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This Means Warpaint

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A subtrope of Body Paint where, just before a conflict, a character will take some sort of paint — or improvise with something closer to hand like mud or ashes — and apply it just below the eyes. The effect is something like Tribal Face Paint or army camouflage, and the implication is clear: The Gloves are Off.

Sports players, especially in American Football, often do this before matches. Ostensibly, this is to reduce glare from the sun (this was examined by the MythBusters, who deemed it plausible) but it's hard to imagine that it's entirely accidental that they're also making themselves look like warriors.

Compare Lipstick-and-Load Montage, where ordinary makeup is applied as if it were a preparation for battle, and Nose Art, when this is applied to a Cool Plane.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Mellowlink Arity, of Armor Hunter Mellowlink, paints four lines across his face whenever he's about to kill somebody. In fact, the image of Mellowlink with four lines of his own blood painted on his face is easily the most iconic image in the OVA.
  • In Princess Mononoke, just before the boars attack the mining town, there's a sequence of them using their snouts to warpaint each others' faces with mud.
  • In the Battle Angel Alita OVA, Alita draws under her eyes streaks of blood from a friendly dog Grewcica pointlessly slaughters. In the manga, she does the same with streaks of tar before commencing battle with Makaku. The streaks become an iconic part of her look, added to her face as permanent marks when she joins the Motor Ball circuit and persisting even across multiple bodies and rebuilds.
  • Combined with Lipstick-and-Load Montage in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: Kanna's Daily Life when Kanna applies some makeup to Fafnir, claiming it will help him in his upcoming battle (read: selling his doujins). The end result resembles a clown, but neither of them are familiar enough with human culture to realize that he looks ridiculous.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • In Knights of the Dinner Table, when Bob and Dave go to rescue Newt Forager when he's supposedly lost in the steam tunnels, Dave wears face paint to psych himself up.
    Dave: I'm one-sixteenth Algonquin! I'm trying to tap into my Native American roots, thus drawing on any residual instincts or skills my heritage may have instilled in me.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Phantom Queen, both Ryuji "Captain Skull" Sakamoto and Yusuke "Da Vinci" Kitagawa wear face paint when acting as super villains.
    • After just escaping a prison transport, Ryuji paints a crude skull on his face with dirt and blood.
    • After escaping the same transport for longer, Yusuke arrives at an art museum to steal a painting while wearing full Kabuki style facepaint.

    Films — Animation 
  • Tweety bird daubs on war paint in the locker room during the Lock-and-Load Montage before the Ultimate Game in Space Jam.
  • The Powhatan tribesmen in Pocahontas apply warpaint in the "Savages" number.
  • In Moana, the Kakamora, a race of pygmy pirates, display an unusual variant. Normally completely concealed inside of their coconut-shell armor, they appear as The Blank — but, when they decide to go to war, they literally paint on frightful visages to intimidate their foes despite otherwise being walking coconuts.
  • In Shrek the Third, Queen Lillian puts lipstick over her cheeks when the princesses prepare to take on Prince Charming.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, while traveling through the Land of Milk and Cookies, Max spreads blue and pink frosting across his cheeks before charging at plughounds.
  • Alita: Battle Angel uses an atypical variant in that it's not employed before the final battle, and the paint in question is the blood of her dog, killed by Grewishka to make a point.
  • The Na'vi in Avatar, as well as their allies. Trudy even puts warpaint around the cockpit of her stolen Black Helicopter. Which makes sense, since she was flying the exact same helicopter the bad guys were. Friendly fire, and all.
    • Avatar: The Way of Water shows that the war paint has become the standard for aircraft piloted by Na'vi-aligned humans.
  • Averted in Apocalypse Now, where we see Willard jump into the river and emerge with paint on, but we don't see him actually put it on his face.
  • In The Lone Ranger, Tonto's Tribal Face Paint is revealed to be this. He first painted it on with ashes in the midst of a Heroic BSoD after his tribe was slaughtered, and has kept it up ever since.
  • Shoshanna of Inglourious Basterds uses this trope in the middle of a Lipstick-and-Load Montage as she's preparing for her revenge against the Nazis, smearing rouge across her cheekbones like it's warpaint.
  • Kaamelott: Premier Volet: The Burgundians put makeup on their faces matching their colorful outfits when going on sieges. At the end, Léodagan, Séli and Franagan also don them when Arthur's alliance with the Burgundians lays siege to Kaamelott.
  • In King Arthur (2004), the Picts wear blue face and body paint in battle. They're referred to as "Woads" in the film, after the dye they use to do so.
  • In the Richard Pryor 1988 comedy Moving, his character Arlo Pear dons warpaint when he decides to go commando on the movers who wouldn't deliver his furniture to the right address.
  • Ernest Goes to Camp has Chief St. Cloud do this with Ernest and several campers just before the battle against Krader and his men.
  • Predator: Towards the end of the film, Dutch coats himself in mud as he prepares for the final confrontation, which also masks him from the Predator's heat vision.
  • In Braveheart, William Wallace (Mel Gibson's character) dons the now iconic blue and yellow face paint as he leads his men. Most likely a conflation of the supposedly woad-painted Britons with the Picts (ancient inhabitants of Scotland), both of whom the Romans faced a thousand years prior.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road.
    • Furiosa paints the top half of her face with engine grease before one action scene. Grease is also used by some War Boys to cover the area around their eyes. For both of these instances it has a practical purpose, it helps them see things in the extreme glare from the Outback Wasteland.
    • The War Boys spray chrome paint across their mouths before launching a Suicide Attack as a somewhat religious gesture so that they got to Valhalla "shiny and chrome". The paint fumes also act as a crude Intoxicative inhalant to drug them into a high to make passing easier. It should be known that the actors really did spray chrome paint or at least chrome food spray during filming.
  • Right before the 100-on-1 fight in Magadheera, the warrior Kala Bhaira slits his palm and paints his forehead with his own blood.
  • X-Men Film Series:
  • The Dark Knight: In the prologue, one of the Joker's minions describe the boss's makeup as "like war paint—to scare people."
  • Of the symbolic variety in Blooded. After Eve shoots the stag, Ben daubs her cheeks with the animal's blood, and tells her that she has been 'blooded', and explains how this a tradition after a hunter makes their first kill.
  • Death Ring: During his two hour Mercy Lead before the hunters start after him, Matt uses mud to paint camouflage patterns on his face.
  • In the 2015 version of Macbeth Macbeth and his soldiers do a Braveheart shout-out by painting blue stripes on their faces before charging into the battle. Macbeth himself paints stripes on the face of a teenaged boy who is killed in the battle moments later.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek: Voyager. The Hirogen are shown putting a slash of paint on their helmets before Hunting the Most Dangerous Game. Captured "prey" are marked with a different colored stripe.
  • Odd Squad: In "Trials and Tubulations", Olive smears mud on her cheeks, nose, and chin in this fashion, before attempting to pass by angry laser chickens. This is in contrast to Otto, who smears mud completely over his face and jacket. It ends up working, and the laser chickens pay them no notice.
  • Highlander: In the episode "Line of Fire," the villain of the week is an Immortal who was an Army scout in the Old West, and led a raid on a Lakota Sioux village where Duncan was living at the time. Duncan's girlfriend and her son were both killed in the raid. So before going after the bad guy in the modern day, Duncan puts on Lakota-style war paint, and uses a Lakota war spear as his weapon in the final fight.

  • Referenced in "\"The Phoenix" by Fall Out Boy, which begins and ends with the line, "Put on your war paint!"
  • In the video for "Everybody's Gone to War" by Nerina Pallot, one of fighters in the supermarket does this with tomato juice just before everyone pelts Nerina with produce and liquids at the climax of the song.

    Pro Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Some tribes of orcs in both Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 will put various warpaints on themselves, their weapons, their mounts, and/or their vehicles prior to battle. They believe that certain colors and designs have special powers, and will emphasize that color depending on their preferences for combat (Evil Sunz love fast vehicles, so they paint their trukks and bikes red because Red Ones Go Faster).
  • Magical warpaint is an important source of protection for the dwarf resistance-fighters in Mayfair Games' "Role Aids" supplement Undead, as the heat of the caldera and a macho-warrior mentality compels them to fight naked.

    Video Games 
  • In Assassin's Creed III, Connor puts on warpaint before going after Charles Lee for the last time.
  • Dragon Age:
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, mabari hounds wear warpaint called "kaddis" that helps them keep track of friend and foe in the heat of battle. In-game, it acts as gear for the player's mabari hound, boosting various stats.
    • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, the Iron Bull and a qunari Inquisitor get warpaint (called "vitaar") instead of helmets due to being Horned Humanoids and therefore unable to wear helmets made for humans, elves, or dwarves. According to codex entries, vitaar hardens qunari skin to an iron-like quality, but is poisonous to other races. However, in-game it improves damage done, not defenses.
  • Invoked in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, if you get the Fierce Deity's Mask. It can only be used in boss battles, and the first time you get it is right before you face Majora; the Fierce Deity himself has warpaint on his cheekbones and forehead. Link putting on the mask is pretty much as close as a Zelda game gets to this trope.
  • Dead or Alive: Present in Bayman's ending in the third video game. He assembles weapons and dresses in combat clothes for an upcoming battle with an enemy. During that process, he paints black marks across his face which has a serious expression. Once dressed and fully assembled, Bayman grabs a large rifle and heads out to do battle.
  • Kirby and the Forgotten Land: When King Dedede is brainwashed to join the Beast Pack, his Evil Costume Switch comes with war paint around his eyes.
  • In the World of Warcraft short, "Old Soldiers", Varok Saurfang uses the ashes of a brazier to paint a mark similar to the Horde emblem on his face just as he was going to set out to find his warrior's death against the Alliance. He's talked out of the suicide, but keeps the warpaint on for the true Battle for Lordaeron.
  • After the third case in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Spirit of Justice, Beh'leeb Inmee uses her lipstick to paint the symbol of Lady Kee'ra on her forehead to solidify her resolve to proactively fight against the corruption in the Khura'inese royalty as a Defiant Dragon.

    Web Comics 
  • The Last Human In A Crowded Galaxy: When Shenya finds Sarya missing, she puts on purple body paint that's toxic to many species, including her own. The comic has a bonus panel explaining the cultural significance of the war paint.
  • Played with in the second "That Which Redeems..." arc of Sluggy Freelance during a flashback. Dungeon guard Amospia's boyfriend runs into her home to tell her the demons have invaded, only to discover that she's already wearing her warpaint, which takes hours to put on. He quickly realizes she must have expected the attack, sees through her excuse, and demands to know where her dungeon key is. She gave it to the demons in an attempt to save her boyfriend from the frontlines so they could escape together. To say things didn't go as planned would be an understatement...

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Sokka paints his face in grey and white when Zuko's ship is approaching the village. The paint was actually pretty scary; too bad Sokka himself isn't. After taking several levels in badass, he does it again to much greater effect while preparing to face the forces of the Fire Nation.
    • Avatar Kyoshi was famous for her white and red face paint when going into battle, modeled after theater traditions. The same style of face paint is used by the Kyoshi Warriors to honor her.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: In the Dial M For Monkey short "Huntor", a de-powered Monkey paints stripes on his face with mud while preparing to ambush Huntor.
  • Kulipari: An Army of Frogs has Darel wear blue clay on his face as a treatment for poisoning. As it gets smudged over time, it begins to resemble warpaint.
  • One Lucky Luke cartoon has an Indian tribe do this, with the usual gags like Polka-Dot Paint, Invisible Paint, etc.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Dragonshy", Rainbow Dash paints her face with liquid rainbows before she and the other ponies set out to face the dragon.
  • Done in The Simpsons in an episode parodying Lord of the Flies. Nelson and the rest of the tribe put on warpaint, made out of ash, before hunting Bart, Lisa and Milhouse.
  • Total Drama: In "Camp Castaways", Owen is very quick to pick up a stereotypical tribal look, including body paint, when he thinks he's stranded in the wild. He meets up with the other three contestants soon enough and together they spot smoke in the distance. Because they don't know who they're dealing with, Owen makes them all wear warpaint so that they look threatening just in case. He himself doesn't apply warpaint because he's already got the body paint and a skull-shaped helmet. All the brouhaha is dropped the moment the source of the smoke is discovered to be just Chris and Chef.