Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Skin: Body Painting 101

There are a lot of surfaces that one can use as a canvas for their acrylic paint masterpieces.

Most of us use paper and cloth, some take their works outside and paint on walls and pavement, and some of us even use the body itself like fashion designers and makeup artists.

In fact, if you’re reading this article right now, then you’re probably thinking of the same thing.

You’re wondering, can you use acrylic paint on skin?

The Body as a Canvas

We’re not surprised. Body painting is one of the oldest forms of art; in fact, historical evidence suggests that it’s even older than human civilization itself.

Humans have been painting their bodies for a long time for different reasons: for survival to camouflage themselves from predators, both animals and human enemies alike, for war to intimidate their enemies, and rituals such as during weddings and prayer.

In fact, body painting is the root of other forms of body modification, like tattoos and piercings.

Today, there are different reasons for us to use our bodies as a canvas, but the most common reason is to express ourselves.

You can always get a tattoo in order to do that, but if you want something less permanent, then that’s where body painting comes into play.

You have two choices. You can start by wearing makeup for your face, or you can go all the way and paint your own or somebody else’s body in full.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Skin?

This leads us to the original question: can you use acrylic paint on skin?

There are different reasons why artists think that acrylic paint is the best medium to use.

First of all, it’s non-toxic by nature, and second, it’s water-based, so there’s a common misconception that it is very easy to remove acrylic paint.

However, it’s not advisable for the following reasons:

1. It’s Not Completely Non-Toxic

While many consider acrylic paint safe, the truth is acrylic is a non-toxic component, but there are components in the pigments that can still be toxic when inhaled, ingested, and of course, if used in direct contact with one’s skin. Moreover, it can also result in skin irritation.

2. The Scent Is a Possible Health Risk

Since body paints are in direct contact with your skin, that means you will be exposed to inhaling the odors of the paint.

In a study published by the Frontiers in Public Health, it was found out that at least six different brands of acrylic paint release harmful components in the air, especially as it dries.

3. It Hardens as It Dries

Since we’re already talking about the drying process of acrylic paint, it is also important to take note that it hardens up as the paint dries.

This is one of the properties that makes acrylic paint a good painting medium.

It becomes weather-resistant after that, making your work of art last for a very long time with proper care and maintenance.

However, precisely because of this property, it makes it incompatible with our flexible skin, and hence a not-so-good medium to paint on your face.

Acrylic paints can block pores and irritate if you’re not careful. This is also the reason why we recommend that you wash off any acrylic paints on your skin, especially when they are still wet, else it may become really tricky to remove acrylic paint without using rubbing alcohol – which again can result in skin irritation.

4. It Cracks

In relation to the previous point, because it hardens, you will find that your work will start cracking over time, a problem that you may not see with other body paints.

You will need constant retouching. It’s simply not worth the effort, especially if you’re body painting for an event longer than an hour.

5. It’s Painful to Remove Once Dry

Finally, and also in relation to the previous points, since acrylic polymer emulsion in the paint hardens up, it can get challenging to remove one’s skin. It will take more than just water and soap.

If you do find yourself in this situation, you can use baby oil or rubbing alcohol to loosen up and remove acrylic paint.

However, even so, it still won’t be enough for a complete acrylic paint wash.

It is inevitable for the acrylic paint to stay on your body hair, and forcing the paint off will remove these hairs, as well.

Think of the experience as getting yourself waxed, but instead of specific parts of the body, it will happen all over, as long as it’s covered in paint.

What You Should Use Instead of Acrylic Paints

For those reasons, we don’t recommend using acrylic paint as a medium for body painting. After all, it wasn’t formulated for this purpose.

Instead, we recommend using body paint and makeup.

In this light, here are the factors that you should look into when choosing body paint:

1. Hypoallergenic

Each client has different skin, so you should consider getting products that are hypoallergenic since they can work even with the most sensitive skin types.

2. Waterproof

Another feature that you should look into is the waterproof ability of the product.

It will keep the product on, even through tears and sweat—something that you should look into, especially if you’re doing parties or events that take quite a while to finish.

3. Washability

Even if it’s waterproof, it shouldn’t be too difficult to remove, as well. This is something that you should consider, especially when working with younger clients.

4. Opacity

Finally, here’s a factor that most beginners forget. If you really want the colors to pop, regardless of your client’s skin complexion, then you should definitely consider getting products with high opacity.

By doing so, you will also make your process faster since it will require fewer layers to get the results you want.

Less opaque products would require you to build up, after all.

can you use acrylic paint on skin

A Guide on Body and Face Painting

You would probably want to start working right away after you have received your products.

Hence, here’s a quick guide to help you get started:

1. Prepare Your Tools

Body and face painting products are not the only tools you will need for your first body painting gig.

You will also need to prepare different brushes and sponges of various sizes.

Aside from that, prepare a water container, spray bottle, and wet wipes for cleaning up your mistakes and your tools.

Consider the other products that you would like to use depending on the finished work you hope to achieve, such as glitter, stickers, and stencils.

Finally, you will need a case or bag in order to carry all your tools and keep them organized in one place.

2. Prepare Yourself

The next thing you need to do once all your tools are ready is to prepare yourself.

Look for reference pictures in advance. Check out different tutorials, similar to the work you have in mind, from video sharing sites.

We recommend watching videos when learning body painting and makeup application since you will be able to see how the products are built up and layered on top of each other.

Don’t forget a high-quality reference picture, something that will allow you to zoom in and see smaller details.

3. Practice

Finally, you should practice on your own face or someone else who will be glad to volunteer.

The skills that you should really focus on are how to refine your linework and contouring skills.

If you’re only expecting to work on one client or one piece, then practicing how to do that design is enough.

However, if you’re going to work for an event where you expect multiple clients, like children’s parties, then you should practice a collection of popular designs.

Here are some ideas:

  • Superheroes
  • Cartoon characters
  • Animals and animal prints
  • Butterfly and fairy wings
  • Flowers and leaves

Body painting is very different from painting on a stable surface.

The body has different curves and crevices that you should also need to consider.

Aside from that, don’t expect your client to remain still during the whole experience.

Everyone has a tickle spot. Children can’t sit still. Eyes are prone to constant tearing up and fluttering when you’re attaching fake lashes.

These are but some of the challenges that you should prepare for; regardless, we believe that you will be able to do an awesome job. Just be creative.

You don’t have to be a professional makeup artist and get a certificate or diploma to get into body painting, the same way that you don’t need to finish from a fine arts course in order to become an artist.

The Road to Becoming a Makeup Artist

Speaking of becoming a makeup artist and professional body painter, we know what you’re thinking: can you teach yourself to do so?

Yes, you can! Here’s are some tips:

1. Educate Yourself

There are a lot of references and educational resources online that you can tap into anytime.

It wouldn’t hurt to take an actual course since it’s where you can master the fundamentals of makeup artistry, but we can’t see any reason why you can’t achieve the same level of educated skill with enough practice and experience.

2. Build Experience

Concerning the previous tip, regardless if you take a class or not, it’s crucial to build your experience as much as you can by:

  • Offering your makeup services for free
  • Working actively with your local theater company. Practice on whoever’s willing
  • Holding makeup and body painting evenings with friends
  • Signing up for your niece’s fifth birthday party and make a face painting booth.
  • Go out of your way to flex your creative muscles and take on more difficult styles and designs later on.

3. Get Feedback

As important as getting experience is getting feedback in order to refine your techniques.

This will be helpful in the next step, but most of all, it will help you connect with your clients better.

We have noticed with our friends, who transitioned to this line of job, that one of the struggles they encountered is their hands’ gentleness.

As artists used to work on inanimate surfaces, we can see how it can be easy to forget that body painting requires working on “canvases” that feel pain and discomfort.

Maybe it’s something that you should also work on?

4. Market!

When it comes to this line of work, results are everything.

Show off your work online. Use Instagram or your blog in order to show off your work.

Don’t hold back from showing before and after pictures.

Social media accounts can also serve as a good platform to post and share your positive client testimonials.

5. Grow

Finally, rinse and repeat the steps that we have mentioned. Never stop pushing yourself forward.

Practice creating different looks. Don’t stop growing.

With the tips that we have shared with you in mind, it won’t be long until you can even turn this creative pursuit into a money-making gig, or better yet, an actual profession.

On Pricing Your Work

Since we’re already talking about getting paid, here’s the last subtopic.

There will come a time when you will feel that you’ve reached the stage when you can start asking for payment from your clients.

As such, here are the factors that you should take into consideration when doing so:

1. The Cost of Your Time

How long will it take you to complete the look required?

Are you just going to work on the client’s face, or will it be a full-body project?

2. The Cost of Your Materials

You will constantly need to replenish your supplies.

Aside from that, you will also need to build your collection in order to accommodate different skin types and complexions.

Thus, don’t forget to take the cost of your materials in mind when pricing for gigs.

3. The Difficulty of the Look

Creating a look for a client’s graduation is different from a full face makeup of Joker for a costume party.

That’s also different from painting a full face, extending to the client’s neck to make them look like a monster with a wide-open mouth with teeth.

Even that is different from a full-body makeup for a friendly blue Smurf.

4. The Reach of Your Look

Here’s something that beginners fail to consider. How many people are going to see your work?

Is it just for a one-time event, or is it going to be published in magazines or TV commercials?

You need to think about all these things and more if you want to take your pursuit to a professional level.

Final Words

Thank you so much for reading our guide all the way through.

We hope that it helps you in your path towards body and face painting.

If you want to continue your journey in using acrylic as a painting medium, though, then please feel free to continue exploring our website for more helpful articles like this.

Never stop creating!

FAQ About Body Painting

1) Is acrylic paint safe for use on skin?

Acrylic paint is not safe for use on skin. It contains chemicals that can be harmful if absorbed through the skin, and it is not intended for use as body paint. If you want to paint your skin, look for products specifically designed for that purpose, such as face paints or body paints.

2) Can you use acrylic paint for body painting?

While acrylic paint is non-toxic and safe for use on surfaces such as canvas or paper, it is not recommended for use on skin. Acrylic paint can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, and even chemical burns. It is best to use body paint specifically designed for use on skin.

3) How can you remove acrylic paint from skin?

 There are several methods to remove acrylic paint from skin, including using soap and water, baby oil, or rubbing alcohol. One effective method is to mix equal parts of dish soap and olive oil, apply it to the affected area, and gently rub with a cloth or sponge. Rinse with warm water and repeat if necessary.

4) Can acrylic paint cause skin irritation?

Yes, acrylic paint can cause skin irritation in some people. This is because it contains chemicals that can be harsh on the skin, especially if you have sensitive skin or allergies. It’s important to wear gloves and protective clothing when using acrylic paint, and to wash your hands thoroughly after use. If you experience any skin irritation or allergic reactions, stop using the paint immediately and seek medical attention if necessary.

5) Are there any health risks associated with using acrylic paint on skin?

 While acrylic paint is non-toxic and safe for use on most surfaces, it is not recommended for use on skin. Acrylic paint can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, and even chemical burns if left on the skin for too long. It is best to use body paint or other products specifically designed for use on skin.


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