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Day of the Dead Face Painting Tutorial for Kids

This summer my little sister, who lives in Ecuador, visited me in Los Angeles. I planned a ton of outings, events and painting, which included a bit of early Day of the Dead fun. She saw my face paintings from last year's Day of the Dead celebrations and really wanted me to recreate a look on her.

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Since I didn't want to torture her with a long sitting, I decided to only paint half of her face. I asked her to look up which designs she'd like, and she picked the one I did for a TV segment in 2013.

This tutorial is a simple, yet striking, way to help kids (especially tweens and teens) express themselves artistically in celebration of Day of the Dead.

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Step 1: Make sure your tween gently cleanses her face with a scrub. It's around this time that pesky zits start to surface, and you want to make sure her skin is nice and clean. After cleansing, add a moisturizer to the skin to make it ready for makeup fun.

Photograph by Rachel Matos

Step 2: Apply your face paint. I used Ben Nye Clown White and a makeup sponge applicator to map out where I wanted everything, leaving the area open in the shape of a heart. Keep in mind that you will be continuously applying the white color as you go along so it's OK if it looks transparent at first.

Photograph by Rachel Matos

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Step 3: Use a makeup brush with a flat edge and define the line that run from the center of the forehead to the chin to separate the face for painting. You can also use this brush to sharpen your heart and hairline as well.

Use a smaller flat brush or pointed brush and apply the red in a heart shape around the eye (do not get it near the eye). Cover the eyebrows with color as well. I used Kryolan's Rainbow Wheel, which has a beautiful rich red. Keep blending until you get a nice coverage.

Photograph by Rachel Matos

Step 4: Apply black eyeshadow over the eyelid in a cat eye shape. No need to get too perfect with this by perfecting the french line. Keep it simple.

Photograph by Rachel Matos

Step 5: Now it's for the fun part: Add gems. For this one, I had my sister lie down because my hand gets shaky. I used crystal gems found at Michaels Arts & Crafts in red, but they sell them in many other colors as well. To make sure your gems are secured, you will also need faux eyelash glue and tweezers.

Make sure your glue is not fresh out of the tube. Let it sit for about a minute; it will have much more lasting stick this way. Grab each gem with the tweezers and slightly dip into your glue. Follow your outline with the gems, gently placing each on the skin, one by one.

Photograph by Rachel Matos

Step 6: You will now want to do some touch-ups. There will be a few fingerprints all over your beautiful work, but don't worry about it. If your tween is anything like my sister, they will scratch their face a few times because the brushes tickle. Dab a bit of paint here and there to touch up where necessary.

You can keep the forehead clear of embellishments or you can add half of a spider web, another heart or a flower. The flower I painted was free-hand but there are lots of patterns you can grab online or you can get Crafty Chica stencils to follow a pattern.

Photograph by Rachel Matos

Step 7: Take your black paint and color in the nose with small brush. You will start to feel the excitement at this point as it starts to come together.

You absolutely must paint the mouth last. It's pretty uncomfortable unless you decide to just paint the lips with lipstick which is easier to wear for a longer period of time than clown paint covered in black teeth lines.

Drawing in your teeth can be quite tricky. You can do full teeth or just a hint like I did with thin lines.

You can stop right there or add a few swirls and dots on the cheek for fun. I also added a bit of pink blush around the hairline, cheek and jaw for the illusion of depth. Once everything was done, I applied a bright red lipstick to the unpainted side of her lips.

Photograph by Rachel Matos

Step 8: And what about the hair? Well, I had those flowers I used in my Frida Kahlo hair tutorial handy so I created a crown of roses for her hair as the final touch.

It's a beautiful experience to share with your kids, as you talk to them about the significance of Día de los Muertos. Creating art together is a lovely way to honor those who have passed as you talk about them and the special meaning of this spiritual holiday.

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Photograph by Rachel Matos

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