How to Become a Special Effects Make-up Artist

5 minute read
Special Effects Make-up Artist

Ever wondered how filmmakers and make-up artists bring your favorite characters to life? From clothes to make-up, films like Guardians of the Galaxy or Harry Potter have created unreal characters like Dobby the Elf, Gamora, or Zombies! This unique career is called special effects makeup. Special effects makeup artists are extremely talented who either make you look like the most beautiful person in the world but also the scariest, half-eaten creatures or even ghosts. If you are someone who is amped up about getting into the world of entertainment with your make-up skills then this blog can help you explore how to become a special effects makeup artist (aka prosthetic makeup artist)!

What is Special Effects Makeup?

A special effects makeup artist is a person who is a highly skilled professional who is called upon when something unusual has to be done. Special effects makeup is also called prosthetic makeup which is used to create advanced effects by using prosthetic sculpting, molding, and casting techniques to make fictional characters like Zombies and Ghosts come to life. SFX makeup artists work tirelessly on making the unreal believable; from faking gunshots to creating monsters like Medusa, they can achieve these feats with the use of make-up!

prosthetic makeup artist
Source: Pinterest

Eligibility Criteria for a SFX Make-Up Artist

Although there are no rigid eligibility criteria to become a special effects makeup artist there are certainly other factors and qualifications that one must observe:

  • A diploma or certificate in professional makeup/cosmetology 
  • Obtaining on-the-job experience
  • Post secondary certificate in professional makeup/cosmetology(optional)
  • Basic knowledge on cosmetic applications,wigs, masks,hairdressing,temporary prosthetic applications and costuming.
  • You should have a creative mind with a steady hand, be good at decision making and immaculate communication skills and  passion for the theatrical.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, you should take formal training and strive to have many years of practice to master your art as a special effects makeup artist.

Indian Colleges Offering SFX Make-up Courses

Indian cinema has also evolved to a point that the need for special effects makeup artists is increasing by the hour. The best schools in India that are specializing in teaching these courses are as follows:

  • Euro Chroma Institute of Cosmetology
  • SMA Makeup Academy
  • Lakme Academy
  • The Institute of Makeup Artistry
  • ISAS -International Beauty School

Foreign Colleges offering SFX Make-up Courses

Some of the best colleges offering Special Effects Makeup courses abroad are:

  • Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas
  • La Belle Beauty School
  • La Belle Beauty Academy
  • Joe Blasso Makeup Artist Training Centre
  • Elegance International
  • Cinema Makeup School
  • Avi Career Training
  • Stanford University
  • Harvard University

List of Online Courses

There are many institutes that even provide online courses for certification as a prosthetic makeup artist. Some of the schools are:

  • Makeup academy professional course international specialFX makeup
  • Academy of film fashion and design- course in special effects(FX) from Udemy
  • Global edulink – special effects advanced course
  • Tom Savini’s masterclass
  • Londom academy of freelance makeup

Major Topics for Special Effects Makeup Courses

Some of the basic concepts that are covered under a special effects makeup course are:

  • Bald cap fabrication and application
  • Theatrical makeup(colour theory and anatomy)
  • Blood tubing
  • Hair laying, dressing and construction
  • Prosthetic design ,fabrication and application]
  • Cuts,wounds and burn effects
  • Character aging makeup
  • Working special FX
  • Special FX photoshoot

Career as a Special Effects Makeup Artist 

Source: Gipher

The evolution of the makeup industry has been unreal. Over the years makeup and its application have not only changed but also now the makeup industry has opened up a pool of opportunities and jobs for creative and hard-working minds. Now that more sci-fi and superhero films are being made, hence has increased the demand for skillful special effects makeup artists. 

A special effects makeup artist applies prosthetic makeup on actor’s bodies and transforms them into their on-screen characters. The directors and scriptwriters explain what has to be done and the special effects makeup artist delivers( sometimes they even read the scripts themselves for inspiration). These makeup artists can work independently or with assistant directors. Being a special effects makeup artist only offers a large scope in theatre, television, film & fashion industry, concept shoots with photographers, themed shows for designers, ramp makeup but also provides you an opportunity to display your artistic talent.

Also Read: Know All About Bachelors in Fine Arts

Skills required by a Special Effects Makeup Artist

Apart from all the technical and practical skills, a special effects makeup artist also has to have some extra soft skills in general which helps with the character and confidence-building of an aspiring special effects makeup artist. Some of these soft skills are:

  • Artistic excellence in understanding the perspective of directors
  • Good communication skills
  • Good imagination and an intuitive mind
  • Keen observation
  • Immense patience
  • High professionalism
  • Hard working attitude
  • Positive attitude towards constructive criticism

Special Effects Makeup Kit

YouTube: Karolina Maria

To become a successful makeup artist it is important to be particular and disciplined when it comes to working ethics. First on the list of being disciplined is to have a well-organized makeup kit with all the essentials required and not being a miser when it comes to makeup products. To begin with, the makeup kit of a special effects makeup artist has prosthetic products like wax, latex, artex, bald cap, a good selection of makeup brushes, and applicators.

Molding clay and blood are the most important component of the kit to make fake blood and bruises on an actor’s face. Lastly, some form of glue is needed for sticking accessories to the model’s faces.

Salary of a Special Effects Makeup Artist

YouTube: ellimacs SFX makeup

The salary of special effects makeup artists depends on various factors like work- experience, demand, and customized rates for freelancing. But let’s look at the average structure.

Years of experienceSalary
0-1$200-$500 (INR 16k to INR 40k)
3-5$500-$1000 (INR 40k to INR 81.5k)
Many years of experience$69000-$100,000 annually (INR 56 lakh to INR 81.5 lakh)

Job Prospects

Some additional job prospects of Special Effects Makeup Artist are mentioned below.

  • Movie Makeup Artists
  • Cosmetologists
  • Freelancing
  • Special FX artists for production companies,theaters,medical institutions and theme parks
  • Special effects makeup assistant


What is a special effects makeup artist called?

A special effects makeup artist is also called SFX Makeup Artist.

How to get a job in SFX?

Years of hands-on experience in cosmetics, and prosthetics helps get a job in SFX.

What is the difference between SFX and VFX?

SFX process is conducted during the production stage while VFX is done post-production.

If you have a creative eye and enjoy doing makeup you should definitely go ahead to pursue a special FX makeup artist as a career. This line is very dynamic with a good payroll. Not everybody is capable of being a special effects makeup artist so if you have got the talent for it, you should definitely monetize it by gaining knowledge and experience. Do share with us if this blog was informative for you or not. For more exciting career opportunities, follow Leverage Edu on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and LinkedIn

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