Fortunately, the formula for animal makeup is very consistent.
- Reference pictures
- Makeup palette (Approx $4)
- Paper/pencil to plan and draw your character design
- Blank mask if you want to make it a mask instead of a makeup
- Many palettes come with these, and you can use a small paintbrush or q-tip in a pinch.
Estimated cost: $4, depending on makeup choices, not including costume.
Step One: Choose an animal.
The choice of animal is crucial to the process, as everything else depends on it. The trick to finding the best animal for your makeup is to think about their facial structure, and how you can replicate it. For example, wolves have very long noses, which makes them hard to do on a flat face, whereas a pug has a more flat face. Birds can be difficult (doable, but difficult), but owls have flat faces, making them much easier to do. Cats are similarly easy, as can be fish.
For this tutorial, I'm going to be doing a Northern Saw-whet Owl for my example. Why so specific? Well, because of Step Two.
Step Two: Find reference pictures.
The more reference pictures you have, at different angles, the better.
Look at where the nose is in proportion to the rest of the face, the mouth, etc.
Step Three: Drawing your design.
If you don't work with animal makeup a lot, then drawing out the design may be helpful. You get a chance to see how the makeup will fit your face.
Make sure you think about the distinctive features of your animal. When I think of an owl, I think of their huge eyes, so I didn't want to use my own eyes. That would have thrown off my proportions.
Speaking of how it will fit your face, if possible, line up the animal's mouth with your mouth, and the eyes with your eyes. Don't draw teeth on your face if you're doing a predator, as it won't look right when you're talking. If you're doing a bird, you might have to move the beak up onto your nose, to give it more dimension, and you may consider blending your chin into the bird's neck.
Remember that this doesn't have to be a work of art, it's just to tell you where things are going to go. Plus, you can print out pre-made blank faces.
Step Four: Choosing your medium.
Depending on what you have on hand, you might have to modify your design, at least if you don't want to spend money on a bunch of new makeup that you will only use once. So look at what you already own.
If you don't want to take off all the makeup at the end of the night, you might consider working on a blank mask. This is a fantastic option for working on children, as well, as you won't end up with smears of face-paint at hip level everywhere they went.
If you are doing a scaly creature, you might consider taking a page out of the drag queen handbook and using a glue-stick to glue down your eyebrows, so that the hair doesn't interfere with your final look. Another option would be using scar putty or nose and scar wax to cover them, then carving/pressing a scaly pattern into it. This is optional, but impressive. The scar putty will remain malleable, so you won't want to touch it until you're ready to take it off. You can buy it for $3 at Spirit Halloween, or get a glue stick for $1 or so at a dollar store.
Some cream palettes, like the one I was using, may require a translucent setting powder, or you'll have to be careful where your face is at all times. For cheap version of setting powder, take baby powder, put it into a thin/disposable sock, and tap your face with it. Try to make sure there's some powder on the outside of the sock before your first whack, so that you won't transfer the makeup accidentally.
Many of the cheap palettes don't require this. I saw one palette for $4 at Spirit Halloween with a variety of colors, which you could blend to fit your needs. If you decide on your makeup before you go to get supplies, you'll be able to shop smart, which I highly recommend, esp. since it can be a little overwhelming to try to shop when you don't know what you're looking for.
Step Five: Consider the colors.
Look at the colors that are necessary, and consider what colors could help you.
For example, if you choose a Bengal tiger, orange, black, and white are a must, but if you get a cream color you can add dimension to the white sections.
For my owl, I used cream makeups from Ben Nye, but I could have done it with foundation colors from the Dollar Tree, and some of their lightest CC cream/BB cream.
Step Six: Apply your colors, lightest to darkest.
In the case of a tiger, you would apply the white on your jaw, eyebrows, and around the mouth, for example.
Why the lightest color to darkest? Well, it's harder to lighten up an area than it is to darken it once makeup has been applied.
For my owl, I applied the white around my eyes/nose, over my chin, and around the edges of where the face would end, as owls have a round face, and I do not. I then used medium brown, dark brown, yellow, and black.
This is where it is helpful to have drawn out your face in advance, because you know where each part goes, and it'll help avoid mistakes.
Step Seven: Texture, blending, and details.
This is a crucial step, and will take your animal makeup to the next level. Look at your reference picture. Even though each hair/feather blends to create colored sections, there is still some textured
blending at the edges.
Use a makeup or paint brush to blend what needs to be blended, and to feather edges so you don't have hard edges where they don't exist. Watch for little textural differences, and for the hints of color. These are what brings it together. Look at what direction the fur/scales/feathers go, and use that to guide your detail. The more shades you have to work with, the more detail you can go into, but you may not need to do that much. Look at the "feathers" around my nose, for example. They give dimension, but I only spent a minute doing them.
|Closeup of a dragon makeup I did. Note the different size/color scales under my eyes.|
I used two different sizes of mesh, several eyeshadow colors, and foundation that matched my skin tone.
If your makeup doesn't set on its' own, set the makeup. If you are using eyeshadow for your look, I recommend a setting spray. ELF has one for $3 at most drugstores, and in a pinch you can use hairspray. I would try to avoid using hairspray, if possible, but it will do a fantastic job if you have to use it, just make sure you wash it off ASAP when you get home.