Frends Beauty Blog

23 Pro Makeup Artist On-Set Hacks

23 Pro Makeup Artist On-Set Hacks
Murphy's Law nearly always strikes when you least expect it. And you least expect it because you are unwillingly unprepared to deal with it. Double whammy! When the inevitable happens, it's the crafty ones who can figure out how to get out of trouble scott free. We asked some of our professional hair and makeup artist friends about some on-set hacks they've pulled off, and how they saved the day.


1/23) We were on set and we had to create a scab wound, which was thrown into the mix at the very last minute. I used clear DUO Adhesive, and some coffee grinds. It ended up looking awesome! - Anthony Gordon
2/23) Continuity notes said that our actress was supposed to have two violet grips in her hair. The challenge was, we left them back at basecamp and there was no way were were going back for them. So as soon as we realized that we were screwed, I used my MaqPro primary palette to mix the color as closely as possible, and applied it on regular black grips and sprayed it with a ton of hairspray, then let it air dry as long as possible. It worked like a charm! - Linda Chudomelová
3/23) I was working on set once where they needed a flame trail (think lighting a trail of gasoline). The FX guy didn't show. I just happened to have acetone in my effects kit. Day saved. - Miranda Riddle
4/23) I also did makeup in a bar once. With bar lighting. Phone flashlight in my breast pocket. Horrid. - Miranda Riddle
5/23) On location outside in 116° weather, we were locked out of the makeup room, and the contact person went to lunch. It was so hot, that the lashes started coming off and the glue would not stick to the models lash line. But a little double stick tape did the trick, just before shooting a tight beauty shot. - Diane Aiello
6/23) On the set of Resident Evil 3, my friend Ralis and I were supposed to put a knife into a zombie's head. The props department was supposed to supply the knife, but it had accidentally been sent to Mexico City instead of staying with us in Mexicali. In about 15 minutes, we fashioned an entirely new prop out of foam core, and spray paint. No one knew the difference, and our impromptu foam core creation made it into the movie. - Michael Mosher
7/23) An actress that we were told could be done up on set, showed up with a cut and two stitches on her forehead. She'd finally grown her own bangs, and she was not going to let us cut and style them, especially on set. Per our director, "Disney mom's don't have scars", so I had to cut a piece of hair weft to create bangs to accommodate. I used black DUO to glue it right above her hairline. We did a side part to hide the weave with her own hair. Of course, we had to use the piece for the rest of the movie. At the end I framed the piece and gave it to her as a wrap gift! - Ulla Gaudin
8/23) While working on the set of [Major Motion Picture], one of the lead child actors accidentally fell on the ice, cutting himself under his chin. Lots of bleeding! We had his big close-up coming up and we had no time to spare. I put some 3M Tagaderm dressing over the cut, and put Kryolan Dermacolor on top to match his skin tone. They shot his close-up, with no evidence of any time of injury! Whew, proud moment! - Cheryl Ann Nick
9/23) A large earring kept turning and twisting around in a shot, so I used a single strand of the model's hair to weave through an opening in the earring, and secure it in place. - Ivy Boyd
10/23) I had to do Spock ears for a gag once...with ten minutes notice. I took a plastic joke nose, cut it down the middle, stuck it on, and painted it! - Ann-Maree Hurley
11/23) I have a regular celebrity client that I travel 5 hours round trip to do her nails. Because of my schedule, I wasn't able to see her for her last appointment so she used a neighborhood salon. I was rushing to pack my kit and forgot ALL of my metal implements and efile bits. I panicked and ran back out to my car to see if I had an extra set in my purse, which I didn't. So I looked around my car and spotted photo booth props that had little wooden dowels as handles. I snapped off 2, took them inside, filed the edges to make sure they were sanitary and used them as my orangewood sticks / cuticle pushers! I let my client know that the neighborhood tech had over-cut her eponychium / cuticle so there was nothing for me to trim and she never questioned my metal implements. It was stressful! That was the first time in 20 years I forgot my shit! - Anonymous
12/23) On the first feature horror film I booked, I heard the stunt guy say, "Man, I wish we had a body bag..." I said, "hang on...", and I returned with a body bag. I also made a fake circular saw blade on the fly from some foam core and painted with Ben Nye creme colors. - Megan Meggers Leavitt
13/23) I was asked to make a realistic, slightly bloody scratch on a commercial set once when I was only contracted for "natural makeup" and basic hair. I used a mascara wand, duo eyelash adhesive, and a few red / brown lipsticks to get the effect. - Alexandra Angelone
14/23) I don't really do special effects, but on a couple of shorts I've been asked to do grazes and bloody knuckles which I've managed to do with a NARS lipstick, Viseart eyeshadow, BECCA lip gloss and a mascara wand. - Kat McAndrew
15/23) One time on set where I was hired to do natural hair and makeup, I ended up having to make a character into a hobo who was sleeping in someone's attic, and make her completely dirty. We found some old cloths and tore them. I used my airbrush gun with dark foundation to make her hands, nails, and clothes dirty. I also had to give her a sh*t stain in the back of her pants. - La'Yanna Kai
16/23) The hairstylist never showed for a cookbook shoot, so I sent the photo assistant to the drug store to buy elastics, bobbi pins, hairspray, and hair gel so I could fake 3-4 retroesque hair updos. - Margina Dennis
17/23) I was on set for an independent film in the middle of nowhere Virginia. Right before they called action, the director suddenly decided he wanted this time traveling character to look really dirty. And there was no FX dirt to be found anywhere in my set bag. So I grabbed a couple of brown eyeshadows, smashed them up, dusted them on him, sprayed it with Evian, and took a bow. - Rachel Lisa
18/23) Production failed to book a hairstylist for the promo still shoot of a feature I just wrapped. The principal actress needed her locks tidy, and I of course only had makeup. I went in with a stiff brow grooming brush and brow wax like I've been a lock stylist for years. - Rashida Bolden
19/23) While doing hair and makeup on a crime / courtroom feature, I had run across the courtroom to blot the lead actress, using items in my belt so I left my set bag at monitor. Just before clearing, I noticed that my lead male had an obvious 'Alfalfa' type hair issue. Not wanting to hold everyone up while I retrieved my hair stuff, I used some Carmex I had in my belt. Carmex is now my go-to flyaway product - it's not oily like glossers, not crunchy like spray, and lighter than clay / mud / gel, etc. - Ash Crist
20/23) The wardrobe stylist disappeared from the set, and the gown on our model was ripped. I found a needle but no thread, so I used dental floss to sew her back into the dress. - Diane Aiello
21/23) We were stuck in Penang, Malaysia with no special fx store in sight. Not to mention one day before, the art department asked was asked to provide an exploding blood gag. So they head over to the special fx makeup trailer since it's blood and it's our job to come up with something. Always up for a challenge, I ask them for the following items - one dozen condoms, super glue, and fishing wire. They looked so confused! Long story, but I ended up creating an exploding blood squib gag with these items, and it was used as a practical effect to which the producer emailed back and said "best MacGyver moment ever captured on film!" - Deb Davis
22/23) I was doing makeup for a kids movie and three weeks into shooting I was told that I was expected to do special fx makeup. It wasn't in the original script, but was added the day before. Other than bruises and tired eyes, it's something I've never done. They refused to hire a special fx artist, so I got to watching YouTube videos, and read everything I could find online. I found a costume store that would stay open late for me, and bought what I thought I needed. The next day, they changed what they wanted me to do. I was told to put grease on the kids faces, and create a chunky, nasty road burn from a motorcycle accident.
After a quick panic attack, I got to work. I wasn't about to put actual grease on the kids because 1) Ew! and 2) their parents were there and they would have killed me. So I ended up mixing olice oil, chocolate syrup, cooking spray, and black and brown eyeshadow together and somehow it worked. The cool part was, it didn't transfer! It was slick to the touch but no grease or oil transfer. Still don't understand, but I was thrilled! Then for the road burn leg, I couldn't find anything with texture I wanted so I crumbled up some Oreos and layered it with latex. I added fake blood, dirt, color, and pus. It was decent for my first time attempting anything like that and I had a new major respect for sfx artists. I'll just stick to my normal makeup. It was fun though and I'll never look at TV / film injuries the same. - Heather Spivey
23/23) I was supposed to go get red streak hair clip-ins for an actress...and I completely forgot to. When I got to set and realized it, I pulled out hair oil and looked for the reddest thing in my kit. I mixed it with some NARS Exhibit A red blush, and viola! Red hair streaks! Worked perfect. The producer loved it and even asked what it was. I told him hair chalk. - Rachel Olson
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