Body Paint

"I didn't feel naked."
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos on her Mystique "costume" in X-Men.

People for whom their body is their canvas... literally. Older Than Feudalism as there's evidence for body painting in ancient Roman historical documentation. The complexity of designs can range from a single color all over, through designs and patterns, pictures and artwork to even paint so detailed and accurate that the person looks like they're wearing clothes.

Most commonly seen painted on attractive women for added Fanservice, or on fanatical sports fans, especially when the weather is inappropriate to be wearing only paint, to show their devotion to their team.

In real life, full-body suits like this on models and actors can often take far longer to apply than most makeup sessions (which, as any actor can attest, tend to be long to begin with), often twelve hours (or more), and take a great deal of patience from the models themselves.

Contrast Painted-On Pants, where the clothes are just so tight they look painted on, and Form-Fitting Wardrobe, which is the next step up.

See also This Means Warpaint, a subtrope of this.

Examples of painted clothes:

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     Comic Books  

  • Artificial Human Girl One from Top 10 has an interesting variant of this — her skin shifts color at will, with its default being purple. Since her creators were a pair of horny fanboys, she was also engineered with a compulsion to not wear clothes — she makes do by just creating patterns on her skin that make it hard to notice she's nude. (Note that the obvious sister trope is not in playnote  — when she realizes her boss is colorblind and can see past her tricks, she decks him.)
    • Of course her boss, being a sentient dog in a humanoid exoskeleton, tells her that her naked body means as little to him as a dog's would to her, so she forgives him. However, he's lying, for a double Stealth Pun: he's lying like a dog, and he's a dirty dog for ogling her.
    • Later Girl clones have the same situation, as well. Girl 54 from the possibly not canon "Beyond the Farthest Precinct" plays it the same way as Girl One, Girl Two quickly finds clothes, but a near-rape shatters her emotionally, driving her off the force — she becomes a lawyer in a fancy suit, instead.
  • In an issue of The Avengers, some dude on the street tells She-Hulk that he loves her "green body paint" and asks if she needs any help removing it. Jen, naturally, responds by stuffing him into the nearest trashcan.
  • An issue of a Simpsons comic has Homer painting on a shirt and going to work like this to cope with a heatwave. Later, he's seen in a jail cell with a towel wrapped around him, talking about how his idea of painted on pants was not as subtle or well-received.
  • In the 2015 reboot of Bloom County, Abby (a New Age prodigy daughter of a neighbor) frequently covers Opus in psychedelic patters using fabric dye whenever he baby-sits her. (She says it's for Feng-shu harmonization, but he sure looks funny.)

     Fan Fic 

  • A Yuru-Yuri Hentai doujin features the cast applying this on each other... and having a little too much fun in the process.


  • According to Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, this is how the Ethiopian got his skin and the leopard his spots.
  • Harry Turtledove's Worldwar novels star a race of alien lizards who use body paint rather than clothing, which is justifiable because they come from a hot, arid planet. It's all highly ritualized, to the point where an actor playing an Emperor isn't allowed to wear the proper body paint because it's seen as blasphemous. After humanity achieves an uneasy peace with the Race, the body paint is just one of the affectations human teens adopt from them, along with shaven heads and slang derived from the Race's language.
  • In The Empress Game, Kayla wears body paint while fighting in the arena. It's mostly black, with dark red slashes — this imitates the colouring of the animal she uses as her Nom de Guerre.


  • Sports Illustrated did a few bodypaint-swimsuits for their annual swimsuit issue a few years ago; they were so popular that they have continued the practice every year since.
  • The cover of the December 1984 ''National Lampoon'' had a woman covered in body paint that made it look like she was wearing a business suit (albeit quite a form-fitting one).
  • Demi Moore wore only body paint in her picture on the cover of the August 1992 issue of Vanity Fair, as seen here.
  • One printer ad, telling you what you see at different dpi levels, uses a picture of a woman apparently wearing a one-piece swimsuit. At the highest dpi level mentioned, you see that it's painted on.
  • Car and Driver magazine, believe it or not, once published a comparison test issue with a cover depicting two nude female torsos painted as national flags. A lot of people probably wondered what, if anything, that particular issue had to do with cars or driving.

  • David Bowie appears with face paint on the cover of Aladdin Sane.
  • Frank Zappa's face is painted black on the cover of Joe's Garage.
  • The video for Right Said Fred's revival of I'm Too Sexy involved four women in body painted uniforms. In a rain storm.
  • Both Gotye and Kimbra in the former's music video of "Somebody That I Used to Know."
  • Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra's "Want it Back".
  • Fela Kuti always performed in body paint and Tribal Face Paint.
  • Michael Stipe from REM performed with blue paint on his face in the 2000s.

     Tabletop Games  

  • A Shadowrun book set in Germany had at one point two people who appeared to wear Painted-On Pants (or rather, full-bodysuits), but really were completely tattooed. These books were pretty weird...
    • A similar cyberpunk RPG series had library-mages, mages that used the power of ancient texts to power themselves. The example given was of a bibliomancer (a mage using the power of the bible's occult elements) who had tattooed the entire thing on her bare skin for more power.
  • In the Sandstorm supplement for Dungeons & Dragons, a type of elf called the Painted Elf lives in the deep desert, decorating their bodies with clay pigments to indicate their family and tribe while keeping them cool.

     Western Animation  

  • The last episode of Camp Lazlo is about Scoutmaster Lumpus painting his whole body to make him look like he is wearing clothes, so he doesn't have to do his laundry. Everyone found out about this, so they did what Lumpus did, giving them enough free time to do things like solve world hunger and invent a time machine. Lumpus was recognized as a genius because of his body paint idea... until a thunderstorm hit.
  • During the Futurama episode "Roswell That Ends Well" Fry uses a can of spray paint that actually creates a army uniform.
    • Similarly, Amy loses her top during a Beach Episode (Season 2, Episode 3: "When Aliens Attack"), she has the professor hand her a spare, which turns out to be a can of "All Purpose Spray". This is the same generic phlebotinum used in the army uniform above.
  • Hamton tries this when forced to walk home in the nude in an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures. Too bad he overlooked his backside.
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball, Gumball and Darwin have no clothes after their dad ruined them by putting them in the dishwasher, so they go to school with their clothes drawn on with crayon.

     Real Life  

  • Nipple and Dimed does not seem to apply to women in body paint, as even on American TV, the breasts are not visually bleeped out even though, technically speaking, the nipples are fully exposed. However, in a TV show, Skin Wars, where body artists battle to be crowned America's best, the breasts of the unpainted models are pixillated out - even though once painted, the very same models are still topless and uncensored. Work that logic out.
  • There are a variety of businesses that have women wearing only body paint as employees, including catering services, waitresses in bars, models and so on.
  • Ben Nye the theatrical makeup company does 'make-up as costume on young female nude' on a semi-regular basis. The artists' work is amazing.
  • It varies from place to place, but body paint can technically categorize as clothing because it's a layer of something worn over the bare skin.
  • Several years back, a gentleman did an entire Star Trek: The Next Generation uniform out of a black jockstrap, black slippers, stick-on rank pips and comlink, and everything else out of stage makeup. And then he went cruising the convention parties to much squeeing.
  • Stumpen, singer of the German metal band Knorkator, has the entire left side of his body tattooed. As the band was well known for its over the top hilarity and weird stage costumes, he often performed in nothing but his underpants.
  • Common for the Brazilian Carnival, especially since a goal of a lot of the dancers is to wear as little clothing as they could feasibly get away with while looking exotic, so there's an industry of people who get paint Jaguars and other designs on these ladies.
  • Part of the point of the the annual Fremont Solstice Festival nude bike ride preceding the actual parade, aka "Solstice Cycles", in Seattle, WA (Warning, link NSFW). Inspired by a similar international ride. Body paint designs vary from the rudimentary and minimal, to extensive and highly artistic, to bodypaint "cosplay".
  • The yearly Sports Illustrated Swimsuit magazine has nearly as many models wearing Body Paint as opposed to actual bathing suits.
    • One SI editor was eating breakfast on location with Rebecca Romijn and some of the crew and said he was halfway through the meal before he realized the bikini top Romijn was wearing was just paint.
  • Featured artists at more adult festivals and conventions often do body painting. If their paintings and prints are out of price range of most attendees, they can count on easy extra income decorating skin, sometimes nude.
    • On a less adult side of things, face painting is an extremely common thing at festivals and carnivals, for much the same reasons.
  • Naked women simply covered in paint with no theme to it is a subset of the paraphilia of women covered in various, often viscous, substances. ("Wet and Messy")
  • During World War II, nylon was reserved for military use. Women compensated for the lack of nylon stockings by painting stocking seams onto their bare legs.
  • Literal painted-on clothing technology is being developed, as in the clothing "paint" is applied and then can be taken off and put back on like regular clothes.

Other examples:

     Comic Books 

  • Invoked in an issue of the ElfQuest spinoff Rebels, in which the very much metallic-looking android Shimmer (part of the title group) passes for human at least once by claiming that these are currently all the rage where he (?) comes from. The same excuse also helps cover for Rose, who looks and talks close enough to a human child at a glance except for her part-Preserver DNA leaving her rather, well, green.


  • Rebecca Romijn's actual costume as Mystique in X-Men (2000) and its sequels is just blue body paint with judiciously-located pieces of textured lizard-skin make-up appliances.
  • Ahnk Su Namun's costume in The Mummy is a loin cloth and body paint (and really long hair). Apparently the director was prepared to digitally cover her up more and was surprised that the censors allowed it as-is. The same couldn't be said for the airline versions and the trailers. In-story, the paint is actually makeup that smudges easily, and its purpose was to let Pharaoh know if anyone touched his queen.
    • In the sequel, it was decided that the body paint was too much trouble to reapply constantly and they just went with a bodysuit that achieved the same effect.
  • In the 1980s Pilot Movie The Invisible Woman, Alexa Hamilton used a large quantity of flesh-colored body paint to hide the fact that she had become invisible.
  • In The Pillow Book Nagiko paints her book onto people and sends them naked to the publisher.
  • Kippur begins and ends with a scene showing the protagonist and his girlfriend rubbing paint all over each other while making love.
  • In a heart-wrenching scene in the movie Pleasantville, the protagonist helps paint his mother with her still-grey makeup to disguise her sudden colorfulness.
  • The Na'vi in Avatar love this stuff; Jake wears it in his initiation ceremony and pretty much everyone wears it during the Final Battle. Even Trudy's gunship.
  • Kari Wuhrer gets this treatment in Vivid, not that it looks anything like clothing.
    • Likewise Ann-Margaret in The Swinger, though she has a bikini on underneath.
  • Better Than Chocolate: Maggie and Kim play with this.
  • Goldfinger. Jill Masterson ending up painted solid gold. Spawned a myth (Summarily busted: You don't breathe through your skin, people — but if you're allergic to metallic powder, watch out) and thousands of imitators.
    • This was invoked in the 1940s movie Bedlam when corrupt asylum manager Boris Karloff has a patient painted gold to play a statue as an amusement for a patron. The patient collapses and dies from skin suffocation.
    • Also, Maryam d'Abo, the female lead of The Living Daylights, did a Homage to this scene in her September 1987 Bond-themed pictorial for Playboy, posing wearing gold body paint. (Not something she was proud of later, as she later said in an interview in People.)
  • In Where the Heart Is (1990, not the one with Natalie Portman), a woman creates a calendar by recreating famous paintings and putting people in them that are painted so they blend in with them (including her sister, played by Uma Thurman).


  • Robert A. Heinlein's I Will Fear No Evil had Eunice Branca, whose husband was an artist. He would very often paint her body.
    • She wore an entertaining paint job to work one day that was intended to confuse her boss as to whether it was skintight clothing or paint.
  • In L. Sprague de Camp's classic SF cycle Viagens Interplanetarias, one of the humanoid cultures on planet Krishna lives in such a hot climate that the people forgo clothing altogether, and only wear jewelery and body paint.
  • In Keith Laumer's story "Wicker Wonderland", CDT diplomat Jame Retief decides to do a little diving beneath a Poonian floating city. To do so, he strips down and the diving suit is spray painted onto him. Various color schemes are optional.
  • The Race from Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series have no need for clothing (at least in climates like they're used to) and therefore display rank insignia through body paint. By the 1960's, when the aliens have been living on Earth for a while, rebellious teenagers in the US start adopting Lizard "clothing" for the shock value.
    • By the end of Homeward Bound, which takes place in the 21st century, a sizable percentage of the American population wears naught but bodypaint, and public nudity is no longer taboo (one of the most popular game shows on TV is famous for the host's stunning assistant walking around topless).
  • Flatlanders (humans from Earth) in Larry Niven's Known Space series use cosmetic drugs to change their skin, hair, and eye colors to the point that walking down a slidewalk in a big city can be like watching a rainbow walk by. Basic patterns are even possible. Combine this with an almost complete lack of a social nudity taboo (Earth is far too crowded by this point for a nudity taboo to be at all practical), and this trope is in full force. It was inverted in one story, Luis Wu shocked everyone at a party by showing up dressed in nothing but his natural coloration; it wasn't his nudity that was shocking... it was his lack of bodypaint.
  • In Outcast of Redwall, Nightshade the vixen paints her body with mud.

     Live Action TV  

  • On Just Shoot Me!, Nina pesters Elliot for a photoshoot to bring her back to the spotlight. He ends up shooting her in gold paint, then she insults him. To get even with her, he tells Nina that the paint won't come off without a special solvent, and that trying to wash it off will burn her, so she ends up walking around in gold the entire episode.
  • On Las Vegas, one of the casino's bars featured cocktail waitresses who wear painted on tops.
  • Very cruelly subverted in One Thousand Ways To Die. A woman named Wendy who worked in a factory used some glowing paint from her work during intimacy with her husband. It turned out that said paint was radioactive (more exactly, made from radium, and few later Wendy died from bone cancer — and some of her co-workers died as well. The other ill women who survived filed a successful lawsuit, and became the "Radium Girls"
  • On the makeup F/X game show Face Off, painting nude models is one of the more common challenges, and body paint is also used in many other costumes.
  • The SyFy show Naked Vegas was centered around the employees of a bodypainting studio in the titular city, with each episode focusing on a particular task for different clients, from bodypainting a bridal party to aiding Penn & Teller in creating an illusion with painted contortionists.
  • There is now a TV competition show called Skin Wars, where body painters compete to be crowned America's best. As you would expect from US TV, when the models are introduced topless and unpainted, their breast areas and nipples are visually bleeped out. Yet the very same nipples are still in plain view under a coat of paint later in the show and are not pixilated. work that logic out!
  • In the "Hook Man" (S01, Ep07) episode of Supernatural, Sam helps Murph, a member of a college fraternity, paint his back purple.


  • Storm Thorgerson, the creator of many of Pink Floyd's album art, has a design called "Pink Floyd Back Catalogue" with six of the covers painted on the backs of models. The image can be found at his official site under Work→Non Moving→Posters. The poster's a fairly common sight in guys' college dorm rooms.

     Tabletop Games  

  • The Savage Orc variant of Warhammer Orcs wear magic warpaint that provides mystical protection roughly equivalent to light armour, except that it can potentially deflect cannonballs - which is a good thing, since they otherwise wear nothing more concealing than a loincloth, due to the heat where they live.

     Video Games 

  • In Roommates, Rakesh often ends up covered in paint. Sometimes it's just an unintended side effect of an enthusiastic creative endeavor, but others it's entirely intentional (such as the time he wanted to use his chest as a paintbrush despite being a very hairless Bishounen).
  • Dragon Age: Origins has kaddis, a magical warpaint for Mabari dogs. In story, it's explained as a way for the dogs to differentiate their allies from their enemies during the heat of battle, as the paint has a particular smell that is stronger than the scent of blood or sweat and the dogs' handlers paint themselves as well as their dogs (though you never see your Warden with any paint). In gameplay, it simply adds buffs.

     Web Original  

  • Skippys List references this. "43. Camouflage body paint is not a uniform."
  • There's some literal Pokémon cosplay photos floating around the internet of a girl wearing a full-body paintjob of a Mudkip.

     Web Comics  

  • Precocious has one of these somehow. Except that when the model, Sydney Oven, arrived, the painter, her future husband, used her as the BRUSH. Her opinion? 'How many other families are able to hang a nude portrait of the mother over the dinner table and get away with it?' Said to...the parents of her son's classmates.
  • The Dragons in Draconia Chronicles don't have any kind of clothes or jewelry, only tattoos and Body Paint. Those get more elaborate for formal occasions. Queen Oscura's "crown" is an complicated tattoo on her thigh that she can make visible at will.
  • Fanboys: Sylvia appeared to be wearing body paint while cosplaying Midna.
  • One of Sandra's "booth babe" jobs in Sandra on the Rocks involves her wearing (apparently) head-to-toe body paint. She doesn't know why.

     Western Animation