How to become a special FX makeup artist

There are lots of interesting and creative job opportunities for those who want to work in the TV and movie industry. In addition to acting, you could look into screenwriting, directing, costume design, creating sound effects, operating cameras, and all sorts of other fascinating career paths. One role that’s a great choice for artistic people who enjoy the challenge of completely changing someone’s appearance is that of a special FX makeup artist.

From wounds and scars to monstrous and magical sci-fi and fantasy creations, special FX makeup artists take on a wide range of fun and fascinating projects. Here’s how to kickstart your career.

What does a special FX makeup artist do?

While a normal makeup artist might focus on making an actor look their most attractive, a special FX makeup artist works to transform their appearance completely. For instance, this could be by:

  • Making them look significantly older
  • Giving them the appearance of having realistic wounds, injuries, or scars
  • Transforming them into a fictional creature, such as an orc, werewolf, or zombie

This role is crucial in the movie and TV industry for many reasons. Firstly, it ensures that the viewers stay immersed in the world of the story rather than being distracted by poor special effects that remind them they’re just watching a show. It also often helps the actors give a more convincing performance by making it easier for them to become the character that they’re playing.

The job can be challenging, both in terms of the skill required and the long working hours it involves. However, seeing your creations on the screen can also be enjoyable and rewarding!

Top tips for getting started as a special FX makeup artist

If you’re interested in becoming a special FX makeup artist, there are lots of different tactics you can employ to help you get there. Although there are no strict formal education requirements, getting a qualification in theatrical or SFX makeup can be helpful. Many colleges offer these, so browse online to see what’s available in your area.

Another option is to go down the route of teaching yourself. For example, ordering high-quality special FX makeup products online and using tutorial videos to learn the basics is easy. You can experiment with yourself at home to hone your skills, before reaching out to a local company offering internships or apprenticeships to get more formal experience.

Some other ways to get your foot in the door include:

  • Volunteering to help a local community theater group as a way to start building up a portfolio
  • Showcasing your work on social media. Instagram and TikTok, in particular, can be useful thanks to their highly visual nature
  • Setting up a professional website to function as an online portfolio
  • Applying for freelance work anywhere from theme parks to theaters and production companies to both meet people and increase your portfolio of work
  • Attending relevant industry events to engage with the community, expand your professional network, keep up with the latest developments, and find out about job opportunities
  • Continuing to learn and trying to pick up as many different techniques as you can.

Erika Tinkle

I am a professional guest blogger who publishes paid content on my site on topics like business, home decor, technology, and more.

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