Special Effects Makeup

A short Lesson

Lesson Topics

  • History of special effects
  • Types of special effects makeup
  • Purpose of Casualty Makeup
  • Important things to remember as an injury artist
  • Application and tools of Casualty Makeup

Lesson Materials

  • Handout
  • Tools
  • Makeup
  • Video


  • Apply a bruise
  • Create a story around your injury
  • List different types of casualty makeup

Where it all began

Going back to the precamera 1700's when magicians used optical illusions to astound crowds special effects have always captivated audiences. Because the early silent movies didn't show color, special effects makeup had limitations. Actors had to find their own ways to help bring their character to life.

Lon Chaney Sr was one of the first known special effects makeup artists. Born to deaf-mute parents in Colorado in 1883, actor Lon Chaney Sr. was a master of pantomime on the big screen as he had to learn to communicate with his parents from a very young age using his hands and his face. As an actor in silent movies he became renowned for his grotesque characters in movies like the hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and the phantom of the Opera (1925). Because of his outstanding ability to transform himself using makeup techniques that he developed and his many facial and body contortions he became known as "The Man of a Thousand Faces"

Pictures of Lon Chaney's makeup

A few Interesting historical facts

  • In the days of silent movies actors had to apply their own makeup
  • The first movie to use prosthetics was "Frankenstien" (1931)
  • The first movie to use foam latex was "the Wizard of Oz" (1939)

Makeup Effects Catergories

Different types of makeup techniques are not only used to enhance physical features but are also used to give the effect of illusion and completely change the way someone looks. Known as special effects makeup it is often abbreviated as SFX or FX

Lets take a look at some of the different type of makeup effects and a few examples

Casualty/Trauma/Injury Effects Makeup

Pictures created by Angie Hincks

Different Types of Casualty Makeup Effects

  • bruises
  • cuts
  • scrapes
  • swelling
  • stiches
  • slit throat and arms
  • bullet wounds
  • stab wounds
  • cigarette burns
  • burns
  • amputation
  • sunburn
  • strangulation
  • scars
  • shock
  • death
  • drug addict

The Purpose

As well as the obvious use of special effects in Movies and Television to create the effect of illusion "Moulage Makeup Effects" as it is know as in the industry is also used to provide visual training in real life effect for the emergency services, military, field medic or civilian first aider. Utilizing high quality moulage techniques and materials in training better equips military medical response personnel for actual battlefield trauma. Real to the eye injury simulations in moulage increases knowledge and performance in three important areas: casualty recognition, rapid reaction time and training retention.

Things to consider as a casualty effects makeup artist

As well as the long hours of being on set for a casualty effects makeup artist there are other things asides from the application of the injury that also need to be looked at

  • the story behind the injury
  • the age of the injury
  • the study of anatomy and physiology
  • the study of the trajectory of the injury you are asked to simulate - it must have a realistic cause and proper effect i.e bullet wounds
  • Other possible injuries
  • Planning of injuries, operations and accidents according to scripts usually given 2 weeks in advance
  • continuity

Some Simple Application Tutorials


All the tools that are needed to make this simple scar is a rose coloured Lip Liner for fresher scar and browner tone for older scar, Rigid Collodion Scarring Liquid and some powder and a brush


The tools needed for bruises are a stipple sponge, a bruise wheel (or similar eye shadow colours)

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