Tips for Creating Realistic SFX Makeup

Tips for Creating Realistic SFX Makeup

Have you ever seen your favorite characters getting wounded onscreen and wondered if those wounds are real? Well, you'd be happy to know they're not real!

The wounds you see onscreen are the magic of SFX makeup.

In case you're hearing this phrase for the first time, let me tell you what it means:

SFX makeup is used to create fake wounds, supernatural creatures like werewolves and vampires, and aging effects like wrinkles. 

The key to nailing SFX makeup looks is making it look as realistic as possible. From a small scar to a first-degree burn wound, SFX makeup should look real enough to fool the audience, even if they know it's fake. 

It is tempting to create over-the-top and dramatic looks, but if you want your work to look natural, there are some guidelines you need to follow.

Lucky for you, I've listed these guidelines below:

How To Make Your SFX Makeup Look Real

1. Think about what you are creating

Your first step should be to pause and think about the look you're creating.

If you're a budding artist who's landed your first gig, think about the scenario: if you're doing a scar, how did the character get that scar? Were they wounded with a knife? Was it an accident? 

If so, the scar you create should look like it. Many pictures are available online to study and then create similar SFX looks!

Let's discuss another simple scenario: a vampire bite mark on someone. If the vampire has two prosthetic canines to bite people, the wounds should have two bite marks. Sounds like a duh, but you'd be surprised what you forget/miss when creating something. 

It's little details like that you have to watch out for. They may seem insignificant, but they will go a long way toward making your SFX makeup look as natural as possible!

2. Don't Overuse Fake Blood!

Fake blood is one of the most popular SFX tools artists use to bring life to their work. 

Take wounds, for example. You can easily find the imperfections in the SFX wound you've created by covering it up with blood. And it makes complete sense, right? Injuries are supposed to bleed!

However, too much of it can throw people off and be a dead giveaway that it's fake. Plus, too much blood hides the actual SFX work. To the viewer, it just looks like…a mess.

Pro Tip: if you're working with fake blood, ensure the color resembles actual blood. I've often seen SFX looks where the fake blood is the wrong shade of red and has horrible sheens. You don't want that! That's a typical mistake artists make. 

3. Don't Neglect Body Parts!

This may sound like a given, but it's easy to miss body parts like the ears. 

Imagine this: the SFX look you're trying to execute depicts a person having experienced a car crash (sorry for being so violent!). It's highly unlikely the person's ears would be unscathed if a person is hurt and has wounds all over their face. 

Or another example, their hands are hurt. However, you can see the perfectly-manicured nails intact. How is that even possible? You tell me!

You must look out for these tiny details if you want people to stop for a second and think: that looks so real! 

4. Use SFX Tools Properly

I know it can be intimidating to use prosthetics and other SFX tools, especially if you're a beginner. It can be pretty challenging!

They have the power to make or break a look. 

If not used properly, it can ruin the whole vibe you were going for initially. That could be disastrous if you're working professionally. 

Several tutorials are free on YouTube, demonstrating how to use prosthetics to achieve the particular effect you're hoping for.

Pro Tip: If you have pre-made prosthetics that aren't sitting quite well and have weird bulges, fix them using latex and cotton on the edges! 

Parting Thoughts

Here are four valuable tips for achieving that realistic SFX makeup look you've always admired. I hope these work for you! 

Have any other tips in mind? Let me know in the comments below!

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