Special effects makeup for beginners

Becoming a special effects makeup artist is only possible with knowledge and experience. But how can you get this knowledge and experience, if you are not already a professional? A good approach to acquire new skills is through the free online tutorials.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn special effects makeup, this guide is for you!

In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about special effects makeup and how to create your own looks. We’ll start with the basics and then move on to more advanced techniques. There’s no better time than now to learn how to do something fun with your face!

Special effects makeup for beginners


Areas of study included:

  • Skin diseases.
  • Burns.
  • Casualty techniques.
  • Eye swelling & bruising.
  • Cuts and scars.
  • Impalements & puncture wounds.
  • Using latex, artex, sculpt gel, wax & grease paint.
  • Bald cap application.

Purchasing the right tools and makeup products

A question that I get frequently asked is, “What are the best products to buy to create Special FX looks?”

For beginners, my advice is always: learn how to do SFX makeup by first using the basics. It’s the best foundation to build off of. The more experience you get, the more prepared you’ll be to move onto more advanced makeup products and tools.

Often times, up-and-coming SFX makeup artists or enthusiasts want to purchase the most expensive products and tools right from the get-go. The problem is, they don’t know how to actually use them properly or safely! Making this error can result in you not only wasting a LOT of product and money, you can once again be putting the client (and her skin) at risk by your lack of knowledge.

Special FX makeup takes a lot of practice to get it right. Sometimes, trial and error is required in order to figure out the best products and tools needed to create a look. (Which, again, is why an education and online makeup classes are so important!)

At first, many people who want to get into SFX makeup may feel overwhelmed or intimidated by all of the types of products and tools available. However, many Special FX techniques – even the more complicated ones – can be created using simple cosmetics!

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
  • Spirit gum and other adhesives

Something that can easily help you gather your tools and build your kit is to purchase a Special FX makeup kit! QC Makeup Academy offers a Special FX Essentials kit that comes with all of the basics, plus so much more!

  • A sensitivity patch test will be required at least 48 hours before application for Special Effects (SFX) Makeup that involves the use of latex.

Special Effects Makeup Kit?

As a makeup artist, it’s vital to have a little bit of everything in your kit—you never know what you’ll need! The following are my special effects makeup kit essentials:

  1. Liquid latex
  2. Spirit gum and removers
  3. A variety of paints: water-based, alcohol-activated, and cream
  4. Blood, blood, blood (scab blood, spray, blood gels, blood paste, and stage blood to name a few)!
  5. FX transfers and prosthetics
  6. Sponges: latex, stippling, and foam
  7. Modeling compounds: Scar Wax, 3rd Degree, Modeling Wax, Simulated bone wax, and 3-D gels
  8. Setting powders and setting sprays
  9. Miscellaneous items: Glitter (fine to chunky), crepe hair, bald caps, rhinestones, fishnets, washable glue sticks, popsicle sticks, cotton balls, cotton swabs, and tissue paper

The Best Special FX Makeup Kit Products

Although you may feel you need to spend money and invest in high-end products you can often find amazing drugstore makeup dupes to save yourself some cash!

Face and Body Paints

Some of my favorite face and body paints to use have always been mehron Paradise Paints. These paints are water-activated, long-lasting, highly pigmented, and have a wide range of colors. These paints can be sold individually or as palettes. Individual paints range from $13-$16 USD each and the palettes range from $24-$138 USD.

mehron is a respected and high-quality brand. But if their products are a bit outside your price range, don’t worry! There are two great budget dupes for your special effects makeup kit that won’t break the bank!

  1. Snazaroo paints: individual paints start at $7.99 USD and face painting kits start at $17.99 USD
  2. TAG Body Art: individuals starting at $9.50 USD

FX Prosthetics and Transfers

To save time on production sets, premade prosthetics and FX transfers are essential for your professional makeup kit.

My favorite prosthetics and FX transfers are by Tinsley Transfers. This brand provides a large variety of products, from simple scars to large face and body pieces. Not only can the prosthetics look highly realistic, but they are simple to apply and long-lasting!

Ben Nye Final Seal

My go-to, absolutely necessary, Holy Grail product for completing special effects looks is the Ben Nye Final Seal setting spray. Whether you’ve completed a body paint or a gruesome look, this setting spray will lock your makeup in place against sweat, rain, or humidity!

Liquid Latex

Every special effects makeup artist or enthusiast needs this in their kit. The possibilities of what you can create with liquid latex are endless. Liquid latex is fairly easy to work with and acts as an adhesive and molding compound. This product is inexpensive and found at most Halloween supply stores!

Did you know? Students and graduates of QC’s Special FX Makeup course are eligible to receive makeup discounts up to 40% off from brands like Frends Beauty, EBA Performance Makeup, Michele Mulkey FX Studio, Stage Makeup Online, and mehron makeup! Click here to see makeup discounts from QC’s partner brands!

What Special Effects Makeup Products Should I Use?

Before purchasing additional items for a specific makeup job, you need to narrow down the best products to use. Consider these two factors to help you get the best bang for your buck.

Factor #1: The longevity of the desired look

Think about how long you wish your desired look to stay on.

Take the example of Halloween night. Are you creating a simple character for trick-or-treating? Then you may want makeup that can be easily removed, and the quality isn’t of the utmost importance.

What if are you planning to spend the night out, drinking and eating? Then you probably want something long-lasting. If you want to create a look that will last throughout the night, I recommend using water-activated paints as they hold longer. Cream paints can smudge easily, especially when eating or drinking. Don’t forget to set your water-activated paints with a translucent powder to further sustain the look!

Factor #2: Time constraints and comfortableness with applying makeup

If you consider yourself a makeup amateur or beginner, you may wish to work with cream paints. They are easier to blend and apply than water-activated paints, which can be time-consuming to properly apply and blend.

I also recommend using premade prosthetics or FX transfers to help achieve your desired look when time or skill is of the essence.

Special Effects (SFX) Makeup for TV - Christiane Dowling Professional Makeup Artist Surrey Hampshire Berksire

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