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Special FX Makeup Kit for Beginners

Special FX Makeup Kit for Beginners

Getting started with special FX makeup can seem overwhelming at first, we’ve been there! So, we put together this special FX makeup kit for beginner’s guide to help you get started.

By following this guide you’ll end up with a simple well-rounded special FX makeup beginner’s kit. We cover different options for products you can choose from – while helping you keep your cost low.

We will discuss the products we suggest, as well as the thought process behind our choices. This will open the door for you, so you can dive right into creating and getting more practice!

Yes, Special FX Makeup can be pricey, but it doesn’t have to be, here’s why.

You don’t need to go out and spend thousands of dollars to get a professional kit. Professional kits are geared towards circumstances beginners won’t have to deal with.

Shooting for 12 hours in bad weather, making sure an old age makeup stays on while playing sports, or when the actor will get very wet like having to fight in a pool.

Beginners have a lot more flexibility in the products and techniques they use. When putting together a custom kit for someone we always dive into what they want to do with it. This means we know what shortcuts you can take without losing any of the quality!

We recommend that you start small with the essentials and build your kit over time. As your skills progress, you will learn what you like to use. 

Makeup Kit Overview

Every special fx makeup kit has some key components you’ll want to have on hand, here is a quick overview of those with more detailed descriptions further down.

Cream Based Makeup

Cream based makeup is cheap, easy to use, and creates a great quick effect. Can also be used safely around the eyes. These wheels come with a lot of colors in a nice small package.

Ben Nye FX Color Wheel 

Cuts & Bruises

Create scrapes, bruises, and other small injuries.

Ben Nye FX Color Wheel 

Burns & Blisters

Create burns, skin irritation, and exposure.

3D Effect Material

To get a truly realistic effect you’ll want to make it three dimensional. 

Ben Nye Liquid Latex

A cheap and plentiful staple, can be built up in layers to create custom effects. The downside is it can be messy to work with and it’s impossible to recreate a look.

Ben Nye Nose and Scar Wax 

A more solid material for making large 3d effects. Can be difficult to work and tends to melt, crack, or pop off with extended wear.

3rd Degree Silicone

Amazing product, and a go-to for pros, but it does come at a higher price than Latex or Scar Wax. A little trickier to use but will give a more realistic result.

Blood

We think this one is fairly obvious; no special FX kit is complete without some blood.

Ben Nye Dark Blood 2oz

Ben Nye Dark Blood

A dark tinted liquid drying blood for any standard makeup.

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Ben Nye Fresh Scab 1oz

Ben Nye Fresh Scab

A thicker version for more gory looks.

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Alcohol Based Makeup

A staple because they are extremely resilient to water & sweat, and last a long time. The palettes have a great translucent quality which makes it easier than ever to create a realistic look.

EBA Encore Slim Palette

SFX

Create cuts, bruises, blood, burns, scars, skin irritations, veins, contusions, weathering, etc. A truly versatile palette to start with.

EBA Encore Slim Palette

Blood

Create dried and fresh blood, cuts, burns, skin irritations, and more.

Adhesives

You will need an adhesive (glue) that’s skin safe to apply everything from fake hair to wounds and prosthetic pieces.

Pros-Aide

Dries clear and remains flexible, perfect for prosthetic pieces. Can freeze so shipping during cold months can be tricky.

Spirit Gum

A classic product, ideal for gluing down facial hair and lace pieces. Not as flexible as Pros-Aide and weakens from sweat or water.

Adhesive Removers

You will need some sort of adhesive remover to safely remove the adhesive. You never want to just tear it off your skin. We have just one simple all-purpose recommendation in this guide but there are a variety of options out there.

Isopropyl Myristate

Cheap and easy to get, it will remove most adhesives including Pros-Aide and Spirit Gum.

Sealer/Setting Powder

A setting powder will be necessary to keep crème makeup in place and protect your work. A sealer will provide extra protection from the elements or smudging when needed.

Ben Nye Final Seal 1oz

Ben Nye Final Seal

Unbeatable value priced sealer, widely used in the theatrical world.

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Neutral Set .9oz

Ben Nye Neutral Set

Great colorless setting powder

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Tools

You’ll need some tools to make use of your makeup and materials.

Crown 16pc Pro Essentials Brush Set 706

Crown Brush Kit

A good variety of brushes to cover everything you need, for a KILLER price.

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Crown Stanless Steel Mixing Plate and Spatula Combo

Crown Stainless Steel Mixing Plate and Spatula Combo

Essential tools that you’ll use just about every time. From scooping, mixing, and applying.

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Full Splatter STB 07

Ben Nye Splatter Brush

Perfect brush for applying splatter effects.

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Disposables

Necessary tools for makeup application as to not destroy a more expensive tool or to create a specific effect.

Ben Nye Stipple Splonge Medium Pore

Stipple Sponges

Comes in fine & medium pore. Create effects like beard stubble and road rash.

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Artists Choice Makeup Wedges 50 Pack

Professional Makeup Wedges

Used for cleansing and prepping the skin along with applying any cream based makeup.

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Artists Choice 6 Inch Cotton Applicators 50 Pack

6″ Cotton Applicators

Used for putting down adhesives when applying prosthetics and laying down hair. The long handle makes it easier to use.

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Intrinsics Cotton Rounds

Cotton Rounds

Used for removing adhesives or makeup.

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Intrinsics Cotton Balls

Cotton Balls

Shredded and mixed with liquid latex to build up layers & create textures more easily.

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FX Makeup Product Details

Alright, let’s dive into the details. These are the products we regularly recommend for people building their special FX makeup kits. This selection well-rounded and will be versatile enough to do 95% of the looks out there!

Crème Based Makeup

Ben Nye FX Color Wheels

FX Color Wheel CK 3 Cuts Bruises edit

Ben Nye Cream Wheels e1621905126301

Price: $15

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Ben Nye crème wheels are great for beginners because they are small, compact, and have a versatile selection of colors. These colors work together to create simulated injuries. The two crème wheels we recommend are Ben Nye FX Color Wheel – Cuts & Bruises and Ben Nye FX Color Wheel – Burns & Blisters.

Cuts & Bruises: Ben Nye FX Cuts & Bruises Wheel comes with four crème makeup colors, perfect for simulating scrapes, bruises, and other small injuries.

Burns & Blisters: Ben Nye FX Burns & Blisters Wheel comes with four crème makeup colors, perfect for simulating burns and signs of skin irritation and exposure.

These crème colors can be applied with a brush or sponge and can be blended or mixed to achieve the desired effect. When using crème makeup, it’s important to set the makeup when you’re done by using a translucent setting powder, like Ben Nye Neutral Set. Creme based makeup can be removed with soap and water followed by Ben Nye Hydra Cleanse.

3D Effect Materials

Ben Nye Clear Latex

Ben Nye Latex 1oz

 

Liquid Latex e1621900311943

Price: $7.00

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Liquid latex is a skin-safe liquid rubber. Latex is a cheap and simple to use material for creating 3D cuts, burns, blisters, torn skin, and gashes.

Pros: Liquid latex is an affordable material, easy to use, and easy to find.

Cons: Has a strong odor and may cause an allergic reaction.

You can use just the latex by itself or give it more volume and texture by layering cotton or other materials in with the latex. You’ll want to build the latex up in thin layers, making sure that each layer dries completely. The same technique applies when using cotton and latex.

We recommend you use a makeup wedge or makeup spatula when applying latex to the skin. As the latex dries, you can sculpt the shape of the wound you desire with the spatula or popsicle stick.

Once the latex is dry and you have the shape of the wound. Now you can add color with a Ben Nye creme wheel of your choice and add some blood.

To remove the latex, use a makeup remover or you can peel it off. Then clean the skin off with your choice of makeup remover or soap and water.

There are a few different kinds of liquid latex on the market, and it’s important to use the right one. We recommend using cosmetic grade latex. Cosmetic grade liquid latex contains approximately 0.3% ammonia, while craft and mold-making liquid latex can contain more than double this amount, which gives them a stronger odor and makes them more likely to cause skin irritation. We recommend Ben Nye Clear latex for beginners, due to its affordability and size options.

Ben Nye Scar Wax

Ben Nye Scar Wax Fair 1oz

Nose Scar Wax 2 e1621902012106

Price: $7.00

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Scar Wax is used to simulate wounds & trauma, and to create 3D makeups such as character noses and bumps.

Pros: Scar wax is thicker and more bulky than latex, great for building larger effects.

Cons: When worn for an extended amount of time, it can tend to crack and flake off. If worn in warm conditions, it can also melt.

When using nose & scar wax, we recommend applying a thin layer of adhesive to the skin like Pros-Aide before putting down the wax. The Pros-Aide will help the scar wax stick to the skin and last longer.

Be aware it can be sticky so to counteract that we recommend you coat your fingers with Vaseline or a cold cream when working with it.

Once applied, you can then sculpt your wound with a spatula or tongue depressor. All that’s left is to add some color using your choice of creme wheel and blood.

To remove the scar wax you can just peel it off unless you used Pros-Aide in which case you’ll want to use an adhesive remover such as Ben Nye Bond Off or Isopropyl Myristate to make it easier. 

3rd Degree Silicone

2oz Clear

Nose Scar Wax 2 e1621902012106

Price: $23.99

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3rd Degree is an excellent material for all types of cuts and burns. It is a two-part 1:1 mix ratio silicone prosthetic modeling compound that is also skin safe and vegan. In many ways, 3rd Degree is a modern take on Nose and Scar Wax when it comes to out-of-kit trauma makeups.

Pros: 3rd Degree is translucent and is great for simulating real skin, it also moves and flexes naturally with the skin.

Cons: not ideal for making horns or noses or for use in a cold environment.

Unlike scar wax, 3rd Degree is translucent and mimics the feel of real flesh. The two major advantages of this material are that it is flexible and can be blended seamlessly to the skin.

This product can even be used in a pinch to fix prosthetic edges. Although 3rd Degree does not need adhesive to stick to skin, Pros-Aide can be applied before you start for added durability.

When using 3rd Degree, we recommend using a clean mixing palette and mixing spatula. Remember to keep the two-silicone parts, A and B separate, until ready to use. Start by removing equal amounts of parts A and B, using your spatula, making sure to clean the spatula every single time so you don’t contaminate your batches or even have a second spatula on hand. If even a small part of one part gets into the other, it could make it unusable.

Once you have equal amounts on the mixing palette, mix them thoroughly. At this point, you can color the silicone using small amounts of makeup or silicone pigments.

After you mix both parts, apply the 3rd Degree to the skin. Using the spatula, shape the desired cut or wound you are trying to achieve.

The next step is to blend the edges into the skin. With 99% Alcohol and a flat makeup brush, brush away from the center. As the silicone begins to set, you can also add texture with a stipple sponge and 99% Alcohol. To do this, spray the stipple sponge with the alcohol and gently press the sponge into the surface of the silicone. 3rd Degree has a working time of 5 minutes and fully sets in 10 minutes.

The last step is to paint your wound. Since 3rd Degree is translucent it does not require a lot of coloring, but we recommend using an alcohol activated palette or Crème wheel to help give your wound depth.

When removing 3rd degree, you’ll want a makeup remover or Isopropyl Myristate, if the piece is small enough you can just peel the silicone off.

Blood

Ben Nye Dark Blood

Ben Nye Dark Blood 2oz

Ben Nye Dark Blood In Action

Price: $8.00

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Ben Nye Dark Blood is theatrical blood that has a medium viscosity, it’s a great all-purpose blood for beginners at a reasonable price. This blood is ideal for old wounds, zombies, or characters that have been dead for a few hours.

It is mouth safe and peppermint-flavored for the actor’s convenience. This blood washes out of most fabrics, but we recommend spot testing first. To remove the blood simply wash with soap and water or Ben Nye Hydra Cleanse.

Ben Nye Fresh Scab

Ben Nye Fresh Scab 1oz

Ben Nye Fresh Scab In Action

Price: $10.00

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Ben Nye Fresh Scab is a thick blood paste that’s great for creating trauma looks like road rash, scabbing, and aging wounds. This product washes out of most fabrics, but we recommend spot testing first. Ben Nye Fresh Scab is an ideal choice for its awesome 3D effects and low cost.

For best results when using Fresh Scab, we suggest you use a stipple sponge for a road rash effect or a spatula for a scab effect. When you are ready to remove the fresh scab, simply wash with soap and warm water followed by Ben Nye Hydra Cleanse if needed.

Alcohol Based Makeup

European Body Art Encore Slim Palette

EBA Encore Slim Palette SFX

Alcohol Palette e1621903100184

Price: $19.90

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The European Body Art Encore Slim palette is perfect for those who want to learn how to use alcohol activated makeup, a staple in the effects industry due to its translucent properties and resilience once applied.

We recommend having both the Blood Alcohol Palette and the SFX Alcohol Palette from EBA. These are great for cuts, lacerations, and bruising.

SFX Palette: EBA’s Encore Slim SFX Palette is designed to create a variety of skin effects, such as cuts, bruises, fresh and dried blood, burns, scars, skin irritations, veins, contusions, weathering, and more.

Blood Palette: EBA’s Encore Slim Blood Palette is designed to create a variety of wound effects including dried and fresh blood, cuts, burns, skin irritations, and more.

To activate alcohol palettes, you use 99% alcohol (any lower % won’t work). Using an alcohol palette is like using watercolors. This type of makeup works best when used to build up multiple layers of colors. Once dry, these colors are sweatproof and water-resistant.

For removal, we recommend Isopropyl Myristate. 99% alcohol can also be used but it’s harsh on the skin, so we don’t recommend it.

Adhesives

Spirit Gum

Ben Nye Spirit Gum 1oz

Spirit Gum e1621903373190

Price: $10.00

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Spirit Gum is an adhesive used to glue down hair and prosthetic pieces. This adhesive is quite common in the theatrical industry.

Pros: Spirit Gum is easy to find and is ideal for fake mustaches or beards.

Cons: it tends to weaken when exposed to water or sweat and is not flexible.

When using Spirit Gum, begin by cleaning the skin. We recommend using Witch Hazel or rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball. Once the area is clean, use a Q-Tip or brush to apply a thin layer of spirit gum onto the skin.

Allow this to dry until tacky – you can check if it’s ready by tapping the area with your finger. Once the adhesive is tacky, place the appliance onto the skin and press firmly. If desired, use a translucent powder to get rid of any unwanted stickiness.

To remove Spirit Gum, we recommend using either Isopropyl Myristate or a Spirit Gum Remover. Ben Nye, Mehron, and Kryolan have variations of Spirit Gum Remover that are available. For detailed directions and photos, see our article How To Use Spirit Gum.

Pros-Aide

Pros Aide Adhesive Original 1oz

Pros Aid e1621903570462

Price: $4.99

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Pros-Aide is a water-based skin safe adhesive ideal for gluing prosthetics to the skin. You can use it to apply fake hair and other accessories, such as jewels, to the skin.

It’s our adhesive of choice over Spirit Gum since it is extremely flexible and has a stronger hold.

Pros: Pros-Aide is more flexible and stronger than Spirit Gum.
Cons: Can freeze during the winter months and may be hard to find.

When using Pros-Aide, it’s important to make sure you clean the surface of the skin. This ensures that the adhesive will adhere correctly. We recommend using Witch Hazel or rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball.

Once the area is clean, use a Q-Tip or brush to apply a thin layer of Pros-Aide onto the skin and the prosthetic or object you’re gluing to the skin, keep them separate and allow the Pros-Aide to dry completely (Pros-Aide, when applied, appears milky white and dries clear). Push the two surfaces together firmly, then use a translucent powder to get rid of any unwanted stickiness.

To remove Pros-Aide, we recommend using Ben Nye Bond Off, or Isopropyl Myristate on a cotton swab. Dip a brush or cotton applicator into your remover of choice. Start from one end of the prosthetic. Using circular motions, work this area with your wet brush or cotton applicator until the edge of the piece lifts.

Continue working under the edge gently pulling on the prosthetic just enough to keep the tension as you work the remover in circular motions until the prosthetic is removed.

Adhesive Remover

Isopropyl Myristate

IPM Spray top 2oz

Isopropyl Myristate e1621903745435

Price: $3.99

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Although the name might sound strange, this is a go-to for makeup removal. In fact, a lot of brand name removers on the market have Isopropyl Myristate as their main ingredient. It’s inexpensive and is a great all-around remover that works on most everything.

There are alternatives to Isopropyl Myristate, such as Ben Nye Bond Off and Ben Nye Remove it all. Most will work much the same way and have a variety of different properties that give them their own advantages and disadvantages.

Sealer / Setting Powder

Ben Nye Final Seal

Ben Nye Final Seal 1oz

Ben Nye Final Seal e1621903907998

Price: $8.00

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Ben Nye Final Seal is an alcohol-based makeup sealing spray that helps preserve and protect your makeup against weather, sweat, and smudging. It goes on matte and is perfect for film, theatre, cosplay, or everyday wear. Apply Final Seal before you apply your makeup to help slow perspiration or after to preserve it.

When using Final Seal, make sure to spray 8-10 inches from the face or body, and don’t over saturate. Allow to dry and repeat if needed. To remove, we suggest Ben Nye Hydra Cleanse or Ben Nye Quick Cleanse although any good cleanser will work.

Ben Nye Neutral Set

Neutral Set .9oz

Ben Nye Netural Set e1621904025662

Price: $7.00

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Ben Nye Neutral Set is a colorless and pigment-free setting powder. It is used to set cream-based makeups and prevents them from smudging and smearing. Neutral Set is also fantastic for reducing the surface tack of adhesives.

This translucent powder won’t alter the complexion, and it works on all skin tones. To use, apply to the face with a powder puff or powder brush, removing any excess.

Tools

Crown Stainless Steel Mixing Plate and Spatula

Crown Stanless Steel Mixing Plate and Spatula Combo

3rd Degree e1621902214298

Price: $9.00

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The Crown Stainless Steel Mixing Plate and Spatula Combo give you the essential tools of the trade! Use the metal spatula for sculpting nose & scar wax, 3rd Degree wounds, and scooping crème makeup from makeup wheels.

Use the metal palette to place materials on or for mixing colors. This set is durable and easy to clean and sanitize, it’s the perfect combo for any job.

Crown Brush Kit

Crown 16pc Pro Essentials Brush Set 706

Crown Brush Set e1622326868906

Price: $30.00

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The Crown 24-piece Designer Makeup Brush set has a large variety of brushes for a great price. These brushes are good for applying many types of makeup and adhesives with a wide variation of precision. They are ideal for achieving a higher level of detail in your makeup application. Included is also a roll-up case making it very convenient to transport and keep organized.

Ben Nye Splatter Brush

Full Splatter STB 07

Ben Nye Splatter Brush e1621904255683

Price: $4.00

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The Ben Nye Splatter Brush is ideal for applying makeup and creating blood-splatter effects. Ben Nye offers two kinds of splatter brushes – full and mini. We recommend the full splatter because it has broader coverage.

To achieve a blood splatter effect, first dip the brush in the blood. With your finger or thumb, pull back on the bristles, then let go to create a spatter of blood on the actor or object.

Disposables

Ben Nye Stipple Sponges

Ben Nye Stipple Splonge Medium Pore

Ben Nye Stipple Sponge e1621904384552

Price: $3.00

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Ben Nye Stipple Sponges come in two sizes: fine pore, and medium pore. The fine pore stipple sponge is used to create beard stubble with a cream or alcohol activated makeup. It can also be used to add texture to a makeup with liquid latex. Medium pore stipple sponges are used to simulate road rash and cuts, using Ben Nye Thick Blood or Fresh Scab Blood.

Makeup Wedges

Artists Choice Makeup Wedges 50 Pack

Makeup Wedges In Action

Price: $6.19

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Professional Makeup Wedges are a great disposable choice for applying cream-based makeup and for cleansing and prepping the skin for makeup application. We recommend these instead of brushes for beginners because of their low price and ease of use.

6" Cotton Applicators

Artists Choice 6 Inch Cotton Applicators 50 Pack

6 inch Cotton Applicators in Action

Price: $3.50

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The Artist’s Choice Single-ended applicators are disposable, sanitary, and are great for applying adhesive for prosthetic application and laying hair. These applicators are 100% cotton tips. We recommend these for beginners and professionals. Their larger size allows for better handling, and the firm but soft cotton applicator will not fall apart when in use.

Cotton Balls

Intrinsics Cotton Balls

Cotton Balls e1621904735302

Price: $2.49

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Cotton balls are great for creating 3d makeup effects when used with latex to create latex cotton build-ups. Cotton build-ups are done by 1) pulling apart the cotton, 2) applying a layer of latex to the skin, 3) placing cotton onto the latex, and 4) applying another layer of latex over tap the cotton. This technique can create cuts, wounds, texture, and more. Be sure to powder when finished with Ben Nye Neutral Set before painting.

 

Cotton Rounds

Intrinsics Cotton Rounds

Cotton Rounds e1621904859420

Price: $2.49

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Cotton Rounds are an ideal disposable option for skin prep and makeup removal. They are made of 100% cotton and are hypoallergenic. Cotton rounds work well for applying creams and astringents, like cold cream or witch Hazel.

Summary

Now that you know what to look at for a starter makeup kit, it’s time to get creating! Mix and match the products that best suit what you’re looking to do. Then give it some practice and see what you can come up with. You really can’t go wrong at this stage so feel free to play around with your different products and materials.