4 Types of Stage Makeup

Stage makeup, or theatrical makeup, is applied for various kinds of stage and screen performances.This includes everything from polished, glamorous looks to gory, over-the-top monster makeup. Whatever the effect, professional stage makeup techniques can provide incredibly realistic results.

What’s in the Bag?

Different types of stage makeup call for various tools and techniques. Some jobs require specialty makeup products to achieve certain effects. There are, however, a few basics common to theatrical makeup.

Typical items you’ll find in a stage makeup kit include:

  • Skin Preparation Products
    Cleanser, toner, moisturizer, lip balm
  • Makeup Basics
    Foundation, powder, blush, lipstick, liner pencils, brow pencil, mascara, false lashes
  • Specialty Stage Makeup
    Face/body paint, fake blood, injury/bruise makeup kits, prosthetics, liquid latex. Scott used his talents on Jennifer Lopez in order to make her look aged in the film feature El Cantant with specialty makeup.
  • Makeup Removal Products
    Regular makeup remover, heavy-duty stage makeup remover, cotton rounds, makeup wipes

Types, Techniques and Tips

Pro makeup brushes

Theatre makeup is a broad category covering numerous formats and styles. Here are four common types of stage makeup and how you can achieve them as an MUA.

Live Stage Performance Makeup

When performers are on a stage, it’s harder for the audience to see them. Bright stage lighting helps illuminate the set, but they can also completely wash out a performer’s features.

Makeup for plays, musicals, and even drag shows is designed to make the performers’ faces stand out. Intense, carefully placed makeup amplifies expression, improves visibility, and reflects characters’ unique physical traits.

To create it:

  • Counteract the washout effect of lights with a warmer foundation than usual. Blend it into the hairline and neck. Always take into consideration parts of the body that will be showing as well.
  • Use a darker cream makeup to contour the cheekbones and apply blush heavily.
  • Line both the top and bottom lash lines, then apply mascara. Use false lashes like the Scott Barnes Gina Falsetto Lashes to add drama or create a feminine, flirty appearance.
  • Line the lips with a shade darker than the rest of the lip color to accentuate the mouth shape. Scott Barnes’ Lip Fetish and Atelier Lip Liners are long wearing with continuous glam throughout each set, intermission and outfit change.

Film or Television Makeup

In these mediums, cinematographers and crew can easily adjust the lighting or shot to make sure features and expressions are clearly visible. The ultimate goal of film or television makeup is to make the performers look natural, as if they’re right in front of the viewer.

Of course, making people look natural in set lighting and cameras takes skill. Even an actor portraying a “bare-faced” character still needs some makeup to make sure they look good through the lens.

To create it:

  • If performers will be in hot weather or under hot lights, apply a sweat-proof primer first. A great trick that Scott talks about for any stage makeup or performance is to use Milk Of Magnesia to prevent any sweating and keep the makeup in tact.
  • Use a foundation formulated to look good in HD.
  • Apply a mattifying translucent powder to prevent unwanted shine. Pressed powders are your best friend when doing stage makeup.
  • Use a contour palette like the Scott Barnes Sculpting and Contour No° 1 palette to enhance features as appropriate.
  • Use eye-catching jewel tones and complementary colors that will pop well on camera.
  • Blend carefully—the camera is unforgiving!

Artistic, Editorial Makeup

Stage makeup covers a variety of artistic and experimental performances. Whether it’s interpretive dance, an editorial fashion event or even a YouTube video, this type of makeup prioritizes creative expression. The looks and methods vary wildly, depending on the concept behind the performance.

To create it:

  • Develop the concept and gather everything you’ll need in advance.
  • If the performance will be filmed or take place on a lit stage, use relevant techniques from those types of stage makeup above.
  • If the makeup plays a significant role, schedule a practice run. See how the finished look performs, then make any adjustments.
  • Use sweat- and smudge-proof makeup as needed to make sure the look stays in place for the entire performance.

Special Effects (SFX) Makeup

Eyeshadow palette

Special effects makeup adds to a performance by making injuries, scars, and even fantasy creatures look real. A skilled makeup artist can create believable bruises, wounds, scars, wrinkles, and more. This makes for cool, dramatic close-ups in movies and TV shows.

SFX makeup can be as simple as adding dark circles to imply tiredness or redness to imply crying. It can also be as complex as using multiple prosthetics and/or masks to create a totally different physical form.

To create it:

  • When recreating natural skin behavior, always work in subtle layers and build up the color for a realistic result.
  • Use specialty products as needed, like liquid latex, fake blood, prosthetics, etc.
  • Use a good setting spray to seal in your work, especially if immersion is important to the performance.
  • Again, it’s a good idea to do a practice run and test out how the makeup will perform. Using a new product for the first time on set can be risky when you don't know how it acts or performs.

Taking It All Off

Some stage makeup takes more effort to remove than others. Regardless, the right products and process will get the job done.

To remove various types of stage makeup:

  1. Break down SFX makeup with a remover formulated for those products. Remove prosthetic and decorative accents gently.
  2. Remove heavy, cream-based makeup with an oil-based theatrical makeup remover. The oil will break up the greasy formula, making it easy to cleanse away.
  3. For lighter makeup with more typical makeup products, use a standard makeup remover.
  4. Use a foaming cleanser to wash away lingering makeup and residue.
  5. Finally, rehydrate the skin with a moisturizer.

Amp Up Your Stage Makeup Capabilities

Browse Scott Barnes’ collections today to find everything you need to create and emulate all kinds of theatrical looks. The audience awaits!