Let’s get into topic that’s all too familiar for many of us in the makeup and theatrical arts world: bald caps.

We’ll break down the different types, materials, and techniques that can make or break your bald cap application. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a budding artist, you’ll discover practical tips to improve your next bald cap effort. So, if you’re ready to conquer your bald cap fears and elevate your makeup skills, let’s jump right in.

which is the best bald cap for you?
yellow alien with bald cap

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • How important practice is and how it can lead to significant improvement of your skills
  • Selecting the right type of bald cap material for the specific project.
  • Paying attention to detail, especially with edges, and using specific tools and materials can enhance the overall look and stability of your bald cap.

Episode 71: Show notes

yellow alien with bald cap

Bald caps are one of the most important practices within the world of makeup. And if you’re a makeup artist in any form of the theatrical arts – you should no doubt be familiar with this term, like the back of your iPhone.

They are so commonly asked for of makeup artists so if you avoid them because you dont like doing them,
or you’re afraid of doing them (and for good reason too –

they can be challenging) but if you’ve been putting off doing a bald cap, or you always struggle,  then sit back because I am here to break down the modern-day bald cap, and make sense of it all, so your next bald cap will be better than your last one.

I know, that wasn’t particularly flashy or grandiose a promise was it – but the truth is that without practice and repetition, you won’t excel at them, or feel fab about them and that’s kinda the point of tackling them and practice isn’t it?  

So simply take it cap at a time, and if all you can achieve is the next one being slightly better than the last one, then the job is done for now. Practice will lead to perfection.

The mention of the words “bald cap” sends many of us into a spiral of anxiety – because they can be a challenge, and I’m sure you’ve heard as many bald cap horror stories as you have wisdom teeth ones.

Caps have the capacity (ah cap-acity) to shift, split, bubble tear, and hands up if you dread hair wrapping when you find out your model has waist length hair or a lot of hair that you’ve got to make disappear under that thin layer of latex or vinyl.

In my years on The Walking Dead (S4 through 9), we would use bald caps to give us a blank canvas to start with – almost every makeup I would use a bald cap – probably 75% of the makeups I did probably had a bald cap to start with  – and for the makeups we applied on the show (thank you to Greg and Howard and the gang at KNB) a bald cap was a given and when you only have 1 ½ hours to create your makeup, you do the maths – your bald cap application becomes a 5 minute one, well maybe an 8 minute one. But definitely no longer than that

In the 6 or so years I had involvement of various roles from day checking to running the department, I probably applied hundreds of bald caps. Aside from being incredibly grateful to Greg Nicotero, and KNB FX Group for my involvement in the show, I am also grateful for the opportunity it gave me to practice certain aspects of makeup. And yes, repeat them.
I do often look at our job as paid practice and I suspect that’s a brilliant thing – to get to practice a certain aspect of makeup and learn how to trim corners, troubleshoot, and yes, get quicker and quicker is a rare opportunity.

If you get one like it offered to you, grab it with both hands, and don’t forget to see it for what it is, a brilliant opportunity to practice your craft.

And thats where I was going with repetition – it really is the best way to get better, and better and better, and then get faster at any process within this field. 

Okay, so lets take a look at the different types of bald caps available, the different materials that they can be made from, and when you would use the various types.

One of the most important things to remember is selecting the right bald cap material for the right project. This is vital and can make or break your makeup design. 

Latex Bald Caps

For The Walking Dead, almost all of the walkers we applied were foam latex prosthetic appliances, so our bald caps were all latex.
 And as such, I love good quality latex bald caps. They are sturdy, flexible, and easy to modify to act as a base underneath full or partial foam latex appliances. And all things considered in the Georgia summer heat and humidity – ah I’m having flashbacks now

You can also apply foam latex appliances to create a bald head for a semi-bald character –  that will show through underneath a wig that can alter a performer’s hairline, or create a receding hairline, or reveal a part line, or have a wig that has a wound appliance put in somewhere in the head where hair would grow. 

I’m a big fan of these personally as you can spend time (if you have it) to do a lovely prepaint and make it super realistic and then finish the job with a lovely, clean application, done. I love foam caps. The dreaded neckline woes of a latex or vinyl cap are gone, and they are porous so your performer’s head can breathe and sweat more naturally than under latex or vinyl, or silicon.

Vinyl Bald Caps

Another approach is to use a different material to rubber latex, either a vinyl (essentially plastic), or Kryolan glatzan bald caps which a finer than latex, and certain brands are made from a combination of materials that allow them to be super soft and fine at the same time.

The payoff for this can sometimes lead to unpredictability and splitting, so be prepared and get familiar

These are generally used for more subtle or realistic bald looks – a completely bald look – and if incorporating prosthetic appliances, when you are using silicon prosthetics. 

as a rule, you never want to use a latex bald cap, or latex gloves while we’re at it – with silicon anything in makeup effects. It’s like oil and water, they just don’t mix. The raw materials anyway, but generally use vinyl with silicon and latex with foam latex is what I like to stick to.

 But that’s a big long road for another day. And probably other people to discuss as well.

 We can’t explore bald caps without mentioning edges.

Your edges are an important part of your bald cap – both in making bald caps and in application too.

 Where your edges land is important – and depending on your design, of course, there are ways you can be quite strategic to minimize eye-catching edges.

On Guardians of the Galaxy 2 that I worked on years ago. There were a few scenes with these yellow fembot characters called Lovebots that John Blake had beautifully designed – you may have heard me talk about them before, or post on social or something.

 But I always thought the design was so clever, and beautiful between John and Brian Sipe and Legacy FX as well – and John had put these looks together with the bald cap coming down all the way over the actresses’ foreheads and ending across their eyelid crease.

Now, I wouldn’t suggest doing this for a bald cap on your leading man or lady in a movie where they are playing humans. You want their forehead to move naturally and help them perform and communicate naturally, right?

But for these yellow, highly theatrical, other-worldly aliens that were almost emotionless and robotic, the limitations of movement from a layer of cap plastic creating a smooth finish on ⅓ of their face was not a big concern. And if an avant garde makeup look is what you’re doing, then you can also being open to moving you edges to a different area of the head and neck as well.

I think it also helped contribute perfectly to the robotic looks of the girls.

 Anyway I don’t usually like mentioning specific things Ive done, because its never just me, there’s usually 10 – 20 people that have their hands on a single prosthetic effects makeup character at any part of the process, and we just do the bit at the end, but the bald cap aspect of the Lovebots in Guardians 2, seemed like a nice example to contextualize, and help you think outside the box a bit.

So going back to edges – it does really depend on your design.

 It depends on what character you are putting a bald cap on, what its for, where you’re filming, how long you film it for (1 day or 91 days) and your performers’ face.

Sometimes people have very expressive faces.

 As a very general rule of thumb, I like to keep my edge as close to the performer’s own hairline underneath as possible.
This will allow for a more natural look. This is because there is less facial movement the further upwards you get, and you also have a more broken-up outline to hide – as opposed to a straight line across someone’s forehead that can potentially just scream “I’m an edge – look at me”

Having said that, each job is always different. Your observational skills and perception, and taking into account all of the things we just touched on, will help you make a few key decisions early on that will hopefully all lead to very good edges.

Now of course, if you are making your own bald cap, then your edges are your own. Just keep in mind that you can make latex caps with good thin edges.

Anyone seen Taxi Driver lately? One of the best executions to this day (in my opinion) of a latex cap application – if I’m not mistaken.  A seamless blending of out-of-the-kit makeup techniques (I love the scalp skin tone Dick created on De Niro) with great hair work – so good! If you haven’t seen it, you should really take a look.

 And something that Dick Smith used – that I still see as a genius technique to this day – is a small foam latex blender piece over the most unforgiving aspects of a bald cap, the ever-torturous back of the bald cap nape area.

Now, if you are applying a vinyl or glatzan bald cap, you will want to do all your glueing first. Don’t even think about blending edges or making anything disappear until everything is laid down, glued cleanly in place, dried and powdered, and you are ready to make the magic happen.

Is this as satisfying to anyone else as it is to me?

I think that’s why I love keeping the edges hugging the natural hairline – because it really does disappear at a point.

You’ll want to use a tiny q-tip or even a thin brush with the solvent that the cap is based in – and for non-latex caps, thats usually acetone. You only need a tiny amount of this as you dont want to drizzle it down the face or eat into your cap either. You are literally just using it to soften your edges and it shouldn’t really be a big deal or take too long to do this.

Latex bald cap edges should be free from wrinkles and cleanly laid down, and glued. Once your glue is dried, you can do a light powdering if you need to. And a light stippling with a red stipple sponge. Sometimes I like to dot a qtip over the edges in some pros aid, or some prosaid cream if I need a bit of texture, or nothing at all.

Remember – less is more. I always try to add as little of everything as possible. Keep it lean, keep it clean – right? That can apply to makeup?

 If you dont need it, dont do it!

The bald cap within the world of makeup is such a huge topic.

And there are so many aspects to perfecting your entire bald cap and creating a realistic look.

I hope that by exploring the types of bald caps here with me today, you will have a new understanding of how you’ll approach your next bald cap gig when the opportunity comes your way.

 Just know they shouldn’t be something to be feared; they just require practice, practice, practice.

 And to give the illusion of a bald head and create professional results, you must practice so get to it. I know we’ve only just scratched the surface – there’s a lot to cover.

An entire head right!!!!

Now if you fancy yourself at the odd bald cap, or this epsiode has inspired you to conquer your fears head on, I’ve got something fun to share with you!

 Ive got a quiz! YES! A bit of fun, and hopefully some insight as well – but if you want to take a crack at my bald cap quiz, and find out exactly how your skills fare, head on over to themakeuprefinery.com/bald-cap-brain-teaser and it’ll only take a few minutes and it’s a bit of fun too.

I know we’ve only just scratched the surface – there’s a lot to cover.

An entire head right!!!!

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