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Human skin becomes a blank canvas for the world’s top body painters as artists from 45 countries compete against each other in Pörtschach, Austria this summer.

The World Bodypainting Festival, this year held from 29 June to 6 July, celebrates the unique art of painting directly on the human body – with models transformed into head-to-toe masterpieces, depicting anything from alien-like appendages to fruit-like faces.

The competition takes place across multiple categories, including sponge paint, airbrushing and face painting, all featuring different techniques and materials to achieve the transformations. In many cases, the models are fully nude, with every inch of their bodies covered in paint (think: a full-body tattoo). Other models wear over-the-top props such as outrageous headgear or wing-like attachments.

Even amateurs can get in on the action, with workshops and lectures that teach the basics of body paint (classes cover topics like “Airbrush for Beginners” and “Zombie Skin”).

A major highlight of the festival is the “Body Circus”, a giant party held on 2 July in the massive halls of Schloss Moosburg, a Gothic-style castle built in 1541. Visitors are encouraged to wear their best fantasy costumes, accented with extreme makeup and, of course, body paint. Stylists are on hand to amp up each costume and the party is spread out across three floors, with dramatically dressed DJs spinning songs on each one.

After the awards ceremony, the festival ends with the “Colour Splash”, another paint-filled party that gets as messy as its name implies. Attendees let loose, smudging paint all over themselves and others – an event that greatly contrasts the perfectly manicured looks curated earlier in the week.

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