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Colour Contouring: Fantasy Style Make Up Without Face Paint

Have you ever seen all those fantasy, Blizzard-esque type cosplays, but cringe at the thought of covering yourself in theatrical body paint all day? Never mind worrying about it lasting through the convention without it rubbing off on your clothing.

Well, you might be in luck. You can still achieve the look of having unnaturally-coloured skin without the time or commitment to body paint. I lovingly call this “Colour Contouring”. It takes the same basic makeup principle of contouring your face or body, adding shading to key areas similar to what most folks do with standard makeup, but using the colour you want your skin to be. This can help give the effect of tinted, sculpted, and toned skin or muscles without the heaviness and stress of full body paint. Even if you decide to go full paint, it’s still good to contour yourself so your body doesn’t look so flat. It’s good to accent curves and muscle definition on your body to make it look more natural.

Before & After

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s a quick rundown of a look I did that includes a bit of colour contouring.

Prep & Contour

Always start with a nice, even base. This may mean using foundation, concealer, powder, whatever you feel gives you the most evenly toned skin finish and coverage to start with.

Then, you’re going to start contouring your face with a makeup brush. You can use your fingers in a pinch, but a brush will help blend everything in nicely because you don’t want harsh lines. You’re going to gradually build your contour, focusing on the hollows of your cheeks up to your ear, your temples, your hairline, jawbone, and the sides and bottom of your nose. If you need help finding where to shade on your cheeks, suck your cheeks in and pucker your lips. You see that whole area that’s deeply sunken in? This is where you want the colour to be the most intense. And when I say gradually build up the colour, I mean like you’ll probably be going over your skin in dozens of passes while blending to get the edges nice and soft and the centre of the contoured areas nice and saturated.

If you’re a male cosplayer, you may want to consider contouring slightly differently than I am. check out my Female to Male Make Up Tutorial to get a better idea of where you may want to contour.

Shadow & Darken

It’s also good to add some definition around the eyes. You may want to add some of the colour to your eyebrows, lower lid,  and the inner and outer corners of your eyes. Any area that has shape, depth, or casts shadow, you will want to accent with the colour. I’ve also added bright yellow to the centre of my eyes to draw extra light and create a bit of contrast to the green around my eyes. And, if you’re so inclined, add finishing touches like eyeliner and mascara, although I’m trying to leave this a bit open ended as many male cosplayers who might use this tutorial may not want those elements.


And here’s the finished look! You can see how it add definition to my face and gives a less extreme effect than fully painted skin, While it may not work for all characters, it gives another option that requires less time, less commitment, and less maintenance. You can even customize it yourself and add more drastic or colourful shading to give different effects.

What would you use colour contouring for? Let me know in the comments.

J. Tanooki is a Contributor for She has been a lover of cosplay for over 10 years and regularly works on new and exciting cosplay projects. She actively posts about her cosplay plans, progress, and random shenanigans on her Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram. Her opinion is her own. 

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