How To Use Body Paint For Cosplay (And Sweep People off their Feet!)

How To Use Body Paint For Cosplay

Do you want to up your game when it comes to cosplaying? If you’re tired of the usual spandex costumes and are ready for a more challenging one, you can always explore body painting to recreate your favorite character. For starters, you don’t have to start with full-body paint costumes if you’re not comfortable. You can still opt to cover yourself with minimal clothing.

It may seem difficult to achieve a body paint costume for cosplay, especially if you’re planning to portray colorful characters with lots of details. However, with proper knowledge and some creativity, you can always achieve a body paint costume for your next cosplay.

Types of Body Paint

Different Types Of Body Paint

Before we proceed with the process of body painting, it is important to know the different kinds of body paints out there first. There are several types of paints and you need to make sure that you’re using one that’s right for you, especially if you have sensitive skin. Here are some of the main types.

Water-based Paint

Water-based body paints are the safest to use for both face and body. They are non-toxic and can be washed away easily. Water based body paint is also safe for children. They can be applied using different equipment such as paintbrushes, sponges, or airbrushes. While it is the safest out there, it’s not the best option for a professional setup as it can be rubbed off easily and is prone to cracking.

Alcohol-based Paint

Another type of body paint is those that are alcohol-based. Compared to water-based paints, these don’t come off easily. They are also waterproof, so they are safe to use for underwater body painting and during hot sunny days because sweat will not make it come off or crack. However, rubbing it might remove the paint.

Metallic Body Paint

If you’re going for a glossy and shiny look, then metallic paint is the perfect option. This type of body paint contains real metal powder, so it is best to use it with caution as it may cause skin irritation in some people. It is also harder to remove compared to water-based paints.


Henna is one of the most traditional body paints and is widely used in coastal African cities and Asia. It’s used for several events such as for women who are getting married, especially in coastal African cities. It is safe to use for adults as well as kids with no harmful side effects. However, as much as possible, avoid black henna since it may contain chemicals that can cause allergic reactions. While it is temporary, it may take some days for the henna to fade naturally.

latex body paintLatex Body Paint

If you are looking for a more affordable option, then latex body paint should be on your list. A lot of cosplayers prefer this type of paint due to its affordability and does not leave behind any paint residue. However, avoid using this type of paint if you are allergic to latex and if the event will be under extreme heat as it may lead to heatstroke. Avoid applying latex on irritated or damaged areas as well.


Now before you go and try those markers you have on your crafts box, these are different from the normal markers you typically use in school. These are special markers that are non-toxic, so it’s safe for the skin. However, there are markers that should not be used on some specific body parts, so be sure to read the packaging first before using one.

Commercial Type

Commercial bodypaint usually comes in a container or spray bottle. They are normally non-toxic and are latex-free.

body painting tools 001

Body Painting Tools

Aside from the different types of body paint, you also need to know the different tools for body painting to make sure you get every detail right.


Finding the right brush for body painting is essential, especially if your body painting has a lot of details on it such as lines or dots. Many body painting artists use kabuki or artist-grade paintbrushes.

Kabuki is a large brush that is best used for painting large areas of the body, while artist-grade paintbrushes may come in different kinds. They can be a filbert brush, rake, flat, or round and they are perfect for more detailed work. If you’re using water-based paint, go for a synthetic brush.


Again, forget about your kitchen sponges, although they can also be used if you don’t have any other choice, but it’s best to leave them to your dishes. When it comes to body painting, you would want to use a high-density sponge.

This type of sponge has smaller holes and have a microfiber texture to make sure you get an even and uniform coat of paint. When choosing a sponge size, a smaller size is recommended as it is easier to control and fits better on your palette.


Airbrushing is popular when it comes to applying face makeup, but not so in body painting. It’s a great way to achieve a smooth layer of body paint within a short period of time. The tools you need for airbrushing is compressor and airbrush.

Guide to bodypainting

Guide To Body Painting

Now that you’re familiar with the different types of body paints and the necessary tools needed, it’s time to learn about the process. The topics we’ll cover here are skin preparation, how to apply it, and how to remove the body paint.

Skin Preparation

This is a crucial step when applying the paint. Before you apply it, it is important to prepare your skin first and this would require you to take a bath and rinse thoroughly. This is to make sure that your body is clean and is free from oil.

Even if you didn’t apply any oil or lotion on your skin within the day, it excretes oils naturally. Ensuring that your skin is oil-free will make the paint easier to stick to the skin. If you have oily skin, you should definitely not skip this step.

Aside from showering, another important step you shouldn’t skip is to apply a setting spray. This will act as a barrier between the paint and your skin. This can help lessen the chance of any irritation or allergic reaction from the body paint.

Setting sprays are typically composed of alcohol, water, and other ingredients that will create a better base for the paint. Aside from acting as a protective layer, setting sprays can also help clean or remove excess oils on the skin.

Body Paint Application

You now have clean skin and have applied a thin coat of setting spray, what next? You’re ready to apply your body paint. It’s normal to get excited and start applying the paint on your body but before you do that, make sure you plan your painting to get the best end results.

Doing this will help you save time from cleaning sponges and brushes and find out which parts of the body would require large color blocks. If you are new to body painting, best to opt for water-activated paints, so in case of mistakes, you can easily rub them off and use a small brush to make an outline of the color blocks. This will make it easier for you to plan your painting.

After you have applied the paint on your bod, the next step is to apply a setting spray. Spray a light mist throughout the paint to help preserve and seal the colors. You can also use baby powder or translucent powder to prevent the paint from smearing. This will also prevent the paint from transferring to other people’s costumes when you hug people.

Removing The Body Paint

Body paints that are water-based are easier to remove. A shower with warm and soapy water usually works best. You can also use a washcloth to remove it but go for an old washcloth in case the paint will cause staining. For oil-based paints, you might want to use a solvent to help break down the oil.

You can try those waterproof makeup removers or cleansers that remove oil. Some even use a dishwashing detergent for stubborn makeup and paint. However, use it only for extreme cases, and don’t forget to moisturize your skin after. Loofahs can also help remove stubborn paints.

Tips for cosplay bodypainting

Tips for Cosplay Body Painting

  • Use high-quality body paint
  • Never buy unsealed paint
  • Always do a skin test and wait for any allergic reaction
  • Never skip the skin prep part
  • Use the right kind of makeup and paint
  • Use the right tools
  • Work on your shading and blending before the day of the cosplay
  • Print pictures of the character you plan to portray for reference while painting
  • Don’t forget to seal in the painted parts by applying powder or setting spray
  • Ask other people’s help especially if you plan on painting your arms, back, and other hard-to-reach areas
  • Wait for at least 1 to 2 minutes per coating before putting another coat of paint. To speed up the process, try using a hairdryer.
  • If you have hair on your legs or arms, shave it for an even coverage
  • Don’t forget to shower before and after
  • Practice. Before the event, practice your makeup skills
FAQ bodypainting cosplay

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of paint do cosplayers use?

Cosplayers use face and body paints or non-toxic paints that you can safely apply to your skin. There are different types of body paints including water-activated paints, grease paints, cream paints, alcohol-activated paints, and liquid paints. Body paints and face paints are usually sold in sets at different price ranges and qualities.
These paints are just temporary and you can wash them off easily without leaving any residue or stain on your skin or clothes. Some of the most popular brands used in the cosplay world are Snazaroo Paint, Graftobian ProPaint Kit, Mehron Paints, Mosaiz Face Paint, and TAG Paint.

How long can you wear body paint?

It usually depends on the type of paint you use. Most of the time, it can last a few hours or a day or two. Henna, on the other hand, can last for at least a week or two, depending on how well you take care of it.
Body painting may seem like a lot of work, but don’t worry; all your hard work will pay off when you see the final results.
If you’re still not too confident with your body painting skills, then go for one color first. As you feel more comfortable and confident, try adding more colors to your cosplay body paint costume. Just remember the tips mentioned above and you’ll be fine.

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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