Theatrical Makeup Information

Written by patrice lesco
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Theatrical Makeup Information
Make-up for Stage (make-up display and brush after make-up was done image by Nellie Vin from

Theatrical make-up was first used in theatres to define the facial features of actors who stood in bright stage lighting. The stage lighting caused these features to be washed out, but the use of stage make-up served to enhance facial features. As the use of stage make-up progressed over time it was used to completely alter the appearance of an actor, or to create defining characteristics, such as scars or deformities. Regardless of its use today, however, stage or theatrical make-up is a marvellous tool in the hands of a creative individual.


Theatrical make-up foundations can be purchased from a wide variety of sources. Foundations come in matt finishes, cakes and crèmes. Professional stage make-up suppliers will also offer eye and lip colours, concealers, cleaners, brushes, sponge applicators and a multitude of character make-up. Character make-up comes in crèmes, such as the clown white foundation, as well as in liquid paints, powders, caked crayons and a variety of shades for defining touches. Speciality make-up, to include flavoured stage blood, can be purchased in small to large plastic bottles, or you can buy liquid latex for the creation of scars and/or wounds. Just remember how you apply any of these products is the key to the effectiveness of theatrical make-up.


Theatrical make-up designers put their make-up designs on paper prior to make-up application. This is important, especially if you are planning a very creative character design, such as the application of make-up for an animal. With the design on paper you can refer to it as you go through the process of applying the stage make-up.


A make-up sponge is the most effective means of applying stage make-up foundation. These sponges are thick and can be cleaned easily with soap and water for reuse. Foundation applications are at the core of your design, and therefore, you must take special care to ensure the foundation is applied evenly and that it covers the entire face, without streaks or evident lines. After the foundation is applied, the lips, eyes, cheeks and specific character features can be developed with stage make-up and brushes. No stage make-up application is complete without the use of theatrical powder. The powder is normally loose and applied with a large powder puff. This final step is often ignored, but it should not be. Powder will set the make-up and your design, while at the same time allowing it to last on the wearer.


Liquid latex has a pungent odour, and it takes some time to discover all of the make-up techniques that it can be useful for. Nevertheless, it should be a standard part of your make-up kit, especially if you want to create realistic scars or facial characteristics for holidays or performances. Liquid latex flows rapidly, so protect any clothing. Liquid latex can be applied with a make-up sponge and in layers, if necessary. During the application and drying process, you can create gaps in the latex with the make-up sponge. Once the latex is dry, foundation, colouring and powder is then applied over it to make the character feature vivid. If you are making a wound, pour a small amount of stage blood in the gap of the latex to make the wound look very fresh.


Most stage make-up can be removed with soap and water. However, one of the quickest and most effective methods of stage make-up removal is the use of baby wipes. Before you use the wipes, check the label to ensure they don't contain any chemicals to which you are allergic.

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