How to Prepare Your Makeup for Set

AUGUST 17, 2020
Woman looking in mirror applying makeup basics like blush

The next time you’re cast by Central Casting, the set you work on many look and function differently than you’re used to. While each production is different, you may find that you have less interaction on set with the wardrobe, hair, and makeup departments than you have in the past. To help you put together the best makeup looks and ensure you show up to set camera ready, we put together a guide on the makeup basics you should know.


Always start with your details

When you’re cast for a role, your booking details will usually come in the form of a Details Blog and include information on the makeup, hair, and wardrobe looks you’re expected to create. It’s extremely important to read your Details Blog fully and carefully to make sure you have all the information you need for your booking.

Depending on the type of production, setting, time period, and your category, 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 in your category.


Basic makeup looks

When your details don’t include specific makeup information or when you’re instructed to do a natural look, that usually means a base foundation, mascara, and light blush. Once you get to set, the makeup department may give you tips on how to complete your look using the products you bring with you.

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.

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, be sure to read job posts carefully before submitting 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 submitting or accepting an offer for work. It’s better to know beforehand so there are no surprises when you get to set.

For more on how to get ready for set, check out our articles How to Prepare for Your First Day on Set and 21 Production Terms Every Background Actor Should Know.

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Meghan Dubitsky
By Meghan Dubitsky

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