February 13th, 2017
Starting out in the world of SFX make-up is an exciting prospect, from cuts and bruises to anatomy-altering prosthetics the possibilities are endless. But where do you begin when looking at creating your first FX kit? As a trainee SFX artist you are lusting for blood and gore (hopefully not the flesh of your fellow students), though what may prevent some budding artists from sinking their teeth firmly into FX make-up is that many specialist products come at a price. It is a minefield of products and questions: will the more expensive brands create better effects? Will the cheaper brands not? Is it worth the investment?
Well here at Warpaint we are here to arm you with as many top industry essentials that will allow you to create anything from the Living Dead to third degree burns and to give you the best start out in the spooky world of SFX make-up.
Battle of the Brushes
Brushes are the basis of any FX kit, from a flick of dirt to stipple of blood they are the tools that create your craft. There are hundreds of brush brands out there that you could choose from, so why spend piles of cash on a beautiful buffer brush for it to get doused in blood never to be the same again? Yet you don’t want the brushes to fall apart after one use…the conundrum begins.
Go with synthetic, those hardy little brushes are kinder to our furry friends and also can withstand more rough and tumble than natural hair. Bdellium have a specifically designed FX Brush range that are blood and glue friendly, they wash clean every time and create an array of effects from exposed muscle to vein work. The pack even comes with a brush pouch to store them in, a great value for money buy. They are an investment, yet good brushes will see you from the start to the end of your career. To bulk out your brushes you can always buy Artist paint brushes; in fact many top FX artists love to use a mix of make-up brushes and paint brushes as you can be a little less precious about your paint brushes when practicing.
A top tip:
Chip brushes from local hardware shops are great when cut down for spattering blood, spraying dirt and mottling prosthetics and so much more; they are super cheap around £1 each and create all kinds of effects.
Practice makes perfect when starting out so having brushes that aren’t too precious is a great way to begin.
As with brushes FX pallets come in all shapes and sizes. From the cheaper grease and aqua palettes to the more expensive alcohol activated kind, there are so many to choose from. As a beginner you need a palette that will allow you to make some one look dirty, beaten, dead, old, frozen, burnt or out of this world…the list goes on but just because you are a student doesn’t mean you don’t want to achieve high quality results.
It has been everyone’s kit staple for years and for very good reason, the Kryolan Supra Colour Palette B it is a grease palette which has nearly every colour you could ever need. You have colour combinations such as black and brown for detailed dirtying down to blue and white for bringing the dead to life, with reds and maroons for battered, beaten and burned effects.
The pigmentation of the colours is excellent, so a little goes a long way which is great as the palette lasts longer, meaning you don’t have to keep topping up your kit but can practice as much as you like. It can be mixed with moisturiser to create thicker mud or blood textures or use with IPA (99% alcohol) to mimic the look, feel and longevity of alcohol activated palettes. Use with a brush, stipple sponge, finger or spatula whatever your tool you choose this palette will allow you to create all kind of effects.
Lumps and Bumps
When you’ve mastered 2 dimensional effects from your grease palette the next stage is creating 3 dimensional effects, whether that be a blistered boil, a crusty cut or a big old bump on the head you need products that can be manipulated to create some damage.
Liquid Latex is an in expensive material but something that should just be in your kit. You can use it directly onto the skin, pull and peel it to create brilliant burned effects, layer it with tissue for wrinkled zombie skin or even use it for old age effects when you need a bit more crinkle in that wrinkle. Ben Nye have a great 8oz bottle that is a perfect size for playing with at a very low price, and it is also skin safe unlike some other latex brands that may not be.
Whilst Nose & Scar wax is not as often used as its more up to date rival Silicone, but it is still a great thing to have in your kit. For learning how to make simple cuts, lumps and bumps there is really nothing better when practicing. You can re use it time and time again and if you do want to make it stick you can simply apply some pros aid or spirit gum over the top. There are many brands but our favourite is Glyn Mckay’s Pro Wax, it is a lovely consistency and has a great tackinesss to it.
If you need to move forward from nose and scar wax the next step would be a 2 part silicone product such as 3rd Degree. It is a little more advanced and you need to ensure you follow the instructions, but it will take your effects to the next level of real. It can be used to create an array of effects, it can be sculpted directly onto the skin or sculpted then applied to the skin and comes in all skin types and unlike nose and scar wax it lasts all day.
Blood Sweat and Tears
A new blood brand hits the shelf nearly every week and for good reason too, there is always a new demand for a blood that can do something bigger and better than the last one. But when you start our you just need to get to grips with what types of blood there are and what you can use them for.
A brilliant blood to get you started would be Bloody Marvellous. All their products are made from food-based products, which means they are safe to use even in the mouth (brilliant for vampires). They come in thick or thin liquids, don’t stain clothes and are a great price too. You can get their smaller bottles from around £7 or a starter kit for £45 which include some great products like Pus, Blister and Scab which are also great to have in your kit. However, if you don’t have the money for Pus, remember your grease palette? Mix it a bit of white and yellow with some Vaseline and there will be plenty of pus for you to play around with.
You may get called upon to make someone look like they’ve run at a hundred miles an hour. Mix a little water and glycerine together, pop it in a little spray bottle and you are ready for not only blood and swear but tears too.
Tools of Terror
As important as your brushes are your tools, three tools that will get you going are a modelling tool, a black stipple sponge and an orange stipple sponge. The modelling tool of choice would be Make-up For Ever’s double ended tool, which can be used to sculpt your nose and scar wax, smear your 2-part silicone into all manner of shapes and to even decant products hygienically from your palette.
The black stipple sponge is brilliant for mottling the skin, creating grazes and for dirtying down and the orange stipple is a staple for broken veins, bruising and texturing the skin. Cut them, bend them, shape them any way you want them those two sponges are so versatile and so cheap too.
IPA (99%) Alcohol is a product used by all SFX artists for cleaning brushes to activating palettes, it is relatively in expensive at around £6 per litre a bottle from places such as PS Composites and is just a must have. Pop it in a small spritzer bottle for on the go.
Spirit Gum will stick pretty much anything to anything; Kryolan do a brilliant version perfect for small prosthetic pieces, facial hair and wigs. A little later down the line another must have product that is more commonly used for prosthetics is Pros Aid as it is medical grade glue, but to begin spirit gum will be perfect to practice with.
On The Go
So now you have your brushes, palette, blood, fx materials and tools you need to have them ready to go if the glamour of set calls. Finding the perfect set bag is an endless struggle but the Morphe Brushes Organiser Bag is a great place to start: it has both inner and outer pockets and will fit your essentials no problem at all and at £17.50 what a great price to start at.
Neill’s Materials has a great new scheme called Kit Builder to help you bulk out your kit with a great 15% discount and companies like Mr Dashbo have student specific kit too. Many pro shops also offer student discount on FX products so make sure you ask in store or over the phone. Plus you can pick up a bargain at UMAE, IMATS, Creaturegeddon and The Prosthetics Event, plus you learn a lot too**
Hopefully these basic essentials will set you on the road to SFX success and give you a taste of the truly fantastic world of special effects make-up. There are hundreds more products for you to discover which makes it even more exciting. Good luck!