Types of special effects makeup

Written by linda st.cyr
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Types of special effects makeup
(Photo by Uittenbogerd, Wikimedia Commons)

Special effects make-up is used in films and movies and for theatre performances. Actors use make-up to create illusions and enhance features or to completely change the way they look. Age is just one aspect that can be changed with special effects make-up. Another is defining physical features or characteristics such as moles, eyes and even nose sizes.

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Special Effects Makeup: Cosmetics

Cosmetics are the most common type of special effects make-up used in theatre and film. Cosmetics include foundation, eyeshadow, lipstick, and eyeliner. These are everyday items considered to be make-up. Many women have kits full of all kinds of make-up that creates special effects. A make-up artist can apply the make-up to make eyes dramatic and lips luscious and to add a beauty mole to the face. Everyday make-up like foundation and blush has also been used to create the special effect of cleavage when used correctly on the chest area.

Special Effects Makeup: Prosthetic

Prosthetic make-up is also used to create illusions and special effects. This involves a lot of work on the make-up artist's end. First, the artist takes a cast of the body that needs enhancement. Most often the face but sometimes hands and feet too are cast for special effects. Casting is making a mould of the body part. Once the mould has been made the artist then fills the mould with special cement to make another casting, the "positive mold." The artist adds clay to the mould and sculpts it with the additions or special effects that are needed before making another mould, which gets filled with foam latex, silicone or gelatin to make the final prosthetic make-up piece. Brad Pitt and Robin Williams are two actors who have been known to use prosthetics for special effects.

Special Effects Makeup: Eye Enhancers

Eye enhancers are also used to create special effects. Contact lenses, false eyelashes and eyeglasses all create illusions. Contact lenses can add special effects to the eyes by changing their colour. Custom contact lenses have designs where the iris would be. False eyelashes make normal eyelashes dramatically long. They can be found in bright colours or in standard hair colours to enhance thin eyelashes. Actors who wear eyeglasses to create a special effect either wear ones that are just frames or have pairs specially designed for their eyes.

Special Effects Makeup: Latex Skin

Latex skin is much like a prosthetic and in some places is considered the same. The difference is that latex skin does not have to go through a moulding process the way prosthetics do. Special effects make-up kits often include a small, flabby piece of latex. This latex gets pasted with an adhesive onto the face or another area of the body in a certain way to create the illusion of scars, birthmarks or just flabby skin. There are special adhesive removers that are used to take this type of special effects make-up off.

Special Effects Makeup: Accessories

Special effects make-up would not be complete without enhancements such as wigs or loose hair added to areas of the face, hands or feet to create illusions necessary to establish a character's appearance. Wigs come in all shapes, colours and sizes and some novelty wigs can be bought for specialised characters. Loose hair can be added to the head, face, hands and feet to create the special effect of a hairy being. This was done in the Lord of the Ring movies for the hobbits' feet. Ear props with a layer of cosmetics were also used in that film for the presentation of the elven characters.

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