How to Build Your Special Effects Makeup Kit for CHEAP - QC Makeup Academy

Let’s face it—makeup kits aren’t cheap. Just like a regular professional makeup kit, it can take years to build a quality kit. Especially since there are a ton of new special FX makeup products rolling out onto store shelves in time for Halloween, it’s hard to sift through everything to separate products that are absolute musts for your kit from the products that are all hat and no cattle.

Want to learn how to build a special FX kit that can deliver jaw-dropping results without breaking the bank? Well, keep on reading!

Water-activated Makeup Paints – Ben Nye MagiCake Aqua Paint Palette

These type of paints are great for use on the body. The paints are activated by using water, and you can use more or less water depending on the level of opacity you desire. These paints are easy to use and are longer lasting than the highly transferable grease/cream makeup paints. Remember though, since these paints are activated for use using water, they are not sweat or rainproof!

Grease / Cream Makeup Paints – Ben Nye Master Bruise Wheel

These blendable paints are inexpensive and safe to use around the eye, unlike alcohol-activated paints. You can find cream paint wheels at seasonal Halloween pop-up shops – so they’re widely available! The best part? No activator is needed! All you need to do is scoop out the product using a clean spatula onto a palette and use as is.

Controlling the opacity is difficult for cream makeup since you won’t be able to add more activator to thin it out for use, and the makeup tends to rub off easily (you’ll need a good translucent setting powder), so it’s not recommended for use on the entire body.

sci fi special effects makeup for production

General Adhesive – Pros Aide

Although not as widely available as spirit gum, it provides wear that is more comfortable for your clients as the water-based adhesive is non-irritating and suitable for sensitive skin. You’ll be able to find Pros Aide online or at specialty shops, but they can be just as cheap as spirit gum depending on the amount you buy! You can use this medical grade adhesive to apply lightweight prosthetics and unlike spirit gum, you can easily remove the adhesive and any residue with soap and warm water, or non-targeted makeup removers.

Liquid Latex – Nigel FX Balloon Latex

One of the most versatile products you can have in your kit, liquid latex is indispensable for creating wounds and scars—you can even use this stuff to blend out the seams of your bald caps! You’ll need a mixture of liquid latex and tissues, cotton, or whatever else that is to build up lacerations to disturbingly real effects. It can be difficult to apply makeup on top of latex, so you may have to purchase Castor Seal to create a barrier between the makeup and the latex before you apply your paints.

Silicone Modelling – Alcone 3rd Degree Silicone Modeling Compound

While a bit on the pricy side, sometimes 3rd Degree is necessary to build wounds if your clients have a latex allergy! In conditions where gelatin wouldn’t work (i.e. working in high-temperature conditions where gelatin would melt), 3rd Degree can be an amazing substitute that can produce even better visual effects!

You have to mix together product from jars A and B onto a metal palette. Make sure that you never cross-contaminate between the A and B containers or you can ruin the products – use a spatula! The casting compound looks like real skin when applied, but it can be a bit tricky to work without plenty of practice.

fake wound silicon moulding liquid latex fake blood special effects makeup

Brow-covering Products – Elmer’s Glue

Let’s get into the nitty gritty and talk about some real budget finds! We’re talking dollar-store finds that can round out your kit. If you’re doing any looks that require you to redo your client’s brows or erase them completely, you’re going to need a way to cover them up and then apply makeup over them, all while being able to turn your client’s face back to normal afterwards. You could opt for the much-buzzed about Kryolan Eyebrow Plastic, or even use Pros Aide, but Elmer’s Glue is an incredibly cheap alternative to help you literally glue down your brows!

Setting Powder – Baby Powder

Translucent powders work best so that you can set grease or cream makeup of any color without having to buy color-specific powders. If you have some particularly dark or metallic-based looks, you may want to invest in a good powder that won’t dull the colors and shine. Try Ben Nye’s Neutral Set Colorless Face Powder! Baby powder is a suitable substitute, but you might notice a slight white cast similar to using baby powder for dry shampoo. But if you’re in a pinch, baby powder can be a life saver!

Fake Blood – DIY your own!

Fake blood is a necessity in a Special FX makeup artist’s kit! There’s bright red blood, dark red blood, thinner consistency blood, scab blood—the whole shebang! While there is a wide variety of fake blood out there with differing properties, there’s nothing more economical than making your own. Most recipes call for a mixture of water, corn syrup, liquid food coloring, and corn starch for your basic “fresh” blood look. For darker, murkier “aged” blood, we’ve seen some recipes online that include coffee grounds, chocolate syrup, and even barbeque sauce! The results are dangerously realistic…and delicious, too! Check out Pinterest for a myriad of recipes!

fake blood on model

Miscellaneous / Sanitary Tools

Just like a standard makeup kit, if you’re working on clients, have disposable tools are a must! Cotton balls and sponges are not only fantastic for applying makeup and building up wounds, but they’re also awesome for blending and creating different textures. You’ll also need rubbing alcohol to disinfect products on the spot, blend out bald caps and latex, or activate certain paints.

But most important for sanitation purposes is a palette and spatula for mixing product (like 3rd Degree). Not only will you keep your products from contamination, but you’ll also have the freedom to mix custom colors or consistencies to suit your client’s needs.

Finally, every SFX makeup artist needs a good makeup remover. Isopropyl Myristate is a game-changer. No one brand has the best version of this product since it’s just a generic solvent. You can use this to remove paints and even the sticky residue of your adhesives. Trust us, once you’ve experienced the pain of having spirit gum in your baby hairs, you’ll understand how ground-breaking this stuff is.

Airbrush makeup didn’t make it onto our list since it’s known to be pricy, but learn how to build your airbrush makeup kit on a budget to create unique characters!

Author Celina Feng

More posts by Celina Feng

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Gemma Mannering says:

    Products for special effects can be expensive. It whilst you learn you can use other things to practice with. You can make your own blood, and scar wax and if you need to colour it use some fake blood. It’s super simple but if your using on clients you will need to buy the proper products due to insurance etc. Glue for eyebrows is super cheap and water Activated paints (face paint) is cheap too and you get a decent amount in each pan. I have found the most expensive thing to buy is the alcohol activated paints but if your on a budget you can use a bruise wheel and then mix with 99.9% alcohol which is a great substitute

  • Jordan Garcia says:

    I don’t really know too much about SFX makeup or the products that go along with it, but it’s nice to know that you can make great looks with budget items! I have for sure heard about the Elmer’s glue and baby powder tip from drag makeup, so it’s nice to see that it’s being shared to other people. 🙂

    I also really thought the DIY fake blood was interesting because I have all those things in my pantry! I suppose since Halloween is around the corner, I can definitely make some!

    Thanks for sharing Celina!

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