It's costume season again, and face paint is a fun addition to any Halloween disguise. But rather than heading to the costume store for supplies, concoct your own at home. It's easy enough that kids can help, and you save money by using everyday ingredients, such as flour, cornstarch, and vegetable oil, to mix up only the colors and amounts needed. DIY face paints are less toxic and chemical-laden than store-bought versions; some are even edible. Use an egg carton, ice cube tray, or baby food containers to keep colors separate.
LOTION AND CORNSTARCH
This is the most common DIY face paint recipe -- variations of it show up all over the parenting blogosphere. Combine equal parts cornstarch and white cold cream or face lotion. Adjust the consistency by thinning with water or thickening with more cornstarch. Add a tiny bit of vegetable oil or baby oil (about one-quarter teaspoon) to help the paint go on more smoothly and prevent caking. The color comes from nontoxic washable paint, which costs a few dollars at the craft store. Start with a dab of paint for every spoonful of mixture. Food coloring can be used instead, but it may stain skin. Flour or baby powder can be substituted for cornstarch.
SHORTENING AND CORNSTARCH
This recipe makes a very thick, vibrantly colored paint akin to the greasepaint used by actors. The simplest version calls for two parts cornstarch and one part vegetable shortening, which yields a homemade white face paint perfect for clown faces. Alternatively, color it with washable paint or food coloring. For a more sophisticated recipe, mix 2 tablespoons of shortening, one-eighth teaspoon of petroleum jelly, and a bit of paint or food coloring. Combine 5 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1 teaspoon of flour, and add this powder to the shortening mixture a little at a time. The end result will be chunky, a bit chalky, and solid enough to handle.
Kool-Aid makes for a deliciously scented and totally edible Halloween face paint kids will love. First, mix 3 teaspoons of water, 2 teaspoons of flour, and 1 teaspoon of baby oil or vegetable oil. Then add a sprinkle of Kool-Aid for color, and keep adding until the desired color intensity is reached. If the mixture is too thin, add more flour.
Use up leftover sidewalk chalk from summer for this homemade face paint recipe (regular chalk works too). The result is sheer, almost like eye shadow, making it a good option for youngsters who want to play with makeup. Crush chalk into a powder, then mix with lotion for a thicker paint, or water for a thinner paint, and use right away. For a creamier product, let the concoction dry first.
LOTION AND TEMPERA POWDER
This method for making face paint calls for a bare minimum of ingredients: white lotion or cold cream and tempera powder (powdered pigment). Add powder to the lotion until the desired color is achieved. This recipe earns points for simplicity, although it may not have the staying power or vibrant color of some of the thicker recipes.
MILK AND CORNSTARCH
This combo produces a thinner paint that's easy to wash off, so it's an ideal recipe for playing around with different face designs before settling on "the one." Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, one-half tablespoon of milk, and one-quarter tablespoon of water. Add food coloring one drop at a time, and when the color looks dark enough, add one or two more drops. (The paint lightens when it dries on skin.)
GELATIN AND CORNSTARCH
Soak one package of unflavored gelatin in one-quarter cup of cold water and set aside. While boiling 2 cups of water, mix one-half cup of cornstarch and three-fourths of a cup of water to make a paste. Stir the paste into the boiling water and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils and clears. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin. Let it cool, divide into containers, and then add paint or food coloring. This blend also works as a regular paint for other craft projects.
FLOUR AND SALT
In a saucepan, mix 1 cup of flour, 2 tablespoons of salt, and 1.5 cups of cold water. Whisk briskly or use a hand mixer until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Add 1 and a quarter cups of hot water and bring to a boil. Boil until the mixture is smooth, whisking again as needed. Add food coloring or paint for color and store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
If you're in a pinch and need to draw a small design such as a mustache, this recipe is certainly cheap and easy. Start with plain, white toothpaste without any abrasive particles (mint-free and fluoride-free are best for sensitive skin) and blend in food coloring or face paint. This method isn't cost-effective for making a big batch, but it's perfect if you need a little color and want to avoid making a mess in the kitchen or measuring out different ingredients.
FOOD-BASED NATURAL DYES
For the particularly DIY-inclined, substitute food-based natural dyes for paint or food coloring. Sierra Club's online magazine suggests the following: For green, use puréed spinach or avocado with a squirt of lemon juice; for red, use cranberry juice; for yellow, use turmeric; for orange, use carrot juice; for pink, use beet juice or the water left after cooking beets, seedless raspberry jam, or puréed and strained raspberries; for purple, use seedless blackberry or blueberry jam or puréed and strained blackberries or blueberries; for brown, use chocolate sauce or cocoa powder. Mix any of these dyes with flour to make a paste. When the paste has dried on the skin, dab a little vegetable oil on the surface. The color lasts only an hour; other recipes may have more staying power.