Tutorial: Rite of Spring(Basic floral facepainting)

This is sort of a sloppy demonstration of the technique, it should show the basics, especially if you haven’t had prior art or facepainting experience. The MUFE Flash Creams I used are fairly expensive, but in a pinch you can use a lot of other things or face paintings. I started out using Watercolor Pencils to do facepainting for fundraisers, as a little girl. Not cosmetic safe products, but they work if nothing else is available. Failing that, you can use most kinds of liquid or pencil liner, eyeshadow applied, cream eyeshadow bases, or even in some cases lipstick. Some companies, like Cryolan or Ben Nye, produce palettes and creams exclusively for facepainting. Use a small eyeliner brush for detailed work.

The most important thing, especially if you aren’t a trained artist with good sketching abilities, is to PRACTICE. Sketch the design on paper. Plan how many leafs you want at the temples, if one should sit in the hollow of your cheekbones, how you will work around eye makeup, etc. Once you have the overall shape in your head, sketch it until you are comfortable drawing the shapes involved. Sketching is ALWAYS more difficult once you switch to a brush(especially on your own face).

This is the technique I use for most floral facepainting, though the details may vary.  In-progress pictures are from The Rite of Spring

Sketch in the outline with a liquid liner or a wet shadow. Cream colors don’t always set right away, and we want something that won’t smudge when we apply other colors on top of it. These sketches don’t n need to be complex. You can see mine just encompasses the shape of the leaves, the center vein, and the basic vine curves. I like to use Urban Decay liquid liner in Minx for this outline, because the teal tends to blend in with the leaves once they’re colored, and I can outline them with a darker color after the detailing is done. It’s always easier to cover a light color with a darker color than to cover a darker color with a light one.

Fill in the leaves with your basic leaf green shade. You can use eyeshadow, if you have a nice one, and no creams are available. It doesn’t need to be completely pretty, or opaque. We’ll be adding so much detailing on top of it that very little will be visible. Decide where your light source is, so that we can fill in shadows away from it. A lot of the time, I plan the light source to be overhead. So when I fill in leaves, I put highlights on the top side, and shadows on the bottom. If you wanted to make, say, the nose the light source, you could put highlights in the inner edges of all of the leaves, and keep the darkest shadows at the temples. To plan the light from one side, you may add highlights on all of that sides detailing, and create your shadows in the details on the other side of the face. It can get fairly complex. Overhead is the easiest, I think. But making an actual CHOICE will help give your detailing a dimensional look, free from mis-placed shadows that can jar the viewer.

Now, if you’ve taken art classes, you know that most of the things we perceive as shadow AREN’T actually black or true gray. When we’re veining leafs, and adding detailing, considering the color of the shadows and details will help give a much more realistic look than just adding black to the green in a few areas. I like to use deep blue, and sometimes brown, for the shadows on leaves. Add these around the center vein, making them denser in areas away from your “light source” I also make them denser around the bottom leaf, when two overlap.

Use short strokes for all shadows and detailing, for a very crisp look that can make it look FAR more complex than it is. Fill in more leaf green strokes around the centers of the leaves, for texture, after your initial low-lights have been added.

Stipple some yellow, or mixed yellow-green around the tips and upper edges of the leaves, where you want highlights. This will all look fairly sloppy up close. Make sure to step back to normal viewing distance before you make too many judgments. It’s easy to overblend, and wear colored splotches, rather than crisply veined leaves.

Build up these details in layers. If you’ve smudged your shadows, stipple a few more in. If your highlights are too harsh, stipple more leaf green towards those edges, overlapping the edge of the offending highlight.

Once it is to your satisfaction, use a deeper color(I like to use black, for contrast rather than realism) to sketch the center vein and line any overlapping edges. For a realistic look, you can blend or stipple over it. You can add shadows where the leaves “rest” on skin. I prefer to outline the whole thing, most of the time. I really like the contrast. I usually like to touch up the details over the outline, so that it peeps through, but is still covered in areas.  So add one or two more layers of blue/black veining, and yellow highlights.

A lot of times, for more abstract vining shapes, like the ones under my eye, I don’t line the WHOLE thing in black, just vague edges of curves, and the vines themselves.

There. It’s a little rough, but done, overall.

The most important thing for precise details, is stability. When you are drawing on paper, it is on a flat surface, that doesn’t move. It doesn’t fluctuate with breath, or get stiff or painful when shifting it to see other angles. Your elbows are anchored on the table, and your pencil has a very precise amount of control in its contact with the paper. To compensate for some of the idiosyncrasies of a human canvas, anchor yourself as best you can. Rest part of your hand on the face to get more control over the brush. Rest your elbow on the vanity. Lean forward and anchor your torso as much as possible. Use a standing mirror, not one you have to hold up or angle yourself.(I’m sure most of that was common sense. I have to remind myself all the time, though, since I usually tip my face up and use a handheld mirror for better lighting, when working around my eyes. And then the results are shakey. Sigh)

It’s not the best example, but hopefully this gives you an idea of how to break down more complex floral facepainting!  Good luck!


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