The Evolution Of Face Painting

When we hear the term “face painting”, what usually comes to mind are colorful designs done on a child’s face. But when we look back at the history of face painting, we find that it actually has a deeper meaning than that. Way back in prehistoric times, face painting has already been used by many cultures for different reasons. Some tribes use it for hunting, others during war, and some cultures use face painting for religious reasons. Face painting has a rich history that goes back to hundreds, even thousands of years ago.

Let us go back to where it all began.

In the ancient times, warriors used face paint both in battle and in hunting as a way to camouflage themselves. Hunters would color their skin so that they could blend in with their surroundings making it less likely for animals to spot them. Face paint was also used during battle so that warriors could creep stealthily upon their opponents without getting noticed.

Face painting was also done for religious reasons. According to history, Native American tribes believed that particular colors had certain meanings and could be a way to connect to their gods. In Spiritual ceremonies, face painting was also employed because they believed this gave the celebration more meaning.

In Ancient Greece, on the other hand, face painting was used more for entertainment; particularly to color the faces of clowns or jesters. Clowns were a huge source of entertainment during the Greek era. They were known as playful and frivolous individuals whose main objective was to amuse the people. During this time, the royalty had personal jesters at their beck and call to entertain them. Clowns and jesters usually used make-up and colorful costumes during presentations. In Japan, geishas also made the white mask popular. During presentations, special ceremonies or parties they would paint their faces white, line their eyes with kohl and paint their lips red. The result was a mask-like appearance. This to them was a mark of beauty.

Today, people do face painting for hundreds of other reasons. But whether it is for sports, for Halloween or just to make a statement, face painting will always remain an art that will continue on.

By: Cindy Lee 

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Cindy Lee is an avid face painter and enthusiast. Her website provides free resources, tips and advice on how to learn face painting easily and quickly. You can learn more about Face Painting at

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