nd photo wins hands down. If both these tents were at the same event the 2nd photo's tent is WAY more inviting, and not just because of the fireworks. Even though the set up is smaller, the table is smaller, and there don't seen to be as many signs, or selections, this tent is awesome and just stands out more. (also FLAGS!!!!)

In comparison the blue banner from the first photo is harder to read, the colors are all very similar, the main title is in a cursive font, the subject matter of the booth (ie: face painting) is on the 2nd line in thin font, sharing the space with the words "for every event". With out reading the 2nd line, there is no way of knowing what "fancy faces" even means. Could be portrait photography, beauty makeup, or any number of things.

When I choose my business name 'Looking Glass Painting' I wasn't thinking. A 'looking glass' is a mirror and and Alice in Wonderland reference, so I thought since I use a mirror the who the child what they have become through my painting, AND that it's like stepping into wonderland by becoming a tiger, butterfly or spider man, that this would be a perfect it!
But it turns out that it's really just lost on most people. I was very young when I choose the name, and changing it now would be very daunting. You would think people would get it, after looking at your setup, or website, or example photos, that it' obvious what you do. But I have gotten a few emails and phone calls over the years of people thinking I paint on glass! There were emails from my WEBSITE, where it's totally obvious that that is not what is going on all all! Even some about house painting! Once at a farmers market, a little girl asked her dad for face painting from me and he 'corrected' her after reading my sign, "no honey this is glass painting'. He was reading this on my photo display sign by the way. *face palm*

Keep. It. Simple.

(Also I am in the works of changing my company name to 'Looking Glass Face Painting', hoping that will help a little.)

"But wait!" I hear you say to your computer screen, "What about the signs with the faces all over them, all that color. Surely that tells more then merely the banner sign?"

Good question face painting buckaroo! If my story of the dad looking right at my photo example sign, and having his eyes glaze over for everything but the title of the sign wasn't enough for you; here's some more examples to explore!

Example 1.
Here we have a tent with a small sign, and LOADS of design selection boards. There is no doubt as to what she's doing. It's definitely face painting.

Now here is a very simple set up with one design board. But a large banner.

Yes very clear what each tent is offering. But wait.... lets back things up a bit. Take 50 steps back and look again.

"Ok, lets see what fun activity will make the kids stop bugging me for more then 5 minutes." - says a mom as she surveys the fair grounds from a distance.
"Ok, so there's the playground, there's the porta-potties, there's the sausage truck, and Oh! Look! Face Painting! Clear as day!"

See, from a distance it doesn't matter how many awesome faces you have on display. At this image size you can't even the sign on the first setup. From far away you don't know if they are selling post cards, or little canvas paintings. It's all a bunch of clutter that just blurs together. But even up close it can be hard for people's brains to make out what it is your booth is about, because there is too much information. Their brain looks for a literal sign to figure it out some times. At big festivals it's often that peoples eyes glaze over as they survey each tent; you gotta make the message super simple and painfully obvious.

Make it big, choose a clear and legible font, and make it rainbow!

2. Movement
The next thing to be eye catching is movement of some kind. Flags, pinwheels, dangling things, a bubble machine even!

On my sign are two rainbow pinwheels at the top of each pole on my banner.
Pictured: Hypnotizing ADD Human Lure

I also have hanging flowers on my tent, and at night nothing beats having light!!!

Some times when business is slow, I start blowing bubbles. Everyone always looks for the source of the bubbles, like it's the 'Where's Waldo' of the festival or something.

"Must.... find.... source of awesome..."

Find something eye catching with movement and you are in the green!

My Current Tent Setup

Now let me be clear: My setup is NOT perfect, far from it in fact.

There is still much I want to do, and I'm slowly adding to it as the time and funds become available. Also, I don't claim that my setup ever will be 'the best' face painting tent setup even when it is finally the way I want it. But it will be the best for me, my needs, and what I want to advertise for my business. Since this photo was taken I've also added more to my setup - like my little front table has a table cloth now, and we have better night time lighting for the inside of the tent.

So lets go over the good things about my setup, and things that I feel need improvement.

Good Things:
  • Attractive Banner
    - Simple and To the Point, Clear Font, Not Cluttered, Colorful & Fun, Large and can be seen from a Distance.
  • Table Cloth
  • Big colorful butterflies & hanging flowers
  • Rainbow pinwheels for movement
  • Colorful photo display signs
  • Line Queues 
  • Green & Grey Tent.
    - ie: Not White. White picks up and displays dirt! Hard to keep looking clean
  • Good night time lighting for inside tent

Needs Improvement:
  • Bigger better price signs
    - The ones I have were made for my smaller setups
  • Back 'wall' and side wall would be nice
    - This gives more area to display signs and photos, and helps keep people/kids from coming in your work space. The wall can even be another large sign!
  • Line Queues need more weight
    - They keep falling over because kids play with them.
  • Table skirt
    - To hide under table storage
  • Foam floor mats
    - For when not set up on pavement
  • Smaller banners for other sides of the tent
    - So your message 'face painting' can be seen from any direction.
  • Lights on outside of tent
    - To light up signs

Those are the big things, of course there are MANY other little things I also want to do to improve my setup. But the three best things that helped increase my tent traffic and make an attention grabbing face painting tent are:
  1. My New Banner
  2. Pinwheels & Butterflies
  3. Proper Lighting 

Before I made my new banner I did a LOT of research and comparison of face painting setups. Since making it, my banner alone has brought in more business then I thought possible before.

Thank you for reading.
Tent Update!

This event we had the 'word sign' up.

- Added Table Skirt
- Made better and brighter Price Sign
- Added flag garland to the sides as barriers
- Table cloth for display table
- Painted Aryn's high stool black
- Flowers for 'design choices' sign

We are also setup on some wood in this photo, but it belonged to the event. I want to get some sturdy foam mats for other 'grass gigs'. 

***Disclaimer: If you are a face painter and one of these photos is of your tent, please know I am in no means trying to be rude, everything is all in good humor. Also your signs and setups are lovely ^.^ this is just my opinion. Thank you.***

Monday, 26 January 2015

The One Sponge Debate

Comment from:  
Mikuru Asahina22 January 2015 at 10:10
Hi Ilea! Love your blog! I am a total newbie to face painting and your blog has helped me so much =). I have one question. Do you use one sponge per color or one sponge per child? I've been researching about face painting and I am getting so many conflicting answers. Gary Cole with Ruby Red face paint as well as the Wolfe Brothers say that they use one sponge per color ( thus same sponge on multiple children), while other people say that they use one sponge per child. Another person was saying that they wipe off all of the kids' faces, before they paint,with baby wipes( I know not to use them =) ) that way they can use the same sponge on multiple faces. I already have most of supplies needed to start painting kids at events, but I can't decide what option would be better. It would be great if an experienced painter, such as yourself, could give me some advice on which would be better.
One sponge per child sounds more hygienic, but would waste a lot of paint. One sponge per color would waste less paint, but might be a turn off to some parents.
I know that the decision is mine, but I want to do what's best for my customers as well as my wallet.
Thanks so much and keep on blogging!
Such an interesting question I decided to make a blog post about it!

My Reply:
Thank you for your comment and for enjoying my blog. ^.^ Sorry for the late reply, I was working a trade show all weekend.
To answer your questions; yes, I use only one sponge per child for the base of a design.

This is something that is a bit of a debate among face painters, as a matter of Hygiene VS Product Waste, as one can argue that we are already double dipping our paint brushes, so how is this any different? Well it is, and here is why.
There are many reasons to use one sponge per child at a gig, here I present my argument as to why I think it's better then reusing sponges.*

*Note that we aren't talking about throwing away sponges, merely setting them aside after use, to be properly cleaned at home. 'Reuse' refers to using the sponge again for the same color for more then one persons face during the same gig, with out cleaning it first.


Unlike with brushes, reusing sponges means you are not even washing off the paint between uses of the tool. Both the paint and the potential bacteria will build up on the sponge and be passed from person to person. Also it's called a sponge of a reason; all those tiny little holes are GREAT for holding on to bacteria and dirt. To properly clean a sponge it takes more time then a paint brush because of this.

Believe it or not the face is actually on average the dirtiest place on the outside of the human body (otherwise your mouth is the dirtiest). One would think it's our hands, but think about it; how many times do we touch our face with our hands each day, then how often to we wash our hands each day compared to washing our faces?
Food for thought. 
Cleaning the face before painting is always a option, but it has it's drawbacks
  • For starters in order to really clean the face you have you do a thorough job. You aren't going to be able to do that without an abrasive wash cloth, soap, water and a rinse. Not exactly practical for a face painting kit.
  • For those who read my post on wet wipes you know my feelings about them. They don't really have soap in them, they have alcohol, which is bad for the skin as it dries it out and strips the skin of it's natural PH. The wipes also aren't as abrasive or as absorbent as say a wash cloth would be in order to effectively clean the skin.
  • Even if you clean the face you are missing the MOST important areas. Eyes, Nose, and mouth. Even if you remove the snot around the nose, the leftover lunch from the face, and the 'eye boogers' from the eyes, those areas will still be prone to spreading bacteria simply because they are 'holes'. When sponging on paint, that sponge will get into all the nooks and crannies WAY better then any implement you used to clean around them.
    Example: When you sponge someones face for a butterfly, you are going over the eyes. SOOO many germs are present in this area, and it's a great way to pass eye infections around if you reuse that sponge. Want to paint a tiger? You got all 3 areas to deal with now - eyes, nose and mouth (depending on how you lay down your base layer). Face it, that sponge is going to pick up something; that's why it's called a sponge.


As you read on my post about Messy VS Dirty, you know that I'm personally not a fan of a cluttered work space. The issue is when you reuse a sponge you have to set it aside somewhere. If you toss it in a bag with others, then you'll have to dig for it, and you risk it coming into contact with other colors you might not want on it. So it has to sit on your table, or you have to make space for it when you are already strapped for space. Some people put them on top of the cakes they used them on; I'm not a fan of this. 
  1. Makes your table look more cluttered, with 'stacking'. (I wrote about this in my Messy VS Dirty Post.)
  2. The Sponges now hide your colorful paints! Now instead replaced by often stained dirty sponges. (Your colorful paint is part of an attractive inviting setup, don't hide them)
  3. Now it's harder to get at certain colors with a brush, because the sponge is in the way. Sure it only takes being a little more careful, but that's time you could be using to paint.
  4. Doing this doesn't allow your paints to fully dry. A wet sponge sitting on your rainbow cakes is a perfect way to turn paint into goop!
  5. You'll have to keep the lids off your rainbow cakes it order for the sponge to sit in the cake, which now exposes your paints to curious fingers. As you see in my regular setup how close the paints are to the edge of the table, this scenario would not be desirable. Also what is one of the lidless paints falls off the table? Or curious fingers want to explore tactile sensations with your squishy sponge?
  6. Parents LOVE it when they see you reaching for a fresh sponge for their child! This puts you a cut above other face paint artists in their minds because it shows you value the clients safety above all else.
That's a lot of little reasons that tend to add up for me.

I too used to think that I was wasting paint by using a different sponge each time. But it wasn't really true. Have you ever tried to reactivate a used sponge by giving it a little spritz of water? It just doesn't work the same right? And you end up having to reload the sponge any way. After realizing this I came to the conclusion that any paint still left on the sponge is wasted anyway regardless, simply by letting it dry out on the sponge. When you reuse a sponge the amount of paint you save per sponge is about 8% I would guess. Which isn't really that much. Sure over time it adds up, but there are other ways to waste less paint.

Other Ways To Save On paint!

  • The best way is to have the right tools. Opt for sponges that get the job done the first time with out having to reload.
  • Practice. Knowing juuuuust the right amount to load the sponge with takes some time, but eventually you find the right balance
  • Load with just the edge of your sponge. Most people plunge the sponge face first into the paint and full up the entire flat side, and this is where most paint is wasted. Instead, try to concentrate your paint load to the long edge of the sponge only. You get more paint in one area of the sponge, not only do you have more control with this finer area, but less paint is wasted too!

Tips and Tricks:

Here are some handy 'sponge hacks' that will help save on paint, and also make your life easier.
  1. I deliberately cut some sponges on the smaller side. So instead of cutting a round sponge straight down the middle, I'll cut it off center so one side is a bit smaller. This way these sponges fit better on smaller faces, which allows you more control, and a bonus is they don't require as much paint!
  2. I keep some quarter cut sponges in my kit to use for stencil work. When using a stencil these tiny sponges are a huge paint saver! Also I can re use them a few times for certain designs. Since half the paint is usually going on the stencil, and what paint is getting through is going on top of an existing base coast of paint that isn't usually over the eyes, nose or mouth; the likelihood of germs goes down substantially.
  3. Carry LOTS of sponges. Not every design calls for a sponge, but I keep a bag of 30 or so in my kit at all times, and have about 2-3 extra bags of 30 or more at home.
  4. Dye your sponges BLACK! When I saw this trick, I jumped for joy. I always a HATED having ugly stained sponges, as over time the stains just don't wash out. :( I hated the 'dirty' image this gave my setup. Even though I knew they were clean, they didn't 'look' clean, and thus some one might think I was using a gross dirty sponge on their kid.
    But now they all look sooooo professional, and since they are all the same color now and stain free, I can more clearly tell how much paint is on each sponge, which means less wasted paint! (I will be doing a blog post on how to dye sponges soon. I bought more sponges and I need to redye my old ones. Stay Tuned!)

Over all, while there is some some paint waste, using one sponge per child has WAY more pro's then re-using sponges. For your kits hygiene, image, and considering the wasted paint is more or less a negligible amount.

If taking care of your paints is important to you, then you don't want wet sponges sitting on them turning them into goop and you don't want them to become Petri Dishes for contagious viruses. You want to keep them clean and nice so you don't have to throw them away, because THAT will waste more paint then using one sponge per face.

The best way to keep your paints clean is to keep your brushes and sponges clean. Avoid 'double dipping' when painting over the eyes, nose and mouth with a brush or with a sponge. I usually try to save these area's for last if i can - for example when painting a spider man and filling in the red, I'll paint the mouth and nose red last just in case I need to go back for more paint, I don't have to worry as much about my brush or sponge being contaminated.

To me, just because some big names are reusing sponges, doesn't present as good of an argument for the case for reusing. I trust my own judgement of 15 years experience and education as a professional trained makeup artist.
But most importantly I put the safety of the client first. If I didn't I would be using latex based skin glue because it's cheaper then latex-free and dollar store craft glitter because cosmetic glitter is much more expensive. If the safety of the client was second to my personal convenience I would have started painting people with Acrylic paint, instead of learning how to paint with cosmetic face paint.
Put the safety of the client first, and you never lose. :)