With convention season in full-swing and professional cosplayers always coming up with some amazing tributes to their favorite characters, our eyes have feasted on some seriously amazing cosplay costumes over recent weeks, and while it’s always a treat to see the final result of a Star-Lord helmet someone has been perfecting for months or a giant mallet that another has been making for weeks, there’s only technique that is always mind-blowingly cool: body paint art.
Sure, anyone — or at least, a large number of people — can throw on a cape, pull on a mask or adorn themselves with elaborate props. And while we’ve seen some seriously impressive costumes in tribute to all sorts of fandoms, but it takes a seriously skilled artist to conjure something out of nothing, and an even braver artist to show off those looks in public. Body paint might get you ejected from some conventions if not properly applied, but when artists hit their mark, the results can be jaw-dropping to see. So, in honor of the most inventive cosplay method there is, here are some brilliant body paint looks that are so well executed, they could easily appear at home in a fancy art gallery somewhere…
When it comes to characters’ costumes, DC Comics’ villain Two-Face is probably the most complicated in terms of design and therefore, proves quite the challenge for any cosplay enthusiast. His split personality is visualized by one side of his face — and entire body — looking like a suave businessman and the other, like a multi-colored maniac, which often sees fans sewing two suits together.
While the character has already been brought to life on screen, artist Rebecca Reds opted for a more traditional interpretation of Harvey Dent’s alter-ego on model Eileen and the result was super effective. She painted a plain gray suit, black shirt and polka dot tie on one side of Eileen and a pink, striped blazer, leopard print shirt and red tie on her other side. Reds also colored Eileen’s left cheek blue and created the illusion of a much larger and creepier mouth.
14. POISON IVY
Self taught bodypainter Melissa Croft from London, has tackled the looks of Spider-Woman, Elektra and Lara Croft in the past, but our favorite has got to be her take on Pamela Lillian Isley herself, Poison Ivy. Since her introduction back in 1966, the character has always been one of DC’s more scantily clad figures. For that reason, there’s not much to her costume which in turn, makes her the perfect person to imitate with body art.
Croft achieved the look by painting her entire body green and using different tones of the same color to create the illusion of a leaf-adorned bodice. She used the same method (along with some white paint) to fabricate abs too, which works really well. What really sets it off however, are the thin black lines she added to make her Poison Ivy look animated.
13. GREEN LANTERN
Green Lantern’s skin-tight suit lends itself well to these kinds of art techniques but while it’s a seemingly conventional choice, it’s still impressive when a bodypainter perfects the look. The intricate brush-work done on model YWTerryD by artist Marija Filipovic does just that, creating a Green Lantern look right out of the comics.
Not only does she achieve super-realism with his pretend all-in-one suit, she also manages to make her subject look more muscly too. She even manages to make the high-collar look like it’s really scaling her model’s neck with her skillful shading. Additionally, instead of using contact lenses to imitate a Green Lantern’s glowing bright eyes, Filipovic simply painted her canvas’ eyelids white, which gets an “A” for both looks and creativity. Inspired (and much more vision-friendly)!
While it might be a controversial opinion, we’d go so far as to say that artist Lymari Millot‘s Mystique transformation of model Nadya Sonika trumps the effects work in all of the X-Men films starring either Rebecca Romijn or Jennifer Lawerence. Yes, it’s that good!
Millot painted Mexican cosplayer Sonika’s entire body blue and her hair, a coppery orange color before adding small scales to her legs, sides and chest. As with so many costumes here, this Mystique ensemble is completed with yellow contact lenses to really put the X-Men movie costume designers to shame. It might sound relatively straightforward when the process is broken down like that, but it’s Millot’s flawless execution that makes this look one of the strongest– and most naturally-looking — on this list.
11. SILVER SURFER
You might think that the Silver Surfer would be an easy look to achieve considering, well, he’s all silver, but makeup artist Cris Alex from Los Angeles proves you can make even the most simple costume a work of art if you’re talented enough. Unconcerned by how the character would look in real-life, Alex attempted to make his rendition of the metallic humanoid more reminiscent of the traditional comic book version and it’s safe to say, the results were pretty epic.
Using only white, black and bright blue paint, he covered his whole body and achieved a mind-blowing two-dimensional look right out of the 1966 issue Silver Surfer first appeared in. Alex’s costume turned out so great, in fact, that fans of his work even asked for customized figurines in honor of the costume.
This entry is a little different to the others, as it’s more about using the human body as a canvas rather than as part of the costume. Artist Carolyn Roper — who has worked on films such as Dumb and Dumber To and is a two-time World Champion bodypainter — chose to depict a classic Superman scene onto the torso of one of her models and it looked wonderfully unique and polished.
The scene shows a caped Clark Kent flying up into the sky, presumably to save the day or something equally as important. Roper’s illustration appears cartoon-like — paying homage to the iconic character’s origins — but it’s also amazing how well she works around the model’s natural figure. It’s not easy making something look like one continuously line on a contoured body but you wouldn’t think it looking at her work.
9. JEAN GREY
Like Cris Alex, professional bodypainter Kay Pike possesses some mind-blowing skills when it comes to body paint. Across her career, she has transformed herself into characters as diverse as Yu-Gi-Oh’s Dark Magician Girl, ThunderCats‘ Cheetara and She-Ra to Marvel’s Wolverine, Thanos and Spider-Gwen but it’s her rendition of mutant Jean Grey that really blew us away. She actually looks like she’s been lifted straight out of the comic book!
While we might look at her artwork and think it seems impossible though, Pike herself champions Jean as “a very good character to pick,” on her Instagram page. Before you start questioning your own matchstick men drawing skills however, she went on to clarify that it’s because Jean makes “for an easy photoshoot. Her poses are in everyone’s brain and very simple to do. Highly recommend as an medium difficulty paint,” she concluded.
8. BLACK PANTHER
Some of the best cosplay costumes are merely inspired by pop culture characters rather than imitate them exactly, and this Black Panther look certainly fits that description. Armed with just an airbrush, Detroit-based artist DConey transformed model and actress Via Dunn into a ladylike version of the Marvel Comics’ superhero… and the end-result looked awesome.
Instead of Black Panther’s suit which covers every inch of his body, he painted a short-sleeved version on Via. Just like his treatment of the suit, DConey also made this Black Panther’s headpiece more feminine, opting for an eye mask rather than a helmet-type accessory. The best part about the look, though? It’s got to be how he actually makes it look shiny. It doesn’t look anything like skin… it’s completely convincing as armor.
A select few might claim that it’s not that hard to paint ‘clothes’ onto someone’s skin or color yourself. While we’d wholeheartedly disagree, we can see where such people are coming from with that argument. To manipulate your body through art in order for it to resemble something that isn’t even human however, can not be described as effortless.
While UK-based artist Jon Wilks has transformed several unnamed models into comic book characters, but his mind-bending interpretation of Spider-Man’s enemy Venom is up there with his best. By painting the majority of Venom’s wide, sharp-toothed mouth onto his model’s throat, it makes it seem like the character is actually opening his jaws in order to attack. To top it all off, Wilks’ made sure to include the symbiote’s snarling red tongue too, just in case you didn’t already know that Venom was not on of the good guys.
At first glance, X-Men’s Psylocke might look like she has a basic costume but it goes without saying that to get that kind of lined precision with a painted-on catsuit and leggings is no easy feat. That being acknowledged, it seems only fair to recognize how Texas bodypainter Jsn Art rose to the challenge and ended up victorious as he transformed makeup artist and model Bianca Marie into the mutant.
Taking inspiration from Olivia Munn’s portrayal of the character in X-Men: Apocalypse, he painted Bianca’s lower legs, forearms and torso blue to create the impression that she was wearing a halterneck leotard and to set it off, he did further rings around her upper arms and thighs. Finally, the pair threw a red silk sash around her waist and put a replica of Psylocke’s psionic sword in Bianca’s hand and the look was done-and-dusted.
Dublin-based make-up and SFX artist Simone Cleary has perfected many comic book-inspired looks recently, channeling the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy’s Nebula, Captain America and Wonder Woman. But one of her most accomplished has got to be Deadpool for the sheer amount of detail she managed to include in the final result.
Her interpretation of Wade Wilson’s Merc with a Mouth saw her paint her entire head and shoulders red, making sure to use blacks and grays to highlight certain areas of the make-believe suit. That in itself looks brilliant, but Cleary decided to challenge herself further by creating the illusion that her Deadpool’s mask was partly lifted over her chin too, revealing Wilson’s scarred skin. To complete the look, Cleary even covered her eyes with white mesh-style contact lenses.
Speaking of Deadpool, one character who is set to show up in David Leitch’s eagerly-anticipated sequel is Cable and because fans are excited to see him on the big screen, he’s been a popular choice to dress-up as at conventions. It’s understandable then that athlete Adrian Perdomo selected him as his costume inspiration of choice.
His look, however, is thanks to Argenis Pinal, a freelance make up artist and cosmetologist. Pinal is no stranger to painting superhero costumes onto his clients, having previously transformed people into The Flash, Booster Gold and Cyborg Superman but we love the resourcefulness here, as he makes Perdomo’s arm look metallic by using shimmer. There’s only one way this look could be improved; being able to see Perdomo’s face. With his scarred sockets and techno-organic eye, Cable’s visage is almost as recognizable on its own as it is alongside his entire costume.
Like it did with Harley Quinn, the Suicide Squad movie also saw an insurgence of June Moone’s Enchantress on fans’ social media pages as well as convention floors. It’s no wonder then that athlete roxyqueflexx chose to pay homage to the powerful and mystical antihero with body paint. The final result too was well worth how long it probably took her to scrub all that dark make up off when she was done.
She’s obviously passionate about what she’s doing, and while talking about the look on her Instagram page, self-proclaimed nerd Roxy thanked bodypainter Jose Guajardo for his work and said: “I know [Enchantress] wasn’t your favorite but I loved it. Thank you @jonnyknowsphotos for always taking such awesome shots.” We’ll argue that this paint job is infinitely better than what was seen in the film.
2. HARLEY QUINN
Again, when Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad was released last year, Harley Quinn has become one of the most popular characters to cosplay as. However, one model, known as Maka, chose to turn herself into the DC Comics version of the villain rather than Margot Robbie’s interpretation using body paint.
While Maka is the model, credit must go to artist Matt Goodlett, who transformed into the Joker’s right-hand girl. “Harley Quinn has been done to death hear recently,” he explained on his own social media account. “For me you still can’t beat the original. With that said I wanted it to look a bit different while staying true to the classic. I decided adding some Roy Lichtenstein pop comic elements was the right way to go and I am very happy with the way it all came out.”
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE AVENGERS
When it comes to cosplay, gender-swapping characters is always fun and effective. But you could argue that it’s quite easy to do it if you’re set to wear a mask and heavy-duty clothing. It’s much more difficult when you haven’t got any garments on, yet Jessica Wood from Las Vegas, flawlessly nails her body-painted version of the first Avenger himself, Captain America.
It’s artist Scott See we have to pay tribute here too however, as regardless of how well Wood pulls off the look, he’s the one that created it. In fact, he created many Marvel-inspired body paint costumes for his recent stint at Las Vegas Comic-Con in June. Nicknaming his team, the Sexy Avengers on Instagram, he turned models into She Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man and Iron Man. We’ve isolated Cap here, but in reality the whole team looks incredible.
Have you seen some incredible body art that we didn’t list? Let us know in the comments section!
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