Pregnant Belly Painting Tips From an Expert

Belly painting by Cheeky chipmunk
 One of the most memorable experiences of my second pregnancy was to get my belly painted. As a matter of fact, I used my belly painting as a gender reveal pic!
I asked body and face painter extraordinaire, Lenore Koppelman, aka The Cheeky Chipmunk, to share some belly painting tips for mamas who want to commemorate their pregnancies with a painting.

Belly painting tips by an expert, the fabulous Lenore Koppelman, aka Cheeky Chipmunk.


1.  When mamas are looking for a belly painter what things should they keep in mind?

LENORE: Congratulations! You or somebody you know is going to have a baby! This is an exciting and blessed time, and while mommy-to-be may be feeling like a nauseated and exhausted whale (I know I did!), she is actually nothing short of a beautiful goddess. And her body is a miraculous work of ART. She should celebrate it with a beautiful belly painting photo shoot while she still can.

I recommend the following when you’re looking for a belly painter: 

  • Expectant mothers should look for body painting artists who do some form of body art for a living. Perhaps they are face painters for children’s parties, and are trying to start adding belly painting to their list of offered services. Or maybe they are body painters, henna artists, makeup artists, or are belly painters already. Ensuring that you hire a professional is important for a few reasons:
    • First of all, it becomes a safer bet that you are hiring somebody who is trained, understands the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation practices, already owns FDA-compliant makeup in their kit, knows how to safely clean their brushes to prevent the spread of germs, and is properly insured. 
    • They don’t need to have done a belly before to qualify to be hired. I mean… we all have to start somewhere, right? But you presumably want to find somebody who does know what they are doing, to some extent. That way, you are far less likely to end up with a novice who doesn’t understand what kind of makeup products or sanitation procedures are safe for the skin.
  • Make sure your artist is using FDA-compliant body painting makeup. I already mentioned this above, but this is important, you can ask the person you are looking to hire what body paint s/he uses. There are many trustworthy brands out there, including (but certainly not exclusive to) Mehron Paradise, Cameleon, Wolfe, Ben Nye, TAG, Global, Snazaroo, Ruby Red, Kryolan, and my own personal favorite which I love to use the most: FAB. (Also known as Superstar overseas). These brands are among the ones that can be trusted as meeting safety standards set by the FDA. This also goes for body glues, body glitter, sealing spray, and anything else you can think of. Not only is it the safest way to go for mother and child, but it also assures that in the extremely rare case of a reaction, the insurance the painter has purchased to protect their client will not become null and void. 
  • Make sure that your artist is insured. If you would like to ask them for proof of insurance, they should not put you off, or act skittish about your request. I am always more than happy to email somebody proof of insurance whenever they ask, whether that be when painting faces at a small birthday party, or face or body painting for a large corporate event. 
  • Most importantly, find a painter that you feel comfortable with! When you email back and forth with them, do they sound friendly? If you happened to have spoken to him on the phone, did he make you feel at ease? When you asked her if you could bring along a friend to be a part of your experience so that you would not be going in alone, did she welcome that idea with open arms? Do they go out of their way to make you feel comfortable, safe, and excited about this process?
  • Listen to your heart. It will tell you when you have found the right artist to take part of this beautiful journey with you. 


2. What kind of clothing should mamas who are going to get their bellies painted wear? 

     LENORE: I would ask the artist. Each artist has his or her own style, especially when the photos are involved. My own personal style as far as the photography goes is to have the mother wear all black. I love to put her in front of a black backdrop, so that her hands and belly are all you see. Other artists prefer it when their mommies show up in long flowing dresses, an open-front maternity gown, or when the client wears all white. Their brand might have its own look that it is known for, so when in doubt, ask!

That being said, if you have your heart set on a particular outfit for the shoot, and it’s not the artist’s usual pick, don’t be afraid to ask them if they can make it work for you. I have had clients come in with a special outfit that they are giddy to wear in their photos. They send me a picture of it ahead of time, and I can tell them if it will work well, or if it should be left home instead.
Type of clothing to avoid: 
  • anything that mommy-to-be is physically uncomfortable in
  • anything they are afraid of getting stained (just in case any body painting rubs on),
  • anything with busy patterns on it that could distract from the painting itself, 
  • anything that doesn’t open in the front or cannot be comfortably lifted over the belly. 
WHAT NOT TO DO: The one thing expectant mamas should definitely NOT do is wear lotion. Many women slather cocoa butter or creams all over their bellies to prevent stretch marks. I certainly did! However, it does interfere with the quality of the body paint. It creates a surface so slick, that the makeup has nothing to adhere to, leaving it to inevitably slide right off. The best way to prepare the skin is for it to be clean from a shower, with no lotions, perfumes, body sprays, or anything else on it which could possibly compromise the paint job. 

3. Is there a chance that mamas will be allergic to the paint? 

LENORE: Of course. But this is extremely rare, and out of over 100 bellies I have painted so far, has yet to happen to any of my clients. In fact, among the countless belly painters all over the world that I know and have personally met at various conventions and lectures, I have not yet heard of a single incident that any painter has been made aware of.
It’s not to say it can’t happen, but the chances are incredibly slim.  This is because high-quality makeup is being used, and very safe sanitation practices are in effect. Nevertheless, do keep in mind, this IS makeup. Makeup can cause a reaction in anybody, on any part of the body. No matter how expensive it is, or how much care goes into it all. The same way that any consumer can be allergic to a certain brand of lipstick, or eye shadow, or rouge.
While many people refer to it as “face paint” or “body paint”, it’s actually makeup. Not “paint”, per se. And while that makes it infinitesimally safer than using actual “paint”, (which I would never advise),  nothing is ever 100% guaranteed. But in all fairness, you are taking the same kind of risk that you take when you are pregnant and putting on lipstick every day. Or trying out a new body lotion. Or choosing to wear foundation… contour powders… mascara. So while, yes, technically a mother-to-be CAN have a sensitivity to body painting makeup, it’s honestly no more of a risk than if she is wearing makeup already.   

4. How easy is the paint to remove? 

     LENORE: In most cases, removal is an absolute breeze. The body paint should come right off in the shower, easy as pie.
My favorite technique:
  • Spread some sort of moisturizing agent all over the belly, before you even turn on the water. Anything highly moisturizing, such as coconut oil, olive oil, cold cream, Cetaphil, or any thick lotion will work just fine.
  • Rub it in until the pigment gets all mucky on your hands.
  • Then rub a moisture-rich liquid soap, and rub that in too.
  • Then turn on your shower, and remove all that pigmented residue very gently with a wet washcloth, soft bath puff, or a sponge. Rinse, and apply lotion to the skin after patting yourself dry. 

If you still have a tint after cleaning, don’t worry! 
    If you happen to see a bit of color residue tinting your skin a tad longer than you would like, (and this goes for kids who are face painted as well), your best option is to moisturize moisturize moisturize! The more moisturized your skin is after you clean it, the less amount of pigment will be able to remain. And remember, there is no need to panic, either way. The makeup is non-toxic, and harmless if it is FDA-compliant. Even if it happens to stain a little. As your skin begins to produce its own natural oils after you bathe, it will lighten up and fade away all on its own. So there is really no need to worry. 

belly painting by Lenore Koppelman 

5. What should mamas do in preparation for the belly painting?

     LENORE: First communicate to the artist what kind of design you are looking for. Do you want something cartoony and cute? Sophisticated and abstract? Perhaps you are looking to create a pregnancy announcement, a gender-reveal, or simply to match the design of your baby’s nursery so the photo looks adorable hung up in their room.
The one thing you should try your best to avoid is to send your artist an image of another belly painter’s work, and then ask for the exact same image. Instead, allow them to become inspired by the piece you found, but to put their own spin on it, with their own sense of artistic style. Remember, they are not the other artist. So the likelihood that you will get an exact duplicate is very slim anyway. Instead, trust your artist to come up with something for you that is unique and very special. I am personally happiest when a family suggests a particular theme (such as a favorite fairytale, fable, song, psalm, character, storybook, poem, movie, song, etc.) and then allows me to come up with the artwork for them all on my own. Rather than having the mother ask me to copy another artist’s interpretation of that same theme. It’s just not something that I (or any other artists I personally know) are willing to do. 
     Another good idea is to bring along a snack. Belly painting can be a time consuming process, if your design is intricate enough. Safe snacks are things that do not crumble or drip. I once had a client bring along a cup of yogurt, which proceeded to drip onto her belly. The makeup is water-based, so the moment it gets wet, it starts to drip down off the skin. Once that blob of yogurt dripped onto her design, we had to wipe it off and I had to start a huge section of her design all over again. Another client brought powdered jelly donuts. As I was painting a design on her, it suddenly began to snow powdered sugar all over the image. It was difficult to recover from that. Same thing goes with drinking water. It is so important to stay hydrated. I offer my clients water or tea in large adult-sized sippy cups, so that they are less likely to accidentally dribble water onto themselves while they drink. The kind with a built-in straw works best. If you own one, bring that along just in case your own painter you hire doesn’t have something similar.
    Lastly, find out if your artist is comfortable with you bringing along a friend to help document the fun! I always enjoy it when a mommy-to-be shows up with a relative or a close friend. Their companion not only chats with them and keeps them company while I work, but also takes fun photos and snippets of video of the entire belly painting process! That can be so fun for the client to look back on. If your artist is okay with it, I would encourage you to do so. It’s such a fun memory to revisit again and again. <3 


6. How long does a belly painting last? 

  LENORE: Until it gets wet. I always tell clients (whether it be adults or children I have face painted) that the good thing about the brand of makeup I use is that it comes off easily. And the bad thing about it is… it comes off easily. That’s why we are always in a rush to get those photos taken before the fine details of the design start to become compromised.
     Some artists (including myself) offer to seal the belly painting design with a light mist of setting spray. Several makeup companies create this, and it is fantastic for helping the design last a little bit longer without smudging and sweating away.  Ben Nye, Kryolan, NYX, Urban Decay, Kat von D, Makeup Forever, and many other brands make incredible makeup setting sprays that were specifically created to help your makeup last, as well as to be safe for the skin. That creates nothing but happy memories for you and your unborn baby. And isn’t that what this magical process of celebrating your beautiful baby belly as a glorious work of art all about?  😉 

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belly painting tips from an expert

 Lenore Koppleman is a NYC-based face and body painter. She is the resident belly painter at Fit Pregnancy/Parents/ For more information on Lenore Koppelman’s work you can visit her site, You can also follow her on Instagram, @the_Cheeky_Chipmunk. 

photos courtesy of Lenore Koppelman (c) may not be used without permission 
Tags : pregnancy
Diana Limongi
Diana a mom, activist, nonprofit professional, podcaster and writer from Queens, NY. She writes about motherhood, activism, raising my multilingual kids, culture and travel. She and her multicultural family live in Queens, NY.

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