Facepainting Basics — How to Paint a Tiger Face

2/19/18 #transformationsny

I am re-posting this set of instructions for a tiger face as I get ready for my class in Facepainting Basics at Kryolan City NY on February 22. We’ll start with this simple design as an understanding of how to turn the human face into an animal mask. It’s such a basic starting place for any facepainter, I have a memory of copying a lion design out of a theatrical makeup text book (Richard Corson’s “Stage Makeup” maybe?) onto someone’s face at a Halloween event in Los Angeles around 1980, as I tried to work out what the book said about how to place the lines and use shading to change the shape of the human face. This type of design is the most direct form of mask-like facepainting, in which you directly transform the human features into the animal features, i.e. the human eyes become the tiger’s eyes, the human nose becomes the tiger’s nose, etc. The underlying formula has not changed since then for me, only the style has as, over the years, I synthesized the naturalistic shadings and linework of that theatrical makeup into this more graphic tiger mask design.  In this simplified style it’s quick to paint, makes a strong colorful impact and looks good from a distance — all of which are desirable qualities in face designs for big crowds at large events.






Here’s my simplest tiger face, a very basic approach to what is probably the most popular animal face, adapted from my book, Transformations . Just two sponge colors and black. I took the step-by-step fotos in this example as I painted a guest at an event in 2005. The makeup used is Kryolan Aquacolors, a water-based theatrical makeup, which I prefer for its bright colors and simple application. About the Makeup


Step 1 – Orange — Start with a sponge and orange cake makeup for the base color. Leave the skin exposed on the eyelids and around the mouth where you will put in the yellow.







Step 2 – Yellow — I use a large, round sponge to apply my cake makeup. By squeezing the working area of the sponge between my thumb and fingers I can control the shape it makes to put the yellow almond shape of a cat’s eye onto the eyelids. By adjusting the size and shape of the eyes you can change the demeanor of the cat: large eyes are cute and kittenish, while narrower eyes can be made sinister. Yellow also goes over and beneath the lips for the whisker areas. When I am working quickly I don’t take a lot of time to blend my colors together, but I can make variations in tone by stippling the yellow over the orange. My sponges have an open texture so if I gently touch them to a face I can quickly stipple on some color to create highlights and a furry texture.


Step 3 – Black — Finally, the black line work. The essential methodology of my fast event faces is strong black line work over brightly colored bases. I’ll use a black liquid makeup loaded onto a #8 round brush when working at my quickest. Eyes first, so they can set a bit while I finish the rest. Iconic cat eyes, with a vertical line for the pupil, also have the advantage that they don’t smear if wet when you open your eyes (like a rounded pupil does). A tiger’s face and nose are longer than ours, so you need to create an illusion to help change the shape of the human face to be more tiger-like. For the nose: paint an upside down black triangle extending below the human nose to make it look longer. Beside the nose, draw a line down from the corner of each eye to the nose you made and shade that line out a bit under the eye with the edge of your brush, to make the human nose seem wider. Add the distinctive line cats have from the nose to the lips. Then paint just the bottom lip black (not the top lip at all) to help complete a visual illusion that makes the whole whisker area jut forward. Support this illusion with the curve of the lines extending out from the sides of the bottom lip, and with “fur” lines on the chin framing the yellow patch. For whiskers I use dots (because I think they read better than little lines which can look like stripes in the wrong place.) Add dynamic black stripes and the tiger is done.

For examples of how this basic design can generate many variations in a tiger face, see the post “Tiger Variations

Learn more about all we do at: agostinoarts.com



Favorite Faces 2017 — Facepainting Gallery

January 11, 2017

#favoritefaces2017   #transformationsny

Starting here with some of my favorite playful faces of the year and examples from Art On Your Face events, followed by faces from StoryFaces performances at festivals, schools and libraries. Below is a second set of photos with more cartooning explorations, animal faces, Halloween and holiday faces.


During events I mostly take photos of faces related to designs and techniques I’m working on, so I’ll have records of multiple versions of faces like the “Eaten By…” ones to refer to as I develop them further. This year included continuing to play with putting a cartoon of someone onto their own face, like in the “Smile”  faces, plus cartoons of people as vampires and zombies. Our company project in 2017 was to create “Animals on Faces”, using the face as a canvas (rather than as a mask), like in the “3 Giraffes” or “Rainbow Macaw” faces. And throughout the year I worked to think more like a painter as I painted faces. Fueled by the artface explorations we do, I work to put what I learn from copying artists like Matisse and Modigliani into all the facepainting, to include qualities related to using the Aquacolor make-up more like a painter might: exploring surface effects, for example, like in the four “Alien” faces here.

Learn more about all we do at: agostinoarts.com

Animals On Faces — #animalsIDIC Facepainting Gallery

#AnimalsOnFaces #animalsIDIC — Approaching the face as a canvas and placing an image of the animal onto the face using the inherent shapes of the face. In creating designs to use the curved, living canvas that is a face, I start with exploring where can I place the key element(s) of the animal to create a design that fits the shapes of the face I’m painting and/or allows the wearer to animate the design by using their eyes or mouth. Years of turning people into animals at the Bronx Zoo gave me lots of opportunity to experiment with creating a variety of different faces for the same animal: moving animal images around the face to see where they fit; changing the scale of the images; applying different artistic styles; thinking about creating scenic designs, paintings and graphic images rather than mask-like faces. I’ve collected examples from the past couple decades, starting with my favorites in the top block.


Multiple images of animals. Taking a graphic approach in the first examples to confuse the perception of the underlying face and create illusions.

Examples from Transformations

For my book,  Transformations, I drew on years of events at the Bronx Zoo , including special thematic weekends such as Spots and Stripes, or Hidden Animals, that I could use to develop new designs. Working as teams of artists at those public events in which we’d paint hundreds of people, I saw the value in developing a wide range of design techniques, to create different faces for each participant so that each face remained interesting in a crowd of painted faces, and each person painted had their own unique experience. Photos mostly from 2000-2006, a few are older:

Additional Designs

Up through 2016. I’ll be posting a separate Gallery of Animals On Faces 2017 as the photos start coming in.

Learn more all we do at: agostinoarts.com


VIDEO: StoryFaces at Jackson Storyfest

Just returned from Jackson, MI where I took part in the 30th annual Jackson Storyfest, part of a herd of storytellers who were in area schools performing for over 15,000 students May 3-5, 2017.

Special thanks to Bart Hawley and his crew from JTV who came to film StoryFaces at Parkside — and who was  brave enough to be transformed himself for Punia and the King of the Sharks. On Friday night, I was the featured teller for an evening performance at a beautiful old theatre currently under renovation, the Michigan Theatre, and it is a rare pleasure for me to perform in such a classic theatre. My thanks also to Anthony and Steven at the theatre, who could not have been more welcoming.

40 Years of #FunOnFaces

My Anniversary Gallery of 2016

Christopher Agostino     updated 1/12/17 

2016 was my 40th year of painting faces, from a start as an apprentice with a theatre company painting volunteers as clowns for a bi-centennial parade in 1976, and it’s taken that long for me to begin to figure out how to really have some #funonfaces by incorporating cartooning and pictures of people on their own faces. The recent cartoon explorations have been driven by my need to add comedy to my StoryFaces performances (see  The Amazing Face Video ), and also to develop new design tools for creating theme-specific faces, which we do to keep the facepainting an adventure while giving clients a reason to hire us for interesting events (see galleries: Science On Your Face and Winter Olympics ). Here’s 2016 in faces, starting with a group of some of the more playful, #funonfaces ones, plus groups of new StoryFaces images, continuing explorations of  Art On Your Face and other types of faces. Fotos first, at the bottom some more text.

Learn more about StoryFaces and all we do at: agostinoarts.com


Faces from StoryFaces performances 2016:

Art On Your Face and other themes 2016:

This year included more fun on faces than usual, as I experiment with cartooning to make faces people can play with at events, and to animate faces in my StoryFaces shows. We surprise people with what we paint on them at events, usually just asking the participant if they want to be “nice or spooky” and then surprising them. To accommodate these kind of faces we are offering a new, third option of becoming funny-looking, and then put a cartoon of them on their face. We also had a few Art On Your Face events this year, including painting faces for a Red Grooms exhibit at the Hudson River Museum and at the Sculpture Center’s LIC Block Party, plus a number of circus themed promotional events.

The animation of the face designs is entering my new StoryFaces pieces also, both in the faces I paint on stage and in the performance style. I started the year working on “Monkey King, Yo!” for performance at the StoryCrossroads festival in Utah, and ended the year premiering a new story called “The Storyteller and the Magic Fish” in which I paint a picture of myself onto an audience volunteer.

Special thanks to the participant/victim who let me use his face for the general amusement of the crowd at First Night Morristown, to create the Happy New Year “FaceCard” ™ at our final gig of the year for the gallery’s final image.

See also galleries by theme:   Christopher’s Faces Gallery;   Christopher’s BodyPainting Gallery;  Art On Your Face — Gallery;  The Amazing Face GalleryDia De Los Muertos ; Science On Your Face ; Halloween 2015 ; Christmas in New York ;  Winter Olympics 2014

Learn more about StoryFaces and all we do at: agostinoarts.com