Lights, Camera, Showtime! Television and Film Makeup

Film makeup

Almost everyone you see on the big or small screen is wearing some kind of makeup. It’s not just for looks; it’s also to make performers camera ready. So, what  might seem barely noticeable on set can make a big difference in front of the camera.

The Role of the Makeup Artist

In film and television, the makeup artist's job is to make the people on camera look good on the viewer’s screen. It sounds simple, but “looking good” covers a lot of ground.

In addition to correcting, concealing and beautifying, the TV and film makeup artist has to consider things like set lighting, camera distance, weather effects, activity level, and more. In the end, it’s the MUA’s job—usually through years of training—to make sure the camera captures the right look.

Slay the Screen with These Television and Film Makeup Looks

Every production has its own unique makeup needs. Here are a few examples of how makeup can be applied for different types of TV shows and movies.

News and Broadcast

For hosts, journalists, public figures and other such “talking heads,” makeup helps them look professional and put together on screen. It prevents glare from oil and sweat, and helps viewers feel positively toward them.

Eye-catching features like bold lips and smokey eyes can be incorporated as appropriate, but broadcast makeup is, for the most part, very professional and straightforward. For a shine-free look that stays put, have a mattifying powder and setting spray in your makeup kit.

Drama and Romance

Let’s face it: romance movies and drama series are full of sexy people having sexy moments in sexy ways—and there’s nothing wrong with that! A good makeup artist will help draw out an actor’s most attractive features and make them look as gorgeous as possible (as appropriate).

The best look for a given character and scene should be based on what needs to be portrayed and what the actor’s features are. For example, a scene introducing the pretty girl next door might have a youthful, soft look with brown liner, light mascara, and peachy cheeks.


beautiful girl with bright makeup

Comedy is where you might see more exaggerated looks to play up the humor. This is especially true for sketch comedy and other character-based shows, where actors portray various recognizable and goofy characters.

Comedy makeup can be anything from a celebrity caricature (for impressions) to an over-the-top, garish glam look. If it leaves the people on set laughing harder than before, you’ve done your job as a makeup artist.

Sci-fi, Fantasy and Horror

As you might expect, these film and TV genres see some of the most artistic, imaginative designs. When working on an alien, monster or mystical creature, a makeup artist has the huge task of making something unreal look realistic to audiences.

Colorful body paints, textured details, facial prosthetics and other specialty makeup may be used to create the desired look. Depending on how involved the design is, there may be a full team of makeup artists working together.

Screen vs. Stage Makeup

There are some things that TV and film makeup have in common with theater makeup:

  • Both types are done to show the audience a desired appearance.
  • They have to combat any unwanted effects from lighting.
  • Both tend to involve a heavier application than regular street makeup.

However, there are also key differences:

  • In film and TV, features don’t have to be exaggerated as much for the audience. The camera can capture expressions at the right distance.
  • Theater makeup is usually simpler, as details aren’t necessarily visible. TV makeup can be much more involved, with details shown in close-ups.
  • Stage lighting is somewhat consistent, while film lighting can change significantly from scene to scene. Makeup needs to be able to accommodate.

Find Everything You Need for Show-Ready Makeup Looks at Scott Barnes

Whether you’re a professional MUA or are working on your skills at home, Scott Barnes has the tools and products you need to create film-ready looks of your own. Shop our collections today and build up your pro makeup kit!