Jun 19

How to Choose a Face Painter

How to Choose a Face Painter in Melbourne

The popularity of face painting has increased dramatically in the last ten years or so, and with a huge amount of face painting products now available to anyone who wants to give it a go there are a lot of face painters out there jostling for space in the market. Some have been face painting professionally for a long time and have lots of experience at a variety of different events, and others are newbies looking to gain experience. So how do you tell them apart, and choose which one is right for your child’s party or event?

Step 1: Work out your budget

Everyone has a rough idea of a budget in their mind, but what does a face painter cost and what are you getting for your money? For an experienced professional face painter using professional products who has all necessary insurances, police checks, and credentials in place (more on these later), budget about $200-$250 for a 2hr minimum booking. This is the average going rate in most Australian capital cities, but rates do vary from city to city. The benefit of booking an experienced professional face painter is that the quality of their designs is excellent, they’re faster so they get through more faces in a shorter amount of time, they can handle almost any request, and they’ve been around the block a few hundred times so they know how to handle tricky situations and children on a sugar crash! We are also incredibly reliable and careful with hygiene. The cost may seem high initially, but you are certainly getting value for money and peace of mind. I’ve written a detailed blog post here on the benefits of hiring an experienced professional if you’d like to read about all the behind-the-scenes stuff we do to make your experience with us amazing.

If that’s out of your budget there are many face painters who are just starting out, or do it for a hobby. Amateur painters have lower rates because they want to gain some experience, they’re often quite slow with a limited repertoire of designs, they have limited product knowledge, and they usually don’t have the requisite insurances and police checks in place. Everybody has to start somewhere – even professionals were beginners once! The benefit here is the price of course, so if you’re low on cash and you don’t mind taking a chance on a newby then look no further. Sometimes you’ll strike gold and find someone talented and lovely. Often you won’t. If this seems a little risky to you, then you may have to reassess your budget and go for a pro.

But here’s the catch: Price is not always a good indicator of quality. Sure, experienced face painters will have a good idea of what they’re worth, but there are a lot of less experienced face painters out there who charge professional rates too. Buyer beware! The following steps should help you spot the difference, and make an informed decision next time you book a face painter.

Step 2: Check their paperwork

Face painting seems simple enough, but it can be a risky business. When someone is working in close quarters with children and putting things on their skin, you need to make sure that any risk of hazards is minimised, and that the person you’ve hired is legit. Professional face painters in Victoria are required to have current Public Liability Insurance (PLI), and Working With Children Cards (WWCC). In this age of litigation, PLI is absolutely necessary “just in case” an unforeseen issue arises from your event. A WWCC means that your face painter has passed police checks and there’s no legal reason stopping them from working with children. When enquiring, ask your face painter if they are able to provide a Public Liability Insurance Certificate of Currency, and their WWCC number.

Step 3: Ask about safety and hygiene

Every face painter you speak to will say that everything’s safe and hygienic. If questioned further, a professional face painter will be able to tell you specifically what measures they have in place to ensure that your kids are in safe hands. Here are some phrases that you want to hear from a professional face painter:

  • “We use only the best safety-tested cosmetic-grade professional products”
  • “We use a clean sponge for every child”
  • “We do not paint children with contagious conditions, broken skin, visible skin conditions or runny noses”
  • “We change our water regularly”
  • “We sanitise our hands frequently”
  • “We use brush sanitiser between clients”
  • “We clean our kits thoroughly after each day of painting”

If you are lucky enough to have the chance to watch a face painter at work before hiring them, take a look at their kit and observe their habits when painting a crowd. Yes face painting kits can get a little messy and disorganised at times, especially at the end of a long shift, but their kit should not look like it hasn’t been cleaned for weeks. If there’s caked-on grime, the brush-cleaning water hasn’t been changed all day, or the painter is using craft glitter (not safe for use on skin), then perhaps you should look elsewhere. Also beware of face painters who promise that they can paint a crazy number of faces per hour. More on that in a moment…

Step 4: Check their credentials

The truth is, anyone can pick up some face paints and start a business. There’s nothing legally stopping them from doing so. There is no such thing as compulsory qualifications when it comes to face painting, and many face painters dive in without so much as a beginner’s workshop. There’s nothing wrong with it, indeed this is how many great face painters started out, but it does explain why it can be a bit hit-and-miss when hiring a face painter.

Very recently, there has been a push in the face painting industry to really raise the bar and maintain consistently high standards when it comes to the quality of our art, and our health and safety measures. As such, several national and international associations have stepped up to the plate to regulate the face and body painting industry. Professional face painters pay for membership to these associations, and can undergo tests that evaluate their skill, practices and technique to ensure they meet association standards. The associations also offer training and professional development opportunities so that their members constantly improve their skills.

FACE – The International Face Painting Association only accepts members that pass a certification test that assesses their conduct and skill level. In Australia, FACE is affiliated with the Australasian Face and Bodypainting Association (AFABA) and they work side by side to raise the profile of face and body painters in Australia. Very recently the Australian Body Art Awards Network (ABAA Network) has also started to offer graded testing for face and body artists. Anyone can become a member of AFABA or the ABAA Network, as long as members abide by the associations’ Health and Safety Guidelines, Codes of Conduct, and Codes of Practice.

Membership to any or all of these associations is not compulsory, but it’s a good indicator that your face painter lives up to a certain professional standard.

Step 5: Clarify what equipment is included

I’ve heard some horror stories about amateur face painters who turn up to an event without organising chairs or tables, or even their own kit sometimes! It’s all a learning curve, but be sure you’re not in for nasty surprises by raising the question with them upon booking. All professional face painters have their own kits and will bring their own furniture, as well as a cloth to protect surfaces from spills. It’s always wise to double-check with your painter that they will bring their own furniture. If you have specific furniture that you would like the face painter to use, make sure you discuss this with your artist before booking to make sure that it’s suitable.

Step 6: Look at their work

This may seem obvious, but it’s really easy to overlook. Check the painter’s website or Facebook page to see what they’re capable of, and to see if their style suits your needs. Every face painter has their own style and their own strengths, so choose one that’s the right fit for you. Remember there’s a big difference between a 2-hour “showcase” face and a three-minute queue-busting quickie, so keep this in mind when choosing a painter. Your face painter’s album should have plenty of photos of a variety of faces – not just their “best” work, but also their quick on-the-job faces too.

If you’re hiring a face painter through a larger face painting business or agency and you’re not speaking directly to the artist who will be painting at your event, ask for photos of work belonging to the face painter that’s actually assigned to your booking. Many agencies use stock images that are not representative of what you will get on the day, so be mindful of this. There are also some very naughty face painters and agencies who use other artists’ images and pass them off as their own! This can be tricky to spot, but if some of their work looks amazing while other photos look terrible, or if there are watermarks on their images from another artist, you can be fairly certain that they’re misrepresenting themselves. Be careful!

Step 7: Ask how many kids they can paint per hour

How many kids are at your party? This will have a big effect on the face painter you choose. Most professional painters take 5-6 minutes on average to paint a full face design. That’s a rate of about 10-12 good quality faces per hour. If there’s a lot of kids to get through and a long line, professional painters are adaptable and can limit choices to smaller designs that only take a few minutes to complete, working at a rate of around 15 simple faces per hour without compromising hygiene or quality for quantity. These numbers are not hard and fast of course as some kids are more wriggly than others, the birthday child gets a fancier face, and at some point the kids might stop to sing happy birthday and eat cake, which can eat into painting time dramatically. If you have a large number of guests you may have to hire more artists. Be up-front with your face painter about the number of guests in attendance, and they will be able to give you a realistic estimate.

If you hire an inexperienced painter they will usually be slower to produce decent quality full faces, some taking up to 15-20mins per full face, so you might have to book them for longer to get everyone done. The opposite end of the scale is also something to look out for. Beware of face painters who promise to face paint a crazy high number of people per hour. This is because it takes time to sanitise equipment between each customer, change our water, and keep our work station (and ourselves) clean. If someone is painting at such high volumes, you can assume that something’s got to give to make way for that. Usually it’s hygiene and quality.

Most professional face painters have a 2 hour minimum call-out, so if you only have a small number of children at your party you may wonder how to get the most out of your booking. Many face painters have some extra tricks up their sleeve to add value to your small party. Some do balloon twisting, glitter tattoos, magic or games. Others might offer to arrive in costume at no extra cost. If the face painter you’ve chosen is a really amazing artist, they might take the time to do extra-special faces for each guest, or use the extra time to do an additional arm design for each child, or even paint some parents too. Everyone is different, so ask them what they can do for you.

Step 8: Be prepared

Before you call a face painter for a quote, have all your questions ready. Most importantly, have all of your event’s details at hand so that they can give you an accurate quote. Make sure you tell them:

  • The date, time and duration of the event. Many excellent face painters are booked out weeks or months in advance, so make sure you have the timing at hand to check their availability first.
  • The address of the party venue. Face painting is a mobile business, and if a job is not too far away then travel will be included in your price. However if your face painter lives on one side of Melbourne and you live on the other, they may add a reasonable travel fee on top of their face painting quote. Parking fees may also be added if paid parking is the only reasonable option at your venue. Best to check this with them up front so you don’t have any hidden surprises.
  • The number of guests to be painted. Be realistic about the number of children that are able to be painted in the time allotted; remember that face painting is not instantaneous and every face painter works at different speeds. Try to plan food and cake outside of face painting time, or factor it in if it’s unavoidable.
  • The theme of your event. Good face painters can come up with a repertoire of designs that will suit your event’s theme. Let your face painter know if there’s a theme so that they can arrive fully prepared with lots of great ideas. If you have a really unusual theme, some face painters may not be very confident coming up with designs to match, so do discuss this up front to avoid disappointment.
Step 9: Book!

If you’ve found a face painter with all the necessary requirements who paints great faces, is available when you need them, and is the right price – lock ’em in! Most professional face painters have a booking agreement you’ll be required to complete, and you’ll be asked to pay part of the cost as a booking fee to reserve your time slot.

This is not just to safeguard the face painter – it’s to safeguard you too. The agreement should outline cancellation terms so that you know exactly what to expect should unforeseen circumstances arise down the track. Verbal agreements aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, and there’s nothing more disappointing than an unreliable children’s entertainer pulling out at the last minute. Professional face painters have contingencies in place and will do their utmost to avoid disappointment and provide the best customer service possible. It’s our livelihood, so it’s in our best interests to keep our clients happy!

I hope you’ve found this guide helpful. Don’t hesitate to like, comment or share, and check out my face painting page to see how I stack up!

(aka “Sue-Dee” of Juicy Face Painting Melbourne)

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