The Flame-faced Tanager has a bright orange forehead and cheeks which grade to yellow on the rest of the head. It has a black throat and ear patcher. The upperparts are black with a greenish-yellow shoulder patch and yellow and greenish-buff rump. The underparts are greenish-buff grading to rufous toward the belly. It is similar to the Saffron-crowned Tanager but is distinguished by having a black back and greenish buff underparts.