Prosthetic Makeup

The makeup industry is constantly growing especially in film/tv, theater and
photography. There is more demand than ever as more and more
productions are made.
Most of us have seen an incredible example of an actor getting transformed
into an amazing character or creature. You have probably wondered how the
professionals in the industry make actors unrecognizable. Let’s dive in and
get a glimpse of exactly what Prosthetics and Special FX Makeup is and the
skills it requires.
What is Prosthetic Makeup?
Prosthetic makeup is a process that may seem
complex but can be taught to just about
anyone. All you need is an instructor who has
the experience and knowledge to share the
process with you. This process includes
sculpting, molding and casting techniques to
generate a makeup effects masterpiece. For
example let’s take the classic Nightmare on
Elm Street; Freddy Krueger’s makeup was created by David B. Miller, as he was
inspired by playing around with the cheese on a
pepperoni pizza! Next, the oh so talented Kevin
Yagher, adjusted the design for the sequels and
his design is what most people picture when they think of Freddy Kruegar

Actor Robert Englund
photograph by Tony Bock/Toronto Star Via Getty Images
Makeup artist David Miller testing the Freddy Krueger makeup on Robert B.
Englund for Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Kevin Yagher’s Freddy Kruger
Unrecognizable, I know!!! As you can see from the photos above, the artist is
creating facial reconstructions from scratch to alter the appearance of the
model or actor, such as; elf ears, exaggerated noses, chins, jaws, teeth and
much more. The possibilities of prosthetics are endless.
What is Special FX Makeup?
Special effects makeup is any makeup involving cosmetics that creates a non-traditional effect, with an illusion of
sorts. Its main focus: old age, creature, character, prosthetic makeup and even body art and face painting can be
considered a special effect. Realism and imagination are put to the test with special effects. Making your craziest
interpretations come to life. Take the show Gray’s Anatomy for example! Every time there is a patient coming in
with an open head wound or has a decapitated limb, this is the artistic ability of special effects makeup.
What are the Differences Between Special FX and Prosthetic Makeups?
Although, these two schools of makeup artistry are closely linked. Comparing SFX vs prosthetic make-up has
some subtle differences. Prosthetic makeup is actually a type of special effect makeup.
While SFX make-up usually focuses more on application to the actor’s skin. The prosthetic makeup school
focuses more on producing actual prosthetics. Pieces that can be worn or added to a body in order to give a
different look. If a horror or sci-fi film requires a person to have “devil horns” then these will probably have been
made by a prosthetic makeup artist.
Special effects prosthetics can often be applied on the day of a shoot. Prosthetics might have been made long in

advance and in some cases takes a long time to produce.
What Products and Materials are Used?
One of the key parts of special effects makeup programs is
learning about the materials. There are a lot of tools and
materials that different make-up artists need to use in order to
create the right look. Different artists will also have their own
ways of doing things.

With prosthetics, prefabricated pieces are applied to an actor’s person. This means using silicone, latex or gelatin
for the prosthetic and then gluing it on the actor. The glue required has to be skin-friendly and hold up to the
rigors of an all day shoot. Standard alcohol activated palettes of make-up can also be added later to add to the
color of the prosthetic and make a more lifelike appearance.
Not all special effects make-up is prosthetic make-up and it may require slightly different materials. In special
effects, the materials used also need to be very friendly to human skin due to the fact that they are often applied
directly. Specific 2 part silicone cosmetics, liquid latex and other materials such as gelatin can be useful for this
type of application.
You can also get pre-made parts such as scars or bullet wounds. Which you combine with makeup and
skin-friendly glue to give a more realistic look. However, this is not always the case if starting from scratch.
Looking to get into Special FX or Prosthetic make-up? Here is a list of the materials that FX artists use quite
Special FX Makeup
● Alcohol Activated Palettes
● Cream Color Wheels
● Liquid Latex
● Scar Wax
● Cream Foundations
● 2 part Silicone (Skin Tite or 2nd Degree)
● FX Gelatin
● Rigid Collodion
● Variety of different sized and shaped brushes
Prosthetic Makeup
Sculpting Materials
● Clay
● Sculpting tools
● Clear Coat Spray
Mold Making Supplies
● Ultra Cal 30
● Hydrocal
● Plaster of Paris
● Mold grade Silicone
● Release Agents
● Mold Straps
Casting Materials
● FX Silicone
● FX Gelatin
● Foam Latex
● Liquid Latex
● Prosaide Paste
● ProsAide
● Silicone Adhesive
● Spirit Gum

What Skills Do You Need To Be a Prosthetic or Special FX Makeup Artist?
The truth of the matter is with the right education and a great instructor anyone can learn. To be GREAT at it
means dedication and creative edge.
See below for some key factors/skills that are important to keep in mind when embarking on this journey.
Knowing your materials
It is important to do your research, study the tools/products & their purposes. Because a lack of knowledge in
these can affect the outcome of your work. Therefore, being able to navigate the use of the right tools and
products will help with efficient design and a beautifully realistic outcome. The possibilities become endless!
Understanding coloration and details
Know your platform, understand what you are working with. Being a good makeup artist of any kind involves
learning the following: human coloration, complexions and how the materials and colors available work together
to best complement a look. Understand how different applications work with different textures and apply to
different skin surfaces.
Being Creative and Inventive
Think fast! This is the sort of creative job that might require you to think on your feet. Problems will crop up
regularly, and the solutions aren’t always obvious. People who can think in a creative way are likely to do well in
the industry. Being quick to solve problems and always turning the issue into a successful outcome is crucial.
Performing under pressure may be another requirement in this field, depending if you are working on a film set or
People skills
Rather than having it be awkward and silent during the application
process, make it fun. Make the model/actor comfortable. Shoot to
achieve an amazing overall experience for them. This can help build
your success a great deal, through building connections and
networking. So yes you need to have creative skills but
communication skills are very important as well.
Special FX and Prosthetic Makeup Artists Salary
The salary differences between the two jobs are often minimal. Both
SFX and prosthetic makeup artists can earn a good wage, especially
in areas such as Hollywood. There are different types of
employment, too. A lot of people in the makeup industry go from contract to contract working on a self-employed
basis, so earnings can vary.
According to, the variation in the hourly rate in these jobs can be huge. With $12 to $137.50 per
hour being normal depending on where you reach in the industry. Some SFX specialists will earn more than
some prosthetic artists and vice versa.
The differences between SFX and prosthetic makeup artistry are relatively subtle. In general, prosthetics involve
making attachments and prosthetic items. SFX involves applying these prosthetics and making the makeup
appear realistic, even if there are wounds, bullet holes, deformities, or just an aging process to realistically mimic.