How to Hire a Face Painter for Your Event


So, you need to hire a face painter. While the art of face painting is nothing new to the majority of us who’ve frequented carnivals, fairs, and other events that draw the attention of children, the practice of hiring one for private, intimate affairs like birthday parties is. Previously, such efforts were reserved for those who wanted extravagance and had the money to bring it to even the simplest of get togethers. In recent years, the face painter has made onto the wish list of many a child with a birthday party looming around the corner… much to bafflement of some of their parents.

As with any entertainer you invite into your private events, hiring a face painter can be a stressful process if you aren’t armed with a little basic knowledge and a few insider tricks to help you smooth out the waters. If you take the time to line up your ducks and employ the guidelines below, your little one will be thrilled to have an extra special treat for his/her special day, and you’ll have some pretty colorful memories to pat yourself on the back with.

Hiring a painter isn’t hard. However, it does take a little time if you want to ensure that you get your money’s worth. With that said, let’s jump right in!


Face painters are the hot thing in party planning nowadays. So much so, that many corporations have begun hiring painters, clowns and other children’s entertainers for store openings, family days and customer appreciation events. Why am I telling you this? Because corporations are, for the most part, three steps ahead and often book painters months before their event. What does this mean to you? It means that most established painters have limited availability, particularly when you call them 3 days before your Saturday event. If it is at all humanly possible, nail down the date and location of your event as soon as you can and then start looking for a painter. The more time you give yourself to locate your artist before your event, the better chance you’ll have of getting one that knows how to handle your event,which equates to a lower stress level for you!

Finding the Right Painter:

I’m just going to come out and say it: Not all painters are created equally. This isn’t a slight, it’s a fact, and I’m sorry if some egos are wounded with this declaration. There are several degrees of separation within the face painter ranks and it’s important to know something about that if you want to make an informed decision. Firstly, you have your professional face artist/painter vs. hobbyist painter. The professional painter will have a business-like approach to event and everything from the telephone consultation, to follow up conversations and their appearance will reflect that you’re dealing with a professional. The hobby/new painter is either just getting started and is working his/her way up to professional status, or is truly someone who just sees face painting as a hobby. You will often pay more for a professional… and you know the saying about getting what you pay for. But anyone can call themselves a professional painter and the client would be none the wiser, so what are some things to expect from a true professional face painter?

• A website complete with information about the artist, service offerings and photos of faces that he/she actually painted. Buyer beware! Some painters “borrow” stock images or watermarked images from other painters. The reason for the warning is that you may not get the quality of painting you thought you were. If in doubt, ask the painter if every face displayed was painted by him/her. Craigslist isn’t the necessarily the best place to find a professional painter; however, many pros post ads that link back to their websites on Craigslist to reach a larger customer base.

• A binding contractual agreement that not only details the service you’ll be receiving, but assures that the painter you hired will not abandon you at the last moment. The artist may or may not require a retainer payment in order to confirm your booking.

• Professional products. Pros should NEVER use Acrylic, Tempera, Poster, or any paints intended for use in crafting. Craft glitter can be dangerous when used on the skin/face, so true pros opt for cosmetic glitter.

• Appropriate attire that distinguishes him/her from your guests. A suit and tie aren’t necessary, but flip flops and shorts are often frowned upon.

• A clean, concise setup. Hygiene is just as important as first impressions and if the first impression is that of a hot mess, you’re might want to reconsider.

• A repertoire of designs that the artist can execute efficiently and with expertise. A professional will only present images that he/she has painted and for the most part have those designs committed to memory.

Naturally, there aren’t an unlimited supply of professionals and, to be honest, sometimes your budget simply won’t allow for one. Yes, it’s usually best to hire a professional, but sometimes you just can’t. New painters are entering the professional ranks all the time and can still be held to the same high standards that the pros adhere to. Ask the questions and you’ll be sure to find a painter able to do an excellent job for you.

Contractual Agreements/Retainers:

Today, many seasoned painters have turned to the contractual agreement as a way of securing party bookings. The agreement is usually a simple reiteration of the clients contact information, event information, and an agreement to the terms of the booking. This agreement is binding and two sided. It is a promise of service from the artist to you and likewise, a promise to honor the payment agreement you’ve made with the artist. The contract may contain terms that address things such as cancellation, rescheduling, deposits, illness, and setup.

Most painters who use contracts require them to be signed in order to confirm your booking. There may also be a request for a retainer/deposit which may or may not be refundable (depending on the terms of the contract). The retainer is a good faith deposit that is usually required to confirm the booking. The reasons for a retainer are many, but the primary reason has to do with supply and demand. You see, when an ethical painter agrees to a booking, he/she must then decline any other booking requests that would cause a conflict with that booking. If a client decides to cancel the event or booking without giving the painter adequate notice, that painter has not only lost money from that cancelling client but also all of the potential clients he/she had to turn away.

Pay careful attention to the terms of the booking agreement! If the painter requires confirmation (either via signed contract, retainer, or both) within a certain time period, make sure you do just that! Once that time period elapses, the contract is null and void and you may just find yourself back at square one in your search. If the painter decides to book with a client who is willing to take her terms and conditions seriously, there will be little you can do about if you didn’t follow the specified directions to confirm you booking.

We all know that shitake happens, so try to keep the lines of communication open with your painter if you won’t be able to meet the confirmation deadline. However, don’t string the painter along in hopes of getting him/her to do your event without having to sign anything or pay anything upfront. Many painters will not show up for unconfirmed bookings and some even require the unconfirmed booking be paid in full electronically before agreeing show. The painter is fully within his/her rights to refuse to service your event if you refuse to comply with contact terms, it’s as simple as that.


The majority of professionals carry some form of liability insurance. This isn’t a requirement and you may encounter many newer or hobbyist painters who don’t carry this protection. This coverage is a safeguard both for the client and the painter in the event of some unforeseen damage to property or injury the painter is responsible for. The painter may not openly inform you of the presence of liability coverage (due to those who would then seek to exploit with false claims), but the question of insurance should always be asked.


First, a PSA: Acrylic paint is not face paint! The known carcinogenic ingredients of craft paints were never intended to be intentionally placed on the skin, as these harmful components can leach into the skin with prolonged contact. The manufacturers of these craft products have publicly confirmed this fact. Furthermore, the manufacturing environments for craft products aren’t subject to the same stringent foreign contaminant allowances and hygiene standards as that of a cosmetics manufacturing facility.

Responsible painters only use FDA compliant, professional cosmetic quality materials. In fact, most liability insurance providers require that covered face painters only use pro face and body art makeup. The question of materials should always be approached. It’s not rude, nor compulsive to insist upon knowing what be put on your guest’s skin. The last thing you want is to have your guests calling you about allergic reactions to products that should never have been used in the first place.

Any face painter who denies the potential harm in using acrylic, poster, tempera, or other craft paints should be avoided. Some seasoned artists may even offer assurances based on their testimony of many years without complaint. The truth of the matter is, the low cost of the craft paint face paintings make it easier for parents to disregard any minor adverse reaction as the cost of getting their child’s face painted. Unfortunately, many of these parents remain unaware of the safer, albeit more costly alternative available. Painters who use acrylics are able to charge so little for their work because their materials cost so much less than professional products. The same level of attention should be given to the type of glitter the painter uses. In addition to the difference in ingredients used to color craft glitter versus cosmetic glitter, most craft glitters are cut with sharp edges which could scratch the skin and eyes while cosmetic glitter, which is intended to be used on the face is cut with rounded edges to limit eye irritation.

If you don’t ask any other questions of the painters you are considering, ask about their products. Seek out those who only use FDA compliant face and body makeup and cosmetic grade glitters. You’ll be glad you did and so will your guests.


Ask your painter for his/her website, and if it’s at all possible, take the time to look at it to get an idea of what you can expect. The website is also a good way to get an idea of the personality of the painter and his/her professionalism. If you’re conducting your search for a painter via the internet, don’t stop your search at the banner ads on the top of the search. Those ads are expensive paid ads and often aren’t a reflection of the quality of painter you’re getting as much as they are of the amount of money he/she allocates to advertising. In this age of SEO manipulation, search engine ranking doesn’t guarantee you the best quality of painter you can afford. Take the time to review the pages of as many painters as you can. You may just be surprised at what you find!

Established painters pride themselves on having a portfolio of work that showcases their skill set. You should always ask to see a portfolio of the painters work. Ensure that what you are looking at is the painter’s actual work as opposed to images “borrowed” from other artists. Don’t fall prey to what we in the face and body art industry call the “bait and switch”. There’s nothing more disenchanting than to hire a painter who enticed you with images of the work of other (sometimes award winning) painters, only to find that what they produce looks nothing like what they advertised or that they have to paint using a book or picture as a guide. The majority of painters have their designs committed to muscle memory and even if we haven’t painted a design in a while, a simple glance is all we need to get our creative mojo going. A portfolio full of pictures that a painter feels he/she can paint is not a guarantee that your expectations will be met in the amount of time promised.

Booking Duration:

What determines the amount of time you need to hire your painter for? Well, many things. Your face painter is, unfortunately, only human and therefore the amount of faces he/she can paint within a given time period is limited. The average number of faces that a painter can paint in an hour can vary anywhere from 8-30 (or more in some extreme, minimalist painting situations). This number is contingent upon the types of faces being painted. Full faces often take a while longer than paintings that cover less facial area. Professional painters train to be able to execute a wide variety of faces within an industry accepted time frame.

Your painter will be able to tell you the minimum and maximum number faces can be painted within the time period he/she specifies. With that information, he/she will recommend a minimum booking time required to paint all of your guests. It is highly recommended that you pay close attention to this information. Many a parent has been faced with extending the booking or the difficult task of deciding which guests won’t be painted as a result of disregarding the painter’s recommendation. Are there instances where the painter can paint one or two more faces than they originally quote? Certainly! Usually this is a byproduct of other guests requesting faces that take less time than was allocated per guest. However, when you tell your painter that you are only having 12 guests and he/she shows up find 20 eager faces waiting, the painter isn’t obligated to paint any longer than the agreed upon booking duration without further compensation. If your painter has another obligation following your event, you may not be guaranteed a booking extension to keep those additional guests happy, so it’s up to you to either be upfront about the anticipated number to be painted at your party or very selective about who want to be painted. Many parents underestimate the lure of face painting on older attendees and even adults and therefore only factor in the number of young children when quoting their guest count. This isn’t your grandma’s face painting. Today’s face painting is more artistic and appealing to males, females, young and old. Just a little something to keep in mind.

For larger events, simple math will give you’re an idea of what you can expect from a face painter. There is no way humanly possible for a face painter to paint 60 faces in an hour. That would equate to roughly 30 seconds per face after you factor in the time it takes to get a child situated for painting, fidget time, the reveal process and getting the child out of your chair. Once your guest list strays into the hundreds, you can expect a suggestion of multiple painters for multiple hours to cover that volume. Unrealistic expectations will only exasperate your painter and leave you with unsatisfied customers. One of the biggest misconceptions is that a request for the painter to only paint small cheek designs will be a suitable solution to the large guest list-tiny budget conundrum. In truth, it often takes a lot longer to paint a little Choo Choo train on a moving target (aka, a child’s face) than to paint a full face Spiderman. The reason for this is that cheek art requires a greater level of detail in a small space and thus the painter must slow down in order to avoid painting a multi colored “whatzit?” on your child’s face. So the bottom line is, you should listen to what the painter tells you about his/her limitations and what you need to do to facilitate your needs being met. There’s nothing more frustrating for all involved than to marry unrealistic expectations to the very real, very human limitations of an entertainer.

Booking Costs:

A professional painter generally runs between $50/hr. and $200/hr. depending on your area and their level of experience. Keep in mind that there may also be a minimum booking duration. This cost may seem exorbitant at first glance, but it really isn’t. You see, it’s a rare painter who works a 40 hour work week. In fact, most painters work primarily on the weekend and there are only so many bookings that can be added to that weekend appointment book. It’s generally a good idea to remember that you’re not only paying for the time the painter will be painting for, but also the administrative, material, training, and transit costs that go into your booking. When you hire me to face paint for your event, you’re not just paying me to come paint for you, you’re paying for the continuous training I undergo in order to be able to deliver the quality of work you expect in a timely manner, the time it takes to do the booking paperwork, administrative costs of being a painter, as well as the time/gas it costs me to get to your event and back. A simple 1 hour booking could easily equate to a 3 hour block of transit/administrative time for which I’m not being directly compensated for.

So what are some of these additional cost factors painters must consider?

• Training: Most painters set themselves on a tract of constant training which can cost thousands per year.

• Materials/ Material replacement costs: A Professional painting kit can run anywhere from $150 for the hobbyist to thousands for the more established pro.

• Liability insurance

• Background checks

• Website & maintenance

• Administrative tasking: Those contracts and correspondances don’t write themselves.

• Event preparation. This is particularly true if your event is a themed one that requires a special repertoire of design options.

• Travel time, gasoline and vehicle wear and tear.

As with everything, these factors have a huge bearing on the price point a painter sets for his/her services. For the most part, a painter’s rate is the price point that would make doing your event worthwhile, which is why there is a minimum booking duration. If you are planning a multiple day/hour event the painter will usually be able to offer you a lower rate for the bulk booking duration.

Face painting isn’t free for the painter. Even practicing costs us. If you are looking to secure a painter for a charity function, school event or other event that would solicit for service donations, keep in mind that what may appear to be a simple donation of time to you is actually a lot more to the painter you’re soliciting. We must factor in the material replacement costs, the cost of missed booking opportunities (that would result from doing your event), and the possible benefit, if any, of doing your event could have for his/her business before deciding to offer his/her services pro bono. If someone told you that they got something for free from merchant A, would you not then look to merchant A for the same great deal? In the case of face painting, one free donation of services can easily beget a ton of calls for like donations. It’s for this reason that many painters limit their charitable service donations to a scant few per year. It never hurts to ask, but don’t be surprised or offended if your painter proposes options that make the arrangement more of a win-win for both of you. If you’re running a charity or non-profit, the painter may also ask for proof of your tax status and just for the sake of argument, a private birthday party is not considered a non-profit event.

A quick note about the “e” word:

Another peeve of painters is the dangling of what I like to call the “exposure carrot” in the faces of potential painters. Exposure can be beneficial for the new painter trying to get their name out there, but it holds little value for the established painter. Just as you can die from exposure to the elements, a face painter’s business can suffer from exposure to clientele who will expect them to also do their events for little to no compensation, particularly when the primary patrons to the event are not likely to hire a painter themselves. Exposure has its benefits, however, if you were able to find your painter through a web search or other advertisement then, odds are, he/she is pretty well exposed already.

In Summary:

Having a face painter at your event can be a unique way to treat your guests, little and big, to a little fun and fantasy. The process of finding a painter who will meet, if not exceed, your expectations takes a little legwork, but not enough to make it a stressful one. Hopefully, this guide will go a long way towards helping you make an informed decision so that the only thing you’ll have to worry about on your big day is capturing all of the memories your painter will help you create!

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