Makeup enthusiasts and professionals alike know the importance of continuous learning and expanding their knowledge. And we can’t deny the need for good old-fashioned books. Sure, a youtube channel can very efficiently show you how to do something, but there’s nothing like cruising over the pages of a glossy, knowledge-filled book from time to time. And what better way to swim in the delights of makeup than by reading books dedicated to the art of makeup? Here are the top ten makeup books, along with a brief overview of their contents and intentions.
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The Makeup Artist Handbook – by Gretchen Davis and Mindy Hall
“The Makeup Artist Handbook” is a great book for the professional makeup artist and aspiring makeup artists as well. Inside you’ll learn everything from hygiene and sanitation practices to working on film sets and building a portfolio (although not sure how relevant the last one is, with the advent of social media and websites).
You can explore all facets of makeup artistry and learn about creating different looks for film, theater, and television. The Makeup Artist Handbook covers the basics of building a professional makeup kit and provides step-by-step instructions for creating a variety of looks for different mediums.
Written by two incredibly accomplished and talented makeup artists, this book gives you informed insights to put you on the right path to a career in film and television makeup.
The Makeup Artist Handbook by Gretchen Davis and Mindy Hall
Special Makeup Effects for the Stage and Screen – by Todd Debrecini
“Special Makeup Effects for Stage and Screen” is the newest and most up-to-date book available for special effects make-up artists and enthusiasts alike.
And while it might not be most valuable for a beginner (there is an awful lot to learn in the early stages of makeup), as an investment in your future, if special effects makeup is where you’re heading, then this MUST be added to your home collection.
Highlights for me are the overly-generous list of worldwide suppliers and makeup effects products. And, of course, a photo demonstration of a makeup designed and created by yours truly!!! If you want to know what it is, you can see what it is right here!
I’m thrilled to be a tiny contributor to this modern-day makeup bible and more so, to call author Todd Debrecini a friend, too.
Special Makeup Effects For Stage and Screen by Todd Debrecini
The Art of Makeup – by Kevyn Aucoin
The Art of Makeup is the perfect coffee table book. For lovers of makeup, this is a sumptuous visual guide of the who’s who of fashion and modern-day (as in 90s modern) celeb beauty, as made up by the one and only Kevyn Aucoin.
Don’t buy this book if you’re looking for a written makeup introduction or education, as it’s purely a book that celebrates the art of makeup.
You will get the odd snippet and a wide range of looks, as well, but best to just sit back and savor the prolific career of artist extraordinaire that was Kevyn Aucoin, who, in a way, bought contouring and the public knowledge of sculpting the face, to the masses (in my opinion, anyway).
The Art of Makeup by Kevyn Aucoin
Fashions in Makeup – by Richard Corson
Fashions in Makeup, on the other end of the educational spectrum, you’ll find heavily detailed classic makeup descriptions, diagrams and info.
Part history book, part makeup school, this book is an absolute must-have in your collection, regardless of where you are in your makeup journey. It is bursting with information at your fingertips and provides an excellent wealth of information and a complete resource in its own right for historical time periods that you may be required to work on in the course of your own career.
And even though it was written over 50 years ago now, Fashions in Makeup will provide a solid backbone to your makeup library.
I should mention that Corson is well-known amongst us makeup artists for his books that many of us began our makeup journeys with decades ago. While I love Fashions in Makeup, it was a difficult decision to mention this, as he has produced a number of well-regarded books that all deserve screen time in their own rights.
Other books of his worthy of checking out include Fashions in Hair, and of course, Stage Makeup which is now in its 11th edition. Keep a keen eye out for the rustic, highly-detailed illustrations that for me, make these books extra special.
I highly recommend this as one of the best books for your makeup education.
Fashions in Makeup by Richard Corson
Special Effects Makeup by Vincent Kehoe
Special Effects Makeup is yet another stalwart in makeup years gone by, I felt compelled to mention as much from a sentimental point of view as a resourceful one.
Written decades ago and not updated, it may be worth focusing on the theoretical applications inside Special Effects Makeup, as technology has undoubtedly come a long way in the decades since the book was applicable, gosh even in the last few years.
Nevertheless, this is a must-have for horror movie fans and old-school makeup effects lovers alike.
Special Makeup Effects by Vincent Kehoe
Did you know?
“Special Makeup Effects” book author Vincent Kehoe was not only an accomplished makeup artist of his time, and author of a number of classic books spanning the different fields of makeup artistry, but he was also founder of the well-respected and still going strong pro-makeup brand RCMA?
The Complete Guide to Special Effects Makeup – by Tokyo SFX Makeup Workshop
The Complete Guide to Special Effects Makeup is an interesting 3-part book series. It includes step by steps and lavish photo imagery.
What I particularly enjoy about this series is the stylistic visuals from a Japanese point of view. Enjoy the elaborate and painstakingly detailed work of Japanese special effects artists, which definitely stands out as a makeup art form of its own, really.
And if you’re more into the cosplay side of things, then this may just be the book you are looking for, as the techniques and applications within may lend themselves more to the cosplay world than to the highly scrutinized world of modern-day high-definition digital movie makeup.
The Complete Guide to Special Effects Makeup by Tokyo SFX Workshop
The Art of Film Magic: 20 Years of Weta – by Weta Workshop
The Art of Film Magic: 20 Years of Weta is a visually stunning 2-book tour of the history of the humble New Zealand-based company and their movie creation, both practical and digital.
In fact, one book focuses on the practical, while the other focuses on the digital.
I think this book in particular, is a great gift for your movie buff or special effects fan, as it exposes us to makeup and digital effects in movies from a part of the world that is incredibly isolated from the rest of us. So while not only a makeup book by any means, it definitely gives us insights to what started out as a small makeup effects company that has grown to one of the forerunners in makeup and digital effects worldwide.
Love this book, and have been fortunate enough to work on a number of Weta-involved movies, and even at their neighboring Stone Street Studios on The Hobbit films over 10 years ago now.
The Art of Film Magic: 20 Years of Weta by Weta Workshop
Face Paint: The Story of Makeup – by Lisa Eldridge
Face Paint: The Story of makeup see author and something of an online celeb Eldridge takes readers on a historical journey of makeup, from ancient times to present day.
Alongside the rich history of makeup, is a plethora of tips and tricks for achieving classic makeup looks.
In this book, makeup artist and Lancome Global Creative Director Lisa Eldridge shares her knowledge and expertise on the art of makeup, providing practical tips and techniques for creating different looks and styles. Another gorgeous book ready for any needy coffee table, that also provides an enjoyable read.
Face Paint: The Story of Makeup by Lisa Eldridge
Fine Beauty: Beauty Basics and Beyond for African American Women – by Sam Fine
Fine Beauty: Beauty Basics and Beyond for African American Women is a go to book for women of color that are looking for professional advice and inspiration.
It celebrates Fine’s artistry over the years, and the beautiful faces he has created as much as it does share techniques to help women with their day-to-day makeup challenges at home. Fine Beauty contains the odd step-by-step guide, and showcases the stunning transformations he has created over the course of his prolific career.
Fine Beauty: Beauty Basics and Beyond for African American Women by Sam Fine
Classic Beauty: The History of Makeup – by Gabriela Hernandez
Classic Beauty: The History of Makeup delves into the history annals of makeup, similar to Eldridge’s book.
However, Hernandez puts focus on the iconic looks of each decade and provides convenient guides on how to recreate them. This fascinating book explores the evolution of makeup throughout history, from ancient Egyptian kohl to modern-day cosmetics.
I love this book and refer to its images quite often. But I also love it because author Gabriela Hernandez herself is a devout makeup history specialist, and owner of THE BEST vintage makeup brand Bèsame Cosmetics. Her lipsticks are heavenly, if you haven’t heard me rave about them before.
Classic Beauty: The History of Makeup by Gabriela Hernandez
Makeup Is Art: Professional Techniques for Creating Original Looks – by Academy of Freelance Makeup
Makeup is Art is aptly titled. A coffee table book to be looked at for the visuals more than read for the education.
This book is geared toward those who wish to experiment with avant-garde makeup, and to celebrate makeup as a work of art, and more than simply cosmetics. It includes tips and tricks for creating unique looks and inspiring readers to push boundaries. But I must add that the period makeups included might not be the best education for creating looks authentically. I did see things such as modern-day eyebrows on a clear 1930s makeup attempt. And coming from a reputable makeup educational facility, I’m quite surprised by these obvious errors.
So enjoy it for the high-fashion and avante-garde looks, and perhaps look to Richard Corson to get your historical recreations spot on.
Makeup is Art by the Academy of Freelance Makeup
The Beauty of Color – by Iman
The Beauty of Color is written by model and entrepreneur Iman. Inside, she shares her expertise on makeup for women of color. A still to this day, under-acknowledged market in the beauty world.
Inside her book, Iman speaks to the reader about how to identify their own skin type, how to care for it, and how to make it up. She share a plethora of different makeup looks with names such as “The Vamp”, “Ghetto Fab”, and “New Wave Noir” to name a few.
While you may know Iman as a supermodel, or perhaps that she was married to David Bowie, she has also had her own makeup line for many years now – Iman Cosmetics. And I tell you, her powders are divine.
The Beauty of Color also includes tips on the ever-elusive techniques of color matching different skin tones, and skincare and makeup application tailored to various skin tones.
The Beauty of Color by Iman
Makeup: The Ultimate Guide – by Rae Morris
Makeup: The Ultimate Guide by Rae Morris, an super-cool, well known and respected Australian makeup artist, covers all the basics of makeup application.
She introduces us, ideally beginners and makeup novices from skin preparation to different types of makeup. She also stresses the importance of choosing the right brushes.
Makeup: The Ultimate Guide includes helpful expert advice for beginners, and is defintely swayed towards a beginner or completely new to makeup reader.
You get the feeling that Morris is more than comfortable sharing all her top beauty secrets, unlike some, who feel insecure sharing it all. And that’s what I love the most about Rae Morris.
Makeup: The Ultimate Guide by Rae Morris
.Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual – by Bobbi Brown
Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual – by Bobbi Brown
Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual is a best seller that covers everything from basic skin care to complex beauty techniques. And for this fact alone, this book stands out from most others. It’s a good read for a beginner and a pro as well.
Brown, a world-famous makeup artist, and now creator of her brand spanking new clean beauty project Jones Road, shares her expertise on achieving a natural, flawless look. And that in itself helps to make Brown stand out on her own with such an anomaly. Putting on makeup to look like we don’t really have any makeup on. But that’s what I love about Bobbi Brown. She shows us the power of makeup and how we can work it to look like nothing at all, but feel and look our best selves in the meantime
The book includes comprehensive walk through information on skincare, tools, and techniques used in the industry, and for you at home as well.
Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual by Bobbi Brown
Making Faces – by Kevyn Aucoin
Making Faces is another legendary book from late makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin. Making Faces explores the art of the transformation with makeup as the medium. And as you would expect is filled with stunning makeovers of famous celebrities.
And while this book is a staple in the makeup world, with iconic images of celebrities before and after Aucoin’s touch, it’s the words coming straight from Aucoin’s mouth that I enjoy the most reading the lessons throughout this one.
Included are step-by-step instructions for achieving looks such as smokey eyes and bold lips, and how to achieve variou complexion finishes on your skin.
Kevyn Aucoin’s Making Faces may well be my favorite book he gifted us with.
Making Faces by Kevyn Aucoin
The Little Book of Skin Care – by Charlotte Cho
The Little Book of Skincare is, yes, primarily about skincare, and I know, this is a makeup post, but I just had to include this little gem of a book here.
If all things K-beauty, or Soko Glam (the author Charlotte Cho created it) are not quite on your beauty radar yet, then this is the little book you need to go out and treat yourself with ASAP.
The Little Book of Skincare offers tips and advice for achieving glowing, radiant skin through a holistic approach to skincare. All told through personal chapters that go into depths on topics such as the elusive 10-step Korean skincare routine, sunscreen, where to shop, and so many more aspects to the ever-evolving, growing and infleuntial world of Korean beauty.
The Little Book of Skincare by Charlotte Cho
The Complete Makeup Artist: Working in Film, Television, and Theatre – by Penny Delamar
Oh boy, I remember this book coming out while I was in makeup school! I bought it with my hard-earned cash, back then, which was a lot!
But even still, this easy to digest book by British hair and makeup artist and author Penny Delamar is a solid introduction to working in film and television, particularly within the UK.
It covers all aspects of makeup artistry for film, television, and theater, and provides practical advice and techniques for creating realistic and convincing makeup looks. And ranges from character makeups, through historical time periods and fantasy if I recall!
The Complete Makeup Artist Working in Film, Television and Theatre by Penny Delamar
Makeup, Hair, and Costume for Film and Television – by Jan Musgrove and Bridgette Softley
Makeup, Hair, and Costume for Film and Television provides an in-depth introduction to the world of makeup, hair, and costume in film and television. It also contains interviews with top industry professionals and practical advice for aspiring makeup artists.
I get the feeling this book is part of a larger educational series covering all aspects of film and television making. Especially because anyone working within either of these three vocations know how vastly different they all are, and to round them all up within one single publication suggests a larger educational series.
Nevertheless, I definitely recommend this book to beginners and anyone wanting an overview of roles, techniques and introductions to all aspects of hair, makeup and costume within the fields.
Keep an eye out for out-dated terms that may not be applicable to today’s technology, but nevertheless, this is a great guide if you’re wanting an overview and an idea of what working as a hairdresser, makeup artist, or costumer is all about.
Makeup, Hair, and Costume for Film and Television by Jan Musgrove
So there it is, 18 makeup books that bring you unique content and varied intentions to the table.
From historical accounts of makeup to modern-day techniques and self-expression through the art form, each book caters to different interests and goals.
If you’re a makeup enthusiast or professional looking to expand your knowledge and skills, you must have at least a handful of these books in your collection. So don’t forget, when it comes to makeup, there is always something new to learn.
Regardless of where you are in your makeup career, having a collection of the best makeup books at your disposal is essential for maintaining a strong skill set and staying up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques. And also being aware of the past, both in terms of makeup styles, and the ways in which they were documented. Why? Because it helps you become a better, more well-rounded and knowledgable artist in your own rights.
What’s your favorite book? Comment below or send me a DM here.
Featured Image by Marten Bjork