Engaged? Now Paint the Town and Yourselves Red!

Is the usual “holding hands in front of a garden hedge” pose just not cutting it for your engagement? Try something unique to announce your upcoming wedding to the world. If you and your sweetheart want to show off your artistic side, turn to a truly eye-catching style of engagement photo shoot–a body painting session!


Body painting doesn’t have to take place over completely nude skin. Incorporate body paint on your arms and legs with swimwear or any tight-fitting clothing. You can paint right over the clothing for a continuous pattern, or you can leave the clothing unpainted to emphasize it. Remember, the paint is a way to create unique and memorable art–not a method of giving your grandparents a heart attack.

Artistic Ideas

Think about the symbols and concepts that best represent your relationship. Just like choosing a wedding theme, it helps to come up with a list of your favorite hobbies and joint interests. For example, if your first date involved seeing a science fiction movie together, you can pay homage to your early romance by painting yourselves with a glittery star field and colorful planets. Don’t forget a shooting star streaking from one of your bodies to the other. (It’s a great way to let your guests know about your “out of this world” engagement.)

If you met on a Caribbean cruise, try a tropical theme by painting yourselves with green leaves, vibrant flowers, and colorful birds. Or bring back memories of peaceful sunbathing by covering your bodies with a dazzling beach scene complete with leaping fish.

Are you self-proclaimed bookworms? Paint your bodies paper-white and cover yourselves with your favorite romantic quotes. (Don’t forget the titles going up your “spines.”) No matter what interests you share, you can find a design to bring them to life.

One Canvas; Two Bodies

The purpose of an engagement photo shoot is to emphasize the union between yourself and your fiancé. Two hearts and minds are joining together as one, so two bodies should form one art canvas. Plan a design that flows between you both, utilizing two bodies to create a piece of art that would not be possible with one alone.

There are two ways to do this. First, you can paint a continuous design, such as a winding ribbon, around both of your bodies so you appear to be literally joined together. Second, you can paint two designs that depend on each other for context, such as a “rainbow” arching across a “sky” (where one of you is painted rainbow colors and one of you is painted blue with white clouds). 

When being painted as a couple, it’s essential to assume the correct poses if you want to make sure the painting concept comes across to your audience. Therefore, be sure to choose positions that are comfortable to hold during the painting process and easy to duplicate for the photo shoot itself. Depending on the complexity of your chosen design, painting two bodies can take four to six hours, so choose your poses carefully and don’t get too fancy–unless you happen to work in a circus.

The Perfect Pose

The main advantage to using bodies as an art canvas is that your bodies are flexible and movable. Keep in mind that you don’t need to be painted standing side by side. You can interlock arms, hug each other, or overlap hands and feet with torsos and heads to create interesting shapes. Get creative with your pose in order to turn this to your advantage. For example, if you are significantly smaller than your partner, you can become the “sun” in your partner’s “sky,” or the “flower” growing in your partner’s “field.” The shapes you choose will influence your paint options, and vice versa–so experiment with sketches before sitting down for the actual painting.

Choosing an Artist

The most important part of creating a body painting photo shoot is choosing the right artist for the job. Since you will be spending a few hours in close quarters, the artist should be someone who puts you both at ease. You should also find someone with experience painting human bodies, as the technique is considerably different than painting a flat canvas. If you want to work with a talented artist who doesn’t have body painting experience, at the very least you should schedule a trial run before the big day.

Make sure that the artist works with water-soluble paints (either applied by hand or airbrush, depending on the technique you want to achieve) that will not irritate your skin. If you have sensitive skin, try a patch test before covering your body with the paint. It is also important to choose someone who works confidently and quickly so you don’t have to hold a pose for longer than necessary.

To find body painters, look for professionals who work in theater and special events advertising. You may also want to contact local art schools to find students who will work at a discount in exchange for portfolio pieces. 

Heading to the Shoot

Once you’re painted, it’s time to take the photos as quickly as possible. Since it’s not always practical to do the body painting in the photo shoot location, you’ll need to apply a spray fixative to keep the paint from smudging while you travel to the site. (Have the artist come with you and your photographer in order to do last-minute touch ups.)

Remember, it’s not enough to have stellar body paint. You need to make sure it’s flattering, too! If you’re leaving your faces unpainted, style your hair and makeup the way you want. Check with your photographer to make sure the lighting and shot composition show off your art to its best advantage. After all, now that you and your partner are creating a life together, your first step is to create a masterpiece!