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.***


  1. Hi! Thanks so much for your fantastic article, gave me a lot of insight and tips into setting up my stall. I have a question about the use of the 'word sign'. Why did you choose this over your face designs sign? Have you found it to be more effective or clearer or simpler or something? I don't have any display of the faces I can do yet and I occasionally get asked to see what designs I can do but I prefer not having a board of designs because I feel it will limit what I get to paint each time (may be painting the same fairy/frozen/dragon face again and again). Also I'm just starting out so I feel my designs and execution will get better and I don't want to be limited by photos of poor early attempts. Plus I would feel the added pressure of trying to make the wriggly pants kid with the long line behind him look as good as the photo of the 11 year old family friend who sat still like an angel for 25 minutes...
    Thoughts on face designs display vs. word sign?
    Thanks! :-)

    1. Hey Stef! thanks for the comment.
      To answer your first question. We have several different 'options' signs we use depending on the nature of the event. At that event we just happened to use the word sign as we were face painting by donation and wanted to be able to do as fast of stuff as possible to keep the line moving. Most events we use our face signs, painted signs or all our signs.

      On face signs:
      This is true that you do end up doing a lot of the same with photo boards, but the trick is to have LOTS of photos to choose from so this doesn't happen. Having a word sign is also a be more freeing because you can change it up every time if you want. I also like having painted signs; using my practice boards as display boards, this way i can change up the designs on them when ever I like with out having to take and print photos. I prefer having samples and idea's because i find WITHOUT them I end up painting to same thing over and over, Butterfly, Tiger, Spiderman, Frozen, ad infinitum.

      You are so right about photo boards only displaying your 'old' stuff, this is why i now mostly use painted signs using practice boards. I can take photos of my stuff on the board AND add new stuff and change it up when ever i like. :)

      Never be afraid to say that certain designs are made for older kids, and offer and 'simple version' of that one if need be. Generally I don't put anything on my sign that I can't paint in 5 min or less.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Hi Ilea, thanks so much for your helpful reply!
    Wow, most designs under 5 minutes?! I think I need to get a lot faster and better at choosing difficulty of designs with little kids...
    What are these practice boards you speak of? Haven't come across that term before. Do you have a picture of one?
    I'm looking at getting more colourful and eye-catching/moving elements for my table display now (plus a giant rainbow 'face painting' sign!).
    Thanks again!

    1. Hit me up on facebook I'll send you some pics and links and we'll talk shop. :)
      Join my group to find me.

  3. Very thoughtful and insightful article