How to Prepare Your Makeup for Set

FEBRUARY 6, 2023
Woman looking in mirror applying makeup basics like blush.

Whether you're cast as a high school student in All American, a 1990s NASA employee in For All Mankind, or an NYPD detective in Law & Order, there are plenty of opportunities to create unique makeup looks as a Central Casting Background Actor. Here are some makeup basics you should know to help ensure you show up to set camera ready.

Always start with your details

The first step in preparing for set is to read your details fully and carefully. Your details will come as a details message from our casting platform and may include a link to a Details Blog or other resource. Casting Directors get booking information as it comes in from multiple departments within production, you likely will not receive your details until later in the evening before your work date.

Depending on the type of production, setting, time period, and your role, you may be given a very specific makeup style to emulate or there may be room to create your own look. In these cases, keep in mind the role you're playing and what is believable for that category. It's not likely you'd see a nurse with full runway makeup or a teacher rocking a night out smokey eye, so while you can have fun with some looks, they still need to be realistic. If you're not sure or need some inspiration, episodes of the show you're booked on or shows similar to it are a great way to get ideas for makeup looks.

Basic makeup looks

When your details don't include specific makeup directions or when you're instructed to do a natural look, that usually means a base foundation, mascara, and light blush. Unless otherwise stated in your details, Casting Directors recommend this light makeup look when you're booked as an 18tly.

For men, some roles may require you to do your own makeup, like certain club or party scenes. Otherwise, a translucent powder is always a great idea to help control shine while on set.

Don't forget to bring any items with you that you'll need to keep your look camera ready throughout the day. Once you get to set, the makeup department may give you tips on how to complete your look using these products you bring with you.

If you are looking for ways to perfect your background skills, there are many tutorials for women and men on YouTube that show basic makeup looks for your skin tone.

Be aware of when your show takes place

Like fashion, makeup can instantly transport you back to a certain period in time and also be noticeable when it's out of place. While many of today's popular looks, like cut crease eyeshadow, originated in past trends, it doesn't mean your go-to techniques will work for the period role you booked.

Before you get ready for set, be sure you understand the setting and colors of the era. For example, the 1980s trended toward frosty and pink palettes, while the '50s were more matte with defined red lips. Using the incorrect colors for a time period can ruin an entire look. Remember, it's always easier to add than remove. If you're unsure of a color or how far to take a certain look, it's better to do your makeup conservatively and bring your products to set so the makeup department can suggest how to add the finishing touches. As always, if you have questions about your details, you should call your Casting Director to clarify before getting ready or heading to set.

Don't forget your nails

Your nails can be as important a part of your look as your hair, makeup, and wardrobe. Gel and acrylic nails are very contemporary and don't work for most period projects. If you have gels, acrylics, or modern nail art, read casting messages and job posts carefully before responding to make sure your nails can fit the look of the project. If you're not sure, please ask the Casting Director about nail requirements before accepting an offer for work. It's better to know beforehand so there are no surprises when you get to set.

For more tips on how to get camera ready, check out our articles Wardrobe Essentials Background Actors Should Know and Creating TV and Film Hairstyles for Background Actors.

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By Meghan Dubitsky

Article Category:

Hair & Makeup