Makeup Basics Suggestions and Tips

Makeup Basics, Suggestions and Tips

Whether you are creating a specific character look for a Halloween party, or you need a makeup that meets the stringent demands of a professional performer, basic knowledge of makeup and how to use it will always get you the best results.

When it comes to creating any character look for Halloween or any other dress up occasion, it's obvious that choosing the right costume is going to be your top priority. There are however, other parts of the character look that are almost equally as important. These little extras are so important that they can literally make or break your costume look depending on whether or not you get the effects just right. One of these very critical elements of course, is makeup. Makeup is obviously not just used to create costume looks.

Makeup application is absolutely essential in a wide variety of theatre and stage productions, and is also heavily relied on by many types of entertainers and performers. Understanding what types of makeup are available in today's marketplace and how to use these makeup products effectively will help you to meet your makeup needs in the best way possible. Whether you are creating a specific character look for a Halloween party, or you need a makeup that meets the stringent demands of a professional performer, basic knowledge of makeup and how to use it will always get you the best results.


Glamour Makeup

Glamour makeup has many applications and a wide variety of uses. Here we will outline some of the basic essentials to give you an idea of how to go about selecting the most appropriate makeup products to achieve the beautiful look you desire. First, begin any glamour makeup application with clean, dry skin. Apply a light moisturizer if desired.

  • Concealer: If you have dark circles under your eyes, unsightly blemishes or other skin imperfections that you wish to camouflage completely with more than just your makeup foundation, a good concealer will do the trick nicely. You can use a slightly lighter shade than your foundation color, but don’t go overboard with the concealer or it may draw more attention to what you are trying to hide. Blend gently with your fingertips or a damp sponge. 

  • Foundation: When creating a glamour makeup look, you are going to want to match your foundation to your natural skin tone as closely as possible for the most natural look. There are many foundation shades to choose from, so getting one that blends naturally and beautifully into your skin should be relatively easy. Try using a dampened sponge to apply the foundation in order to blend it in well. Apply the foundation downward, blending it in the direction that the hair on your face grows. Good blending is essential; pay particular attention to blending in the jaw line area. 

  • Blush: There are many shades of blush to choose from to help you achieve a wide range of looks. Generally speaking, if you are fair, try to stay away from shades that are very dark. If you have a more olive-toned complexion, lighter shades may not show up or may appear too light on your skin. For the most natural look, apply the cheek color lightly to the apples of the cheeks. A more dramatic, contoured look can be obtained by applying a deeper shade just below the cheekbones. Always blend the color in well so there are no obvious lines of demarcation; this creates a much more flattering and natural look. 

  • Setting Powder: Using a fluffy powder brush, apply a light dusting of a setting powder after applying your foundation and blush. This will remove any shine from your face and will also set your foundation/blush so that your makeup lasts longer. Don’t be tempted to skip this step! 

  • Eyes: There are many ways to create drama and glamour on your eyes with eye color. One basic way to apply eye makeup is to apply a lighter, neutral color on the eyelid and a deeper color in the crease of the eyelid as a contour shade. The key to successfully making this look good is to blend, blend, blend the colors together gently with a good blending brush. A great way to set off your eyebrows is to add a lighter highlight eye color just underneath the brow area and also blend this in well. Using a light touch and an eyebrow pencil that closely matches your eyebrows, fill in the eyebrows with short, wispy strokes. Never draw on a harsh and obvious eyebrow line! Line your upper (and lower, if desired) eyelids with either liquid or pencil eyeliner. Apply false eyelashes for a dramatic touch, and a couple of coats of mascara to finish

  • Lips: To achieve a beautiful lip line and lip color that lasts, apply a lip liner around the natural line of your lips. Be very careful to draw on the bow of your upper lip line, as this is the most noticeable part and the central focus of the lips. You can use the liner pencil to fill in the lip area if you want, it will help the lip color you apply to last longer. Apply lip color with a lip brush by filling in the area in between the lip liner lines you have drawn on. Apply lip gloss if you want to add shine.

Face and Body Painting Makeup

Whether you are a professional face painter, or just a novice wanting to get in on the action, face and body paints are a fun and exciting way to create very unique, artistic and exciting looks with makeup! Face and body paints are easy to apply, pigment-rich and come in a wide array of vibrant colors. Face paints are also water soluble for easy soap and water clean up. Face paint colors can be purchased individually or are also available in coordinated palettes that work well together, depending of course on your needs. All you need in order to activate the face paint is a little water and a brush to put it on--after that, your only limitation is your imagination! Beginners and more experienced face painters will appreciate how smoothly and easy quality face paint is to apply. Easy wash off and clean up makes everyone's life a lot easier.


Glitter is an exciting and easy way to really jazz up your face paint designs. Glitter can be applied on top of any face paint color to add a shimmering and dramatic effect. Some glitters are loose like powder and can be carefully brushed onto the face paint; others come in a gel form and will glide on your face with ease with your finger or by using a brush. Very fine glitter called Pixie or Fairy dust can be applied gently with your finger, a brush or even a cotton-tipped swab. Using a glitter that matches the color of face paint you applied will add dimension and depth to the color. 

Details and outlines are an important part of any face paint design. Lines and details can be applied with a thin brush and a darker, lighter or contrasting shade of face paint. Sometimes you may want to use a detail liner pen for more control. These nifty fine point liners are available in a wide range of colors and will make it very easy to add the finer points and small details that will really make your painted design come to life.

Theatrical and Performance Makeup

As a performer, your makeup becomes an essential part of creating your character and allowing your character's facial features to be seen from a distance. The extra demands created by being under lights or while up on stage require a makeup that is not only high performance but is also enduring. Stage makeup not only needs to look good with true and vibrant colors, but it also must go on easily, while resisting melting and streaking. One of the most common mistakes that stage performers make when doing their makeup is to go too light with their makeup application. The point of stage makeup is to make your features very visible from afar, which may mean that your makeup appears very heavy when you are looking at it up close in ordinary light. It's always a good idea to do a practice run with your intended stage makeup when you are rehearsing under stage lights. Have someone sit several rows back in the audience and then from that perspective you can more accurately assess how your makeup looks and if it is doing it's job. Stage makeup that isn't strong or vivid enough will cause you to look very washed out once you are under the lights. A general rule of thumb is that the bigger the venue is, the bolder the stage makeup will need to be. Before you apply heavy stage makeup you will always want to begin with a clean and dry face. Then, apply a light moisturizer.

  • Foundations made for the stage need to be significantly heavier than everyday makeup. Foundations specifically for use by performers come in several forms. Cake, cream or stick makeup is created to give a fabulous base coverage that is also long lasting. These foundations are easy to apply and blend into the skin with a dampened sponge applicator. The lights of the stage can be very hot and can be tough on makeup; this is why you absolutely must use makeup that is designed to endure these challenging conditions. 

  • Blushers specifically created for use on the stage are highly concentrated and vibrant. A little color goes a long way and blends easily with any foundations. These blushers come in powder form and can be brushed onto the skin with a brush, or in crème form that can be easily applied with a damp sponge applicator or even with your fingertips. 

  • Setting powder is an important step in any stage makeup application process. Powder will help to set the makeup so that even under stage lights, it will not run or melt. Setting powder is also absorbent and will help to remove distracting shine from the face. 

  • Eye shadows created for use by stage performers are designed to resist creasing and caking, while blending well so you can simply create eyes that are made to be seen. For eyes that really pop, apply a pale shade of eye shadow on the lids and a darker color on the outer half and in the crease of the eyelids, sweeping the eye shadow up and outward toward the brow. Eyeliner applied in a thin line across the upper and lower lash lines will add visual impact and drama to the eye area. Eyeliner can also be used to create other visual effects necessary for stage makeup, such as drawing on wrinkles or facial lines to create a more aged appearance. False eyelashes on females are a wonderful way of adding emphasis to the eyes so they can be better seen while on stage. Male performers absolutely should use eyeliner and even mascara. It won’t be seen as such from a distance, but it will help the eyes to be seen better from far away; using a soft shade of brown will create the eye emphasis that you want with a more male-appropriate and natural look. Draw on eyebrows with a pencil using short strokes. Give the brows a nice strong arch to really open up the eyes. 


  • Lips are an important facial feature that will require careful makeup application in order to give them the emphasis they need from a stage standpoint. Good lip products will remain true to color and endure through any demanding performance. Using a lip pencil to draw in your lip line will help to ensure that you create a great lip shape as well as a base for your lip color. Use a vibrant color that is much deeper than you would use in everyday street makeup, but stay away from anything that is overly loud and intensely bright unless that is part of a unique character’s look. Bright red may be too much for some characters, even on the stage, so test your color under the lights and see how it looks. Sometimes a very strong pink tone that almost looks red can create a vibrant look that makes the lips really stand out and still look natural from a distance. Deep burgundy, purples or brownish lip colors are great for creating “darker” characters, but be careful in using these if you aren’t going for the look of a more evil character. Match your lip liner and lip color closely for a natural and long lasting look. Lip-gloss is not usually necessary in stage makeup but using a little will add some shine to your lips if that is desired.


Special Effects Makeup/Halloween Makeup

When it comes to transforming yourself from your everyday normal self into a completely different character for Halloween or another dress up event, nothing can help you accomplish this faster than special effects costume makeup. There are literally hundreds of different makeup products that will help you to create the specific character look that you desire, and you don't have to be a professional makeup artist in order to use them and get great results. Here we will cover some of the most popular and essential special effects makeup tools that you may want to try.

  • Blood - Using stage blood is almost mandatory for some of the more monstrous and gory looks that Halloween is most known for. Having a great stage blood product to use is going to give your look an extra creepy and bleeding appearance that is almost too realistic! Liquid stage bloods are designed to stay moist so they will retain a “dripping” look. Coagulated blood gels are a little thicker and are designed not to drip. These coagulated gels are perfect to apply on open wounds you have created with prosthetics or latex. A coagulated blood gel looks more like a wound that has begun to scab over. All stage blood products may potentially stain, so you must be extremely careful when you use them. Pretesting a little bit on your skin is always a good idea. Most stage bloods wash off easily, with just a little bit of soap and water. 

  • Crepe Hair - Crepe hair is available in a wide range of colors in curly or straighter lengths. Most crepe hair comes braided, but once the hair is unraveled it can be cut and applied as desired to the face with spirit gum, creating amazingly realistic beards, mustaches and sideburns. Crepe hair can be cut into any length you desire, can be ironed to straighten some of the curl and can also be painted with liquid makeup if desired. 

  • Spirit Gum - Spirit gum is a resin product that is used as an adhesive in makeup applications. Spirit gum is used to apply crepe hair, prosthetics and appliances, bald caps, etc. Using Spirit Gum Remover and then following this step up by washing the area thoroughly with soap and water can remove Spirit gum completely. 

  • Extra Flesh - Extra flesh is a waxy compound that is mixed with fibers that will help you to create the creepy look of scars, cuts or decomposing flesh. Extra flesh is also an easy way to make moles and warts. Extra flesh is very easy to use--just create the desired shape, apply to the skin and blend in the edges. No adhesive is necessary. This product works extremely well when used in conjunction with stage blood. 

  • Modeling Putty or Wax - Modeling wax has a number of wonderful uses in special effects makeup application. This handy wax can be used to smooth out the edges of applied prosthetic pieces so that they blend more naturally into the skin. Modeling wax is also good for building up specific facial features, such as noses or cheeks; it can also be used to block out and cover up eyebrows. 

  • Liquid Latex - Liquid latex has a plethora of uses when it comes to creating special effects makeup looks. Liquid latex can be used to create a variety of skin textures. Liquid latex is also a useful tool to have on hand when applying prosthetics and appliances to the skin. It can also help to blend in the edges of the prosthetics seamlessly. Liquid latex is available in several colors. 

  • Setting Powder - Setting powder is one of the most important elements to your makeup application process even though it is the one that is likely the least visible! Setting powder will ensure that your makeup is set. It will absorb extra moisture so that your look remains matte. Setting powder is best applied liberally by pressing it gently into the skin with a powder puff; any excess powder can be removed easily with a fluffy brush. For even better makeup endurance, you can mist the face with a barrier spray; this will make the makeup last even longer. 

  • Halloween Makeup Kits - Specific Halloween makeup kits contain all the makeup colors you will need in order to create various costume character looks. These kits are a convenient and easy way to assemble the colors that you need while ensuring that you will have everything you need to create the look you desire. These kits are great for beginners as they come with complete instructions for use and a great photo of a finished look to give you something to look at for inspiration. Some of the available character makeup kits you may want to try: Witch, vampire, monster, clown, pirate or werewolf.

Clown Makeup

Clowns are one of the most popular costume characters out there. If you want to recreate a clown look of your very own, don’t let the heavy makeup intimidate you. Applying clown makeup doesn’t have to be complicated; in fact, even as a beginner, you can apply a very simple clown face and get great results. Having the right makeup products is half the battle and knowing how to correctly apply the makeup is the other half of the equation!

There are some basic essential items that you will need in order to apply a great basic clown face.

  • White grease paint or clown white makeup
  • Red grease paint or clown makeup
  • Black grease paint or clown makeup
  • Other clown makeup colors according to your desired clown face design
  • Brushes, Cotton Tip Swabs and Sponge applicators
  • Setting Powder

To create a very basic whiteface clown look follow these simple instructions.

Begin with a clean and dry face. Apply the white clown makeup to the entire face with a sponge applicator. Make sure that you have applied the makeup evenly over the entire face, checking to make sure that some areas are not too thick or too thin. The goal is to get the face an evenly opaque white, with as little makeup as possible, so take your time and blend the makeup well. Patting the makeup a little bit with your sponge will help get even coverage. Next, you will want to take a cotton-tipped swab and draw on the shape of your clown mouth over the white, cutting the shape into the white. You will need to remove as much of the white makeup in this area as possible before you apply your mouth makeup so that you get a strong coloration in the mouth area. Using the cotton swab, you can also cut into any other areas where you may be adding facial features such as a nose or cheeks. Using a cotton swab in this way allows you to check for errors in your shapes and correct them before you apply the red color.

Before you can apply your other facial features, you must set your white makeup with a setting powder. Do not even think about skipping this step! Apply the setting powder by patting a substantial amount of the powder onto the face with a large powder puff. It will probably take about a tablespoon of powder to properly powder down a clown face. Any excess can be removed with a fluffy brush. Next you will want to fill in the areas you have drawn on and cut out with the cotton swab, using the chosen colors. Once you are finished with this step, gently apply more setting powder. Emphasize your eyes with black eyeliner as desired and mascara helps a lot, too.

Every clown’s face has it’s own unique personality. You will quickly discover that using a variety of differently shaped facial features can change your clown’s entire look. Experiment with different shapes of mouths, noses and eyebrows to get a wide variety of clown looks that will best coincide with your own natural facial expressions and the desired personality of the clown you are trying to portray.


Let's Go!

Selecting and learning how to apply the right makeup for your costume or performance needs does not have to be confusing or daunting. By choosing the right makeup products and tools, even beginners can get really great results. You don’t have to be a professional makeup artist to appreciate the great makeup look you can achieve by using quality makeup products. There’s no need to be intimidated by costume makeup--you might even be surprised at how easy most makeup products are to use. Have fun using your imagination and being creative. May all your makeup adventures be good ones!