August 4th, 2016
“The best possible bald cap is a shaved head!” Although Mike Spatola (SFX Make-up artist for Iron Man 3, Saving Lincoln and Facejacker) may have only requested a shaved model in jest, bald caps can be a very difficult technique to master, and certainly one that takes a great deal of practice. But they are definitely not impossible, and to prove it Warpaint has put together a helpful cheat sheet for novices and professionals alike.
If you’re completely new to bald caps and want a quick and easy way to practice applying them, Mike Peel (Company Director for Rogue Creations SFX, and make-up artist for blockbusters such as Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix, Casino Royale, V for Vandetta and The Descent) suggests “avoiding the lower end or latex bald caps, especially from joke or fancy dress shops as they all tend to be a universal size, will tend to wrinkle or crease around the nape of the neck and the edge will always be prominent.” The tricky though worthwhile alternative to lower end bald caps is simply making your own. Mike continued to give advice for those starting along that road, suggesting “to get started with making your own it’s worth investing in a Red Head (£19.15). This is literally a red plastic head form which is used for creating bald caps. One point to note is that they all have a thin seam line running down the middle, so it’s always worth sanding this down as much as possible so that you then don’t end up with a glaringly obvious line on your bald cap.” If you have never made a bald cap, or just want a recap of the process, we have listed a simple, easy process for a DIY bald cap below using Super Baldiez (£8), a product recommended by Mike Peel, because it can be thinned with 99% IPA/Alcohol to blend it seamlessly into the skin and it is naturally more flexible than other cap plastics.
- Measure your own head from the nape of the neck to the forehead and line it up with the red head. Using a permanent marker, draw a template around the front and back for the shape you would like your cap to be, ensuring it is wide enough to cover the ears.
- Cover the marked area of the red head in a thin layer of petroleum jelly, in order to help the cap peel off later.
- Put a generous amount of the Super Baldiez on a sponge and apply to the red head, starting with swiping motions inwards toward the crown of the head. Remember, this is only the first layer, so it can be thin. Swiping will provide a more consistent amount than a dabbing motion.
- Using a hairdryer, dry the first layer until the latex is extremely transparent. You can wait for the Super Baldiez to air dry but this could take up to five minutes, which can end up being very time consuming.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 twice more, ensuring you put no more than three layers of Super Baldiez at the edges, which need to be thin to ensure they will blend perfectly.
- Add another layer of Super Baldiez a few centimeters back from the edges, and dry again. Repeat five or six times to ensure it’s thick and sturdy.
- When entirely dry, take baby powder and powder generously.
- Begin to peel the cap from one corner, powdering the edge as you pull it away. Be very careful with the edges as they are extremely thin.
- Once you have removed the cap from the red head, feel free to start experimenting.
Sometimes, however, making your own bald cap is simply out of the question, and you will need some ready-made bald caps on hand. Mike Spatola told us that his ‘go to’ cap is a MEL CAP (£31.50) by MEL Products. It’s plastic so the edges melt away with acetone, giving a seamless transition into the skin, but their formula is very elastic and very stretchy, almost like a latex cap. This type would be perfect for any time you need an invisible line between the cap itself and the skin, mostly under the unforgiving eye of the camera. The downside to these, and indeed homemade, bald caps is that they are unreliable if they need to be used over and over, as they are very delicate and will probably break in removal.
Whether you are using a plastic cap or a Super Baldiez DIY cap, always double-check whether it is dissolved with IPA or acetone – if you mix them up, the result will be less unnoticeable edge, and more gloopy mess!
If, however, you require a version that can be applied again and again, most likely for theatre make-up, go for something much thicker and stronger such as the Kryolan Latex Bald Caps (£15.75). They are thick and resilient, but are much trickier to achieve the seamless transition that would stand up to the cameras scrutiny.
Choosing which to use is only one part of the process – next up is application. The longer and thicker the hair, the trickier it is to disguise beneath. When practicable, put it in a low ponytail at the very base of the neck – and if you can, pop the collar as a sneaky disguise. Don’t be afraid to ask your model to help you when placing the bald cap on the head, by holding the front in place, as you pull it to the back of the head. When it is securely on the head, go ahead and lightly draw with an eyeliner pencil where you will need to trim (including a straight line up the middle of where the ear would be, so that they aren’t covered, and adjust as necessary). It has to be wide enough to be able to stick to the forehead and the side of your face.
When trimming, go for a slightly jagged, not perfectly straight edge, as once blending is complete, this will trick the eye into seeing a seamless transition. Using Pros-Aide (£10.95), or spirit gum (£2.95) such as Ben Nye’s, stick down the edges, applying your adhesive and leaving it around 40 seconds to get tacky, before positioning. If your cap is plastic, or has dissolvable edges, go ahead and dissolve them away slowly and carefully. Once the cap is on the model and you’re close to the finished look, the next step is to make it look realistic and skin-like rather than a layer of plastic. Go over the entire cap with Pros-Aide, including the edges, using a textured sponge and powder, giving a more textured, less flat, unrealistic look. If you are doing a very natural bald look, remember to layer up multiple colours; skin is more than one tone, and will need tiny details to make it look convincing. Blend the edges into the skin using whatever colour or foundation you desire, powdering every layer before applying the next, to ensure the colour lasts as long as you need it to.
So now you have some tips of the trade, the knowledge of how to make your very own bald cap, which pre-made bald caps to buy and how to apply them, the rest is down to you – we suggest lots of practice and a wild imagination.