Home Business How Do You Become A Special Effects Makeup Artist In 6 Easy Steps

How Do You Become A Special Effects Makeup Artist In 6 Easy Steps

by William Gist

All TV and film industries are constantly looking to explore new, unique, and even bizarre screenplay ideas to constantly broaden creative boundaries. Many of these ideas can be fictional with the cast playing characters that are zombies, knights, warriors, monsters, etc.

While normal make-up artists are in charge of making the normal characters look pristine, natural, and beautiful, a different type of make-up artist is required to design and put on the makeup of non-human fictional characters and bring them to life.

These make-up artists are known as special effects makeup artists. With fantasy and fictional movies never getting old, these artists see themselves having a high demand in the film and screenplay market.

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A special effects makeup artist can be hired by TV series directors or filmmakers for their films to apply special makeup on the cast. All the zombies, wounds, prosthetics, and artificial makeup you see in movies come from these artists. This puts the skill and talent of special effects makeup artists in high demand, with the top range of special effects make-up artists earning a healthy six-figure income annually.

If you aspire to become a special effects makeup artist to fulfill your dreams and passion, now has never been a more perfect time to do so. CMU College believes that the special effects design career path is for highly creative artists who are passionate about working in special effects make-up labs and if you think you are one of them, then you just might have what it takes to be a special effects make-up artist.

The thing is, the profession of a special effects makeup artist is a niche one and not many people know about it, let alone how to be one. That’s why in this article we’ll provide an easy step-by-step guide that you can follow to become a special effects makeup artist and make your dreams come true.

1) Have a creative interest in make-up

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It’s essential that you have something that drives you to your goals. If you just want to be a special effects makeup artist for the money, we heavily recommend you to not do it and instead just choose the normal make-up career path where you can actually achieve more monetary success.

Your creativity matters a lot as a special effects make-up artist but if you don’t have the passion for it, that creativity will be hard to get when you are working professionally.

2) Practice your make-up skills

If you do have the necessary passion and will to be a special effects make-up artist, then make sure you practice first before doing anything. Try practicing sculpting clay models which are often used for character design.

If you have spare makeup lying around, practice creative ways to apply it on your friends or family. This way you’ll get some practice at your hands and will also know if this is the right career path for you

3) Consider applying for a special effects make-up course

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While make-up schools aren’t necessary to be a special effects make-up artist, they do help quite a lot. Enrolling in a special effects make-up course teaches you fundamentals of make-up from the get-go all the way to the advanced techniques and methods used by top professionals in the make-up industry.

These techniques are taught by professionals with actual industry experience and they can provide practical knowledge of how to succeed as a special effects make-up artist. Depending on what kind of course you take, you might have to study for 6 weeks to 3 years. This will help you experiment with your make-up, which honestly is not a cheap venture, and help you increase your network that can later get you more gigs when you need them.

4) Build your portfolio

A special effects make-up artist, like all creative artists, is required to build a quality portfolio that can put you on the radar of potential employers. An impressive portfolio showcasing your best special effects make-up helps a lot when you are looking for work. Make-up schools can help you build your portfolios by attending special effects make-up conventions where you can practice all the skills you learn for free.

You must constantly keep looking for ways to expand your portfolio and present them properly on your website. Keep updating your portfolio from time to time as all your gigs depend on it.

5) Jump at every opportunity of work

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No special effects make-up artist starts out by working in films directly. There are a lot of smaller-scale jobs that you must go through as a special effects make-up artist, especially at the early stages. These jobs are mostly working as an assistant for a top professional or working under the internship of an organization. Both of these are amazing opportunities for getting work experience and understanding how the industry works.

You can even consider working at theater groups or any cultural groups around you that need special make-up. While you won’t earn much you’ll still get loads of experience for future use. When you start, don’t be shy to take gigs that seem very insignificant or menial – whatever experience you get from these small gigs keeps adding up into your reputation and experience until you are experienced enough to get the big gigs.

6) What you can expect as a special effects make-up artist

The movie industry works on tight deadlines and fast-paced execution and if you find yourself working as a special effects make-up artist in this industry then you should expect a lot of stress. A special effects make-up artist has limited time to apply special makeup on the cast and that can lead to building up a lot of pressure inside you.

However, it’s quite a reputable job and nothing can beat the moment of pride when you take your family to a theater where you can point to the screen and say “Hey, I did that guy’s make-up!”. Special effects make-up artists can average $70k per year but it can easily go to six figures if you are well-experienced.


Being a special effects make-up artist is one of the most unique and interesting jobs one can have and we definitely recommend you try for it if you have the necessary will and passion. We hope this article helped you out, and if it did, please consider following us for regular updates as it will help us out immensely