Face painting is applying a design to the face, usually children's faces, using brushes and paints suitable for use on the skin. It is common at festivals and parties for children. The designs may be very simple such as a butterfly shape on the cheek in one or two colors or extremely complex such as a full leopard mask with detailed spots and many shades of color.
Some professional face painters can create whole-face designs that could compete with the costumes of the cast of the Broadway musical Cats. Their animal designs tend to have many shades of color and be very detailed. It takes a great deal of practice to be able to work with the contours of the human face and create a animal face from it. Being able to blend the face paint colors well enough to look realistic also takes a lot of practice.
Face painting kits usually include all of the colors and brushes needed for a particular design. Animal designs are very popular, but detailed witch, monster, and fairy princess designs are also available. These kits can usually be used to good effect by non-professional face painters if the brush techniques required aren't too difficult.
One doesn't have to be a professional face painter to create fun designs that children love. Younger children especially may not be able to sit still long enough to have professional face paint techniques applied. Many are happy with just a red or pink nose and some whiskers painted on to look like their favorite animal. Also, although the paint is washable, many children don't have the patience to wait while you remove layers of paint — especially if they're already tired out from an event such as a birthday party or Halloween.
Luckily, simple face painting designs that are quick to wash off can still be a lot of fun for kids. Painting faces can add to the festive feeling of an event or party. For example, some children's festivals offer free simple face painting and give each child a balloon and/or stickers to take home as well.