Special effects makeup (SPFX for short) is some of the most challenging and rewarding of artistry skills a makeup artist can accomplish. Many people go to school to learn special effects, but there are many “do it yourself” methods that can get you started on the right path. The real key to learning special effects is not being afraid to experiment and to always practice.

Things You'll Need


Invest in quality makeup. Ben Nye makes professional and affordable makeup kits for learning some of the basics, such as bruises, burns, cuts, monsters, zombies and even wrinkles. All the Ben Nye kits come with complete easy-to-follow directions and are sold at costume stores all over the world.

Books are a important resource for learning, even in the world of makeup. Kevyn Aucoin’s book “Making Faces” is a useful resource for learning how to contour and change the shape of people’s faces. Contouring is one of the most important things to master when creating monsters and 3D effects such as wounds. Janus Vinther wrote a book called “Special Effects Makeup,” which has been a standard in most SPFX schools across the country and goes beyond the basics. Vinther’s book also pairs nicely with the Ben Nye kits.

Practice on friends and build a portfolio. Once you have a couple of looks down, start taking pictures of your finished product. Try to find a photographer to take professional photographs that really showcase your work.

Look for assistant jobs or volunteer at local theaters. Even if you have just graduated from special effects makeup school, assisting accomplished makeup artists and volunteering in theaters will give you hands-on industry experience. If you haven’t gone to school, this will be where you can really see how far you can push your talent. Working in the field opens up doors to finding jobs in the special effects industry.

References and Resources

Ben Nye kits