Special Effects Make-up Training For Film and TV

The trained special effects make-up artist can work across film, TV, and stage

If you’re interested in working as an artist in special effects make-up, you’re in the right place. Brushstroke courses will help you develop your skills and knowledge in all the key areas.


We're showing prospective students around for courses starting 2021 and 2022

Dreaming of a Career in Special Effects Make-Up?

If you’re interested in special effects make-up (SFX), then you’re in the right place. With Brushstroke, you can develop your skills and knowledge across a very broad range in readiness for a fulfilling career working in film and TV or indeed any part of the entertainment industry.

Successful SFX and prosthetics artists have a good grounding in the basics of make-up and hair. For example, make-up application, a familiarity with wigs, and health & safety. We offer a choice of diploma courses which focus on special effects and prosthetics as part of the wider training to turn you into a versatile make-up and hair artist: the 2 Year BTEC Make-Up and Hair, 1 Year ITEC Hairdressing and Barbering7 Month ITEC Make-Up and Hair.

There are different paths open to you as an SFX and prosthetics make-up artist. You could, for example, specialise in designing and creating large film projects. Alternatively, you could work across different media (eg film, TV, stage), combining prosthetics with other areas of make-up and turn yourself into the kind of good ‘all-rounder’ that the industry is seeking these days.

The Life of a Special Effects Make-up Artist

Depending upon your experience and the production itself, you could be creating a bald cap one day then an original special effect (such as a facial part or scar) the next. Alternatively, you might be working from ‘life’ – that is taking a cast from an actor’s facial features, head or body. Then you could create any number of prosthetic pieces, from acid burns to sci-fi monster. Essentially, the working life of a special effects make-up artist can be so different from one day to the next.

Like all make-up and hair artists, the job carries a certain degree of responsibility. For example, putting actors at their ease, explaining the process and making sure they are fully prepared for what might be a long and uncomfortable session. Patch testing their skin to avoid any allergic reaction to the materials you’re using is also an important part of the job.

Special effects and prosthetics artists have a critical role to play in continuity – that is, ensuring the look remains consistent throughout a production. This involves keeping accurate records of formulas, timings and processes to enable future replication. It also means being on standby to ensure that the prosthetics are holding up under shooting conditions. Then, ‘removable pieces’ will need to stored safely between takes to avoid damage or distortion.

Notable productions where special effects make-up features include obvious TV programmes like Casualty and Holby City. Of course, any production involving a traumatic or disaster-led storyline is likely to need some kind of SFX make-up. Such make-up is widely used in films, from Harry Potter to Darkest Hour. Even ageing someone can call for special effects make-up techniques.

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The Skills and Techniques of a SFX Make-Up Artist

The more you know about all aspects of make-up and hair, the better your employment options – whether you want to specialise in sfx and prosthetics or not.

These are the top 10 skills practised by successful special effects and prosthetic make-up artists and therefore taught on Brushstroke courses.

  1. Work from detailed briefs, drawings and specifications. Equally, be able to interpret ideas and create designs that fit a looser brief.
  2. Undertake background research for individual projects which will help you develop an invaluable knowledge bank as you become more experienced. This helps build you a reputation for thoroughness.
  3. Be good with people – the director, production professionals (including other make-up artists) and, of course, actors.
  4. Work with industry standard materials such as latex, gelatin and silicone.
  5. Be proficient in mould-making, casting, joining and removal procedures.
  6. Accomplish techniques such as face and body ageing using prosthetics, creating bald caps, false noses, wounds, scars, skin diseases and tattoos (good make-up application skills generally are really useful).
  7. Have creative flair and good craft skills (ideally sculpting), combined with a strong sense of colour and design.
  8. Be a capable hair and wig artist. Students on all our diploma courses and short courses are taught hair techniques to some degree.
  9. Possess excellent organisational skills and be able to work to deadlines.
  10. Develop good, confident presentation skills.

What next for the aspiring Special Effects Make-Up Artist?

We recommend you get the very best training in special effects at Brushstroke – and other equally important make-up and hair skills. Whether you are a school leaver or career changer, there’s a course to suit you as an individual. You can graduate with recognised make-up qualifications AND the level of skills that future employers need – whether you’re seeking work in film, TV or the stage.

You’ll find lots of colleges promoting special effects make-up courses and certainly, they’ll give you a good idea of what’s involved. But you’ll not receive the comprehensive training offered by Brushstroke. When you are starting out on your career, the film and TV industry want multi-skilled make-up and hair artists. That’s what we offer at Brushstroke. Then, if you want to specialise in SFX and prosthetics make-up, you’ll have all the training and background you need to make a go of it.

We have some renowned special effects make-up artist tutors working a Brushstroke – Barney Nikolic (Penny Dreadful, Harry Potter) and Catrin Thomas (Guardians of the Galaxy, Mary Poppins).

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Our Tutors

Proper professional training from our tutors will set you on the road to becoming a skilled makeup artist.

Leaving School?

Leaving school at 16 means you can train as a makeup artist with Brushstroke.

Changing Career?

Changing career to become a makeup artist is within your reach – with Brushstroke training behind you.

Makeup Artist Roles

Makeup artist roles differ depending on the industry – which one fits you?

2 Year
Makeup & Hair

BTEC, Level 3 Diploma

Our most thorough training to prepare you for a career as an artist in TV, film, stage and fashion.

7 Month
MakeUp & Hair

ITEC Level 3 Diploma

The ideal course for those wanting to change career or work round family commitments.

1 Year
Hairdressing & Barbering 

ITEC Level 2 Diploma

An intensive course taught by Toni & Guy trained tutors to complete your training as a versatile artist.