Reel Opportunities

Special Effects Makeup Artist

Also known as: SFX Makeup Artist

What does a Special Effects Makeup Artist do?

A Special Effects Makeup Artist (SFX) is a specialized member of the Makeup team responsible for creating specialized makeup effects such as abrasions, bloody wounds, deformities, bruises, supernatural beings, zombies, etc. They use different materials to create prosthetics, which are fake additions to the actors body to make them appear this way. In some situations a SFX Makeup Artist might also be responsible for creating an “aged” look. Depending on the script, they estimate the time and cost of making prosthetics and create bald caps, prosthetic pieces, facial parts, and scars.

Mold-making, casting, applying and removing prosthetics, and working with common materials such as latex and silicone are their responsibilities. They must be skilled in procedures such as face and body aging, bald cap creation, and wound or scar creation. Normally, they will use make-up artists and assistants to apply the prosthetics to the actors themselves (which can take hours). They usually stay on set to make sure the prosthetic is in good working order.

They work closely with the rest of the Makeup team and the Prosthetics team to create these unique looks. They usually come equipped with their own kit.

What's a Special Effects Makeup Artist good at?
  • Makeup Techniques

    Must understand traditional makeup techniques, along with specialized makeup techniques.

  • Creativity

    A vivid imagination, as well as the ability to create and solve problems in novel ways, are required, along with the necessary technical skills and experience. Great design and interpretive skills, as well as the ability to comprehend a project's prosthetics requirements and implement them in both practical and imaginative ways.

  • Organization

    One SFX Makeup Artist might be responsible for dozens of looks on one production

  • Collaborating

    Works closely with several different departments to create a specific look

  • Research

    Must be able to research intricate details of wounds, abrasions and deformities in order to recreate the looks effectively

  • Working with materials

    Such as foam, latex, and silicone, as well as processes like mold-making and casting. Tattoos, false noses, wounds, and scars are all common prosthetics requirements.

Who does a Special Effects Makeup Artist work with?

A SFX Makeup Artist works closely with the Costume, Makeup and Hair departments to assemble a whole look. They may take suggestions from the Production Designer over the severity of a look to fit in with the whole design. SFX Makeup Artists work closely with talent as well. They also work directly with actors.

How do I become a Special Effects Makeup Artist?

SFX Makeup Artists are trained through college, usually Cosmetology school, but this is not necessarily the only route to becoming a SFX Makeup Artist. You can also apprentice under a senior SFX Makeup Artist and learn the techniques this way. Keep a portfolio of all your looks to show potential gigs.

More tips

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Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.