Learning How to Do Special Effects Makeup
By Fawn Farley
, last updated July 28, 2011
There are many ways to learn how to do special effects makeup. For starters, there are many schools that offer classes and even degrees for making a living doing special effects makeup. Other sources may include online tutorials, books, and, of course, experimentation. Whether you are wanting to do your own Halloween makeup or make a career out of doing makeup for movies or theater, know about some sources and tips for learning how to do special effects makeup.
If you are interested in learning about special effects makeup at home, consider getting some resources in the form of books, DVDs and magazines. Many sources are available online as tutorials. A few recommendable books on the subject include Kevyn Aucoin's "Making Faces," and Janus Vinther's "Special Effects Makeup." The latter is often used as a textbook in special effects schools across the country and goes beyond the basics. "Stage Makeup" by Richard Corson is known as the makeup artist's bible.
Once you've done your research and reading, trial and experimentation are paramount. Get yourself a basic makeup kit, such as from Ben Nye. They offer a great array of colors in cremes, cake foundations, powders, paints, and more. They sell professional wheels of pigmented creme such as Bruise & Abrasion Wheel and Monster Wheel. You can also buy stage blood! Their instructional DVD, "Makeup for the Theater," will provide a great accompaniment to your makeup purchase. Ben Nye's catalogue also has a section listing characters like skeletons, old people, and clowns, and the makeup one needs to create each of these looks.
If you are interested in making a career out of doing special effects makeup, you might want to consider taking classes or attending a school devoted to teaching the skill. Many schools go above and beyond basic makeup and include courses in molding, sculpting, animatronics, hair work, prosthetic application, and much more. It is advisable to learn many skills of the trade, as opposed to one. This will make you a more well-rounded makeup artist and may make finding a job in this competitive field a little easier.
Most schools offer courses taught by professionals working in or retired from the field of special effects makeup. For instance, the Douglas Educational Center in Pennsylvania offers a 16-month Associate program entitled Tom Savini's Special Make-up Effect. Tom Savini did makeup effects for movies such as “Friday the 13th” and “Dawn of the Dead.” There are especially a lot of school programs located in Southern California where the movie industry is large.
While an official schooling program can be rather expensive, you may consider finding a mentor another way. Try volunteering or finding an assistant position at a local theater in the makeup department. Even if you have gone to school, interning or mentoring in this way is a great way to get hands-on experience and to network connections with people in the field.
Learn all you can from books, school, mentors, and online tutorials. After your training, practice is key! Paint your friends’ faces, and use these practice sessions to build your portfolio. Experimentation is how you will develop your skill!