Film and TV production makeup artists have an exciting role to play when it comes to makeup on set. They plan and create designs to execute through the use of makeup for actors and their specific character roles. The complexity of the application and type of SFX makeup design will vary from a range of simple to complex tasks. This is dependent on the production and characters although makeup artists who have the experience, tend to be able to execute any genre and period when given a brief.

Makeup artists apply makeup to the actor’s faces and bodies on set in order to bring the characters to life. They will also use special effects (SFX) makeup using prosthetics and masks. Mastering SFX makeup design and application requires a great deal of knowledge and specialised training.

The SFX makeup artist career path can include years of training, practical experience and consistent dedication to the art.

Here are some of the different roles  a makeup artist can have on set:

1. Head makeup artists

The makeup artist/s in charge are the ones who design each individual sketch of what the makeup look will be. They will apply the makeup to the lead roles and actors, and execute any particularly complicated designs. The head artist will delegate and oversee other artists and tasks for the entirety of the set duration.

2. General makeup artists

General makeup artists are responsible for applying makeup to non-lead actors and the supporting crew. These artists are under the supervision of the head makeup artist and are responsible for executing the original sketches perfectly.

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  1. Makeup artist assistant

    The assistants organise makeup kits and assist makeup artists with body makeup application as this can be very time-consuming and will need extra hands. The assistant may also be in charge of taking photographs of each finished product to ensure consistency. Typically this is a great place to gain work experience and SFX Makeup Colleges like AACM can enable work experience like this during your studies.

  2. Special effects makeup artist
    SFX makeup artists are responsible for applications that require more detail and specialised training, like applying prosthetics or using foam latex (a special compound used for three-dimensional prosthetic effects) to create a certain look..

    General responsibilities for all types of makeup artists on the job include:

  • Firstly, you will meet with the Director, costume designer, and hairstylists for a briefing on character descriptions and makeup options
  • Create sketches of designs for makeup application for all the actors and have them in a portfolio and accessible to production
  • Meeting with the production team to discuss what and how makeup will be used to ensure it calculates with regulations on set
  • Ensure you have a timesheet schedule and a plan in place for each actor you are applying makeup on, to ensure people are on time
  • Apply long-lasting special effects and/or normal makeup to actors and be on standby for touch-ups throughout the time on set
  • Using the correct tools and makeup for special effects and making sure they are not harmful to the actor
  • Consistency is key and a skill that you should have to ensure that every time you do this routine on an actor, it looks identical to the previous
  • Remove the makeup and prosthetics after the specific actors’ time on set is done for that period
  • Storing makeup tools and products safely to remove the risk of any injuries
  • Sterilising makeup, brushes and tools at the end of each set time that adhere to hygiene and covid – 19 regulations

If becoming a makeup artist for actors and extras on a production set is something you are interested in, then acquiring the skills and techniques is of utmost importance, to begin with. AACM, a leading college in SFX Makeup training has a screen and media online course, detailing makeup where you master the foundations of makeup application and gain an incredible experience within the industry. If this is something that you feel is your passion then jump on it!