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Monster Makeup



Since the earliest days of Hollywood, movie fans have been enthralled by the transformations made by actors when they don makeup to become out-of-this-world characters. In those early days, a makeup artist had to be as much a scientist as an actor, experimenting with materials not nearly as sophisticated as we have today. The first true makeup magician was Lon Chaney Sr., often called the "man of a thousand faces." Doing all his own work, Chaney used materials such as fish skin, mortician's wax, and grease paint to accent his facial features for different parts. At one point, he even cut off the tips of cigar holders and inserted them into his nose to appear more authentic for a character role. One of the most important makeup artists, Max Factor, was also a chemist . He developed makeup that would not melt under the hot lights. In 1914 he invented "Supreme Grease Paint" that helped reduce the glare of the makeup under the harsh lighting on the set. In 1937 he developed Pancake makeup , which not only became the industry standard for use in color films, but revolutionized the entire cosmetics industry. Jack Pierce and Maurice Seiderman were two famous makeup artists who worked in the 1930s and revolutionized the movie business. Both men studied human anatomy in an effort to make their non-human characters more lifelike. In Frankenstein, Pierce transformed Boris Karloff into the mummy and the monster, and he turned Bela Legosi into the menacing Count Dracula. Seiderman perfected the human aging process so well that he successfully created 37 distinct looks for Orson Wells in Citizen Kane. Whereas their predecessors used wax as their primary makeup ingredient, both Pierce and Seiderman had the advantage of working with latex rubber, invented in 1929. Latex had many advantages over wax because it didn't crack and could be applied in thin coats to make the skin more lifelike. Even though things have come a long way since the days of Lon Chaney Sr., the one constant that all makeup artists use is time. To create the most lifelike characters, layer after layer of makeup is applied; each layer must be allowed to dry before applying the next. During the filming of Elephant Man, actor John Hurt needed 13 different appliances and eight hours in the makeup room to prepare for each day's shoot.


Use science, math, and creativity to transform your face. Create your own "creature feature" using makeup. To get a realistic yet fearsome look, you must employ some geometry, build on your anatomy, and design the proper color contrast. Materials
  • assorted makeup items including mascara, lipstick, powder, rouge, and pancake foundation
  • assorted appliances, such as artificial fingernails and teeth, wigs, etc., available at costume shops
  • sketch pad
  • drawing pencils and pastels
  • tape measure
  • camera and film
  1. Start your creation by making a life-size drawing of your face, carefully measuring the placement of your eyes, nose, mouth, etc.
  2. Sketch the type of look you want by drawing in angles, hair, teeth, and color contrast. Write down the steps that you will follow to build your face.
  3. After you have drawn the type of features your monster face will have and have written down the procedures you will follow, begin applying makeup and appliances on your own face or the face of a friend. Modify your steps if things don't go as planned so that you will have a formula for recreating the face in the future. Once you have finished your creation, take a photograph of your creature.


    Baygan, L. (1988) Techniques in three-dimensional makeup. New York:
    Everson, W. (1974) Classics of the horror film. New York: Carol
    Jans, M. (1986) Stage makeup techniques. Amsterdam: van Dobbenburgh.
    Smith, D. (1985) Dick Smith's do-it-yourself monster makeup handbook.
    Chicago: Morris Costumes.
    Additional sources of information:
    Alcone Company Inc.
    Paramount Theatrical Supplies
    5-49 49th Ave.
    Long Island City, NY 11101
    American Museum of the Moving Image
    36-01 35th Ave.
    Astoria, NY 11106
    Morris Costumes, Inc.
    4300 Monroe Road
    Charlotte, NC 28205