The Make-up Department

An overview of the make-up team in film and television, from the designer to the trainee, and a look at some specialist areas


The make-up department is responsible for the research, design, the application, maintenance and continuity of make-up during feature film and television productions. There may be a separate hair department, or just the one department that looks after both the hair and make-up requirements. This depends on the scale (and budget) of the production.

A make-up artist has to create a wide range of looks, from the contemporary to recreating period styles, or transforming an actor's face and body using prosthetics to making it looks as if someone has no make-up on at all. Make-up also includes the application of facial hair, bald caps, tattoos, body paint to creating casualty effects such as scars, wounds, injuries and blood. All make-ups then must be maintained during filming and are photographed and logged for reference.

Make-up and hair are key elements in the overall design of films, creating a look that is appropriate for the characters, time periods, setting and overall style of the production.


Actors performing in a theatrical production normally do their own make-up. A make-up artist may be employed if there is specialist make-up required (like prosthetic pieces for the Beast in "Beauty And The Beast"), or a designer may be involved in the set-up of a production to design the make-ups and show the actors how to apply the designs for the show. It is more common to find make-up artists working in the wig department.

Stage make-up is different to film and television make-up, as the make-up is required to work with stage lighting and the size of the venue to enable to an audience to see the actors' faces and expressions from varying distances.


Fashion make-up is used for editorial photography as well as fashion shows. The make-ups required can vary tremendously from natural to avant garde - more experimental or highly artistic make-up.

A fashion make-up artist works under the requirements of the client e.g. the dress designer, the clothing label or the outlet.

There is usually a hairdresser on fashion shoots or, for bigger productions like a fashion show, a separate hair department.


A personal make-up artist works closely with a principal actor, overseeing and maintaining their make-up for the duration of the production. They don't necessarily come under the direction of the designer.


Prosthetics are used to change an actor's face and body for a variety of reasons like ageing, creating aliens or monsters, or to subtly change a person's features to make them look like a historical character.
Prosthetics are also used to create casualty effects and injuries (e.g. broken bones, scars, wounds), any body part to a complete corpse, bones and "blood and guts" effects.


Body painting is the temporary artwork applied direct to the skin. Lasting for several hours, or at most (in the case of Mehndi or "henna tattoo"), a couple of weeks. Body painting that is limited to the face is known as face painting.



To change the appearance of an actor's eye colour or pupil size/shape, contact lenses are custom made by specialist contact makers. It is also a requirement that a contact lens technician is on set to fit the contacts during filming.


Specialist makers will take a mould of the actor's teeth using dental alginate - this ensures the final sculpted fake teeth fit the actor properly, not only for their comfort and safety, but for the realism - HD and closeups are not forgiving!

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