Gabrielle Rivera is a QC Makeup Academy graduate and professional makeup artist. To see more of her work, visit her Instagram here. Today, she draws on her professional expertise – as well as her experience in QC’s Master Makeup Artistry Course – to break down the similarities and differences between theater makeup and makeup for film/television!

As a makeup artist, you need to make sure that you are well-versed in all of the tricks of the trade! This is the single best way to prepare yourself for any job or opportunity that may present itself. 

A great way for you to gain experience, exposure, and networking opportunities is by working as an MUA in film, television, and/or theater. However, a rookie mistake would be to assume that film and/or television makeup requires the same products, or even the same approach, as theatrical and/or live stage makeup.

Keep reading to learn the differences between these two makeup mediums…

Film and Television Makeup

When diving into the world of film and television makeup, there are a few things to consider first. This way, you can always guarantee that your client’s makeup will have a flawless finish!

What is the style of the film or TV show?

First, you must understand that the style of film and television makeup is rather unique.

This type of makeup application is very different from the bold, heavy looks most commonly seen on the internet. Social media makeup is often defined by caked on foundation, thick concealer, and intense highlight and contouring.

However, these are exactly the things you want to avoid doing when working on clients for film/television! In this industry, the cameras and lighting used are both 4K  high definition. They can spot (and showcase) the tiniest details. 

This means the makeup needs to reflect a flawless, natural finish! Subtlety is the name of the game when it comes to this type of makeup.

What do you want to accomplish?

Using the right foundation and concealer, your goal will always be to even out the skin tone – without caking on the setting powder. Film and TV makeup doesn’t require the “baking” step that’s become so popular on Instagram and YouTube.

With film/TV makeup, setting powder is mostly used to help minimize oils on the skin. What you want to avoid is applying too much powder, as this can have an unwanted, opposite effect. Too much powder will result in the skin looking extremely dry.

As we mentioned above, any imperfections are only going to be amplified when when filmed with high definition equipment!

It’s also critical to add that certain products, such as highlighter, are rarely used as part of film and/or television makeup. For example, highlighter is typically avoided because when the 4K cameras and lighting pick it up, it creates undesirable results.

For starters, it can make the actor’s skin look oily. It can also cause a glare on the cameras. (Unless the director is J.J. Abrams, they’re probably not going to want that.) 

Using the right products + tools

The products and techniques a makeup artist should use when creating looks for film and television require a light hand. You’re only going to want to use products which have been professionally made for HD (high definition).

You want to create looks that are more natural, and pick up well when on camera. Regular makeup products won’t be as reliable in helping you achieve this.

Top Makeup Products for Film and Television Makeup

  • HD foundations and concealers 
  • Airbrush liquid foundation 
  • Creme blushes 
  • Neutral colored lip liners / lipsticks / lip tints
  • Loose, translucent setting powder

Theatrical and Stage Makeup

Unlike film/TV makeup, which should look “natural” and lightweight, theatrical and stage makeup requires the opposite approach. This is because heavier products and bolder looks are needed.

Theatrical and live stage makeup needs to be able to withstand different conditions!

When you watch a play or live performance, you can’t rely on cameras to zoom in on the actors’ faces and illustrate the tiniest details. Often, you’re sitting in a rather large theater space. The further away you are from the stage, the harder it is to see the actors’ faces.

Theater/stage makeup aims to compensate for this by offering exaggerated looks and features. This way, the makeup can be seen from all the way at the back of the room! In these types of settings, the lighting used also tends to be quite harsh, in order to properly illuminate the entire set. If the makeup is too natural or subtle, this can also alter how the performer looks altogether!

Specifically, it can easily make the actor appear washed-out or flat. Rather, theatrical makeup should be applied with an exaggeration of the client’s features. For example, because the actor needs the makeup to withstand harsh lighting, the artist may choose to:

  • Over-line the lips
  • Apply thicker contour
  • Add bolder blush
  • Deepen the eyebrows and eye shadows, to create the illusion of larger eyes

Top Makeup Products for Stage Makeup

For this medium, you’d be best off using proper makeup products, specifically made for the stage. These products are specifically crafted to be able to endure harsher conditions while remaining vibrant.

Some of the most commonly used brands for theatrical and stage makeup include:

(That last one is a true Holy Grail item, by the way!)

Education

Although I’ve provided some insight into the differences between film/television makeup, compared to theatrical/live stage makeup, it’s important to note that this information only just scratches the surface.

If you want to continue learning, and broaden both your industry knowledge and skill-set, my recommendation is schooling. Hands-down, one of the most efficient ways to learn about makeup application techniques, as well as the proper products to use for different categories of makeup, is to learn through a reputable makeup school

QC Makeup Academy’s Master Makeup Artistry Course teaches each category of makeup in great depth. Unit F of this all-encompassing makeup course dives into proper makeup training for the entertainment industry.

When you apply for the MMA Course, you’ll grow and deepen your knowledge on:

  • Makeup techniques and applications
  • Makeup theory and foundation
  • The best products and practices to use
  • Business insight

On top of your course texts and makeup kit, you’ll also be provided with video tutorials teaching you how to create looks for the entertainment industry.

This incredible program is a solid way to expand your makeup artistry, strengthen your portfolio and resume, and help you stand out from the competition!

If you do one thing to further your makeup career in 2020, let it be earning your professional certification through QC Makeup Academy!

Click here to see an actual course sample of the Theatrical Makeup section in the Master Makeup Artistry Course!

Author Sarah-Lynn Seguin

More posts by Sarah-Lynn Seguin

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