Monday, March 11, 2013

Crash Course in Bodypaint

Every now and then, you come across a character you’d love to cosplay – except she’s got bright green skin. Or flaming scarlet. Or jet black.

or two out of three!
The point is, it’s not even close to a natural flesh tone from anywhere on this planet. You could don a spandex bodysuit, but for the most realistic appearance, I've come to rely on body paint. While it’s definitely a very involved and time consuming process, I think the results are well worth it! Hopefully this little guide will break things down.

Be warned, there are pics of naked people in paint.

First things first – gather your materials. You’re going to need:

·         Someone to paint you!
·         Brushes, sponges, airbrush
·         Paint (we favor using an alcohol based airbrush paint for maximum coverage without smearing and smudging, with a water based face paint for the face and touch ups during the day.)
·         Makeup (for the face)
·         White/black (or some color combination of light/dark in complementary hues for your color) makeup or paint to use for highlights and contouring
·         Translucent setting powder
·         Dust or paint masks (trust me, you do not want to be inhaling this stuff)
·         plastic sheeting (or trash bags) and painter’s tape, to create a “painting booth”
·         Many reference pictures (if you’re just starting to learn contouring and don’t have a great knowledge of anatomy off the top of your head, consider bringing a few pictures showing very clearly defined muscle/bone)
·         Stencils for any particular tattoos the character has (we’ve generally found it’s easier to get consistent looking tattoos quickly by using a stencil and an airbrush than by free handing them. For more information about tattoos and stencils, please see my original post about the Darth Talon costume)

Tips for the paint-ee:
·         Take a shower! You want to show up for your painting with clean hair, clean skin, no makeup products, and no deodorant :O for best results, avoid tanning product, lotions, and oils on your skin for a day or two beforehand.
·         Wear comfortable shoes, something you can slip on and off.  
·         You’re going to have to stand for a while – it’s best if you can find a yoga mat or foam pad to stand on to take some of the pressure off your feet. Most importantly, don’t lock your knees!! You will get wobbly and pass out. And that will mess up your paint ;D
·         Make sure you are well rested – well hydrated – and have plenty of small things to nibble on to keep your energy up. Many painters recommend not drinking alcohol for about 24 hours in advance, because for some folks it can affect how their skin takes the paint. In any case, alcohol does dehydrate your skin, and since you’re already going to be putting your skin through the ringer, it might be best just to cut it some slack here and not drink beforehand.
·         Try to stand as absolutely still as you can, but don’t be afraid to let your painter know when you need a brief break to stretch and move.
·         Remove excess body hair from areas that are going to be painted a few days in advance.

Tips for the painter:
·         If you haven’t done this before, it might be good to do a test run of a small section of the body paint, so you can get a feel for how long it’s going to take. It’s not unheard of for body painting costumers to get up at 5am to start getting ready for the convention.  Also, it’s good to try new products on the subject’s skin ahead of time, just to make sure they won’t have an adverse reaction.
·         Be very careful when spraying the face, be sure to protect the eyes and nose. We generally just leave a huge patch around the eyes and fill that in with a gentler face paint like Snazaroo.
·         Paint the hands and mouth last, if you can, so the paint-ee can still make minor adjustments, eat, fix their eyes/hair/whatever, and possibly help with the process.
·         Along those lines, put every possible pair of hands to work – airbrushing a solid color is quite easy, and as my sister puts it No matter how ‘artistically disinclined’ someone is, they can still spray down the base color coat, freeing you to work on other jobs.” The body paint subject can also dust finished areas of themselves with setting powder.
·         Make sure you’re painting in a well ventilated area! Also, wear the face masks, because it’s very easy to inhale the paint particles, and you will both be sneezing colors for a few days afterwards if you don’t.
·         Don’t paint more than you have to; have the subject show you how much skin will actually be seen once they have their costume on. You will want to paint a “safety margin “ so in case their costume shifts, they won’t suddenly show bare skin.

This is something that’s actually very important to body paint that sometimes gets overlooked – contouring!

In a nutshell, body paint gives the skin a very matte, flat look, and while this is great for making you look trim and smooth skinned, it also erases muscle definition and minimizes natural features. For a really impressive paint job, you’re going to want to add back in certain highlights and shadows on the body. It’s up to you how much you want to define, and it’ll vary from costume to costume. A superhero will want to have very well defined muscles, whereas an elven rogue might have more lightly defined muscles. For my Darth Talon costume, my sister did contouring on the face, my neck and chest, and my bust (as she put it “well, it’s where everyone will be looking, so it needs to look really good…”)

Here’s a couple examples of how contouring works –

Example of highlights and shadows on the face

Some very nicely defined muscles! See how they used white/black paint to accentuate the natural curvature of the muscles in his chest and arms? You can also shade the veins a little if you want a really super musclebound look.

This is contouring done on a body suit, and you can see what a difference it makes to the suit. 

it was actually kinda tricky to find examples of contouring on females, but you can see here that they did her neck muscles and clavicles as well as her abs. 

Well that about wraps it up! I hope you found this little guide helpful. Feel free to comment or contact me if you have any more questions/things you think I should include. Happy painting!

Body Paint:


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