Types of Special Effects Makeup

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Special effects makeup is used in films and movies and for theater performances. Actors use makeup to create illusions and enhance features or to completely change the way they look. Age is just one aspect that can be changed with special effects makeup. Another is defining physical features or characteristics such as moles, eyes and even nose sizes.

Special Effects Makeup: Cosmetics

  • Cosmetics are the most common type of special effects makeup used in theater and film. Cosmetics include foundation, eyeshadow, lipstick, and eyeliner. These are everyday items considered to be makeup. Many women have kits full of all kinds of makeup that creates special effects. A makeup artist can apply the makeup to make eyes dramatic and lips luscious and to add a beauty mole to the face. Everyday makeup like foundation and blush has also been used to create the special effect of cleavage when used correctly on the chest area.

Special Effects Makeup: Prosthetic

  • Prosthetic makeup is also used to create illusions and special effects. This involves a lot of work on the makeup artist's end. First, the artist takes a cast of the body that needs enhancement. Most often the face but sometimes hands and feet too are cast for special effects. Casting is making a mold of the body part. Once the mold has been made the artist then fills the mold with special cement to make another casting, the "positive mold." The artist adds clay to the mold and sculpts it with the additions or special effects that are needed before making another mold, which gets filled with foam latex, silicone or gelatin to make the final prosthetic makeup piece. Brad Pitt and Robin Williams are two actors who have been known to use prosthetics for special effects.

Special Effects Makeup: Eye Enhancers

  • Eye enhancers are also used to create special effects. Contact lenses, false eyelashes and eyeglasses all create illusions. Contact lenses can add special effects to the eyes by changing their color. Custom contact lenses have designs where the iris would be. False eyelashes make normal eyelashes dramatically long. They can be found in bright colors or in standard hair colors to enhance thin eyelashes. Actors who wear eyeglasses to create a special effect either wear ones that are just frames or have pairs specially designed for their eyes.

Special Effects Makeup: Latex Skin

  • Latex skin is much like a prosthetic and in some places is considered the same. The difference is that latex skin does not have to go through a molding process the way prosthetics do. Special effects makeup kits often include a small, flabby piece of latex. This latex gets pasted with an adhesive onto the face or another area of the body in a certain way to create the illusion of scars, birthmarks or just flabby skin. There are special adhesive removers that are used to take this type of special effects makeup off.

Special Effects Makeup: Accessories

  • Special effects makeup would not be complete without enhancements such as wigs or loose hair added to areas of the face, hands or feet to create illusions necessary to establish a character's appearance. Wigs come in all shapes, colors and sizes and some novelty wigs can be bought for specialized characters. Loose hair can be added to the head, face, hands and feet to create the special effect of a hairy being. This was done in the Lord of the Ring movies for the hobbits' feet. Ear props with a layer of cosmetics were also used in that film for the presentation of the elven characters.

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  • Photo Credit Photo by Uittenbogerd, Wikimedia Commons
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