How Stage Makeup Works

Stage Makeup and Finishing Touches

Once your foundation, highlights, shading and eye shadow are to your liking, it's time to apply powder. Press your powder puff into your container of powder and gently shake off any excess powder -- too much powder can cause makeup to cake. Gently dab at the applied makeup to set it in place. This should also prevent your makeup from appearing too shiny when you're under the lights.

After setting your makeup, you can apply eyeliner, mascara, lip color and rouge. It's okay to use makeup to exaggerate your features. Again, keep the venue in mind when applying makeup. You want your makeup to enhance your character without being distracting. Remember that most productions take place under bright lights, which tend to deemphasize your face's structure. You need to use makeup to prevent your face from appearing featureless or flat.

Eyeliner helps emphasize your eyes. You can use either a pencil liner, a brush with a powder-based eyeliner or an eyeliner pen. Stick with basic colors like black or brown-black. Male actors can use eyeliner to outline their lower eyelids from the outer edge of the eye to the center.

For lip color, lipstick and lip outliner are both useful. You'll want the outliner to be a shade or two darker than the lip color. Use the outliner to define your lips. The color will prevent your lips from blending in with the rest of your face. It doesn't need to be a dramatic color.

Apply rouge with a soft brush. Again, subtle colors are fine if that's what your character requires. Use the rouge to define your cheeks and give shape to your face.

These are just the basics of makeup application. Some productions will require further consideration. Playing a character from a different era of history may necessitate special makeup techniques to achieve the right look. Special effects such as prosthetics or burns, cuts, bruises and other wounds also require extra work.

Makeup can become a fun and helpful part in creating a character. Novice actors may find the process intimidating, but with a little practice and research it's easy to grasp the basics. And remember that while theater techniques aren't subtle -- you shouldn't use a heavy hand if your project is a video, film or photo shoot.

Learn more about makeup through the links on the following page.

Related Articles


  • Corson, Richard et al. "Stage Makeup." 10th Edition. Boston: Pearson. April 17, 2009.
  • "Stage Makeup Tips." (Nov. 7, 2009)
  • Parker, Alaina. "Stage Makeup." Dec. 7, 2006. (Nov. 6, 2009)

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