About Special Effects Make-Up Artists

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    Learning About Special Effects Make-up

    • The starting point for a special effects make-up career depends on the artist's long-term goals. For artists who want to work on local TV and small movie projects, books like Vincent Kahoe's "Special Make-up Effects" provide enough detail to refine their skills. Serious artists who want to work on major motion pictures and network TV shows should seek out certifications from authorized programs. The Douglas Education Center offers a 16-month associates course run by artist Tom Savini that covers topics like mold making and make-up application. Experienced artist Dick Smith offers at-home studies for novice and experienced artists interested in entering the world of FX makeup.

    Developing a Special Effects Makeup Kit

    • A special effects make-up artist needs more than foundations and powders to get by in the industry. Makeup and adhesive removers can save an actor's face from surface damage after a day of shooting is complete. Artists need plenty of clay to make impromptu masks, fake body parts and extenders for extremities in horror and science fiction movies. The artist's kit should be filled with fake fingernails, ears, noses and other body parts that can be applied quickly on set.

    Building an FX Makeup Portfolio

    • Artists can build up their FX portfolios by interning on movie sets and taking courses from special effects experts. Independent production companies look for special effects artists, production assistants and other interns to get movies off the ground at low costs. An FX makeup artist can take photos of masks and run video on the process of applying makeup to show her skills in action. Each course taken by a novice artist offers the opportunity to bolster portfolios with photos of alien faces, prosthetics and other examples of her craft.


    • The daily hours of a special effects makeup artist can range from 12 to 20 hours depending on filming schedules. Artists spend much of this time blending an actor's skin to the color of masks, wigs and prosthetics used in the day's scenes. If an actor participates in a stunt or takes a fall during a scene, the artist must do touch-ups to maintain visual consistency throughout the movie. In addition to the artist's full stash of supplies, a small bag of touch-up items should be readily available for trips on set.


    • Special effects make-up artists get to interact with actors throughout the duration of movie shoots. These interactions allow artists to meet their favorite stars and learn more about the ins and out of the entertainment industry. The creativity involved in the daily work of special effects artists can be just as rewarding as the financial incentives. Artists get to create new species, age their favorite stars by several decades and bring old monsters back to life with some clay and adhesive.

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