How To Apply Realistic & Compelling Makeup For Movie Making (Step By Step)

The makeup artist is the final step in the filmmaking process, and they are often underappreciated. Along with hairstylists, wardrobe designers, set designers, and cinematographers, makeup artists are vital to making a film look believable.

And not every makeup artist is required to do special effects makeup or anything crazy you might see in a Sci-Fi film. Instead, they work to give the actors that “no-makeup-makeup-look.” The right touch of foundation can make an actor seem more natural on camera and get them into character.

For those looking into pursuing this career path or just wondering what it takes to become one, here’s everything you need to know about applying makeup for films!

movie makeup infographic

Why Do Actors Need to Have Makeup?

You know the old saying, “the camera adds 10 pounds”? Well, the camera and lights and film can add scars, wrinkles, pores, and other blemishes to actors thanks to highly sensitive cameras and super bright lights.

Makeup helps to hide these blemishes and flaws while accentuating things the camera does want to pick up. Makeup can even out skin tone, reduce shine, and help the actors from being washed out under the lights.

The amount of makeup used on an actor can vary based on the scene or how much time they have to get ready. For instance, if it’s just a drop-by before filming begins and there isn’t much prep time, then you’ll likely only see some light powder with maybe some foundation and a little under-eye concealer.

But, if they have more time to get ready, then you might see some foundation or tinted moisturizer that matches the actor’s natural skin tone along with contouring and highlighting cream applied after that finishes up their look. Then, there may be fake freckles drawn on, false lashes added, or eyebrows filled in for added effect.

male actor makeup for films

What Does the “No Makeup” Look Mean?

The “no makeup” look is more of a professional face with no visible blemishes or flaws rather than one that has zero makeup on. It just brings out the actor’s natural features but allows them to avoid being washed out. So makeup artists often use warmer colors to create this effect which can help give their actors an overall natural appearance and flawless skin tone under the bright lights.

“No makeup” for men may be some concealer to cover up blemishes, powder to calm any redness or shine, and brushing out their eyebrows or facial hair to look primped and clean. On the other hand, women may do concealer and foundation, some powder to prevent a shiny t-zone, some subtle clear mascara, brushed eyebrows, and some lip tint.

Matte powders and foundations, plus a neutral, skin-toned palette, will be necessary to pull off the perfect no-makeup look for film.

Makeup Tips for Men

Some additional tips for applying makeup to male actors include using under-eye concealer to give them that natural, flawless look. Also, if they have dark circles or bags, then it’s best for makeup artists to use a blue or green-tinted cover-up on those areas rather than purple because men tend to get redness around their eyes when tired, which can be picked up on camera.

Bald men also require some powder to prevent their heads from shining under the lights. Men also will have facial hair that requires some maintenance. Smoothing out beards and mustaches using conditioning creams can ensure it looks nice and groomed on-screen. They may also require some eyebrow maintenance and brushing, along with some clear mascara as well.

Men’s Makeup Tips:

  • Powder bald spots
  • Color correct using green or blue tints
  • Groom facial hair, but don’t use oil
  • Eyebrow brush
  • Visine red-eye drops can make the eyes pop

Makeup Tips for Women

Women will have a bit more makeup than men, but not by much if they’re going for the “no makeup” look. There are some fantastic tips that allow for makeup to be applied just so, to make it have a more natural appearance.

To apply makeup, using a soft bristle brush for everything, even lipstick, gives it a much lighter application, and thus a softer look overall. Gently pat concealer and powder on, and lipstick can be lightly applied using a small brush to blend perfectly with the actor’s natural lip color.

Women’s Makeup Tips:

  • Use matte foundation, concealer, and powder
  • Apply everything (brows, eyeliner, lips) with soft brushes
  • Use one shade darker for tints to prevent washing out
  • Choose a natural lip color and lightly apply
  • Clear mascara and brow gel can accent the brows and eyelashes without adding extra makeup

The Best Makeup Brands for Film

There are a few brands you’ll find on any movie set, and they’re budget-friendly, so even small-scale production companies can provide makeup just like the big stars.

The Best Concealer

Valerie Beverly Hills Hocus Pocus Concealer is perfect for concealing imperfections, and their combinations work for various complexions and skin tones.

The Best Color Corrector

Joe Blasco Neutralizer can be used as a tattoo cover-up and thus works great to even out skin and correct any imperfections to match perfectly with the actor’s skin tone.

The Best Foundation

Make Up For Ever HD Fluid Foundation was MADE for HD screens. This foundation gives medium coverage and offers a “blurred” look on skin, which is ideal for hiding pores and imperfections on the big screen.

The Best Powder

Ben Nye Bella Luxury Powder works wonders as it creates a translucent but matte finish that hides fine lines, color corrects, and prevents shine from studio lighting.

film makeup

The Best Lip Color

Mehron L.I.P. Cream was made specifically for use in theatre and film. It keeps lips soft and lasts for the entire performance, no matter what. It’s a go-to by many professionals in the Metropolitan Opera and Cirque Du Soleil.

The Best Blush

Cinema Secrets Ultimate Powder Blush provides hours of definition and sculpting powder with blush so smooth it feels like a cream.

The Best Makeup Remover

For on-the-fly corrections, try Alcone Make-Off Makeup Remover Cloths. And at the end of the shoot, it’s essential to get a makeup remover that cleanses and moisturizes without clogging pores or causing acne. The Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution does just that.

If you aren’t a full-blown makeup artist but still need to give your actors some natural makeup looks, these tips, tricks, and industry-leading products can help. Even if you’re just doing some corporate brand videos or a testimonial video, a little makeup can go a long way in post-production.

If you’re looking for a video production company to make your brand vision a reality, contact Stringline Pictures today!