Learn Some Horror Makeup Techniques from Oscar-Winning SFX Makeup Artist Rick Baker

Miss ShockMaking films often rides on being well-connected -- knowing someone somewhere who can perform a service that your film needs. Most of the time, finding financial backers, a DP, sound/lighting techs, actors, and editors is fairly easy regardless of who you know or where you live. However, finding a good FX artist is a little bit more tricky (In 6 years, I've only met 2 in my hometown), and if you're unable to find one, you might have to do the next best thing -- learn how to do it yourself. And who better to teach you some excellent techniques than Oscar-winning special effects makeup artist Rick Baker.

I wouldn't want to give the impression that special effects makeup is as easy as slapping some latex over a model and adding fake blood. No, guys. This is an art form that takes years and years of practice, patience, and incredible talent to master. However, if you need some SFX makeup for your film, or you're simply interested in makeup and prefer a DIY learning approach, then Baker's tutorials will definitely offer you some pro techniques to try out at home -- which is really exciting considering his incredible body of work, which includes films like Maleficent, all three Men in Black films, Hellboy, Videodromeand An American Werewolf in London (for which he won an Oscar).

In his latest video, Baker reconstructs a character created by special effects artist Bob Burns in 1959, "Miss Shock". Starting out with a mold of his daughter's face, Baker begins to craft the area around the left eye using a "build up" technique, in which he layers modeling clay, latex, and poly foam to create negative space around the eye. One really cool trick he uses to make the prosthetic more gory is dipping maroon yard in latex. (His original solution was made up of latex, Pros-Aide, and matte medium, but he eventually switches to just latex.)

Check out Baker's tutorial below:

Baker offers many other special effects makeup tutorials on his YouTube channel, including this one on how to make a "retro monster" -- which not only goes well with the retro "Miss Shock" makeup above, but also shows more of the "build up" technique.

Do you have any special effects makeup tips you can share? What tools/materials would you suggest to beginner SFX makeup artists on a budget? Let us know in the comments below.

Link: Rick Baker -- YouTube

[via Filmmaker Magazine]

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Your Comment


Did you really say in the first paragraph it's easier to find financial backing than a make up artist? If there's two make up artists in your town I'm going to assume there's at least three people who'll give you money to make a film. so please tell me where is this magical place?

Perhaps we can do a exchange visit, I live in the north east of England , there are two exceptional make up artists, several good ones and a few shit ones within a hundred mile radius of where I live.

February 23, 2014 at 4:38PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Filthy Punt

You assume correctly.

February 23, 2014 at 6:06PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

V Renée
Content Manager at Coverfly

I think a big reason for practical VFX artist scarcity is that many techniques were guarded as trade secrets for so long. Computer Graphics, which has an insane number of tutorials online and elsewhere, has replaced practical effects in many instances because it is something you can learn without an apprenticeship. Stan Winston studios obviously realized this was the case and is selling videos now. I hope more practical studios follow and show how they work their magic, because if they don't share people will continue to move to what they can learn. If anything computers should help practical vfx better with technologies like 3d printing and scanning now becoming more readily available.

February 23, 2014 at 8:07PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Yeah, the desire for more practical effects is definitely there among creators. The problem is so many people either beat the CGI only or Practical Effects only drums when a marriage of the two is normally what works best.

February 23, 2014 at 11:29PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


I'm a Brazilian film student and makeup artist. I have to recognize that is extremely difficult to find makeup artist, for at least three reasons: first of all: you must love do makeup, it's not the most famous job in a set and it's not given as much value as deserved. Second, it takes so much time to create each character (from de design to the final makeup) and sometimes, takes so much time to apply (if we're talking about prosthetics). The last reason is that, if it's a low budget project, makeup is one of the last attentions, and the price of the material is one of the highest (you must have products for every different type and color of person).
I don't know what to say about tips and suggestions, because each project will demand a different kind of product or a different idea. I guess my tip would be, study the project, try to think of the makeup concept and be creative (a lot of the work done in this work it's about creative solutions for complex problems).

And Rick Baker is my god <3

March 10, 2014 at 12:05AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Ariel Schloegel