How to Start Doing Special Effects Makeup - L'Oréal Paris (2023)

Have you ever watched a movie and paused to appreciate the special effects makeup? Us, too! While we love traditional makeup looks, special FX makeup is a whole other ballgame. The best special effects makeup schools and kits give these makeup artists the tools to completely transform people—from fake wounds to fake eyeballs. But, you don’t have to attend school to get started with SFX makeup. In fact, with the right tips and tricks, you can master faking wrinkles, bruises, and more with makeup. Ready to take your makeup skills to new heights? Read on to learn how to build a special effects makeup kit, along with three beginner SFX makeup ideas you can try.


So, you know what special effects makeup is, but how exactly does it differ from traditional makeup? Before we talk about how to DIY an SFX makeup kit, here are three things you should know.


Wondering what makeup to use for special effects? Spoiler alert: There’s a bit more required than the foundation and eyeliner you already have stashed in your makeup bag. Things like fake blood and liquid latex will become your new makeup essentials. Simply put, special FX makeup is a bit more heavy-duty.


How much does special FX makeup cost? We won’t lie and say it’s the most budget-friendly. Depending on the products you choose, expect your kit to cost you anywhere from $60 to $200. Whew! That said, you likely won’t be wearing or using special effects makeup as often as you do your normal makeup, so you won’t need to replenish it as frequently.


Going off of the fact that SFX makeup can be expensive, you’ll want to make sure you’re committed to learning the technique and perfecting your skills. So, before you go and buy the larger size of every product in your kit, make sure you enjoy it and want to continue pursuing the craft!


Ready to build your kit? As a beginner, here are the essentials you’ll want to include in your SFX makeup starter kit.

#1. Liquid latex. Remember when we mentioned liquid latex? This is what’s used to create believable burns and cuts.

#2. Castor seal. Used hand-in-hand with liquid latex, this is applied on top so that it’s easier for makeup to go on smoothly, as well as show up true to color.

#3. Applicators. Something familiar! The applicators needed for special effects makeup include a variety of makeup sponges and brushes, as well as items like cotton swabs. As you continue to perfect your craft, you’ll find there are many sponges made for providing different textures, which will help your special FX makeup look more realistic.

#4. Palette. As you can probably imagine, a lot of color mixing goes into special effects makeup, so you’ll want to have a clean palette to work with.

#5. Bruise wheel. Yup—this is a thing! A bruise wheel is a palette that contains an array colors, including browns, purples, reds, and yellows, all meant for creating fake bruises, which are very common in special SX makeup.

#6. Water-soluble glue. This adhesive will allow you to glue things like hair and fake noses into place. You’ll also want to have a glue remover.

#7. 3D modeling compound. You’ll use this to sculpt 3D skin objects, like those fake noses we mentioned.

#8. Fake blood. Need we say more?


Once you have your kit, we’re sure you’ll want to put it to use! But, how do you do special effects makeup? While SFX makeup certainly isn’t easy, there are a few basic looks beginners can pull off with ease. Here are three.


One of the easiest SFX makeup ideas you can try is creating fake scars.

What you’ll need:

Eyelash glue

Small eyeliner brush

L’Oréal Paris Infallible Full Wear Concealer Waterproof, Full Coverage

Concealer brush

L’Oréal Paris Infallible 24 Hour Fresh Wear Foundation, Lightweight

L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Monos Eyeshadow in Mademoiselle Pink

Matte light purple eyeshadow

Get the look:

Step 1. Paint your glue. Using a small eyeliner brush, paint a thick line of eyelash glue where you would like your scar to be.

Step 2. Move the glue. As the glue starts to dry, use your finger to push the sides toward the center, causing the glue to ball up. This will end up creating the texture of your scar, so move and play with the glue as you see fit. If you want a more prominent scar, add another layer of lash glue and repeat the process.

Step 3. Apply concealer. Using a full-coverage concealer, take a concealer brush, and pat the formula over your glue scar.

Step 4. And foundation. Bounce foundation all over your complexion, taking care to only bounce, not blend, over your scar. It’s also a must to use a foundation that can be built to full coverage. After you’re finished applying, blend any areas around your scar carefully with your finger.

Step 5. Shade. To make your scar look realistic, you’ll want to color it in. First, use a light pink matte eyeshadow to color overtop your “scar,” following the glue exactly. Then, take a thin eyeliner brush and apply a light purple matte shade around the sides of your scar, which will create more dimension. That’s it!

#2. CUTS

Want to fake a cut or wound? This is one of the most common special effects makeup techniques. It may take a few tries to master, but it’s actually quite simple once you get the hang of it!

What you’ll need:

L’Oréal Paris Le Liner Signature Easy-Glide Mechanical Eyeliner, Waterproof in Violet Wool

Water-soluble glue

Cotton pad


Powder foundation

Red liquid lipstick

Purple liquid lipstick

Cotton swabs

Matte purple eyeshadow

Get the look:

Step 1. Outline your cut. Draw a circle—or whichever shape you prefer—using a violet eyeliner.

Step 2. Cut and place your cotton pad. Cut your pad so that it is an outline of the wound you drew. This will act as the raised skin around your cut, so don’t worry if it isn’t perfect! That said, you’ll want to make sure the perimeter isn’t too thick or bulky. Use water-soluble glue to secure the cotton pad into place.

Step 3. Conceal. Once the glue has dried, use a powder foundation to cover the cotton pad and blend it with your skin. Take care not to move the cotton pad while doing this!

Step 4. Grab your eyeshadow. Dust a matte purple eyeshadow around the outside of your cut.

Step 5. Fill it in. For your fake blood, feel free to use the real deal (and by real, we mean actual fake blood) or a bit of red and purple liquid lipstick. Apply the red to the outer rim of the inside of your wound, then use the purple in the center. Use a cotton swab to blend the shades together for a more realistic appearance.

Editor’s note: Want to incorporate fake cuts into a full look? Check out how we used wounds as part of a zombie makeup look.


Last but not least, let’s go over how to create fake burns.

What you’ll need:

Plain gelatin

Cosmetic spatula

Powder foundation

Matte deep red eyeshadow

Small eyeshadow brush

Matte bright red eyeshadow

Matte black eyeshadow


Makeup sponge

Get the look:

Step 1. Apply your gelatin. After mixing your gelatin, apply it where you would like the burn to be. Start by applying randomly, then, as the gelatin becomes tackier, pull and play with it to create the shape of your burn.

Step 2. Grab your powder. After giving the gelatin time to dry, carefully sweep a small amount of powder foundation on top.

Step 3. Fill it in. This is the fun part! First, apply a deep red shade where you would like the deepest part of the burn to be. Then, use a bright red and apply it along the outside of the burn, as well as alongside the deep red shade. To deepen the wound, layer a small amount of black eyeshadow over the deep red where you see fit. You’ll want to make sure you’re only using matte eyeshadows for this.

Step 4. Conceal. For a blended look, use a makeup sponge to pat concealer in a shade that matches your skin tone over the burn. This will add more dimension to the look and help everything appear seamless. All done!

Next: How to Build a Makeup Kit for Beginners


How do I start a career in special effects makeup? ›

Experience: Hands-on experience working with cosmetics, chemicals, and prosthetics is necessary to become an SFX makeup artist. You can gain this experience by working as an SFX makeup assistant for major productions, indie and student films, theatrical productions, and even theme park shows.

What qualifications do you need for SFX makeup? ›

Special Effects Makeup Artist Requirements:
  • High-school diploma or equivalent.
  • Certification as a makeup artist or as an SFX makeup artist.
  • An extensive portfolio of previous SFX makeup work.
  • Knowledge of intricate makeup designs.
  • Ability to style hair and wigs.
  • Up to date on the latest SFX trends, tools, and practices.

How long does it take to become a special effects makeup artist? ›

Some special effect makeup schools also offer individual SFX makeup courses that last four weeks (or eight weeks if taken on a night school schedule) and focus on a specific area of SFX makeup such as character makeup, prosthetics, or how to sculpt the preliminary clay models used in character design.

Is it hard to become a special effects 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.

How do I get a job in special effects? ›

Special effects artists and animators typically need a bachelor's degree in computer graphics, animation, fine arts, or a related field. Bachelor's degree programs in computer graphics often include courses in computer science in addition to art.

How much do special effects makeup make? ›

Special Effects Makeup Artist Salary. $21,000 is the 25th percentile. Salaries below this are outliers. $63,500 is the 90th percentile.

What are SFX makeup artists called? ›

Special Effects Makeup Artists (aka SFX Makeup Artist) have the ability to bring to life unreal characters. With makeup applications, they can manifest any type of character from any time period. A special effects makeup artist can transform a gorgeous actress into a flesh-eating zombie.

What skills do you need to be an SFX artist? ›

Requirements And Skills:

Experience in theater and television makeup. Knowledge of latex and foam prosthetic makeup. Ability to apply makeup and prosthetics to actors. Ability to work with models, wigs, and prosthetics.

What is the difference between SFX makeup and prosthetic makeup? ›

In general, prosthetics involve making attachments and prosthetic items. SFX involves applying these prosthetics and making the makeup appear realistic, even if there are wounds, bullet holes, deformities, or just an aging process to realistically mimic.

Are makeup artists in demand? ›

As the beauty industry continues to grow, there is always a demand for makeup artists.

Is it too late to become a makeup artist? ›

A. It is never too late to pursue a career in makeup.

How much do special effects artists charge? ›

The average hourly rate for special effects artists is $38.59 per hour.

What are the cons of becoming a makeup artist? ›

One of the biggest cons of being a makeup artist is that the hours can be long and irregular. If you're working in fashion or film, for example, you may have to work 12-hour days (or even longer). Similarly, if you're working weddings or events, your hours will be dictated by the event itself.

What is the difference between special effects and makeup? ›

Although both kinds of makeup drastically change a person's appearance, prosthetic makeup uses larger prosthetic pieces applied to someone's body to achieve the desired look. Special FX makeup is a broader term for special makeup techniques that change someone's appearance.

Where do special effect artist work? ›

Special effects artists are employed by special effects companies, scene shops, and theater companies.

What kind of learning opportunities are available to get into special effects? ›

What Types of Special Effects Classes Can I Take?
  • Graphic Design. In a graphic design course, you can learn about the principles of typographic design and illustration. ...
  • Motion Graphics. ...
  • Prosthetics for Film and Television. ...
  • Clothing Design. ...
  • 3D Design.

How do I get into the visual effects industry? ›

How to become a VFX artist
  1. Earn your diploma. Many employers require at least a high school diploma to be considered for a role. ...
  2. Develop your skills. ...
  3. Consider attending college. ...
  4. Pursue an internship. ...
  5. Focus on a specialty. ...
  6. Try freelancing. ...
  7. Explore open roles. ...
  8. Prepare your materials and apply.
Jul 21, 2022

Which makeup artist makes the most money? ›

High-paying makeup artist careers
  1. Cosmetologist. National average salary: $69,634 per year.
  2. Film and TV cosmetologist. National average salary: $76,670 per year.
  3. Theater and performance makeup artist. National average salary: $134,750 per year.
Dec 14, 2022

What are the benefits of being a special effects makeup artist? ›

As a certified special FX makeup artist, you'll likely have the opportunity to work on editorial makeup projects, theatre, television, and movies! This means you'll be able to get your name into the credits of any of their productions, big or small!

Can you make good money doing makeup? ›

The national average salary for a makeup artist in the United States is $31.44 per hour with a salary range between $7.25 and $94.45 per hour.

Which is better SFX or VFX? ›

SFX require tremendous precision and on-set planning to pull off successfully. However, this can deliver unparalleled visual realism, because they are being captured in frame by real camera. VFX still require precision and planning, but they allow you to do more after the fact.

What is the difference between SFX and VFX? ›


Everything VFX happens after shooting in post-production. Special effects (SFX) are added during the production. They refer to on-set visual effects techniques. This can be anything from fake rain to fire or snow.

How do you become a makeup artist in the film industry? ›

Here are some steps you can take to become a makeup artist for films:
  1. Attend cosmetology school. ...
  2. Get certified. ...
  3. Hone your skills. ...
  4. Get hands-on experience. ...
  5. Learn production basics. ...
  6. Create a portfolio. ...
  7. Network within the industry.
Jun 24, 2022

Can you be a self taught VFX artist? ›

Yes, you absolutely can. You need to have some talent or interest in art, design, and project management. Much free content online will help you learn the skills necessary to create visual effects for film or other projects.

How do I learn VFX skills? ›

  1. 5 Key Things to learn VFX designing.
  2. Strong Foundation. A successful career in visual effects requires having solid basic knowledge. ...
  3. Find some inspiration. Similar to any other art form, inspiration is crucial to fostering the creative process. ...
  4. Building Team Skills. ...
  5. Create as much material as you can. ...
  6. Patience is Key.
Oct 8, 2022

How much does a prosthetic makeup artist earn? ›

The salaries of Special Effects Makeup Artists in the US range from $10,001 to $345,665 , with a median salary of $51,640 . The middle 57% of Special Effects Makeup Artists makes between $51,640 and $149,604, with the top 86% making $345,665.

How much does it cost to do prosthetic makeup? ›

Well, it varies. A good creature suit without hair from a small vendor will run $35,000-$50,000. Custom prosthetic makeup like a creature or old age may cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. For few silicone body parts, you're looking at $3,000-$6,000 (heads are always more than arms and legs).

How to do SFX makeup with toilet paper? ›

You need to use enough glue so that your toilet paper can stick firmly to the area.
Apply your makeup.
  1. Brush the eyeshadow directly onto your skin which you exposed by tearing away the tissue paper.
  2. You should also brush the areas of paper around your skin.
  3. The dark eyeshadow creates a nice bruising look.

Where do most makeup artists work? ›

Makeup artists can work in several industries, including film and theater sets, photography studios, makeup counters at department stores and other retail locations, or on-site for individual clients. Most makeup artists spend much of their time standing and bending over clients who sit in chairs.

What is the average age of a makeup artist? ›

Makeup Artist Age Breakdown

Interestingly enough, the average age of makeup artists is 20-30 years old, which represents 38% of the population.

How do I make money as a makeup artist? ›

Here are some quick and easy tips to help you get more clients, be a better makeup artist and make more money this year.
  1. Be more consistent on social media. Posting to social media once a day is ideal. ...
  2. Go above and beyond for your clients. Do the extra's for your clients. ...
  3. Be the best you can be. ...
  4. Plan some creative shoots.
Jan 11, 2018

How many years does it take to learn makeup? ›

Receiving a formal education and a degree are definitely not easy tasks to accomplish, as it takes years, and sometimes even decades to complete. But for those who love to delve deeper into research and the theoretical aspects of beauty, 3 to 4 years is worth the wait for becoming a makeup artist.

Can you learn makeup in 3 months? ›

Knowing what type of makeup artistry you want to practice is the first step to a long career in makeup. With the right amount of practice, organization, and commitment to your studies, you can absolutely graduate from online makeup school in 3 months!

What does SFX stand for? ›

SFX, an abbreviation for special effects , is a software product that makes it easy to create certain kinds of hypertext links within a collection of information such as the description of a library collection.

How much should a beginner makeup artist charge? ›

Makeup artists typically charge anywhere from $50 to $200 per hour, depending on their experience and the type of event they are working on. For example, a wedding may require a more experienced artist and take longer than a night out so the price will be higher.

What is the job outlook for a special effects artist? ›

Job Outlook

Employment of special effects artists and animators is projected to grow 5 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 6,700 openings for special effects artists and animators are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

What is the hourly rate for FX artist? ›

How much does a VFX Artist make hourly in the United States? The average hourly wage for a VFX Artist in the United States is $28 as of March 28, 2023, but the salary range typically falls between $25 and $31.

Can you make a good living as a makeup artist? ›

How much you'll make as an MUA depends on a few factors. As with any other career, your success will depend largely on the amount of effort and dedication you put into your work. However, if you're successful in building a thriving makeup artistry business, you can expect to earn a very comfortable salary.

Do you need a portfolio to be a makeup artist? ›

You just need a professional portfolio, and Format can absolutely help with that. Share your makeup skills with the world on your very own makeup artist website. Format makes it easy with professionally designed templates that will get your career started off on the right foot.

Do you need math to be a makeup artist? ›

Makeup artists should work on skills that allow them to better interact with clients and run a business. Strong communication skills are great to develop. Also, it would be beneficial to develop basic math and computer skills so that you can do things like charge customers and market your services online.

What do beginners need for special effects makeup? ›

If you're ready to begin working with Special FX makeup, you can start by using basic SFX products such as: Paints. Liquid latex. Scar wax.

How do you become a serial makeup artist? ›

How to become a makeup artist for films
  1. Attend cosmetology school. ...
  2. Get certified. ...
  3. Hone your skills. ...
  4. Get hands-on experience. ...
  5. Learn production basics. ...
  6. Create a portfolio. ...
  7. Network within the industry.
Jun 24, 2022

What career cluster would a special effects makeup artist be in? ›

Arts, Audio/Video Technology & Communications Career Cluster.

What is special effects makeup called? ›

Prosthetic makeup, which may also be referred to as special make-up effects or FX prosthesis, is the process of using prosthetic sculpting, molding, and casting techniques to create advanced cosmetic effects.

How do you become a TV serial makeup artist? ›

The qualifications to become a TV makeup artist vary depending on the requirements of a TV network or production studio but typically include a few years of experience, makeup certification, and familiarity with techniques specific to TV, such as High Definition makeup.

Can you make 6 figures as a makeup artist? ›

You may be surprised to know that Makeup Artists are among America's 6-figure jobs! So if you're thinking about taking our courses to become a professional makeup artist, you're in the right profession! :-) Read the full Forbes article right here.

What is the highest salary of makeup artist? ›

Makeup Artist salary in India ranges between ₹ 0.3 Lakhs to ₹ 5.6 Lakhs with an average annual salary of ₹ 3.0 Lakhs.

Who is the most famous SFX makeup artist? ›

Dick Smith

He went on to dominate the special effects industry in the 1970s, from working on The Godfather series, to The Exorcist, Taxi Driver, and many more. This is a legendary makeup artist that Hollywood will never forget.

What materials are used for special effects makeup? ›

The materials used for special effects makeup include on-skin silicone, liquid latex and gelatine which are all perfect for creating smaller pieces which will be applied to the actor's skin.

How do you start your own makeup artist? ›

How to Start a Business as a Freelance Makeup Artist
  1. Get a makeup certification!
  2. Choose your specialty.
  3. Gather your supplies.
  4. Learn good business practices.
  5. Get registered.
  6. Determine your price range.
  7. Put together a portfolio and website.
  8. Advertise.
Aug 2, 2022

How much money do movie makeup artists make? ›

Film Makeup Artist Salary
Annual SalaryMonthly Pay
Top Earners$184,000$15,333
75th Percentile$51,000$4,250
25th Percentile$34,000$2,833

How do you audition for a serial? ›

How To Audition For TV Serials
  1. Pose for a professional headshot. A professional headshot is a photo taken of you starting from your shoulders so your face is clearly visible. ...
  2. Consider hiring an agent or an acting guild. ...
  3. Find open casting calls in your area. ...
  4. Develop your professional network. ...
  5. Practice for your audition.
Jan 22, 2023


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