There are artists out there who love to paint, but unlike most people they can’t use their hands.
Instead, they find other imaginative ways to get creative – using their mouth and feet! Sounds challenging, right? So prepare to roll up your sleeves (well actually, prepare to flex your neck and jaw muscles!) and learn first hand how you and the kids can try hands-free painting at home.
Kids generally love painting, but this blog hopes to achieve more than just a fun colouring-in exercise. It’s a great learning tool to teach the kids about diversity and inclusion – giving them a greater understanding of people from different walks of life. And will likely produce lots of laughs trying the activity along the way!
The following blog will prepare you with all of the tips and tricks to try mouth painting at home, followed by a step-by-step tutorial on how to paint a cute and colourful Rainbow Hedgehog! If you want to try even more designs once you’ve completed this, these tips should equip you to try your own designs straight from your imagination, or more can be found on the Mouth & Foot Painting Artists website. So let’s get painting!
Tips & Things You Need Before Starting
Get your painting materials together
Whatever paper, pens, crayons, pencils or paints you have to hand can be used for this project, even using the inside of a cereal box as your canvas!
But if you’re looking to get a little more technical with the colouring-in bit, acrylic paints will give you the best and brightest colour pay off, and is a great medium for first time painters. Wondering "is acrylic paint safe for kids," is completely normal, and one you want to consider before letting your little Picasso run wild with a paint brush in their mouth, so make sure you are confident that your child is of the age or ability where they won’t be popping the wrong end of the paintbrush in their mouth!
If using watercolour, you’ll need specific watercolour paper, and just keep in mind: more water, less paint.
For very little ones, there are some great edible finger-paints out there if you want to be doubly safe about avoiding paint in the mouth.
Choose your paintbrushes wisely
If you’re using paints, you’ll need paintbrushes of course! Ideally, brushes with chunky handles are best to grip in your teeth. Also consider the length of the paintbrush – the longer the better, to help you more easily see the canvas in front of you as you paint.
Clean your brushes
If you’re going to be painting with your mouth, it’s best to ensure that all materials are washed thoroughly first to avoid any nasty germs.
Set up your workspace
Without having the use of their hands, mouth painting artists can’t hold the piece of paper down, so you’ll want to either stick your paper up on the wall with blue-tack, or tape it down to whatever surface you’re using (chopping boards can work wonderfully as an easel).
If using acrylic paint or non-runny materials like crayons or pens, it’s best to paint upright at eye level so you can see what you’re painting in front of you. If using watercolours, position your canvas down flat to minimise the paint running.
Pop down newspaper or tissue to protect the surface around you.
Plenty of good light will be helpful when looking so closely at the page. Window light is perfect, or why not make the garden your temporary studio if you want fresh air to boot.
Cleaning up materials to have on standby
You’ll need to have a pot of water on standby for cleaning paintbrushes as you go. Top tip: water will also help you thin down acrylic paint and helps get the paintbrush moving on the page. Dip your paintbrush in the water first to get started.
Normally, people might dry the wet brush with their hands, but because mouth painting artists can’t do that, they will often use kitchen roll or an old towel to dab the paintbrush dry. Pop it in front of you or across your arms as you paint.
Tissue will also come in handy with… dribbling! Holding the paintbrush in your mouth can cause lots of saliva. But never mind; think of it like you’re adding your DNA to your painting (eat your heart out, Tracey Emin!).
Choose what you’re going to paint
Mouth and foot painters are often very inspiring people, having overcome being disabled or terrible accidents, but take great enjoyment in living life to the full. Inspiration and wonder can be taken from looking at family members, colours, galleries and art museums (Kidadl has lots of great online ones), shapes in the cloud, or even a potato! The possibilities are endless. To help you get started, this tutorial will include a ready-made hedgehog design, which can be downloaded in advance so you know what you’re working towards.
When holding the brush in your mouth, try and keep it to one side and not just with the front teeth, but also with the back teeth, which will stop it sliding backwards towards the throat.
Mouth painting takes years of practice to perfect, so don’t worry if it’s a bit of a mess the first time! Try and think about it like how you would paint a colouring book, carefully painting within the lines with small, controlled movements.
Always have a responsible adult on standby
Always make sure you supervise your child as they paint to avoid any choking hazards with paintbrushes going down the wrong way. Plus, painting together will be loads more fun.
Step-by-Step GuideTo Painting Without Hands
Think of mouth painting like its very own sport. Just as your kids would stretch to warm up for PE, it’s essential to warm up with neck exercises before you start painting. Start by moving your chin onto your chest and then move your head back as far you can stretch it. Next, tilt your head to your shoulder as far as you can stretch before tilting to the other side. Try this around ten times to loosen the neck muscles. Jaw stretches are also really handy. Pretend to yawn, and move your bottom jaw gently left to right. Make sure to also take breaks (a quick play in the garden will do it) throughout if your neck starts to ache.
Sketch your outline with pencil
Now it’s time to get started with drawing the outline of your piece. Taking a pencil (without a rubber on top) in your mouth, start by sketching an outline of the body of the hedgehog, roughly in the shape of an Easter egg in the centre of your page. This will help you keep in the lines when painting. Next, add the face and body details. You’ll want to give your hedgehog eyes, ears, a nose and mouth. Lastly, sketch the toadstool around your hedgehog to give him or her some cute surroundings. You can use this handy hedgehog template as a guide to help you get the shape right.
Go over your outline with pen
With a felt tip in your mouth, outline the lower half of the hedgehog’s body. Then, use a fine liner pen to add the small details like the eyelashes, mouth and ears.
Prepare your paint palette
Place your acrylic paints onto your palette (this could be a plate, or piece of greaseproof paper – whatever you have to hand), leaving enough space between them to mix the colours. Obviously use your hands for this bit, or get somebody in your house to squeeze out the paints for you if you want to make it a truly hands free painting experience. At this stage, you could also use pens or crayons if you don’t have paint at home.
Top tip: when colour mixing paints, start by creating a puddle of one colour, and gradually add small drops of your second colour to mix and build up to your preferred colour.
Painting the body
Mix yellow with white paint, using a flat brush to start painting the body of your hedgehog. For the feet, mix pink with white paint, and apply using a thin brush.
Next, take a thin brush again, and use a small amount of blue to paint the eyes.
Painting the toadstools
Then it’s time to paint the toadstool heads in red. For the stalks, you could use the same pink and white mix you used for the feet.
For the white spots, you’ll need a thin brush. Make sure your brush is clean of any previous colours by giving it a quick rinse in water and dry off with a kitchen towel. Then, take your brush and dab white paint onto the red heads of the toadstools.
Painting the spikes
Using yellow, green, red, blue and pink paint, stroke your brush upwards to make the hedgehog spikes.
Painting the grass
Using a fan brush (or small brush if you don’t have one), take a small amount of green paint and stroke up at the base of the toadstool sand under the hedgehog’s legs to create tufts of grass.
Sign your work
Don’t forget to sign your masterpiece – this is your unique piece of work! Go one step further and upload your artwork to social media and use the hashtags #Kidadl #PaintwithMFPA and tag @kidadl @mouthandfootpaintingartists @artbyrms for your chance to showcase your work for all to see.
Et voila! That’s how you paint a Rainbow Hedgehog without using your hands. Make sure to watch the video tutorial if you need help along the way. Other imaginative hands free painting tutorials, including a beautiful spring daffodil, and even a juicy burger, can be found on the news & events page on the Mouth & FootPainting Artist’s website.
Rosie Moriarty Simmonds OBE
As a self-described disabled woman, happy wife, adoring mum-of-one, author, media presenter, actor, artist, successful businesswoman and socialite – Rosie is constantly busy and totally content. Rosie is also a member of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, an association of artists who only paint with their mouth and feet due to physical disability. She enjoys creating artwork at her home in Wales, and supporting many local community initiatives there and across the UK.