Updated December 2021
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Buying guide for Best body paint

Whether you’re a parent in charge of the face-painting booth at the school carnival or a professional cosplayer looking for head-to-toe skin coverage, the right body paint can make all the difference in your end results. 

The ideal body paint for you depends on your needs. If you’re preparing for a casual gathering such as a child’s Halloween or birthday party, an inexpensive water-based paint set could be just the ticket. If your aim is to create realistic imagery for the stage or other performance, a professional-grade paint set could be what you need to create compelling images of wounds, scales, feathers, metal, and more.

You’ll find a rainbow of attractive body paint options to choose from that vary in pigment density, quality, durability, opacity, and finish. We discuss the key factors that set formulas apart, including the difference between oil-based, alcohol-based, and water-based paints.

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The majority of body paints are ready to use right out of the tube or palette. However, some professional paints require a special mixative.

Key considerations

When choosing body paint, three key considerations revolve around the paint base, use case, and ingredients. 

Paint base

Oil-based body paint: Oil-based body paint has an exceptionally smooth finish and rich, vibrant color. It stands up to sweat without smudging or running. However, it takes a while to dry, may stain clothing, and requires makeup wipes or a special solution for removal. 

Alcohol-based body paint: Like oil-based body paint, alcohol-based body paint has a longer drying time but excellent staying power against water and sweat. Alcohol-based paint is vivid and attractive under stage lights. Notably, it shouldn’t be used anywhere near the eyes or nose because its harsher ingredients can irritate mucous membranes. 

Water-based body paint: Water-based body paint is more vulnerable to sweat and heat but has a short drying time. It doesn’t typically stain clothing, and it’s easy to remove with soap and water. Beware of cheap water-based paint that goes on smooth while wet but cracks or crumbles once dry. 

Use case

Professional: For professional use, you likely want something that photographs well, stands up to sweat and heat, and stays put for extended periods while weathering a lot of physical movement. A richly pigmented oil-based or alcohol-based paint is often the best choice in this situation.

Personal use: For personal use, a quick-drying, easily removable water-based body paint is ideal. This is especially true if the paint will be applied to children, who may easily smudge an oil-based or alcohol-based paint that takes longer to dry. 

Ingredients and color intensity

Inexpensive body paints usually contain less pigment. While these paints might look great in the tube, the results on the skin can be dull or faded. A color like white, in particular, may require several layers to build color intensity. 

Pricier body paints that are densely pigmented tend to pop on skin. Far less paint is required to do the job. 

Make sure you verify the quality of the ingredients if you’ll be applying body paint to large areas of your body, have sensitive skin, or plan to apply body paint to children. Low-quality paint can dry out or irritate skin. Look for body paints that are dermatologist tested, include moisturizing ingredients, and are labeled as non-toxic. 

If you don’t have setting spray, baby powder can be used to set your body paint.



Quantity and quality

Body paint kits usually include 6 to 12 colors with tubes ranging in size from .34 to 1 ounce. Individual bottles or tubes usually contain 1 to 1.5 ounces. 

In general, the higher the paint quality, the less you’ll need. This holds true even when covering large areas of the body or face. While it may be tempting to opt for a big kit full of many different colors to get the most bang for your buck, you may get better coverage buying just the colors you need in individual tubes. A 1-ounce bottle of high-quality paint may last up to 70 applications, while you’d be lucky to get 5 to 10 applications from a .7-ounce bottle of lower-quality budget body paint.

Opacity and finish

For optimal results, choose a body paint that dries with a smooth finish that resists cracking. Beware of paints that have a sticky finish or smear easily. Some paints have a lustrous, shiny appearance when dry, while others offer a matte finish. Keep in mind that inexpensive body paints often appear much less vibrant and opaque on the skin than in the tube. 

Color options 

Some body paints are sold in kits that include lots of pre-mixed colors, but you can also buy individual colors separately. Some kits even offer glow-in-the-dark, neon, or blacklight/UV paints.

If you’re artistically inclined and comfortable mixing your own colors, consider purchasing tubes of the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), plus black and white, to create an endless array of hues. 


If you’ll be performing while wearing your paint or want it to last for a full day, choose an oil- or alcohol-based formula that boasts great durability and won’t smudge or flake. Water-based formulas don’t hold up to sweat and heat and usually fade or smudge after a few hours.

Ease of removal

Water-based body paints come off quite easily with soap and water, while most alcohol- and oil-based options require stronger solvents, makeup remover, and lots of scrubbing. For some alcohol-based and oil-based formulas, the removal process can be as time-consuming as the application process, which may be especially unpleasant for children and individuals with sensitive skin. 

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Makeup wipes are an easy, mess-free way to remove body paint from the face.


Application brushes: BOSOBO Paint Brushes Set
Even the best body paint may look mediocre if you don’t have the right tools for the job. We like this set of paintbrushes by BOSOBO that includes a wide variety of size options and brush styles for detail work and applying paint to larger areas. 

Body paint remover: Mehron Makeup Remover
If you’ll be using alcohol- or oil-based body paint, consider purchasing a quality makeup remover so you don’t find yourself in a scrubbing marathon after your event. Mehron offers excellent body paint remover. This liquid remover penetrates alcohol- and oil-based paint quickly. It’s non-abrasive and moisturizes the skin. 

Setting spray: Physicians Formula Instaready Setting Spray
To get the maximum life out of your masterpiece, use a setting or fixing spray after you’ve finished painting. This Instaready spray helps your body paint last all day. 

Body paint prices

Body paint price varies based on type, quality, pigmentation, and ingredients. Most sets range from $10 to $25, while individual tubes are priced between $3 and $10

Inexpensive: You can find an affordable multi-color body paint set for around $10. These basic kits usually comprise several small water-based pots or tubes and are ideal for basic face painting or minor details for a Halloween costume. 

Mid-range: Mid-range sets priced between $14 and $25 include highly pigmented color options, neon, and metallic color options, nontoxic and moisturizing ingredients, and longer-lasting results. You’ll find alcohol-based, oil-based, and water-based paints in this price tier. You’ll also find some mid-range individual tubes ranging between $3 and $5 in basic colors like black and white. 

Expensive: Pricier paint is often sold by the tube for $6 to $10 or in more expansive kits priced upwards of $30. However, some high-end body paint kits kits cost as much as $120. These highly pigmented alcohol- and oil-based paints are made for stage performance and can withstand sweat and heat, but they are also more difficult to remove.

Synthetic brushes are ideal for applying fine details with body paint because they hold their shape when wet.



  • For best results, apply body paint to freshly washed, dry skin. If you have dry skin and choose to apply moisturizer, use a light, oil-free formula instead of a thicker lotion that may lead to smearing or poor application.
  • Prep your skin before painting. If you’re applying body paint to your face, set the stage for a smooth palette by applying foundation primer first to minimize the appearance of pores.
  • When possible, apply your body paint in a bedroom or kitchen instead of a bathroom. The reason: bathrooms can be humid, which prolongs the drying process.
  • Try to keep light and dark sections of paint separate from one another. You’ll get the most vibrant finished results this way. If you must layer colors, allow the first coat of paint to dry fully before you apply additional details. 
  • Lightly outline your body paint design with a brow pencil before diving into painting. This will help you avoid mistakes and save you time in the long run.
  • Mistakes are fixable. If you make a mistake while painting, use a makeup wipe or a paper towel dipped in warm, soapy water to gently remove the paint.
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Since body paint isn’t meant to be applied directly near the eyes or mouth, supplement your look with liquid eyeliner, eyeshadow, or other makeup.


Q. Is it safe to cover my entire body with body paint?

A. Covering a large amount of skin can put you at higher risk for heatstroke because body paint inhibits your ability to sweat. Make sure your paint is made especially for skin since paint meant for canvases contains harsh and even toxic chemicals. If you have sensitive skin or will be covering a large area, perform a patch test on a small area first to make sure you won’t have a reaction. Dab a patch of paint behind your ear, then wait 12 hours to find out how your skin reacts to the paint. 

Q. How many coats of body paint do I need for opaque coverage?

A. The number of coats you need depends on the brand you choose. Professional-quality paints may require just one or two coats, while lower-quality paints may require several. If you’ll be doing a photoshoot with your body paint or performing under stage lights, it’s a good idea to apply more than one coat, since paint can appear less opaque under strong lights.

Q. How long does body paint take to dry? 

A. Acrylic or water-based body paints dry quickly, in a matter of seconds. Alcohol-based and oil-based body paints take several minutes to dry, but you can speed up the process using a warm (not hot!) blowdryer.


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