PAX body paint overview and review!

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#1 cachalot on 10 years ago

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 :D

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.

#2 cachalot on 10 years ago

I neglect to mention that I bought my Pros-Aide from this site


The 16 oz bottle cost about $40 with shipping, but that size bottle should last you about 2 full-body applications if you use it judiciously.

#3 Dust Bunny on 10 years ago

I'm sorta confused about this. I was under the impression that most acrylic paints (like liquitex) are craft quality and just because they are non-toxic it does not mean that they are safe or are meant to be worn on the body.

Its great that you were able to get the paint to last all day, and that is definitely a desirable quality but could you please elaborate on the safety of this method?

#4 verdatum on 10 years ago

Cachalot, I saw you at Otakon in costume. I wanted to flag you down and talk about how you did the makeup, but I was rushing to an event. I'm glad you picked PAX, and I'm glad it worked out as well as it did. The pics look fantastic.

I could be wrong, but I think I was the first person who started talking about using PAX in any detail on this site, years back.

Dust Bunny, the safety of PAX is a complicated issue. In the US, there are very stringent rules and regulations on toxicity of paint. For liquitex, and basically any paint you will find in a craft store, products are certified by ACMI to be labeled in accordance with the chronic hazard labeling standard, ASTM D 4236, and the U. S. Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act (LHAMA). They are generally rated CL and/or AP. You can find more details here: [url][/url]

Cosmetics are regulated by a different body in the US, namely the FDA. They have a specific list of chemicals that are considered safe to use in makeup. Among these chemicals, some of the pigments in the range of reds and purples have stipulation that they not be used on the mucous membranes (namely, close to the eyes). I spent a good deal of time researching this, and I've never been able to find a friendly statement explaining the situation.

Hollywood has been using PAX as a special effects cosmetic for about 40 years now. Granted, they are professionals, so they are able to assume greater risk. Many times when you buy stage makeup, you will see it labeled with "For Professional Use Only". This means that the product hasn't been evaluated using the same standards the FDA puts on retail cosmetics, and it's the responsibility of the person applying the product to see that it is used in a safe and proper manner.

In general, any makeup should be tested on the skin first (I like to use the skin just behind the underside of the wrist, as it is particularly sensitive). And if makeup seems to be causing irritation, it should be removed quickly using the most gentle method possible.
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#5 cachalot on 10 years ago

@Verdatum - Ah, I didn't know you were at Otakon! You are the person who actually inspired me to use PAX since you seemed to be the only person on the forums who was talking about it. Because of your mention, I dug deeper and decided that it was the way to go, and it worked out perfectly.

As for sensitive skin, my husband did have a slight problem with the paint. I'm not sure if it was the paint itself or the remover, but he has very very sensitive skin, and it left some red irritated spots on his skin for a few hours after we washed it off. They went away very quickly though.

#6 CL0VACHE on 10 years ago

This is super helpful, PAX sounds like the way to go.

The removal process sounds painful though, would it take a lot longer to do if you only have yourself or one other person helping?

#7 cachalot on 10 years ago

@Cl0vache ~ I attempted to do most of the removal myself, and it took a looong time. It's totally possible to get it off yourself, but I recommend you get the giant size of the remover (part of what took me so long was that I didn't have a big bottle of the remover so I couldn't douse myself in it XD)

You definitely need at least one other person helping you if you are doing full body since the other person will need to clean off the parts you can't reach, such as your back.

#8 OGIGA on 10 years ago

Awesome guide! May I ask, how long does your skin stay tinted?

#9 cachalot on 10 years ago

@Ogiga: Well, the paint itself stays on pretty much till you peel it off...I had to forcefully peel most of it off though, so I assume it lasts for a very long time. The main thing is that it doesn't wash off, so water and/or sweat has no effect on it. I wouldn't suggest sleeping with it on or anything like that, as you might wake up with it stuck to the sheets XD

#10 cachalot on 10 years ago

@Etoile-sama: I did powder between the layers at first, though that was out of necessity because I was doing my own paint and I couldn't move around without fear of sticking to myself if I wasn't powdered. I do recommend letting each layer dry before repainting, although it's generally safe to repaint when the layer is almost dry. If you don't let it dry at least a little, the paint will streak. Again the hair dryer works pretty good for drying fast. But it doesn't seem to affect the quality of the paint whether or not you powder between layers.

I used the no-tack PAX, but I don't think it really matters, as I had to powder anyway >< The no-tack PAX doesn't stick to non-painted surfaces when dry, but it sticks to itself, so it rather defeats the purpose.

It took me 6 hours, although most of that was because it was my first time doing full body paint. Next time I do it, it will probably be faster XD

As for the eye area, I actually just applied it on to my eyes and eyelids. I suppose that if you wear PAX a lot, it's not safe, but this was a one-time deal so it seemed fine. If you don't want to paint it around your eyes (it IS uncomfortable and your eyelids stick together if you paint them) you might want to look into Mehron or other face paint brands that make water-based paints that are safe for eyes. Since it's such a small area it shouldn't matter too much if it rubs off a little since you can reapply.

@Lucrezea: Actually, it didn't feel bad at all! I actually started forgetting that I was painted once we reached the con. Part of it was that the rest of my costume was rather uncomfortable (really heavy wig + 6 in shoes + 3 inch fingernails) so I was more focused on my head and feet aching. But also part of it was also the paint did really feel fine. It felt very breathable and I didn't have any uh...negative reaction to it.

I do, as Verdatum says above, highly recommend you try the paint out on different parts of the body before the big day, so that if you do suffer an allergic reaction to it, there will be a smaller amount to remove and you will have time to find something else that your skin doesn't dislike.

#11 OGIGA on 10 years ago

[QUOTE=cachalot;3617886]@Ogiga: Well, the paint itself stays on pretty much till you peel it off...I had to forcefully peel most of it off though, so I assume it lasts for a very long time. The main thing is that it doesn't wash off, so water and/or sweat has no effect on it. I wouldn't suggest sleeping with it on or anything like that, as you might wake up with it stuck to the sheets XD[/QUOTE]

Oh, I was really asking, does your actual skin stay tinted after removing the paint? For example, if I painted myself blue/purple/green, would I look like a dead person after removing the paint layer?

#12 CrimsonDenizen on 10 years ago

this is very informative stuff. When I get ready for Majin Buu I shall rely on you miss Cachalot ^^

#13 cachalot on 10 years ago

[QUOTE=OGIGA;3628528]Oh, I was really asking, does your actual skin stay tinted after removing the paint? For example, if I painted myself blue/purple/green, would I look like a dead person after removing the paint layer?[/QUOTE]

Oh! XD no, because PAX is an adhesive, not a true paint, the color peels or scrubs off with the layer of adhesive. There is no tinting of skin because nothing soaks into your skin (unlike some water-based body paints)

#14 cachalot on 10 years ago

[QUOTE=Lucrezea;3628513]That's pretty impressive, I would've assumed it made you feel... well, disgusting for lack of a better word. Thanks![/QUOTE]

At first when the paint goes on it's a bit weird. It's kind of cold XD but after it dries it's almost like a second-skin.

The best part was that I could sit down with the paint on and not having to worry about it rubbing off on anything. I sat down as often as I could because my shoes hurt so much, and it was on basically any surface that could support my weight - metal windowsills, brick and concrete, and upholstered chairs, and I didn't stick to any of them.

#15 sukimba on 10 years ago

So you said it doesn't rub off with water, what about sweat? If you can't sweat it off, do you sweat through it?