I've seen a thousand threads on the makeup forum about body paint and what the best kind is, which kind doesn't rub off, which kind is long-lasting, etc. So I decided to write up this small post about my experience with using PAX paint for full-body painting. Last weekend I cosplayed Shiva from Final Fantasy X for Otakon 2010, who is completely blue from head to toe and wears nothing except two bra cups and a string bikini bottom.
Because of the fact that I needed so much coverage over a huge skin area and the fact that I couldn't risk the paint rubbing off ANYWHERE for a minute because it would look awful, I did tons of research on every kind of body paint I could find. I looked up Ben Nye, Kryolan, Mehron, all kinds of airbrush paints, and professionally mixed brands of paint that weren't the big three above. All of them seemed either too expensive or didn't offer enough coverage, or the reviews that I read said they were not suitable for long wear because they would rub off on clothing or anything you touched, no matter how slightly. I planned on wearing Shiva for at least 5-6 hours, and sitting down/touching things the whole time, so it didn't seem like the right fit for me. One of my friends who cosplayed as Kefka from Final Fantasy VI last year used the Mehron for her face and its staying power was fairly good but it did rub off along her neck and streaked a little around the ears.
So in the end, I decided on PAX paint, which really isn't a commercial brand of body makeup at all. Some people do sell PAX in bottles, but I definitely don't recommend buying the pre-mixed stuff, as it's expensive. What PAX basically is: Pros-Aide body adhesive mixed with acrylic paint. Pros-Aide is an adhesive used for prosthetics (think a stronger version of spirit gum), which is usually whitish-clear. The acrylic paint gives it opaque color. So basically think of PAX paint as a colored adhesive that sticks to your skin and hides its natural color.
I bought 2 bottles of 16 oz Pros-Aide just to be safe, because I didn't know how much I would need to mix to achieve results for a full body paint. Standard directions say to mix the Pros-Aide and paint on a 1-to-1 ratio. I found that I achieved better results by mixing slightly more Pros-Aide and less acrylic. The color still comes through very opaque and the paint sticks much better. I discovered that I needed 3 coats to get a good, streak-free result - one light primer coat and two heavier top coats. After mixing one 16 oz bottle of Pros-Aide with acrylics and painting myself entirely and also painting some blue tattoos onto my husband, I still had about half a bottle of PAX left, so I would rate coverage as excellent, and I definitely didn't need 2 bottles. About 10oz of Pros-Aide would probably have been more than enough.
The brand of acrylic doesn't really matter that much in my experience. Liquitex is generally recommended, but I've tried it with cheaper acrylic brands and also metallic powders and it works just fine.
To apply it, I used a cheap face powder makeup brush from CVS. The brush head was big enough that it covered a lot of skin with each brush stroke, and the bristles were really soft so there was no streaking or visible brush-strokes by the third coat. The downside is that I had to dispose of the brush after applying all the paint, as it was totally caked and ruined. (I tried washing it and soaking it in adhesive remover, but it was more trouble than it was worth. I recommend just buying a new brush each time)
Pros-Aide, being an adhesive, will stick to pretty much anything, including itself. There is a "no-tack" Pros-Aide that you can buy that's marketed to be used strictly for PAX, but what they don't tell you is that even the no-tack has SOME tack and sticks VERY badly to itself. So you will also need some powder to powder yourself all over. I used a mixture of white baby powder and blue talc powder I got from Coastal Scents. Once powdered, I remained stick-free all day and could sit down, walk, and touch things with no problem. But because the PAX remains sticky to itself until powdered, I don't recommend applying most of the makeup yourself. Use a buddy. I learned this the hard way while applying makeup to my arm, trying to bend it, and accidentally sticking it to itself as I tried to move and paint another part of my body.
You can't powder the PAX till it's completely dry or it will stick to the powder brush. A hair dryer works well to dry the paint fast. I used a regular cheap kabuki brush to powder, but if you can get your hands on one of those giant powder poof things, I think that would be even better.
The biggest headache is getting the makeup off. The GOOD thing about makeup that rubs off is that it doesn't take that long to get off. And when I mean "that long" I literally mean that. PAX does not rub off. Therefore, it took me 3 and a half hours to get the PAX off, with help from my 2 con roommates and my husband, and that was most of the paint, not all of it. The remover I used was Telesis Super Solv, which is recommended for use with PAX, and it definitely helped and I wouldn't have gotten the paint off without it, but don't expect the remover to dissolve the paint and melt it off. I had to scrub. Really hard.
If you're doing this in a hotel room (this really applies to ALL makeup and body makeup application!) bring a big trash bag to stand on and an old towel for makeup removal. Hotels don't take kindly to you getting paint on the floor or on their nice white towels. Luckily, because PAX is not a true paint but instead an adhesive, you can usually get it off hard surfaces such as countertops and tables if you scrub a little.
I would highly highly recommend PAX to any cosplayers who need absolute full body coverage, or if you're wearing a costume that you can't wash and absolutely cannot get paint on or stain. Just make sure to powder powder powder! Use a friend! And schedule enough time into the end of the day to get the paint off, cause it takes a long time.
Any questions, or anyone else have experiences with PAX? I'd love to hear from you
You can find photos of my Shiva costume in my gallery:
I don't have many yet because I'm still waiting on some photos from two photoshoots, but I will get them up as soon as I can.