I've seen my share of face painting contests
through the years that turned up in being a bit of a train wreck and I
thought I'd give some suggestions on how to smooth these out and make them
less stressful. In the various conventions I've taken part in judging quite
a few and everyone seems to run these a bit differently. I'll pass on a few
thoughts on some of the things I've learned from the school of hard knocks.
My point is not to take jabs at the other events but to give you some
thoughts in order to make your next face painting contest less stressful for
both those that participate as well as those in charge of judging the event.
Generally when I have been asked to judge I
have been given some basic parameters and generally these are quite vague. I
think the tighter you make the guidelines the less friction you will get
when something goes sour. Also the more you can put into writing the better
off you will be. This FAQ is my opinion and given as a starting point. I do
not claim to have all the answers. I'm just giving you some wisdom from the
bumps and bruises I've received or observed. What you do at your event is
totally up to you. I'm telling you if you do not run it properly you will
get hurt feelings, very angry participants, frustration all around and
judges that are getting eaten alive. If run improperly it will turn your
positive event into bad memories that are slow to heal.
1) THE JUDGES
Make sure when you select your judges you
select a handful of people (suggested three to five people) that know enough
about face painting that they can adequately be able to give a numerical
value to each of the areas you will be judging. They do not have to be face
painting "experts" but they should know enough to be able to make a sound
judgment in each area of the contest. If unclear the lead judge should
explain these BEFORE the contest starts to the other judges. For example is
a judgment criteria is "base" they should understand what it means to put on
a smooth, uniform base to a face painting design. It is very important that
those you select can be TOTALLY IMPARTIAL. Nothing will ruin a contest from
being fair than having someone that would give someone a positive edge in
the voting or one that would mark down another because of some sort of
prejudice of any kind. Politics and all similar factors should have no
weight at all in any contest. If your judges can not give everyone an
equally/fair shake in the contest then they simply should not be invited to
judge. If they can not judge based on the parameters of the contest then
they should not be allowed to participate in the judging.
2) THE CONTEST RULES
The rules and parameters should be very clearly
defined. These can be anything you want but you should strongly consider all
of the following...
a) Is there a skills level parameter? In other
words is the contest for beginners, professionals or what? You need to be
specific. In other words define what you mean. You might use words like
"this contest is for beginners that have earned money for face painting but
have painted for money for less than one year".
b) What is the particular theme of the contest?
It is wide open or are you going to define a broad or very specific theme?
Ranges could be open theme, girl's faces, butterflies, butterflies that
cover 3/4ths of the face, those that use only four colors, those that only
use red, white and blue, those that are a monarch butterfly. Be as general
or specific as you wish but have the judges stick to the parameters listed.
c) Where is this to be painted... In other
words is this contest for 2 inch by 2 inch cheek art, half faces, full faces
or can this extend to the whole body?
d) Define clearly how long the person will be
allowed to paint the design. Is there unlimited time to create the design or
does it have to be painted in under three minutes?
e) Public or private. In other words can they
paint the design totally out of the view of the judges or is it a contest
that is to be performed in the presence of the judges?
f) Help or not? Does the entire painting have
to be done by one artist? For example in body painting it could be done as a
team with some working on the base and others doing the detail work.
g) Supplies... Do you have defined tools,
paints or supplies that are required or banned? A good example is what would
you do if the person showed up and the artist was using acrylic paints or
some other unsafe material?
h) Accessories... are you going to consider
accessories as acceptable? In other words are you only going to consider the
face painting or can you give bonus points for extras like attached gems,
bindis, feathers or the like?
i) What about costumes, music, dancing or other
extras? If it is a face painting contest are you only considering the actual
face painting or do you consider the full presentation package as they walk
into the judging area. I'm telling you that as a judge I've seen it all.
This would cover everything from sexual explicit dancing to swallowing fire
in the judging area. What that has to do with face painting I have no clue
but some judges give points for these "extras" and this needs to be defined
in the rules of the contest.
j) Are their age limits? In other words could
you give a weighted balance to your judging if the painter was 12 years old?
k) Can the artist enter more than one contests?
Can they enter two different designs in the same contest?
l) What exactly could get you dropped from the
m) Who can participate? Are there exclusion
rules? If they have won before can they enter? If they are an instructor
level painter can they enter? If it is a body painting contest, painting
nudes, must the artist be over 18? If you are at a clown convention (for
example) must they be a member of your clown group? Do they have to pay an
n) Is there a limit to the number of
contestants that can enter? Must they sign up in advance? Is there any
preliminary entry rules like submit a photo of the design you will be
3) THE PRIZES
Make sure you explicitly tell all the prizes
and how they will be dealt out. In other words can one person possibly win
more than one prize? How many places will there be and specifically what
would each winner get as a prize? What happens if you have 5 places/prizes
and only 4 participants? I'll tell you it is better to give out more prizes
than less even if the prize is simply a computer generate certificate of
accomplishment. Artist, more than anything else, want to receive positives
and recognition. You would be surprised how motivating a Honorable Mention
certificate can be to a beginner face painter or as a prize to an artist
that is intimidated by the many great artists out there.
4) THE EXTRAS
a) Is the judging done in private or publicly?
b) Create forms for the judging
c) Will you make the full results public? If so
d) How will you do the judging? Is there so
much time per person? Will there be talking to the contestants? Or to the
e) On the forms is there room for the judges to
give positive comments or critiques? Will this be given to the contestant?
f) It is best to have a lead judge that can
ensure equality for all participants, judges and the methods of the judging.
There will always be questions that come up. The lead judge can set the
parameters for those questions. It would be the responsibility of the judge
to make sure everything is equal and transparent to all involved.
g) What happens if during the contest you have
a problem or conflict of interest of some sort? Can the judge be asked to
leave? How about a participant? I've seen a participant enter a contest with
a design that was painted by one of the judges. In this case they were from
outside the country and they misunderstood the parameters of the contest.
This individual thought they could win the prize if the face was on their
face and not the prize should go to the artist. We simply tossed their form
and they were not included. We did not say a word to the participant because
it was obvious they misunderstood.
In my personal viewpoint I think if it is a
face or body painting event then the extras like costumes, added music or
other antics should carry little or no weight. Also those that are at a
convention of sorts are generally there for the learning process. If they do
not win, they generally would want to know why they did not win or how they
could improve in the future. One should be careful with this as you do not
wish to crush anyone with overly negative comments. Critique yes but be
gentle. Here is how I would suggest you handle a full face contest. Again
this is just my opinion. You do what works for you.
I think it is important to give good feedback
to the participant. I also think if feedback is given then the judge that is
doing the judging should be willing to put their name on the judging form.
There should be a judging form for each judge, each participant and each
design entered. I would suggest you have a place that is pre-filled out with
the judges name, the participants name and the contest in which you are
judging. I would have a "tick mark" that allows the participant to receive
positive comments or critiques. If the individual does not want any
critiques then the judge simply do the judging with no written comments.
Critiques should only be given upon request. A copy of the judging forms
should be kept with the lead judge and copies go to the participants.
On the form I suggest a numbering system. If
you allow up to 5 points then print out the numbers 1 through 5 on the paper
and the judge would simply circle their desired number. Have someone other
than the judges adding up a total so the final result can go faster. You
would wish to have the participants move fairly quickly through the judging
area. I suggest no more than 5 minutes per person judged.
OK, so here are the categories...
disqualification opportunity if they did not
comply with the theme or any other required rule
up to 5 points for base
Is the base uniform, transparent or opaque, to
the full borders of the face?
up to 5 points for lines
Is the line work smooth as intended, uniform,
opaque as intended?
up to 5 points for blending
If there is blending in the base or lines is it
a smooth transition as intended?
up to 5 points for use of colors
Do the colors stick to the theme if there is
one? Is there proper contrast in colors if intended. Were there the right
number of colors used for this particular design?
up to 5 points for symmetry
If the design is expected to be symmetrical is
up to 5 points for flow of design
If it is a design that is meant to flow around
the eyes (as an example) does it do this smoothly and properly.
up to 5 points for complexity
Is there the perfect amount of detail? Or is it
too plain or too busy?
up to 15 points for "What is It?"
If it is intended to be a Cheetah does it look
like expected? Is it clearly an identifiable face? If it is a free form
design then also use this criteria but you would probably judge lower if
they submitted a face for example like a Dracula face.
up to 20 points for originality
These days and particularly at contests we seem
to see a lot of the same old tigers, Spiderman or butterfly faces. Extra
points should be given if someone really shows you something new.
up to 4 points for first impression
If there is a great impact when they first walk
into the room give extra points.
up to 3 points for clothing, or extras
If their overall presentation, taking into
consider everything adds to their design give extra points.
up to 3 points if they do something really
unique in terms of extras specifically in the flow of their design.
Bonus points can be given if they use extras
that would cover everything from gems to prosthetics in the area of their
I would allow a line under each area of judging
for verbal comments. This would only be room for one line as you want to run
through the judging fairly quickly. One line is plenty of room to say a
positive or comment of critique. Remember... only critique IF THE
PARTICIPANT has asked for constructive criticism. If they have not checked
this part then only give positive comment should you have one. A judge
should not feel pressure to make a positive comment if it is not there but
most entrants should solicit some positive comment.
Once the contest is over all a quick recap to
see how the judges did would be helpful as you seek to improve your
Well I hope this helps as you prepare for your
next face painting contest.