Camouflage is vastly important for all types of hunting.
You can buy jackets, you can buy boots, and other components of your gear that already has a camouflage pattern, but when it comes to face camo you have two options: mask or face paint.
If you’re choosing face paint, then you have to master getting the right patterns down in order to get your money’s worth out of it.
Poorly applied camo face paint could actually just send your prey running in the other direction, so let’s avoid that by applying the best practice possible.
Let’s get you geared up.
If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the face camouflage, we got you covered:
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- 1 The 5 Magic S’s of Camouflage Face Paint
- 2 How to Camouflage Your Face
- 3 How to Get Better at Painting Your Own Face
- 4 What Type of Paint Should You Use?
- 5 Are There Waterproof Face Paints Available?
- 6 Is Camouflage Face Paints Harmful to Your Skin?
- 7 Why do Some Camo Face Paint Patterns Look so Obvious?
- 8 Can You Use a Camouflage Mask in Place of Paint?
- 9 One of the Most Important Parts of Your Camouflage: Covered
The 5 Magic S’s of Camouflage Face Paint
You want your camo face paint to reflect a little bit of light, but not too much.
When you’re hunting a lot of ungulates with terrible eyesight, you want everything to appear as natural as possible.
Shine is something that’s hard to balance because it has to be added to the paint.
It doesn’t come from the soft, earthy colors that are generally put into camo face paint.
This is the way that your face paint naturally casts a shadow over your face.
You can either mimic this with paint, or you can ensure you’re using darker colors, but you’re not going to be very camouflaged if there isn’t at least some appearance of a silhouette.
For this, I’ve outlined a basic way to provide a great silhouette below if you’re interested.
If you’ve never heard of the starfish method, it’s time to listen up.
Our faces may be symmetrical, for the most part, but nature isn’t. It’s rugged and doesn’t play by any rules.
You want to mimic that pattern, and you can do so by utilizing certain lines and colors to give your face a different visible shape to your prey.
Shadow and silhouette are different.
Shadow defines how well you’ll blend into the darker areas of the forest, whether that’s up in a tree stand in the early morning, or in your hideout on the field while hunting ducks.
You can use the silhouette face paint tutorial that I’ve outlined below to ensure you’re getting the right amount of shadow coverage with your face paint.
You don’t want the colors of your camouflage face paint to be too close together.
You really don’t. All this will do is blur everything you’ve been trying to do.
Granted, having face paint covering your entire face is better than your natural skin color alerting nearby prey, but if you want to do this right, you’ll space out the different colors.
We’re not going for tigerstripe camo on our face in the heat of war here.
How to Camouflage Your Face
So there are a few methods that you want to master when painting your own face.
They’re each going to be a tad bit different, but they’re all effective.
#1 Starfish Method
- The goal here is to break up the shape of your face to make it blend into nature. The starfish method still uses the same types of paint as other methods. Starting with your darkest base layer, go around the edges of your face: earlobe, forehead, chin, and create a very loose, rounded-looked starfish on your face.
- Use that same color on your nose as well. You’re creating a slight illusion by having the protruding areas of your face painted darker, as it will add to the silhouette of your overall camo.
- Using a lighter color, apply it to the rest of your face. When you get to the edges of the dark and light paint colors, use three fingers simultaneously to rub the paints together, following that same starfish shape.
- Use the lighter paint in your kit on the center of your face to help create that shadowy effect. You only need a very little bit, and you can just mix it into the second base layer as you see fit.
#2 Ghost Method
- If you really want to stay concealed, the ghost method is for you. This uses a combination of light and dark to create a shadow from the top down. To start, use your darker base colors, and begin applying the paint near your forehead.
- From there, you’re going to rub in a straight up and down motion down the length of your forehead. Do not apply more paint to your hands; just use what’s left so it begins to fade out and get a little bit thinner. Once you’re halfway down your cheeks, stop.
- Use your medium shade of paint, usually a dark green, and start painting in the exact same pattern from the center of your face down. Do the same trick with letting the paint run out.
- Paint with your lightest color on the bottom, in that jagged up and down motion until it connects with the medium shade of paint.
- This creates a show from the top-down, giving you better concealment when you’re in the trees or reeds of a swamp.
#3 Breakup Method
- Start with the darkest colors of your camouflage face paint and apply a bottom layer to your face. You want to start in your cheeks and rub it in until it starts to dissipate and disperse. The darker paint will blend into your skin, leaving some lighter areas where your skin is showing through it.
- Rub in circular motions near your temple and cheekbones. After a while, you’ll be able to see the circles in the paint on your face, but don’t worry; we’re going to disrupt that pattern.
- Use the next base layer in your camouflage paint. If you’re using a standard woodland kit, your darkest paint will have been brown, and now you’ll have a dark green. Apply the same amount to your face as you did with the brown paint.
- To break up that texture, we’re going to rub in circles in the opposite way. This will move some of that previous face paint, which will give a slightly layered appearance. Once you’re done applying this next layer to your face, put your index and middle finger together, and draglines across your face in an erratic pattern to continue
- Add a small amount of your third ayer, focusing on 3-5 areas on your face. Make a dime-sized drop of paint for each of these areas, and rub it on in an up and down motion.
- Reinspect what you’ve done. Check near your eyes, ears, and hairline to ensure you’re completely concealed. This stuff can be a pain to get out of your hair, so as long as it’s on the hairline, you should be good.
How to Get Better at Painting Your Own Face
Focus on shape more than anything else.
We’re not makeup artists on the set of a Rambo film; it’s not going to be perfect, and that’s okay.
You want to ensure this takes as little time as possible so you can get out there and start hunting.
Start with an outline: work on your ears, the edges of your face, and around your eyes and mouth.
After those difficult areas are done, it’s a lot easier to just spread the paint on your face in the remaining areas, and rub it in so that it looks natural.
Always use your hands when painting your face as well.
You want a rugged, natural-looking camouflage, so rubbing it in with your own hands will create a textured appearance.
What Type of Paint Should You Use?
There are specific hunting face paints available, and those are what you should stick to if you’re going to use them.
It’s difficult to make your own paint spread from non-hunting face paints.
You need that little bit of shine in the face paint.
Most camo face paint is oil-based, and I’ll tell you right now that it can be a pain to get out of the bottle.
Because it’s a bit thicker than standard face paint, you have to warm the bottle up in order to get the paint to come out.
Are There Waterproof Face Paints Available?
That’s a tough one to say because I’ve worn paint that’s been branded as waterproof, but a bit of rainfall and it starts running.
Face paint manufacturers use a lot of the same methods that we see with makeup companies when it comes to making waterproof cosmetics for women, but with face paint, it’s a lot harder to ensure a layer that’s going across all of your faces will be perfectly waterproof.
There are surely water-resistant paints that don’t respond as quickly to rainfall or splashes of water, but eventually, water is going to make the paint come off your face.
The more waterproof paint is, the more likely it contains liquid plastic that hardens once it’s outside of the container.
While can be good for concealment, it’s not good for your skin.
You also have to think that under that layer, you still have 20,000+ pores on your face that are all being blocked, and it gets hot out there.
You’re still going to sweat, and the longer you sweat with that paint on, the more it’s going to break down.
Depending on what oils and compounds are used for these face paints, they might break down faster when introduced to alcohol rubs or hydrogen peroxide.
The tougher it is to get paint off your face, the longer it’s going to hold while you’re hunting.
Just don’t have otherworldly expectations for any hunting face paint that you buy.
Is Camouflage Face Paints Harmful to Your Skin?
Many paints are oil-based.
What this means is that it sits on top of your pores, and it hardens when it’s exposed to enough open air for a while.
You have tens of thousands of pores on your face; it’s impossible to expect that some of them won’t get clogged up with dirt, but the paints themselves are nonharmful to your skin.
Once you begin to sweat under that layer of paint, some of it can run off and soak into your pores.
It can clog your pores, but the paint is non-toxic to your skin. It’ll just wash out like everything else once you hop in the shower.
Why do Some Camo Face Paint Patterns Look so Obvious?
The goal is just to cover your face; it doesn’t have to be perfect.
If you’re hunting predators, you should take some extra time to get a good pattern down, but if you’re hunting deer, you don’t have to go crazy.
A lot of animals are called ungulates, which means that their vision is pretty terrible.
Most notably, whitetail deer are known for having the worst vision.
They have 20/100 vision, meaning they’re great at short-range viewing, but long-range targets or items are hard to make out.
Due to having two cones in their eyes instead of three, as we have, they’re not able to make out certain colors.
It’s why we can wear hunter orange without it seriously messing up our camouflage because deer can’t really see it.
Ungulates look at light more than they look at colors. When you paint your face, your skin tone isn’t reflecting light in the way that it otherwise could.
Technically, you could paint your face orange and you’d still be concealed.
You just end up looking like a yellowish blur in their vision that blends in with the foliage.
So some hunters just stick to striped patterns that look fantastic for hunting photos, because why not?
If you’re concealed either way, so long as you cover your face, then it’s okay to have fun with it.
When you’re hunting waterfowl, it’s a bit different since their vision is superior to ungulates.
Think about it: they have to be able to see food and water sources from overhead at hundreds of yards in the air.
This is why I always recommend having a camouflaged hat if you’re going to use face paint; it doesn’t stick out quite as much as your hair does.
For waterfowl hunting, you still need to have a good camo pattern, because once they’re on the field or in the pond, you’re on eye level with them.
Use a good camo pattern to stay concealed in the reeds or brush of a marsh.
Can You Use a Camouflage Mask in Place of Paint?
Yes, you absolutely can.
Personally, that’s what I use.
Face masks offer pre-designed camouflage patterns that can either blend with the jacket camo that you already have or offer something else entirely.
If you’re hunting in the early morning, you’re not going to have time to put paint in all the areas on your face that you need.
A mask comes in handy for that.
Because hunting masks are generally used when hunting deer more than with ducks, you just need to make sure that your skin is covered and that the camo is generally green and brown.
Deer have absolutely terrible vision, as do dozens of other animals that we hunt.
This means that not only do you blend in with the environment better than you could ever know, but that deer can’t see orange that well, so your hunter orange will also shield you.
Just be sure that you get a hunting mask that’s worth your time and money.
You can get masks that hang around your neck and then you can pull them up over your mouth and nose when you want, but most commonly, hunters will wear camouflage balaclavas in place of these.
Balaclavas are harder to remove, and you can’t just pull them down around your mouth to get a breath of fresh air.
I would say that the downside to choosing a hunting mask over paint is that it’s stuffy.
Even if you get a breathable material, it’s still not as breathable as just having paint on your face and breathing in full breaths without having to filter it through a foam layer.
Masks have their place: they’re good for early morning hunts and insulating you in the winter, they’re just not everyone’s cup of tea.
Thankfully, masks and face paint are totally interchangeable.
One of the Most Important Parts of Your Camouflage: Covered
Concealment is one of the first things you learn about hunting.
If you do it right, you’ll have an advantage over your prey.
Do it poorly, and you’ll spend more time wandering around the woods than actually hunting anything.
From all these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to utilize camouflage face paint properly and conceal yourself in any environment.
Woodland, jungle, winter plains or marshes—you’ve got this.
Just focus on getting it right over getting it done fast, and you’ll be good to go.