If you are considering taking a specials effects course, you may not realise that the makeup you learn to apply during that course will cover everything from basic, corrective, and character makeup. Most of the time special effects course makeup is thought to only include character makeup for horror and special effects types of movies. The use of special effects makeup is actually broken down into three categories: basic makeup, corrective makeup, and character makeup.
Basic Makeup Technique
Basic makeup techniques are those that are used to compensate for undesirable changes in the appearance of a person when they are seen on the television or in movies. Cameras are very unforgiving even with the digital cameras used in today’s television and movies. Your skin contains oils that show up as shine in close ups on camera. This type of shine becomes exaggerated when seen under studio lights and stress. It is important for the makeup and special effects person on set to be aware of the right powder to use for this type of situation. There are over 20 different shades available to match your skin tone as closely as possible.
If more intensive makeup is needed, then it is recommended that first an astringent is used to close the pores as tightly as possible. The foundation that is chosen should be a shade that matches the skin tone as closely as possible. Foundation is recommended over makeup base because it does not require the use of facial powder and it can be removed easily from the face. Foundation or makeup base can also be used to even out skin tones from deeply tanned Caucasian skin or men that have a five o’clock shadow. Makeup is used on other parts of the body to lighten them so they do not look unnaturally dark like the elbows and knees. Other parts of the body may also require makeup to minimise blemishes and reduce redness.
Corrective Makeup Technique
Corrective makeup techniques are those that are used to enhance the best features and downplay the flaws seen in people on television or in movies. The type of makeup application that is used is basically highlighting and contouring. Corrective makeup techniques start with makeup foundation or base from basic makeup techniques and then blends in shades of makeup that are lighter or darker to emphasise and minimise attributes.
The purpose of contouring darker shades of makeup is to help downplay features that are undesirable such as a prominent forehead and render them not as noticeable on camera. The purpose of highlighting is just the opposite, and is used to focus the eye on certain aspects of the face such as the shadowy area under the eye, the area beneath the lower lip, and on the cheeks. Makeup used to highlight these areas should be several shades lighter than the makeup foundation used. Powder should be used on top of the highlighting to dull the shine of the face. If there are uneven areas on the skin, then tanning spray can be used days in advance to even out the skin tone.
Character Makeup Technique
Character makeup techniques are probably what most people are familiar with. These techniques involve making the actor or actress into a zombie, monster, alien, or whatever type of special effects character the script calls for. This type of makeup technique is also used in haunted houses at Halloween and throughout the year for costume parties and other special events. Character makeup is the most fun of all the makeup techniques and the most visible.
It is impossible to describe all of the applications involved in the day-to-day aspects of character makeup, but the end result is awesome and awe inspiring. Character makeup can transform a young woman into an old woman by adding elaborate makeup, wrinkles, and sagging areas to the face.
Emily Starr is currently a student intern with renowned special effects artist Rick Baker while completing her certification for makeup special effects course. She hopes to start her own special effects company specialising in creature makeup.