Gabrielle Rivera is a QC Makeup Academy graduate and professional makeup artist. To see more of her work, visit her Instagram here.
Whether you’re an up-and-coming special FX makeup artist or a master artist with experience, landing competitive makeup jobs takes a good portfolio. Having a versatile and up-to-date professional makeup portfolio will separate you from other special effects artists.
Check out my tips for building a special FX makeup portfolio to land those jobs!
Create a versatile portfolio
As a growing special effects makeup artist myself, I believe it’s instrumental to include a variety of photos in your portfolio. An array of different work will help make you and your artistry more marketable.
Your special FX portfolio should include the basics of special FX, such as bruising, scars, and blood application. But it should also delve into advanced special effects techniques, including bald cap application, working with crepe hair, and (most importantly) prosthetics. Avoid overloading your portfolio with photos that are too similar to one another. Nobody needs to see five slightly different shots of the same look!
When building your portfolio, do your best to diversify your content. Don’t just showcase one style of special effects makeup. Your portfolio should include a mixture of different styles to show the breadth of your makeup artistry skills. It’ll be difficult to stand out if you can only provide one or two styles. Think about including gore looks in addition to aging makeup. It’s also a great idea to highlight simple and advanced prosthetic application looks.
Aside from photos, what else should I include?
Having good quality photos in your portfolio isn’t always enough. Many times, photographers or agents want to know more about the artist as a professional. It is always a good idea to include a brief resume-like page in your portfolio. List your professional makeup training, your makeup certifications, and your credentials for any original published work.
Depending on the job, the employer may be looking for specific criteria in their makeup artist. After all, they want to ensure their vision will be accurately brought to life. Include the list of makeup tools and products you are familiar with to create your special FX looks. Although you want to impress your potential client or employer, remember to be honest with them. Don’t oversell your experience with various styles and makeup looks if you’re lacking in those areas. You never want to bite off more than you can chew!
Some looks require preparation before the shoot, especially if you’re making your own prosthetics. But when you’re just creating scars, bites, or claw marks, they can be done using a variety of quicker techniques using 3rd Degree or scar wax on-the-spot. Listing products and tools you are familiar with also show that you are knowledgeable on a variety of products and techniques. This can help make you more marketable.
Here are some products you should familiarize yourself with as a special effects makeup artist to help broaden your SFX looks:
- 3rd Degree/ Scar wax / Gelatin compounds
- Liquid latex / Pros-Aide
- Spirit Gum/adhesives
- 3D Transfers & prosthetics
- Bald caps
- Crepe Hair
- Paints (cream, water-based, and alcohol activated)
- Effects Gels (for creating blood, flesh, and scars)
My personal special effects makeup portfolio
My own portfolio is constantly being updated and revamped. It contains photos of gore makeup styles (both simple and advanced), prosthetic application makeup that I created myself, old age makeup, fantasy makeup looks, and body painting.
I constantly update my portfolio to allow different looks to rotate throughout. This helps you to create a versatile and eye-catching portfolio as you’ll be able to see what photos would work best for the makeup job you’re applying for.
When you’re finally putting together your portfolio, pay as much attention to photo selection and placement as possible. I went through several drafts before settling on the final layout. I wanted to ensure that although some looks were similar, they ranged from simple to more advanced styles and application.
You’ll also want to alternate the style of looks when putting your makeup portfolio together. If you only have a large set of gore photos (scares, bruising, and blood) back-to-back, you run the risk of your potential client or employer losing interest. If it’s not what they had in mind, they may pass you up for another special effects makeup artist without viewing the rest of your portfolio. So be mindful and purposeful when organizing your portfolio!
Strategically build your special FX makeup portfolio
To focus your professional portfolio toward the special FX makeup job you want, research the style of makeup the agent, photographer, or employer is looking for. Once you have that information, you can curate your portfolio to showcase the desired style.
If the job requires a fantasy look, it could mean a range of looks since it’s so vague. So your portfolio should include beauty fantasy makeup, both colorful and dark. In addition, choose a variety of character looks such as aliens and classic characters such as vampires, witches, werewolves, etc. When making your decision, remember that not all employers have the same vision in mind. So include a selection of looks from dark and scary to colorful and glamorous!
Tips of the trade
- Want great photos but don’t know where to start? Invest in a good camera! I can’t stress the importance of obtaining high-resolution photos. Clear, high-resolution photos will show off the details in your makeup. Just be sure to have solid, plain backgrounds. Busy backdrops can draw attention away from the focus, your artistry! Let your clients be the focal point of the pictures, not the background.
- In addition to a quality camera, I’d recommend investing in a ring light because lighting can help to enhance your looks. You can find a ring light kit (stand and light filters included on Amazon).
- Begin by freelancing with photographers. This can help you gain experience, network with industry professionals, and collaborate with the photographer for some great photo-ops of your looks. The photographer can also add your work into their repertoire—kill two birds with one stone!
- Be original! In a world led by social media, it can be hard not to follow the crowd. But creating your own looks is what makes you stand out from the rest.