26 Technical Makeup Terms You Need to Know

Puzzling over a makeup phrase or word that you don’t quite understand? Or just looking to understand makeup lingo?

We’ve put together a list of ever-expanding definitions and technical makeup terms. We hope you find it useful.

Every industry has its own jargon and the world of makeup is no different. Thanks to social media some technical makeup terms are sneaking into the everyday language (like ‘MUA’) but there are still many unusual ones and some that can be a bit confusing (such as ‘media’). We’ve put together an A-Z of words and phrases used regularly by people across all the makeup artist roles in film, TV, stage and fashion.

1. Baking

This is a technique of applying a light coat of powder which, together with the natural heat from the face, sets or ‘cooks’ the base make-up. As well as having a lasting effect, it adds definition to the face. (Been used by drag artists for years.)

2. Bring it back to life

What to do when make-up is looking dull or tired. (It’s important to be able to recognise immediately when a performer’s make-up needs your attention – rather than leave it to someone else to spot it.)

3. Cameras rolling

The technical term for shooting footage particularly important when you are working in film and TV. And the implication is to keep out of the way so you don’t spoil the scene.

4. Carmens

‘Carmens’ are heated rollers first dating back to the mid 60s. It’s an iconic brand associated with some of the most fashionable and trendsetting hairstyles over the decades.

5. Crossing

Crossing is when anyone crosses in front of the camera when it’s rolling, or about to do so.

6. Dailies

A dailies make-up artist is brought in on a day-to-day basis usually to help on large crowd scenes. (In film making, ‘dailies’ are the raw, unedited footage shot during the making of a motion picture.)

7. Direct applied

Relating to SFX make-up, this means creating a prosthetic as you apply it directly to the face or body rather than using something pre-made.

8. Editorial

‘Editorial’ make-up is for fashion shoots and shows. This is highly creative, camera-ready effects taught on courses such as the 7 Month Makeup and Hair course

9. Final checks

Final checks is the call that gives make-up, hair and wardrobe people the chance to do final tweaks and touch-ups before signalling they’re happy to go ahead and shoot.

10. Laying on hair

This simply means applying directly facial hair such as beards, moustaches, side-burns, etc.

11. Media

As in ‘media make-up’ – generally used to mean TV, film, stage, fashion – rather than simply the world of ‘beauty’ and cosmetics.

12. MUA

Make-Up Artist of course!

13. Muddy 

To ‘muddy’ means to make someone look grubby – maybe dirtying down their fingernails. But it can also be a criticism – implying that the make-up looks unclean or not blended particularly well.

14. Out of your kit

Meaning to use whatever you have brought with you – maybe to sort a last minute request to create a bruise or scratch. Having a well-stocked kit is therefore really important for every MUA.

15. Putting on a wash

No, this isn’t base make-up. It’s using a washing machine – you’ve no idea how many towels and cloths MUAs get through in a day!

16. Runway

This is for those working in fashion – it’s just another word for the catwalk.

17. SA

A supporting artist (SA) – an ‘extra’ or having a walk on part.

18. SFX

Special Effects (SFX) refers to the creation of wounds and scars as well as prosthetic makeup.

19. Spot painting

If you are going for a natural look (eg for children) it can often be easier to spot paint out imperfections rather than apply full make-up.

20. The make-up

As in the actual make-up being applied. But it can also be a reference to a make-up artist (PR consultants are often called ‘PRs’).

21. The natural look

The ‘natural look’ means using as little make-up as possible – just enough so it works on camera or in a theatre.

22. The talent

A term for actors and performers. Never forget that these people are also your clients.

23. Touch up

To tweak and improve make-up, particularly after a period of time.

24. Wig block

A head-shaped block – usually covered in canvas (‘soft block’) – to enable you to dress, display and store wigs.

25. Working ‘off the mirror’

Paying close attention to how makeup looks in the mirror is as important as looking directly at your client’s face.

26. Wrap

As in “it’s a wrap” – the end of shooting a take or filming for the day.

You’ll learn so much more than the latest technical terms on our diploma courses and short courses. Contact Brushstroke and arrange a visit to our makeup training facilities at Longcross Studios or Elstree Studios.