Or, a beginner’s guide to the world of alcohol-based makeup! I remember back to my very first alcohol activated paint makeup palette. I was still in makeup school. And very much a beginner, learning the basics of makeup artistry.

My first alcohol palette was a REEL Creations Palette.

It was one of the only alcohol paints for makeup available at the time, I believe. Well, it was the only standard one that I was exposed to then.

It reminded me of a watercolor paint palette. With 6 or 8 different colors, displayed as solid squares of paint within a plastic makeup palette.


alcohol activated makeup palettes
Some of my favorite EBA Encore Palettes


This was the mid 1990’s. And I had only just learnt that being a makeup artist was indeed a career choice.

There were no reality tv shows that reward you with a chunk of money and a fast-pass to career-success. And there was most certainly no Youtube to look at video tutorials, or come to think of it, even the internet or google!

There I go, off on a tangent!

Back to the topic at hand; alcohol-activated paints or alcohol-based makeup is what we are looking at if I recall!

What’s An Alcohol Activated Paint Anyway?

Alcohol activated makeup is a very specialized type of makeup that professionals use to achieve makeup looks. It is generally appealing for makeup artists, as it is long-lasting and water-resistant, among other things.

Alcohol based makeups are alcohol soluble. Generally they are resin based.

This means that you will need to use 99% alcohol as the solvent or to activate the solid product to create the desired level of color you will be applying.

Uses for Alcohol Activated Makeup

  • simple 2 dimensional wounds
  • covering tattoos
  • bruises
  • creating “blood” looks on the skin
  • create hand-painted tattoo makeup looks
  • fantasy makeup looks
  • paint prosthetic makeup and appliances
  • color hair
  • dirt makeup looks, realistic dirt

The options are only limited by your own imagination.

Alcohol-activated makeup products are really a great tool to have in your kit. But you must know all about the properties of the product/s you are using, and exactly how to use it safely and correctly.

And of course, how to remove it safely and correctly.

Types of Alcohol-Based Makeup

There are two main types of alcohol activated makeup and body paints:

  • solid alcohol activated makeup palettes
  • liquid alcohol activated inks


alcohol activated body paint bottles
EBA Liquid Endura Alcohol Based Inks


With the rise in popularity that makeup has seen over the last 20 years, also comes a massive rise in the amount of products available to create with that are alcohol based.

Some of makeup artist kit staples include (but the brands and products are certainly not limited to):

  • Skin Illustrator
  • European Body Arts – Endura
  • Reel Effects
  • Pro Air
  • Maekup
  • Ben Nye
  • Kryolan
  • Temptu Pro
  • Bluebird
  • Mehron
  • Michael Davy Duracolor
  • Matthew Mungle Stacolor

The list goes on.

My Favorite Alcohol Activated Paints for Makeup

Skin Illustrator Palettes

These palettes are now respected as an industry standard worldwide.

Made by American company Premier Products Inc (or PPI as they are affectionately known). There are now countless different color combinations of their alcohol-based palettes available.

But No matter what job I am going onto, they are ALWAYS a staple in my kit. As long as I have my special effects makeup palettes such as my FX Palette, my Complexion Palette, my Grunge (dirt colors), and my Zombie Palette (which has some lovely bruise tones in it) then I am certain to feel covered.


skin illustrator makeup palettes
A handful of some of my Skin Illustrator Palettes


Skin Illustrator Inks

Particularly if I am doing a prosthetic makeup application, or a character makeup, or a combination of the two, I pretty much always use at least a handful of Skin Illustrator Inks. Even something as simple as some subtle airbrush contour work, I could use these in a flash to get the job done!

Again the color range is so vast now, that you can always find the color for the task at hand.


European Body Art – Encore Palettes

While still relatively new to the professional makeup market, these EBA palettes have become some of my favorites. They are highly pigmented and a little really goes a long way!

European Body Art (EBA) also has an interesting color range too.


European Body Art – Endura Makeup

This extensive range of liquid inks is any fantasy, body painter’s, or makeup artist’s dream come true!

Endura is made up of various lines for all differing needs, such as body makeup and tattoos covering, to iridescent, to the pro range, there really is something here for everyone.

Be sure to check out EBA’s companion removers. These are essential to remove the long-lasting (almost too good at not coming off) alcohol-activated paints!


Bluebird FX Fluid Inks

Another relatively new brand to the professional makeup effects market, this Australian brand, Bluebird FX soon to be rebranded as AFX – Allied FX!) has very quickly earned a wonderful reputation worldwide.

The alcohol-based liquid inks are incredibly dense. And with over 120 different colors now available, they are worthy of their new standing in the makeup field.

AFX also provides one of my favorite palettes of all time, the well-known and relied-upon B.A.D. Palette (stands for blood and dirt) and is suited to a tee for breakdown makeup.


The Pros and Cons of Alcohol-Activated Makeup


  • long lasting
  • buildable to create “washes”
  • create realistic
  • sweat-proof
  • water-proof
  • can go in hair
  • versatile
  • can be airbrushed when in liquid form


  • difficult to remove (pretty much a pro and con!)
  • knowledge of materials required to use properly
  • hazardous chemical of isopropyl alcohol
  • drying to the skin
  • fumes can be unpleasant if product not used correctly and safely
  • must use correct type of removers to clean off makeup successfully
  • highly flammable alcohol base

Do Your Research First!

As with anything so specialized, using alcohol-activated paints of any kind requires doing some groundwork and understanding before diving in headfirst with your eyes closed!

Be sure to ask your suppliers about the products you wish to buy first. Ask them which products they recommend for removal and solvents. Find out about proper ventilation to ensure your safety.

Look online. Discover professional makeup artists. Look for respected courses. Yes, it may just be worth your time and money to invest in a course to learn the basics and understand all you need to know about this highly specialized material. It will even help you produce better makeups!


alcohol activated paint makeup
My Palettes have rarely look this pristine!


Removers for Alcohol Based Makeup and Body Paint Colors

Due to these types of products being so difficult to remove, it is vital that you use the appropriate remover and even so, it may take a little time, and a little more patience to remove the makeup safely and gently.

Remember , these products are designed to STAY PUT on the skin once they are applied. So it should come as no surprise that they can be challenging to remove efficiently!

Here is just a small list of my favorite removers. Again, if this is all entirely new to you, this is just a starting point. There are plenty more products around, depending on where you live, and your local suppliers too.

  • Telesis Super Solv
  • Telesis Makeup Remover
  • Isopropyl Myristate
  • Telesis IPM Gel
  • Telesis Beta Solv
  • Bluebird Cleanup
  • Bluebird Vanish
  • EBA Unveil
  • EBA Vapor
  • Proclean
  • Isopropyl Myristate

So there’s my introduction to alcohol-based makeup. What’s your favorite product? Comment below and tell me why you love it!

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