A Complete Guide to Becoming a Special Effects Makeup Artist

There are many different skills that you need to learn when embarking on a career in special effects. This doesn’t just mean knowing which foundations and eyeliners are the best to use. Special effects makeup goes above and beyond, bringing creativity to a new level. In this guide, we are looking at how to become a special effects makeup artist. If you are looking for a career that allows you to explore your creative side and do something that is consistently rewarding, then you may be drawn to special effects. 

What is Special Effects Makeup?

As opposed to just using makeup to enhance someones complexion or to give a certain look, special effects makeup can be used to make someone look significantly different from how they actually appear in real life. Special Effects makeup is any makeup involving cosmetics that creates a non-traditional effect, with an illusion of sorts. Its main focus: old age, creature, character, prosthetic makeup and even body art and face painting can be considered a special effect. Special effects makeup artists are responsible for creating the look of all those zombies you see in horror films!

Take Courses If you are wondering how to become a special effects makeup artist. You can do this in person if you live near an educational establishment that offers SFX makeup courses. By taking classes, you can equip yourself with the knowledge and skills it takes to work on set. With the right instructor and a creative mind, the possibilities are endless. 

How to Become a Licensed SFX Makeup Artist

There isn’t a license to practice special effects makeup. However, this is a difficult career path and people who hire any makeup artist, especially SFX makeup artists, want to know that they can trust the persons abilities in question.

Therefore, providing proof of your abilities and a well rounded portfolio is what these professionals are looking for. They want to see that you have undergone significant training. Attending a makeup school is a great way to show your credentials.

Graduating from makeup school in SFX shows that you have completed all of the modules. Showing your future client or employer that you learned enough about the makeup industry, and how to do a professional job while keeping your model safe and comfortable throughout.

Special Effects Makeup Kit

There are certain types of equipment that you absolutely need if you are going to become a special effects makeup artist. It is a good idea to go through a standard makeup artist checklist and to have all of the basics, as they may come in handy. Every makeup kit should have plenty of tissue, brushes, alcohol or alcohol wipes and hand gels. On top of this, it is a good idea to carry around:

  • Liquid latex, which can help you to sculpt and create specialist looks for your client.
  • Skin-friendly waxes such as scar and nose wax. You can use this to sculpt and alter facial features. If budget allows, upgrade to 2 part silicone such as 3rd Degree or Skin Tite.
  • Bullet or wound “kits”, you can buy these as ready-made prosthetics which might help you to create the best look for your customers and also give you an easier method than starting from scratch.
  • Fake blood. Fake blood actually comes in a lot of different forms and you can buy scabbed, or running fake blood to create a number of different looks. Many special effects makeup artists need this sort of equipment on a day to day basis and it is always a good idea to have some in your kit.

Tips for Great Special Effects Makeup

Learning how to become a special effects makeup artist involves some specialist skills and knowledge. Much of it can only be obtained by getting hands-on experience or following these tips to grow your abilities:

Know your equipment and products

It is important to do your research, study the tools/products & their purposes. Because a lack of knowledge in these can affect the outcome of your work. Therefore, being able to navigate the use of the right tools and products will help with efficient design and a beautifully realistic outcome. The possibilities become endless! 

Get creative

This sounds really obvious. It is a creative job anyway, but we’re talking about really flexing your creativity. Experiment with some of the more unusual ways of doing things. If you are asked to create a zombie or an alien really think outside the box and create a look that you know will stand out.

Follow the industry closely

There are certain trends in the makeup industry that you can follow. For example, you can find some makeup artist influencers working in Hollywood or in the television industry. This allows you to see any tutorials they post or just get ideas and inspiration from their current projects.

Always try to learn new information 

Taking one course doesn’t have to be the end of your education. The best makeup artists are always learning. Taking courses and looking for ways in which they can improve their skills. It is an ongoing process, not forgetting the fact that this is actually a very fast-growing and evolving industry. New techniques are always coming to light and you need to be mastering them when they do!

SFX Makeup Artists Salary

A lot of people ask about the potential salary when they are exploring how to become a special effects makeup artist. It is normal to be curious about where you might end up in your career and how much money you might make.

Unfortunately, it is hard to provide an accurate guideline of the special effects makeup artist salary. It depends on what niches you are working in, whether you are employed or self-employed, and what level of seniority you have reached. If you have worked on large feature films, it is not unusual to charge over $100 per hour for your services on set. At the start of your career, you might be working for minimum wage. Trying to gain the skills and knowledge you need before you become a well-known industry professional.

Though there is so much variation in how much you might be able to earn working in the industry. It can be a very lucrative career for the most successful makeup artists.

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