Special Make-Up Effects

It does not matter what skill level as a make-up artist the reader is. Whether they are an amateur or an expert, “Special Make-Up Effects For Stage and Screen” has tips and instructions for all to learn from. The book covers all there is to the art of make-up for theater, television and movie productions.

Todd Debreceni gives us the ideal how-to book when it comes to this type of art. His writing style makes it easy for everyone to understand the different methods he uses. It has information ranging from sculpting prosthetic to painting the model in vibrant colors to give them that unearthly look. The book also goes over the different tools to use, what materials are best suited for what project, and suppliers he recommends for specific materials, just to name a few examples. Both the written instructions and photographs are there to help novices and experts alike.

But he has done more than show the reader how to achieve stunning works of make-up art. Included in “Special Make-Up Effects For Stage and Screen” are a variety of features from make-up artists of today. Such artists as Neill Gorton, Christopher Tucker, Miles Teves, Jordu Schell, Mark Alfrey, Matthew Mungle, Christien Tinsely, Vittorio Sodano, and Mark Gabarino. It is as thorough as it can be when it comes to teaching the reader. And by providing this variety and paying attention to so much detail, Todd Debreceni has given the reader a unique opportunity to see into this study.

However, it doesn’t end with the book. Along with the book there is a DVD include that is full of tutorials and recipes that can be found with the book. This DVD guide is the ideal tool for anyone who prefer a real-time visual to help them understand. As bonus there is an illustration gallery consisting of works from experts of this industry.

“Special Make-Up Effects For Stage and Screen” is the resource to use for when it comes to this particular art. It could be a gift for someone who just starting out. Or perhaps a helpful tool for a friend or family member who is already in school. No matter the reason anyone can learn good tips and pointers from this book and DVD combination.

Rick Baker

To those in the movie business, the name Rick Baker is synonymous with mind blowing special effects makeup. He can lay claim to several industry awards and has wowed audiences for three decades, making jaw-dropping special effects in movies and TV since the 1970s.

He was born in New York, the son of a professional artist, and he clearly inherited a talent for creating visual masterpieces. Captivated at a young age by horror movies and of course the creepy creatures that they are filled with, Baker began creating artificial body parts in his own kitchen as a teen. Also during his teenage years, he was the assistant to the legendary effects designer Dan Smith, whose work on such movies as The Exorcist had audiences terrified.

Known for transforming actors into almost unrecognizable versions of themselves using prosthetics and stage makeup, he was awarded the first ever Academy Award for special effects makeup artists for his work on An American Werewolf in London. The creatures he created kept audiences spellbound, and his work with werewolves was far from over.

He was the makeup artist for Thriller by Michael Jackson, bringing to life the creatures that captured the attention of so many young MTV watchers.

Baker has also survived the biggest upset to movie special effects since the beginning of film, the introduction of computer generated imagery. In the early 1990s while working as an effects supervisor on Gremlins 2: the New Batch, he successfully continued his use of physical prosthetics and effects while embracing the new technology. Though some thought the advent of CGI would render the laborious physical prosthetics he creates useless, Baker’s career and adoption of this new resource say otherwise.

One movie that utilized this flexible approach for its effects was How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which relied heavily on the genius of Mr. Baker for the creation of Jim Carey’s character “the Grinch”. He buried the actor under mounds of makeup and green fur to create the grumpy creature we all know and love from children’s book by Dr. Seuss.

Another eye popping film he was involved in that married the art of CGI effects and traditional stage makeup was Men in Black II, where he worked on the makeup for the many weird and varied looking aliens.

He has worked with dozens of A-list movie stars, including recently Benicio Del Toro in The Wolfman, where he continued to use his expertise in all things werewolf to earn himself another Academy Award in 2011. One top tier actor he has collaborated with several times is Eddie Murphy, for whom he conjured up multiple personas in Norbit, The Nutty Professor, and Coming to America. In these films, as well as when working with Adam Sandler in Click, he was able to transform these normal sized men into flabby 300 pound versions of themselves, convincingly.

With digital technology advancing as fast as it has, and Rick Baker’s expertise only growing, audiences can look forward to enjoying his fantastic creations for years to come.

How To: Bruises, Scars and Stiches

Getting into character for costume parties or Halloween celebrations is a ton of fun, especially when you decide to go all out. While the outfit you choose is important, if you really want to wow your friends, makeup effects are the way to go. For creepy Halloween parties, gory costumes are fun and relatively simple to do, provided you have the right equipment. Here are some tips on how to apply makeup to create bruises, scars, and stitches.


First of all, the right kind of makeup is key for creating realistic bruises. A good stage makeup supplier will carry a cut & bruise wheel. This is a makeup set with different colors geared specifically toward creating the bruising effect.

You must choose the age of the bruise you are going to apply, as well as a suitable location on the body. Once you have found the perfect spot for your bruise start with a yellow and map out where you want your bruise to be. Try not to make perfect circles, as bruises are not perfect. Once you have your yellow base depending on how old you want your bruise to be add a small amount of green to age the bruising, leaving the outer edges yellow. You are now ready to add your red. Be sure to over blend your colors and more red as you work your way inward. Finally add your point of impact with a deep purple or blue. Gently dab on the dark color, making sure to feather the color as you work your way out. This technique is sure to give you a 3 Dimensional bruised look.


To create realistic looking healed scars a good technique is using rigid collodion. This is a viscous liquid substance also found where stage makeup is sold, and is also referred to as “scarring liquid”. It is important to test the skin’s reaction before any large application to avoid a possible allergic reaction.

To create a healed scar, first cleanse the area where you wish to create the effect with rubbing alcohol. This will help avoid peeling along the edges. Next apply the liquid in a line along the area you wish to scar and allow to dry thoroughly. The skin will pucker along this line. For a deeper scar, apply additional coats, taking care to let each dry in between applications. Lastly, apply a light layer of skin tone foundation and a pink color along the edge of the scar. Darker tones can be added to make the scar appear older.

Using special effects stage makeup to create a freshly stitched wound is a multi-part process. This will require 3-D effects gel, or a scar effects gel, some artists also prefer to use a thicker substance such as scar wax (which will require adhesive to stick), stage blood, a bruise wheel, some cotton balls, a sharpened pencil, and a threaded needle.

First, follow the directions on the special effects gel, and pour on to the desired area, making sure to create a raised area large enough for a needle to pass through without injuring yourself. With the sharpened pencil, cut a line through the gel as it begins to dry to form the wound. Then, dip the pencil in the stage blood and apply to the line you cut through the gel. Apply bruise makeup to the area using the technique outlined above. Allow this to dry before going ahead with your stitches. Thread the needle through the gel back and forth gently, so as not to pull up the gel from the skin. Finally, tie off any excess thread and knot it.

There you have it! You are now bloody, battered, and bruised; and ready for whatever gruesome adventures that await you. Just remember that this are just a few techniques and there many ways to apply special effects. The best way to find what works for you is to experiment and practice as much as possible.

How To: Age Yourself

Often, stage performers will need to look older than they really are. This can easily be achieved by applying generous qualities of stage makeup. Depending on the part and the age of the actor, more makeup may be needed. However, good casting can often help compensate for an age gap. Older characters should be played by older actors as the cost of stage makeup and the time invested in applying it can detract from the quality of a performance.

Stage makeup can age a person simply by making them look more mature. A young woman can look fully grown with the right application of some bronzer, lipstick an eye shadow. However, if you are looking to add decades onto a person’s appearance, this often requires the aid of prosthetics.
The nose and the ears are two parts of the body that never stop growing. An older person will generally have a much larger nose and set of ears compared to their youthful self. Therefore, applying prosthetics that accentuate these features can help complete the look. Stage makeup helps by either adding a weathered appearance to a person’s skin and perhaps age and liver spots that crop up as the years progress. Playing with bald caps and wigs can also help advance a person’s years.

There are new technologies that digitally age a person, often seen in the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. However, these technologies, while growing in favor, are not only expensive and time consuming to add but are of no benefit to people who perform live and on stage.
Many wondrous transformations can be achieved with stage makeup and it really requires a trained professional with plenty of experience to pull off the look. Luckily, as a stage performer, there is a distance between yourself and the audience that helps compensate for the appearance of the makeup. Think of using stage makeup in very broad strokes. Put in on heavy enough so it will be seen and don’t worry about the fine details. The audience will be very hard pressed to see where the makeup starts and ends.

How To: Be bold, Be bald

Few things change a person’s appearance more than the transformation that takes place when they go completely bald. The difference between a flowing head of hair and shiny smooth skin can be quite drastic. But what if you want to make the switch just temporarily? Shaving one’s head is a long term commitment, and if you only want to go bald for a night, probably isn’t the best option. Thankfully there are kits to help you fake your bald appearance.

The first step in going bare is purchasing a bald cap kit, available here and at stores that sell stage makeup or special effects prostheses. These are flexible latex caps, colored skin tone, which are worn over the hair and secured with adhesive. Most of these caps are single use only, and are relatively inexpensive. Be sure to match the color of the cap as closely as possible to your skin tone; the closer the match, the more realistic the effect.

First the cap needs to be fitted to the wearer. Hair should be brushed as flat as possible and long hair tamed by using a wig cap to keep it up and held in place under the plastic bald cap. Cleansing lotion should be applied to the forehead, above the ears, and back of the neck to ensure that the cap sticks properly. After the cap is stretched over the wearer’s head, use a marker to trace around the ears; this is where the plastic should be cut to expose the ears and any excess trimmed away.

After trimming the cap, refit the wearer and fold the edges back a few centimeters, starting with the forehead. Apply the adhesive to the front of the cap. Once it is secure, fold the back of the cap up and apply to the area on the back of the neck. Lastly, glue the sides above the ears. Be sure that the cap is smooth along the edges. When applied correctly the effect can be very realistic.

Once the adhesive is dried, you’re done! Now makeup can be applied to the cap if the skin tone does not exactly match the wearer. Special effects can also be added at this point using stage makeup. Whatever effect you desire can be added to the top of your newly hairless head, like cuts and bruises, stab wounds, scars or wrinkles, the only limit is your imagination.

When you are done with your follicle free look and you wish to regain your mane, special adhesive remover should be applied. This remover is usually sold alongside the adhesive you purchase. A cotton swab should be wetted with this remover and used to gently ease the baldheaded cap away from the skin. Use caution when pulling off the adhesive to avoid any injury to the skin. Once the cap is separated from the wearer’s head, dampen a cotton cloth to wipe away any excess adhesive from the skin. Moisturizer should be applied afterward to avoid irritating the skin.

How To: Change your Race

Often an actor or actress receives a role that requires them to change their race on stage. While this used to be far more common decades ago when most roles were held by white Europeans, it can sometimes occur today, especially if it is an artistic decision chosen by the director of the piece. However, how can one change race with just makeup? It’s easier than it looks.

So much can be achieved with stage makeup that it’s almost bewildering. Talented makeup artists, with enough time and expertise, are able to alter the appearance of a performer to a remarkable degree. Ever see Planet of the Apes or all those Klingons on Star Trek? Those are some pretty radical transformation that a bit of makeup and prosthetics can achieve.

Nevertheless, how does one go about changing a person’s race with makeup? The first is to grab plenty of makeup of the correct pigment. Changing skin color is possible but it will require plenty of makeup. Be sure to layer enough on so the desired color is achieved. Think of it as painting a wall. You need to prime it first and then add plenty of coats for full coverage.

However, there is far more to altering one’s race besides skin color. Often hair extensions or alterations can help complete the look, along with mannerisms and perhaps colored contact lenses if you want to go that extra mile. The best thing about stage makeup is that a performer, by nature of having a stage to perform on, is distanced from the audience. This allows any imperfections to be overlooked since the audience will be unable to pick up on the minor flaws of the makeup.

As stated before, changing one’s race for a performance is rarer today than fifty years ago. Still, it does happen and can be an interesting way to toy with racial politics by having performers swap identities. The best way to change your race is to fully engross yourself in the role. Just slapping on some makeup won’t fully do the trick. You need to play the part by developing speaking habits or mannerisms of different people.

Make Up: Tools of the Trade

Properly applied stage makeup can create some truly amazing effects. A person can transform themselves into just about anything if they know how to use the tools of the trade. A talented makeup artist requires a variety of different tools – far beyond what is needed for your everyday makeup wearer. In fact, there is a dizzying array utensils available today, so here is a list of some of the tools of the trade.

When it is necessary to blend cream or liquid makeup to create a new color, the tool of choice is the double-sided spatula. Often made from stainless steel, spatulas can also be wooden or plastic. In addition to being used for mixing, some special effects makeup, specifically waxes and gel features, are applied with the edge. The edge of a spatula is also useful when creating very fine lines along the skin.

Spritzer bottle:
Certain types of makeup need to be applied to evenly wet skin, which is when having a spritzer bottle comes in very handy. These multi-purpose bottles can be filled with water for wetting the skin, Final Seal solution to set makeup in place once it has been applied, or any other non-viscous liquid.

Mixing palette:
Despite the vast array of colors available from purveyors of stage makeup, custom colors often need to be made. It is also advisable to apply makeup from a mixing palette instead of directly from the container for hygiene purposes. A palette offers the makeup artist the same sort of flexibility as a traditional painter.

Angled brushes:
Makeup brushes come in a variety of sizes and shapes, each with different uses. Angled brushes are most often used for the application of eye shadow, eye liner, brow coloring, or lipstick. Any time when a precise edge is required these are what a professional makeup artist will reach for.

A variety of sponges are used in the application of stage makeup, each with their own specific qualities. Hydra foam sponges are extremely versatile. They can be used to apply any kind of foundation, but are particularly useful for liquid foundation because they don’t cause streaks during application. They are also handy when blending makeup. When using cream makeup, Latex Foam sponges are the most useful tool. They are great for blending multiple foundation colors, and provide smooth, even applications. When the effect you are looking for is the opposite of smooth, the Nylon Stipple sponge is the utensil of choice. A textured effect is easily obtained using this type of sponge, and can be used to create the appearance of uneven surfaces, such as beard stubble, or scarred tissues.

If the sheer number of choices has you baffled, fear not. There are a variety of kits that will outfit you with the basic tools you need to get started applying stage makeup. A good idea is often to start with one of these kits, and then add to it when you require more specialized tools as your special effects skills increase.

Makeup 1930s Beauty Instruction and Technique by Virginia Vincent

As a book, Virginia Vincent’s Makeup – 1930s Beauty Instruction and Technique is a poor read. However, those picking up this book aren’t looking for helpful insights or provocative stories that showcase some of the Hollywood excesses during the 1930s. Instead, this book is an instructional guide straight out of 1932 that acts as a thirty-six page primer for aspiring makeup artists at the time. Recently reissued in 2008, this title is a relic of its time that aspiring makeup artists should familiarize themselves with for nothing else than a bit of historical perspective.

What can be gleaned from this book for modern readers? While the information presented is informative and there are some details I imagine would appeal to makeup artists, both aspiring and established, who need some inspiration, much of the instruction detailed in this book is grounded in the 1930s.

Essentially, the only people who will walk away as a more competent makeup artist will be those looking to duplicate the styles presented in this book. A good deal of the information is based on products that either do not exist anymore or have been replaced with better modes of application.

However, it is interesting to note how well this text was presented in 1932. Originally published as a full color photo book, Makeup – 1930s Beauty Instruction and Technique is a sort of textbook for the masses. Created for the sole purpose of sharing insights into the application of makeup, this book seems to have been a timely arrival when cosmetics had just become a commercial necessity the decade before. In a way, this guide was a primer for women of all ages who were just starting to stretch their legs in terms of applying makeup daily.

That alone justifies reading this book. For those who are fascinated with makeup or those who want to be makeup artists, starting here at, arguably, the start of commercial makeup is a fine place to start. Casual readers will likely get very little out of this text that is barely two score pages long.


Hollywood’s Makeup Evolution

Hollywood Makeup Through the Decades

Since the very beginning, Hollywood has been an influential part of the fashion industry and trends worldwide. The world of cosmetics is one of many that have been forever changed by the heavy-hitting power of Hollywood’s starlets. In the beginning, makeup techniques were relatively crude, but hardly noticeable when the first cameras were in use. Along with technological advances in the realm of cameras came major improvements in Hollywood makeup technique and availability.

The Early Years—The Silent Era and Makeup

Makeup artists were being used almost from the beginning as a way to give actors a fresher on screen look. Most of Hollywood’s studios would keep makeup artists on staff to ensure their stars always looked their best. Even though products were scarce in the early days, these skilled artists were able to use makeup for everything from natural looks to special effects.

Pioneers in the industry, including Lon Chaney, Cecil Holland, and Boris Karloff would begin showing the world what makeup was really capable of throughout the 1930s. This evolution would continue into the 40s and 50s, as products would become more advanced and readily available. George Westmore, who is considered the main pioneer of makeup during the silent film era, was credited on 80% of films of that era.

Women would become slightly less frail during this time and their makeup application would follow suit. Once seen as sweet and demure, women would begin to show strength, which would come through on screen, due in part to the skillful use of cosmetics. Thinner lips, pale skin, and fine eyebrows were common during this era.

The New Era in Makeup

Throughout the 50s and 60s, new women would begin to make their mark, generating a major shift in Hollywood’s typical leading lady. Stars like Katherine Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe would combine the best of femininity and strength, giving women a variety of looks from which to choose. Skin would take on a healthy glow and eye shadows of various colors would become more common. The mouth was much fuller, giving women a more feminine look.

As the 1970s approached, makeup would change forever. The 70s represented an era of change and it certainly affected makeup in Hollywood and around the globe. Bright shadows, dramatic eyes, and trend-setting looks would take over, bringing a dose of creativity to the industry. The options would continue to broaden throughout the rest of the 20th Century, with more products than ever easily available to women everywhere.

Today’s Hollywood offers a wide array of styles when it comes to application techniques, colors, and styles. Makeup has certainly changed a lot since its early days of crude applications and monochromatic palettes. The possibilities are endless in the makeup of modern-day Hollywood, with roots firmly planted in the industry’s silent era.

Stage Makeup vs. Regular Makeup

The basic concepts of stage makeup and regular makeup are the same—they are used to create an illusion. Granted, the illusions one wants to create for the stage are typically quite different than those for everyday life. Most often, everyday makeup is simply used to hide blemishes or flaws and highlight one’s natural beauty. Stage makeup can be used for dramatic effects and tends to be much heavier than everyday makeup. Today’s performer would consider makeup as central to the development of their character as their wardrobe. With the right makeup and skilled application, an actor can become someone entirely different on stage.

What are the Main Differences Between Stage Makeup and Regular Makeup?

The differences between the two aren’t as vast as one might think. Stage makeup is meant to be heavier, both in texture and pigment. This allows the makeup effects to be seen from afar, which is typically the case during a stage production. From highlighting and even exaggerating the shape of an actor’s face to giving the performer the effects of aging, makeup can transform stage actors.

Regular makeup is much lighter than that which was created for the stage. The pigments are natural looking, giving regular makeup a much more organic look. The idea of regular makeup is to cover blemishes without making the makeup the focal point. Stage makeup should be noticed and is intended to be part of the costume on stage; while everyday makeup is intended more for the background and should blend in to one’s natural features.

Can Stage Makeup Be For Everyday Use?

Because stage makeup is essentially just a heavier version of regular makeup, it can be used every day. It’s all a matter of personal preference; some people prefer to wear lighter makeup and would most likely be uncomfortable in stage makeup outside of the theater. Wearing it offstage will create a heavier look that is atypical for day to day use, but it really is a matter of personal preference.

On the flipside of the debate is this question: can regular makeup be worn on stage? With the right application techniques, regular makeup can work well on stage. By applying the makeup much more heavily and in a more dramatic way, it can create the desired effects just as well as stage makeup. There are also many scenes that require a natural look, making regular makeup a much better choice. It’s probably easier to use regular makeup on stage than vice versa. On and off stage, makeup is important in achieving the desired effects and enhancing one’s own features. With many different types of makeup to choose from—cream and powder alike—cosmetics play an important role in every stage production as well as in everyday life.