Theatre Makeup for Fat Special Effects

Updated February 21, 2017

In movies and documentaries, actors and actresses are sometimes made up to look fat for comic relief, as with John Travolta's character in Hairspray, or to make a political statement about the prejudices people have toward the obese. Make-up artists use a variety of tools to pull off these dramatic and convincing special effects.

Fat Suit

Sometimes a pillow or layers of clothes are used to create a comedic illusion of obesity. For more serious movies and other efforts, a professional full "fat suit" is worn underneath oversized clothing. Such fat suits were famously worn by Tyra Banks, when she went on blind dates wearing the suit in an effort to teach her viewers and fans a lesson about discrimination, and by Goldie Hawn in the film Death Becomes Her.


While fat suits create the illusion of an overweight body, an actor's face must also be transformed to make a convincing character. To accomplish this, make-up artists create or purchase prosthetics in the form of chubby cheeks, double chins and so on, made from latex, gelatin, foam and other materials. Make-up artists use spirit gum, latex adhesives or other glues to attach them to the face and, in some cases, if a character must reveal bare arms or legs, the body. Prosthetics are made to fit the curves of the actor's natural form, and move naturally as an actor changes facial expressions.

Mask Cover Grease Paint

Prosthetics must be covered up to blend in with an actor's skin, and everyday make-up isn't heavy enough to complete the illusion. Professionals use mask cover grease paint to completely and evenly cover prosthetic attachments, finishing with powder to seal the paint and prevent it from smudging.

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About the Author

Christina Sloane has been writing since 1992. Her work has appeared in several national literary magazines.