Paint-On Swimsuits

polka dot body paint swimwear

While you can't go swimming in them and will more than likely have to reserve their enjoyment for photo shoots, paint-on swimsuits have carved out a place in bathing suit history. It's utterly fascinating how innovative swimsuits designs are created entirely out of paint. There is more to this process than meets the eye; it's actually quite intricate and takes incredible artistic talent to achieve.

Swimsuit Body Art Basics

A swimsuit that's painted on your body is an art form; it's not for practical wear of any type. People who consider themselves to be artists, whether amateur or professional, take pains to create these extraordinary images. Some of the painted-on swimsuits are so realistic, you'll only realize on closer inspection that there's actually no fabric there, only skin.

Total Creativity

Creating paint bathing suits allows the artist and model who acts as the canvas to be completely creative. The artist begins with a clean slate and can make whatever he/she likes. If you choose to be a model, you have the opportunity to display most outrageous swimwear imaginable, and with a little work, you can wear a swimsuit that no one else will have - at least for a few hours or until the paint wears away.

You as the Canvas

body paint

If you love the look of body painting and would like to participate, you'll need to find a body paint artist. The art of painting bodies is a creative subculture composed of amateur and professional participants who are serious about their craft. Whether you locate an artist through word-of-mouth, parties/festivals or through simple Google searches in your area, ask if they have a portfolio available for view so that you can get an idea of their work beforehand and if it's compatible with what you want.

Comfortable in Your Skin

Allowing your body to be the canvas that a bikini is painted on means you'll have to be comfortable enough to be nude in front of your artist. To fully replicate a swimsuit, the painter will be intimately involved with all of your private parts, so this isn't an activity for the bashful. Also, be aware that your will need to be practically hairless for the best results and to eliminate unsightly hairs that can compromise the swimsuit design.

Creating Paint Bathing Suits

Body Preparation

So what does it take to prepare the human canvas for a painted swimsuit? First of all, any area that's going to receive paint needs to be as smooth as possible and therefore hair free. This means there's going to be a bikini or Brazilian waxing involved. Since a fresh waxing tends to leave little red bumps or other forms of skin irritation in its wake, it's best to give the skin a day or two to return to normal.

On the day of the painting session, the model's skin also has to be extremely clean because the skin's natural oils can interfere with the way the paint takes to the surface. This can cause the paint to slide off or run, and also affect the way the paint looks once applied to the skin.

Endurance is also a large part of the process. The model will likely spend several hours in various positions as the swimsuit is painstakingly created and applied to the body, and a good portion of this time she will be on her feet while the bottom of the suit is filled in. This means she should prepare by getting a good night's rest, eating a light and healthy meal and taking a final bathroom break before work begins below the waist. Also, while it may be inevitable, try to get any scratching out of the way before the body paint is applied to a specific area because you simply can't scratch until the paint is fully dry.


Although these works of fashion art are referred to as paint bathing suits, not all of them are created with standard body paint. In fact, some of the very best body paint bathing suits are created using high grade body cosmetics sold by companies like Mehron; a very well known name in the body art community.

While no one really creates one of these paint-on swimsuits solely for the purpose of swimming in it, some of the products used are actually fairly waterproof, allowing models to be photographed in the water. This furthers the illusion that these painted creations could be real.

The one hard rule in swimsuit painting is that the products used are completely non-toxic on human skin.


As with other types of painting, an assortment of brushes are used to create the desired effect and achieve enough coverage and texture to give the illusion of real fabric. Soft bristle brushes, sponges and even air brush tools are used depending on whether the artist is working with cake makeup or liquid pigments.

Body Paint Swimsuits in Print

Two well-known publications have featured models in swimsuits that were no more than painted art on their bodies. The 2005 Playmates at Play at the Playboy Mansion calendar showcases two Playmates in painted bikinis, while recent Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues have featured models including female athletes Alex Morgan, Natalie Coughlin and Natalie Gulbis in painted on bathing suits as well. Body paint swimsuits have also occasionally made appearances in the Victoria's Secret catalog annual swimsuit edition and graced fashion runways, highlighting their growing widespread appeal.

Examples of Paint-on Swimsuits

These are just a few images of paint-on bathing suits created by some talented, imaginative artists. Look closely, because it really is just paint.

Painted swimsuit created by Mark Reid of Enchanted Body Art.

When created by a professional body painter like Mark Greenawalt, these swimsuits look incredibly realistic, completely tricking the eye by creating a beautiful illusion.

You aren't going to be fortunate enough to see paint swimwear at the beach. Anyone who has taken the time to create this art or has sat for hours while someone painted them isn't likely to go near water. This is a form of artistic expression for body painting enthusiasts. They may display their work at festivals, carnivals, galleries, online or for a personal photo shoot. Once you discover this creative subculture, you'll be amazed at what these artists can do with paint and imagination.

Trying the Art Form

If you want to try painting a swimsuit on yourself or on someone else, you'll definitely need help in various areas. Your Swimsuit Guide contains useful tips and practical advice for amateurs that want to try things out. You'll really need an eye for artistry before you attempt to pick up brushes and paints, as well as having some working knowledge of the proper paints, brushes and other materials needed to achieve a believable swimsuit design. That's why the majority of painted on bathing suits you'll find are done by professionals.

As with any artistic medium, people who are serious about this craft are capable of creating true works of art using little more than paint, brushes and skin. Non-professional artists that want to create designs of their own can still utilize this unique art form as well, however. Seek out instructional videos, visit special events where body-painting is taking place or sit in on a live class session to see the process done up-close and personal.

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Paint-On Swimsuits