Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, art, travel, make-up, cooking and the occasional rant!


Business Tips for Face Painters, Body Artists and Make-Up Artists #9 – Soliciting Work

September 1st means it is time for the ninth excerpt from my e-book The Business of Face Painting.  Of course, if you would like to get all the information included in my book right now you can find out how here.

The Business of Face Painting was published in September of 2009 and I am working on the final stages of the companion book The Art of Face Painting which we hope to have out sometime this year.

So, now how do you get those face painting jobs?

The following is an excerpt from Chapter Four of  The Business of Face Painting.


Soliciting Work

Use the information you have compiled on your target markets to determine those potential clients that you want to get your information in front of.  You want to make them aware of your services and why they should hire you over anyone else.  I tend to choose one specific group to target each year based on my current interests or potential for business in that area.  By concentrating my efforts on one narrow area I can keep my costs reasonable and am able to easily track the success of the campaign for any given period of time.  One year I targeted daycares and schools, the next restaurants, then nightclubs, then festivals, etc.

Some events may require you to submit an application and pay a fee to set-up at their event.  At these types of activities you would most likely be charging pay-per-face.  Decide if these are the type of events you want to go after and then inquire about the vendor application process.  Be aware that some events may let anyone who pays their fee set-up so you might end up in competition with a dozen other painters.  Try to negotiate exclusivity so that you are the only face painter.  Location is also very important to your earnings.

Choose how you want to approach your potential clients – by letter, with a postcard, with an email, in person.  Then prepare your materials.

I’ve included some sample letters and emails [these are included in the ebook] that you can use to solicit business.  These are the actual letters that I have sent to potential customers.  The one called “Introductory Letter for Face Painting” is a generic letter that I sent to organizers and associations that hold events in the region.  “Restaurant letter” is self-explanatory.  And “New Year Letter” went out to all my customers and selected potential customers – I got a lot of bookings confirmed for the next season by sending out the New Years letter in January every year.  The “festival email” is an actual email I used to solicit a gig at large local event.  Feel free to use these as examples to make up your own versions.

Using Kryolan Interferenz Bach Blue with other colours

© Shannon Fennell, 2009

with material from “Designs and Templates Volume 1” © November 2007

and “Designs and Templates Volume 2” © March 2008


Book Review: The Face Painting Book of Eye Designs for Boys

The Face Painting Book of Eye Designs for Boys is the fifth book in Snazaroo USA Inc.’s series of face painting books.

A book devoted to boy designs is a great idea – we all can manage fast girl designs, but boys are a bit of a challenge.  This book really does deliver a large selection of designs that will actually work for painters in real life face painting situations.

This one features the work of Kristi Darby of Pigment Pie Face and Body Art from Kansas City, MO (  Kristi is an excellent artist and all the designs in this book are really do-able and eye-catching.

Kristi did all the painting and provided the photos but the accompanying text was written by Snazaroo USA Inc. (Matthew Cole, Gary Cole, et al)  I found the written instructions overly detailed and not necessarily matching the photos I was looking at.  They also tend to be repetitive regarding adding highlights, etc. on each design.  If you have some experience painting you could just skim them and follow the photos instead.

For example, the Black Eye (page 10) instructions detailed using black, green and yellow as well as the blue and maroon, but the photos of the black eye Kristi painted show no evidence of those colours actually being used to create the very nice black eye.  The use of the green and yellow make an aged bruise, but Kristi’s is a fairly fresh one.  And using black, I would not recommend that myself as it would overpower the rest of the colours and is NOT part of a real bruise.

The layout of the book is easy to follow – two pages per design, one with step-by-step photos and instructions and the facing page has the final photo and more instructions for finishing the design (fairly standard for most step-by-step books.)  This example is my personal favourite – the Alien.  I can see this one being a huge hit with the boys (and girls too!)

Another very effective design is the Zombie Eye – something easy and fast for those squirming boys who want to be a zombie but can’t sit still for the whole full face treatment!

The book doesn’t provide any specifics or visual aids on techniques or brushes.  It goes straight into the step-by-steps which is great as you get more designs, but it may leave beginner painters hanging a bit on exactly how to get going (if they are complete newbies – tip: buy my book too if this is the case!)

There are 25 designs in total and all are worth trying out .  Most designs would be within the reach of newer painters with a little trial and error as none are technically difficult.  Most designs have a total of four photos, but several have three and there is one with five.

I definitely would recommend the book as we all need more boy designs!

Links to purchase:  Snazaroo USA  where it is at an introductory price of $12 USD, or at your usual face paint retailers (suggested retail price is $15 USD.)

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Business Tips for Face Painters, Body Artists and Make-Up Artists #8 – Hourly vs. Pay Per Face

August 1st means it is time for the eighth excerpt from my e-book The Business of Face Painting.  Of course, if you would like to get all the information included in my book right now you can find out how here.

The Business of Face Painting was published in September of 2009 and I am working on the final stages of the companion book The Art of Face Painting which we hope to have out sometime this year.

When you decide to work as a professional face painter you generally have two options for getting paid for your services – charging a set hourly rate or charging each person you paint which is referred to as “pay per face”.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter Two of  The Business of Face Painting.


Hourly versus Pay-Per-Face

The previous section used an hourly rate for illustration purposes as it is easier to show, but as a face painter you can choose to work on a pay-per-face basis instead.

For face painters who are working at large fairs or high volume events as vendors charging for each face painted is the norm.  Typically they will set-up a booth offering face painting to anyone who wants to pay for the design they choose.  In situations like this, where you set-up a booth at a fair, you would most likely have to pay the organizers of the event for the right to do this.

Events typically sell the right to set-up as a vendor.  Vendors’ fees vary widely from a small percentage of your takings to large lump sums.  For large established events such as state fairs, trade shows, etc. you can ask for attendance numbers from previous years to calculate the potential for income.   You need to be able to cover the costs you’ve incurred to set-up your booth as well as all expenses you usually have.  You also need to be able to physically be able to paint enough faces to make as much money as you possibly can at the event.  Additional painters may be required to maximize that earning potential.

What to charge per face is something you need to decide.  You need to cover your actual costs per face of course, but will you charge a flat fee no matter what the design is or will you have a scale based on the size or complexity of the design?  You will have to assess what others in your area are charging and whether the public in your market area is willing to pay those rates.  I’ve seen full face designs range from $5 to $25 depending on the location of the event.

You don’t need to panic if you decide on a rate and then discover it is too high or too low at a particular event as you can simply change your sign.  Take along some signs with higher or lower rates and use a system where you can simply change what you have on display.

There are opportunities to set-up without paying vendors’ fees as well at smaller events or community based activities.

The big concern with working pay-per-face is that there is the problem of having no faces to paint.  This could be for a variety of reasons such as bad weather, badly organized or advertised event, poor location, lack of children in attendance, etc.  These are things beyond your control and it can be a gamble.

On the flip side it can also be extremely profitable if the event is hugely busy, you paint super fast, people are willing to pay for the higher priced designs, etc.  I know of painters who can net $1,500 per day at festivals.  But expect to work hard for extremely long hours without proper breaks and be ready for stress and exhaustion.

Pay-per-face is not for everyone.  It isn’t for me. I work by the hour only so when I work at a festival it is because I have been hired by the organizers themselves or by a vendor or sponsor.

© Shannon Fennell, 2009

with material from “Designs and Templates Volume 1” © November 2007

and “Designs and Templates Volume 2” © March 2008

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All that glitters… is glitter tattoos

Glitter tattoos are great to do when it is too hot for face painting.  If the temperature is going to be over 26C I will propose to my customers that I do glitter tattoos instead.  Face painting in the heat is not comfortable as it sweats off, isn’t waterproof if the kids want to splash in the pool and the make-up gets hard to work with as it will start to melt in the palette.

Around here it doesn’t get that hot that often… but this year, well, this is week three of near 30C temps.  YUCK!  I hate the heat, really… I react badly to being exposed to direct sunlight – I blister all over my hands and get raised rashes and that isn’t even being sunburned.

Most years we get one really hot weekend in late July, but the heat started in June this year.  Extreme heat and thunderstorms.  We had a doozy of a thunderstorm on Tuesday right when I was leaving work… blinding rain, hail, winds… power outages, trees and telephone poles blown down, garden decimated, sheds shattered and lakes on roads.  My flowers were battered and my Musk Mallow got broken.

Any hoo… back to the glitter tattoos.

I have a massive selection of tattoo stencils and dozens of colours of glitter… I can pretty much cover any theme people may have, from princesses to Star Trek, from geckos to dragons, from ladybugs to tigers.

On July 7th I did a glitter tattoo on my hand to use as a sample at a birthday party I was doing on the 8th.  I had emailed the mom to suggest that I bring along the tattoos as the forecast was for 31C so I wanted to be wearing a sample.

This is the tattoo the night I did it.

I got a little wonky on the distribution of colour but pretty nonetheless.

This next one is on day eight (8)… I lost the antenna as I wore gardening gloves to mow the lawn and rubbed them off and thinned out the glitter on the wings.

This next one is day twelve (12)… a little worn, but still a sparkly butterfly!

And this is today…

I’m leaving it on till the weekend to see how long it will actually last.  I usually tell people they will last a week with care so this is great to actually see how long I can manage to keep it looking like a butterfly.  Every other time I’ve applied one I ended up damaging it and removing it before I had a chance to test longevity.

In my opinion, the best place to get stencils for glitter tattoos is Not Quite Tattoos which is my friend Linda Adams.  She is amazingly fast at shipping orders, does incredibly quick custom orders and comes up with wonderful original designs.

She made me tractors, grizzlies, elk and moose tattoos!  And hockey… can’t forget the hockey.

These are some of Linda’s samples from her site:

Aren’t they SPECTACULAR?

If you are looking for tattoo stencils be sure to go check out Linda’s website – she has all her stencils shown there for you to look over:  Not Quite Tattoos (tell her I sent you!)

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Business Tips for Face Painters, Body Artists and Make-Up Artists #7 – Setting Your Rates

July 1st means it is time for the seventh excerpt from my e-book The Business of Face Painting.  Of course, if you would like to get all the information included in my book right now you can find out how here.

The Business of Face Painting was published in September of 2009 and I am working on the final stages of the companion book The Art of Face Painting which we hope to have out sometime this year.

Beginners all wonder how to set their rates for face painting.  There are many things to take into consideration and the need to cover expenses and actually come out ahead is the desired goal.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter Two of  The Business of Face Painting.


Setting Your Rates

A big issue when you are just starting out as a professional face painter is “what do I charge?”

I think we’ve all had to struggle with setting our prices when we first start out in this industry.  Some beginners feel that they should work for less than a more experienced artist – some feel they should volunteer or “work for free” just to gain experience and practice.

While offering your services for free can be good for building your portfolio and gaining work experience, you can be doing yourself and the industry a disservice.  Firstly, it creates the impression with potential customers that if you just shop around and you can find a “beginner” who will work for nothing.  Secondly, you are giving away product and using up supplies that you have spent your own money on.  Neither of which I’m sure any of us really want to do.

When I first started working as a professional make-up artist we were told at trade school that we should charge to cover our costs and expenses incurred to do the job.  Often students and recent graduates were approached to “work for free” but, supplies and expenses were always reimbursed.  My question is why shouldn’t this be applied to face painters as well?

When I started face painting I charged the same hourly rate I did for make-up services.  I quickly realized that I was doing many more faces in the same amount of time so it was working out to be a real deal for the customer but not so great on my bottom line.  After the first year of face painting I increased my hourly rate by 50%, the following year again by 50%, and so on.

So what is your time actually worth?  Have you ever given it much thought?   I did and this is what I have developed to help you figure your own rates out based on your own expenses.

Let’s get some figures down so we have a starting point:

  • What is the legal minimum wage in your jurisdiction?  For illustration purposes I will use      $8.00/hour which is the lowest possible here in Canada.
  • What are your annual operating costs?  Car expenses, insurance, business forms (invoices, flyers, business cards, etc.), furniture and fixtures (table, chairs, gazebo, permanent signage, etc.), utilities (telephone, mobile/cellular, website, etc.), advertising, office and storage space if you have it. (Figure A)
  • What are your annual consumable supply costs?  This is everything that gets used up and replaced – make-up, face paint, tissue, wipes, glitter, tattoos, hand sanitizer, sponges, brushes, etc.  (B)
  • Calculate the actual number of hours you worked last year (C) and multiply by the basic hourly minimum wage. (C x $8=D)
  • Add the total of your combined annual costs.  (A+B=E)
  • Take the number of hours worked (C) and multiply by average number of faces you can paint per hour.  This is the total number of faces you paint in a year. (F)
  • Divide your total costs by the number of faces you painted. (E/F=G) This is your cost per face.
  • Combine your total costs with the wages (E+D=H), then divide by the total number of faces (H/F=I).  This should be your minimum charge per face.
  • To calculate an hourly rate you can do it two ways: Multiply by the number of faces you can paint in an hour by the minimum charge per face, or, divide your total costs and wages by the number of hours worked (the answer will be the same.)

Here is an example based on the above (reasonable estimates of costs):

Operating Costs (A)                            $3,000

Supply Costs (B)                                    2,000

Total Costs (E)                                                            $5,000.00

Hours Worked (C)                                     177

X Minimum Hourly Wage                  $       8

Wages (D)                                                                   $1,416.00

Hours Worked (C)                                      177

X Number of Faces Per Hour                     12

Total Faces Painted (F)                                                 2,124

Total Costs (E)                                    $5,000

Divided by Total Faces (F)                   2,124

Your Cost Per Face                                                             $2.35

Total Costs (E)                                    $5,000

Wages (D)                                                1,416

Total Cost and Wages (H)                                           $6,416.00

Cost and Wages (H)                           $ 6,416

Divided by Total Faces (F)                   2,124

Minimum Charge Per Face (I)                                            $3.02

Minimum Charge Per Face (I)            $    3.02

X Number Painted Per Hour                     12

Minimum Hourly Rate                                                      $36.24

Total Costs and Wages (H)                 $6,416

Divided by Hours Worked (C)                  177

Minimum Hourly Rate                                                      $36.24

Is your result more or less than you currently charge?  If it is substantially less, then you are on the right track.  If it is more than you currently charge you may want to consider increasing your fees so that you are at least making minimum wage!

This exercise was just to look at this from a purely financial standpoint.  I’m sure you will all agree that we are worth more than minimum wage, but how much more?

I have created an Excel spreadsheet that will do all these calculations for you and you can download it from this link: Cost Per Face Excel Spreadsheet

The other side to the question of pricing is the market price for this type of service and what value you place on your time.  What are your priorities?  Do you want to work more to make more or would you like to make more and work less?  Other variables include your market area pricing, competition, and the spending ability of your target markets.

The easiest way to get information on what the current market rates are is to go to the yellow pages and contact other artists in your area and inquire about their fees.  This will give you an idea of what the going rate is.  You then can use this knowledge to price yourself.  Pricing yourself low is not necessarily what you want to do!  Remember, you actually want to be making a profit from this business so please don’t price yourself lower to undercut the competition.  That is not the point.  What you are trying to find out is what the market will bear; what people are accustomed to paying for face painting.  Once you know that, find out what they are getting for that fee.  Is it exactly the same service you are providing?  Or is there more or less being offered?

Look at what you are offering compared to the competition.  What are your selling features?  Have you won awards, taken classes, attended conventions, have art degrees?  What is it that makes you special and unique?  And, what is the premium you can add to your fee for this special talent and training?  If you are able to offer more, you should be charging more!

Rates for face painting vary widely from area to area.  Also the skill and experience of the artist can be reflected in what they charge, or it should be!  You will have to investigate to see what the going rate is in your area – don’t be sneaky, just call up and ask!

Consider also, how many hours you work.  If you could make the same amount of money but work fewer hours would you do it?  Or would you like to make more money without increasing your hours of work?

Say you are charging $60/hour now, and you are fully booked.  You turn away work as you cannot fit it in.  What would happen if you increased your rate to $80/hour?  Would you lose bookings?  If you are booking, for example, 20 hours a week at $60/hour you are making $1,200/week  If you wanted to maintain $1,200/week you would only need to work 15 hours instead of 20 at the new rate.  And if you stayed at 20 hours you would be taking in $1,600, that’s $400 more a week.

What actually tends to happen is that you may get more inquiries that don’t book at the higher rate, but you would still be fully booked as you have made room for the people you were unable to book before.

To help generate more inquiries you need to get your name out there by advertising and passing out business cards, making sure that there is good word of mouth about you, and being sure to impress your customers so they will tell their friends!  Don’t be shy; you have to be able to sell yourself to people when they call.

To continue following the example above, if you have raised your rates and you are still fully booked… raise them again!  Put them up to $90/hour.  Keep track of the number of inquiries you get compared to the number of bookings.  If you are booking three or four out of every ten, that is a great confirmation rate.  You will work fewer hours but you’ll be making more money!

You can continue this pattern until you find your “sweet spot” which is the rate where you are making maximum return for minimum effort.  It is all about your life and lifestyle and if you want to earn to your maximum potential and increase your time with your children or give yourself time for other things, don’t be afraid to give this a try.

And remember to review this all regularly as your markets will change with the economy, your target markets might change with your interests, and your perceived value to your clientele may increase with your experience, talent and training.

© Shannon Fennell, 2009

with material from “Designs and Templates Volume 1” © November 2007

and “Designs and Templates Volume 2” © March 2008

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It’s that time again

It is renewal time for FACE members.

I spent part of today painting myself for photos to submit with my renewal application.  Every year, as an advanced member, I have to submit the three required photos that everyone has to do when they apply to become a member of FACE, The Face Painting Association – those are a tiger, a three-colour blend (NO split cakes permitted) and a white base.

In theory one could simply have photos on hand from the previous year’s work to submit, but, as I don’t take photos when I am working at regular gigs, I don’t.  It would be nice.  Sometimes I have some from theatre gigs as I do tend to take lots of photos when doing designs for a show, but this year we didn’t do any big face painting shows.

So, seeing as I procrastinated (the forms and photos are due TUESDAY) I had to paint myself three times today, take photos of myself, get all the forms completed, scan the forms and insurance documents, find a recent photo of my kit set-up at a gig, then send them all off to the renewal coordinator.

Some days I suffer from a lack of imagination, but thankfully, originality is NOT a requirement in these photos… they are just to prove your technique is still of an acceptable standard.

I was using Snazaroo black and realized when looking at the photos that some of my brushwork is a little “fuzzy”.  Not sloppy, just not as sharp as it could have been with, say, Wolfe but I didn’t want to have to clean that off my face repeatedly.  As it is my eyes are really irritated.

So, here is what I painted today…

A Tiger:

Decided to do pink this time… all my other tigers have been orange.  Kryolan white, Snazaroo pastel pink and black, and Wolfe UV pink.

A white base:

Had no plan at all, just figured I would get the base done then see what happened… we were watching “Catch Me If You Can” on TV and this is what I ended up with.  Kryolan white and royal blue.  This cleaned up like a breeze!

And a three-colour blend:

Didn’t start with a plan… just thought I’d use these colours and see what it looked like.  I should really have used a flat teal instead of a pearl teal  but, once it was done, it was done… The base is Grimas burgundy, yellow and pearl teal with Snazaroo black.


Squeaky clean!

My friend Larissa makes soap.  She and her husband run several home based businesses and soap is one of their really great products that they make under the name Reef Botanicals.  I’ve been using her Purity soap for a couple of years now… it is pure soap and is great on my skin AND practically a miracle cleaner for my brushes and sponges.

I blogged about the Purity when I first got some from her (you can read that old post here).

Well, she has now started packaging Purity especially for us face and body painters!  In a big tub that can sit on the side of the sink ready to use!  So I just have to tell everyone about it again.

I was leaving a bar sitting on a yoghurt container lid sitting there… have to admit this looks WAY better!

I am not leaving the lid on… but thought I’d show it for illustration purposes.

And this what my new tub of Purity did for me this morning:

It is much lighter.  Some colours just soak into the taklon fibre and green is one of the worst.  As long as I can lighten them to the point of NOT looking dirty/unwashed, I am happy.

But looky what Purity can do for sponges!!

Now, in order to get these kind of results you need to handwash and work the lather in, sometimes repeatedly … just saying.  Some people can’t be bothered to put that much effort into having their sponges looking new, but if you are willing you WILL get results like this.

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My Gore Factory

So I mentioned yesterday I discovered something cool for making sfx (that is the abbreviation for special effects make-up if you didn’t already know…)

I was starting to get all my stuff together to start making wounds and things and was looking at the box of tissues thinking that there had to be something easier to use… tearing up the tissue is a mess and it always wants to shred in strips…

My studio is my basement, which also contains the laundry room, and I was wandering back and forth and glanced into the trash bin where I toss the dryer lint and dryer sheets… and I had an epiphany!!  USED DRYER SHEETS!!

There were several sitting on top so I scooped them up and starting to pull on them… they shredded easily, but not too easily, they shredded in any direction I pulled them in, I could regulate the size… excellent.

So onto the next step… will they soak up latex?  YES!  and BONUS… they dried in the position I dropped them in, not flat, and did not need powdering as the fibre soaked up all the latex and it didn’t stay tacky.

I used coloured liquid latex – red and blue – as I had it on hand.  It is going to speed up my zombie and corpse work over the weekend big time.  No need to colour, just glue them on and add blood!

I also used oatmeal and rice cereal to make scabs.  I really like using the coloured latex… makes this all so easy!


I still have to finish up all the pieces… removing them from the lids they are drying on, powdering those that need it, maybe a little more flesh coloured PAX on the wound edges…

I’m actually quite thrilled with how they are turning out… and it is just about time to head back down to get it all organized for tomorrow… have to get the table clear so I can work…

You may have noticed that I stockpile lids from plastic containers… they are REALLY handy to use for palettes, etc.  And if I get them covered is crap I just throw them away.  Philly containers are a great size for using too for powder and other things, the lids are airtight so you can keep alcohol or adhesives in them when working.

Here’s a shot of the “studio” with this year’s photo backdrop hanging up… got the bloody sheet of fabric at the dollar store for $1.50… it was long and narrow so I cut it in half and pinned it to a white table-cloth.

I sent out email confirmations to all my appointments for the weekend and they have all responded… my directions gave my address and the additional note of “and there is a large mummy in the bay window.”  Do you think they’ll find me?

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As I’ve been busy with lots of things this month I really haven’t posted much Halloween themed material.  So… since I’m still busy, I’m going to regurgitate some previously posted material here for easy reference.

First – Easy Latex Effects.  In this post I show how to create burns which is also how to create zombie skin, and all sorts of other skin effects.

Bran flake scabs, applied with eyelash adhesive.

Second – Step-By-Step Zombie with face paint, no special effects.

They can drive!!!

Third – Zombies in my Basement… crazy girls. And professional photos of the same session.  These are Zombies WITH special effects.

Fourth … I like this photo… Built the costume and the face is gauze bandages applied with liquid latex… to black out the teeth dump all four colours of food colouring into a glass and gargle and swish, spit.

Are you my mummy?

I have been working in my basement making pieces to use on zombies and corpses this weekend… discovered some great stuff to use by accident… I will post tomorrow with photos of my latest discovery!  And I discovered that coloured latex stains my fingers…


Okay people, time for another contest!

With Halloween and Christmas both fast approaching I think the prize for this contest will be my Design Idea Sheets for Halloween, Christmas and Boy Designs.  Three 8.5″ x 11″ laminated sheets each containing sixteen photos of designs I have painted and use on my own displays – that is a total of 48 designs!  The sheets can be used just for inspiration or you can use them for display as is if you choose.

Total Value is $22.50 CAD plus shipping anywhere in the world.

Deadline will be Friday, October 7th at 6 p.m. Mountain Time – that’s two weeks to enter.  And I will make the draw shortly after that using a random generator. That way you should have them in plenty of time to use the Halloween sheet for your Halloween themed events.

Now… what am I going to make you do to enter to win these? Hmmm…

I think this time these will be the entry requirements:

1.  Post a comment on THIS blog post telling me why you would like this prize.  It has to be on this particular post to count. That is one entry.

2. If you haven’t already subscribed to this blog (and you really should you know!) do so.  Only new subscribers will be included. That will be one entry.

3. If haven’t already LIKED me on Facebook, then go and do that, and then come back to this post and tell me you LIKED me on Facebook (I will verify it for the drawing.)  It is easy – I even put a button on the right to take you right there! That will be one entry.

You can enter just one way, or all three ways, or two ways or…  Maximum number of entries from one person would be three – if you aren’t already a subscriber to my blog and don’t like me, yet.

Here are samples of designs from the Christmas sheet (the photos on the sheets are not watermarked but my copyright notice is on the sheet at the bottom):

I have other design sheets with other themes available too. You can check them out here.  I probably will use them too for prizes in another contest… amongst other things.

So… get entering!!  There are only two weeks left!!!