Water Activated vs. Alcohol Activated Paint: SFX Tutorial, Pt. 17
At Camera Ready, we take pride in providing professional-grade makeup for your special effects needs, but one of our most commonly asked questions is about the types of face and body paints we offer! For this installment of our Back to the Basic SFX Tutorials, we are covering which paint is best option for you based on the type of look and effect you're trying to create.
For this blog and tutorial, we partnered with @Nsomniaksdream to highlight the differences between water activated and alcohol activated paints. You may recognize @Nsomniaksdream from her spectacular YouTube makeup tutorials showcasing her talent in SFX, body painting, fantasy, and cosplay makeup.
Water activated paints are a fan favorite because they're relatively easy to work with and provide full color payoff. However, there are different types of water activated paints, and they each have their pros and cons. Let's break it down.
Water activated paints are typically broken down into two categories: wax-based and glycerin-based. This is important to note because this can affect the overall look of your makeup. Glycerin-based water-activated paints are great for blendability. These paints are fantastic for creating highlights, low lights, or gradients between different colors. You also have the capability to build or layer the colors without cracking.
PRO TIP: These paints are a great option for all-over body or character makeup looks like Venom, Gamora, or Avatar.
Wax-based paints have a slightly heavier formula that makes them great for detail work. These paints will offer an impactful pigment payoff and a fast dry time. However, if you apply too many layers, it will tend to crack and separate since it is slightly thicker in consistency than its glycerin-based counterpart. As a result, it is also slightly harder to achieve a perfectly blended ombre or gradient-like effect, but don't worry! The thicker formula does have its advantages! It allows you to create a longer and crisper line for line-work and detailing compared to water-based paints.
PRO TIP: These paints are a great option for creating detail for looks like a sugar skull or mermaid with outlined scales.
Water Activated Paints (Glycerin or Talc-Based)
Water Activated Paints (Acacia Senegal Gum or Wax-Based)
The application technique for both formulas is similar. Both types of paints need to be activated with water. A spray bottle with water can be used to spritz a small about of water directly onto the cake. You can then use a brush or sponge to apply the makeup. Another method is to have a cup of water nearby and dipping your brush in water then mixing the wet brush into the paint until you get the desired consistency. Using too much water or not enough water will affect the consistency and color payoff of the makeup. Sponges are great to use to cover a large area of the body. You can also use different types of sponges like stipple sponges or sea sponges to create texture on your look.
PRO TIP: Substitute water with a mixing liquid-like Mehron Mixing Liquid or Ben Nye Liquiset to extend the wear of your glycerin-based water-activated paints. This does not work with wax-based water-activated paints.
Water activated paints are great to create bright vibrant characters for superhero, cosplay, or fantasy looks. However, we highly recommend using a sealer if you’ll be wearing the look for an extended period of time. Since these paints are activated by water, rain or sweat will also cause them to re-activate and will impact the wearability. A theatrical or professional grade sealer like Ben Nye Final Seal or Blue Marble SELR will help lock in the look and make it sweat and water-resistant.
Alcohol activated paints are great if you are looking for longevity. These paints are water and sweat resistant, and as a result, they're also tricker to remove.
To activate this paint, 99% Isopropyl Alcohol or an Activator must be used. Anything less like 70% alcohol may destroy your makeup. Alcohol activated paints will provide you with a unique translucency that can be hard to get with water activated or cream paints. The reason being is the makeup appears to be embedded into the skin. Alcohol activated paints are fantastic for creating veins, fake tattoos, and irritated skin around wounds.
This paint is not ideal for doing full body makeup since the paint is more transparent and tends to be more costly in comparison to other paints. Alcohol activated paint is ideal for detail work or for creating realistic makeup or wound makeup.
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It is important when using alcohol-activated paint to work in a well-ventilated area. Since these paints are activated with 99% alcohol, natural hair brushes may become dried out or damaged, so opt for synthetic bristled brushes. Synthetic stipple sponges are also great to use to add texture to your makeup. Since 99% alcohol tends to evaporate fairly quickly, there is a shorter working time with these paints. If you're applying alcohol activated paints to sensitive skin, 99% alcohol may be too harsh and drying. Consider using a professional-grade activator like European Body Art Fuel, Skin Illustrator Activator, or Reel Creations Reel Developer. They are formulated with ingredients that will activate the paint without the harsh effects of 99% alcohol.
How to Remove the Paint
Water activated paints are the easiest to remove and may be removed with soap and water. However, depending on your skin type and how long you're wearing the paint, slight staining may occur in more porous areas of the body or face. In this case, using an oil-based cleanser or makeup remover with help with the removal process.
Alcohol activated paints can be removed by activating the area with more alcohol or activator. However, we also offer several products that are created to be gentler on the skin and designed specifically to remove tough to remove makeup and special effects products including PPI Telesis Super Solv Extra Strength Adhesive Remover and PPI Telesis Makeup Remover.
See it in Action!
Ready to see the difference between water activated paints and alcohol activated paints in action? View the video at the top of this blog, or visit our YouTube Channel! A special thank you to @Nsomniaksdream for creating this tutorial. We hope this blog about Water Activated vs. Alcohol Activated Paints will provide you with the knowledge in choosing the perfect paint to perfect your Halloween or SFX looks! If you have any more questions, we are here to help! Click here to reach out to our Beauty Advisors.
If you create a look using these techniques or any other SFX creation, be sure to tag @camerareadysfx on Instagram so we can see your work!
Feeling inspired? We are, too! Enjoy more tutorials from our SFX Tutorial Series
About Camera Ready Cosmetics
Camera Ready Cosmetics was founded in 2003 by Makeup Artist Mary Erickson. She dreamed of having a pro makeup showroom where artists could play with professional products without the typical makeup store attitude.
Today, our team of beauty industry veterans work together to curate the best quality products on the market. We partner with brands who respect the industry and formulate products for true working artists. You won’t find CRC in high-end malls, and we don't wear matching brush belts.
If you want to play with products for a few hours and buy nothing, that's okay ... come in and play! Our store is your playground.