Cosplay is a huge, creative hobby, and cosplay make-up is something I’m really passionate about. With more of my recent costumes I’ve had to dabble with some more interesting make-up and figuring out how to do make-up for different characters is easily one of my favourite parts of putting a costume together.
So I figured I’d do a few little write-ups about make-up with tips and such, not only to fill this blog a bit and out of boredom, but also because it is something I care about a lot and really encourage within the cosplay community. This post is just a short introduction about cosplay make-up and why it’s important to use it, which will hopefully prove useful to some of you out there!
I am also by no means a guru or expert. But I am an enthusiast and everything I know is self-taught – so if I can do it, you can too!
The Importance of Cosplay Make-Up
Cosplay make-up is as important as any other part of a costume; if you spend so much time and effort on your costume, the last thing you want to let you down is your own face. Trust me, it sucks looking back on old photos and thinking you look like a spotty, red mess.
Adding make-up makes a huge difference both in person and in photographs, and does wonders for your confidence too. Make-up isn’t just for girls, either – it’s perfect for guys as well and will help improve any costume. You don’t have to spend a fortune or take any classes, all you need is a bit of patience, some basic products and the want to learn.
So why should you want to use make-up with your costume? Well, there are a few reasons, but these are the main ones I always consider:
- Improvement: when you put your costume together, you don’t want blotchy skin or spots to let you down. A quick bit of make-up will make your whole costume look much better.
- Don’t blend in: wearing wigs and costumes washes people out. If you add a bit of make-up and some colour to your skin you will stand out against your costume and it will look much more flattering.
- Photography: cameras don’t lie, but make-up does! Cameras pick up imperfections and redness in skin easily, but wearing make-up covers that up.
- Effort: from a competitive angle, showing you’ve researched how to do a character’s make-up or what would suit them is actually a bit of a bonus. It shows dedication to all aspects of the costume, not just what they’re wearing, so it’s a great skill to build up.
- Pictures aren’t people: most of the time you’re cosplaying from drawn artwork. Needless to say you’re not going to look exactly like the character you’re doing. But with a little make-up, you can change how you look to match your character.
- Confidence: seeing bad photos of yourself can really bring down your confidence. Having a nice face of make-up to help disguise how tired you might be after all nighters up sewing is a great confidence booster, whether it’s in the mirror or in pictures. It’s also nice to be complimented on how great you look!
For the extra 30 minutes it’ll take to apply your make-up it’s worth it to look 10x better. That and once you get into a routine at events for getting dressed in costume it’s easy and fun to do!
So what do you need? Make-up can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Even some of the cheapest brands are normally quite good quality, and you can always use testers before buying. A good make-up kit containing everything on this list can easily be bought for less than £25 and will last for a very long time!
- Foundation (liquid, powder)
- False Eyelashes*
- Lip colour*
I know when listed it looks like a lot, but isn’t actually that much – and some products here are *optional, since you might not need them based on your character. And each item listed has a different job, so it’s worth investing in them all at once if you can afford to and experimenting before you wear your next costume to get the hang of using make-up too.
I also highly recommend investing in brushes or sponges to apply your make-up. Using your hands might be easier but you get a better finish with brushes or sponges than with fingers, and a good set of brushes will last you a long time. They’re also a lot more versatile and precise than a clumsy finger!
Make-Up Tips & Basics
Finally, I want to give some basic advice on cosplay make-up. It’s different from regular make-up, and needs to be applied in different ways. For now, here is some basic advice;
- Learn how to use your face. Sounds dumb, but check yourself in a mirror a lot, move your cheeks, mouth, etc and see where you need to apply your make-up. When pulling different expressions, see how your face moves and what you want to emphasise – experiment first!
- Normal make-up is not enough for cosplay. You may be a whiz everyday but wigs and costumes can wash you out and make everyday make-up look plain. Experiment and test with wigs. I always need to add a lot of extra blusher and eyeliner with costumes to make my make-up stand out against wigs.
- BUT, use make-up in moderation. Unless it’s appropriate, don’t shove everything you’ve got on your face. Find something that is suitable and flattering for your character. Also make sure you consider your character’s look and personality; what works for one might not work for another, always be willing to adapt.
- Use a primer. Your make-up will go on smoother and last longer. It makes a noticeable difference when you do or don’t wear it, and if you’re attending an event in a big, hot hall, you don’t want to have your make-up melting off early.
- Start simple. Make your face look plain with foundation and concealers first, then build on top of that. Once your face is suitably boring, then you can put colour on it!
- Use blush/bronzer to add colour and definition. This will help make your face softer for girls, and more angular for men. There are some excellent contouring tutorials available online, look some up and practice. Nobody’s face is the same though, so make sure you experiment and see what works for you. Also make sure your colours match your wig/costume and don’t clash or wash you out – pink looks better with dark hair, coral on fair hair, etc.
- Colour your lips. This especially applies to women. MAC do an amazing range of matte lipsticks which are very natural and work for both male and female characters, especially if your character doesn’t look like they are wearing any lip colour in the first place. If you leave your lips plain they look plain.
- Do make-up tests for different characters before you wear them. What you think might be a great idea might look terrible and you don’t want to waste time on the day – see if you can sneak some tests before you go. Better still, do tests with different wigs and see what works for each one to save time!
More than anything else cosplay make-up is all about experimenting. If you want to make sure you’re going to look good on the day, take the time to test a few things out and see how well you photograph if you have time! It doesn’t have to be anything special, but a little effort goes a long way!
In coming weeks I’m hoping to do some more in-depth advice for different types of cosplay make-up (male, female, children, styles) to demonstrate some of the things I’ve learned over the past few years and through experimenting with my own costumes. In the meantime I hope this has been useful!