Tribal dragon full face tutorial

Posted by Beth Mackinney on


Again, in keeping with the challenges I’ve been participating in, we were asked to create a design inspired by Cameron Garrett, who is one of my favorite face painting artists. Cameron’s work is best known for its vibrant colors, precise line work, and tribal additions, so I chose to elaborate on a quick dragon-claw eye design she had shared in the past and instead make an entire face design. By using the intense Global colors, this design really pops, so I hope you enjoy the tutorial!


Global small split cake London
Global lime green
Global standard green deep
Wolfe white
Diamond FX black
3/4-inch flat brush
#5 round brush
#2 round brush or #1 round brush
BAM stencil Snakeskin BAM1005


Begin by sponging the Global lime green on the face in the general shape of the dragon.


Load your 3/4-inch flat brush from the small Global split London and create a curve in the center of the forehead with the purple on the outside.


Continue to outline the design with the small split London, reloading your brush as necessary, until you’ve finished the exterior edge. To soften the inner edge and blend it into your original base, go over the inner edge with your sponge again.


Load your sponge with the Global standard dark green so that your sponge is not too damp. If it isn’t fairly dry, the paint will bleed underneath the stencil and the result will be blotchy. Place the stencil in place on the center of the forehead and work out from there. Reposition the stencil on the temples and also the cheeks to add extra texture in those locations.


Load your #5 round brush to add teeth and horns where you would like them.



Sponge some dark green over the eye area.


Load your #5 round brush with Diamond FX, Wolfe, or Global Strong black. These are all blacks which give you a nice, crisp edge, and for tribal, this is what you’re after. You’ll find this easier to do on younger people with no wrinkles, and a little more difficult for anyone older who does have wrinkles.

Create your tribal shapes around the eye, and add other details like the lines on the nose, below the nose, and black dots. Use a small brush, like a #1 round or #2 round to carefully outline the teeth and horns. If you add some small lines in the interior, they look a little more realistic than if you leave them completely white.


Try to keep your tribals symmetrical for both sides of the face. This is a major challenge for any face painter, and most have a strong and a weak side for face painting. For me, face painting on my left (my subject’s right) is the harder side, since I’m right-handed. Some face painters suggest that you begin with the hard side and then try to match the side which is easier for you to paint. If you struggle with symmetry as well, this is excellent advice.


You don’t have to choose the same colors I did for my dragon. I love the Global split London, so I based the whole design on it. Experiment with other color combinations to find the ones you like the best.

Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in the NW Chicago suburbs. She also writes blog posts for and articles for as the Chicago Face Painting Examiner.

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