Welcome to Part 2 of my exploration into the world of dirt and breakdown makeup. Come with me to explore techniques, products, and the art of creating a realistic and authentic look for characters in dirty environments. From applying and removing dirt makeup to adding the final touches for a truly convincing effect, I’ve got all the insider tips you need. So grab your favorite makeup products and get ready to learn how to master the art of dirt and breakdown makeup in just five minutes!

dirt and breakdown makeup part 2
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Episode 44: Show notes

bokeh photography of person carrying soil

This is the second part of a two-part post all about dirt and breakdown makeup.

An often requested, yet frequently ignored aspect of theatrical makeup that is more challenging than it looks.

Let’s delve into the nitty-gritty details of applying and removing dirt makeup, as well as some key considerations to keep in mind during the process.

When it comes to creating a believable dirt makeup, one of the crucial factors is the time frame and location of the character’s journey.

The continuity becomes extremely important, particularly in projects that take place over a longer period of time.

Understanding the characters’ emotional journey and how long they have been in their dirty area or out and exposed can significantly impact the way dirt makeup is applied.

Collaboration is key in achieving a seamless look.

Conversations with the makeup designer, department head, and director prior to shooting, as well as makeup tests, are essential. This, coupled with open communication channels with the hair and costume departments, ensures that the overall look is cohesive and authentic.

I mentioned using Kryolan Aquacolor and a water spray in part 1 to create a realistic dirt effect, and then removing the excess product to leave a lived-in and authentic appearance.

As for breakdown makeup, I love using trusted products such as the Skin Illustrator Grunge Palette and V Neal Powder Brush combined with 99% alcohol or Skin Illustrator Activator can work wonders. The application process involves working quickly and creating an uneven, ununiform look to mimic real dirt and grime.

One of the fun and final touches includes the addition of sunscreen spray, which provides an extra level of authenticity to the makeup.

Some of my favorite makeup products for achieving dirt makeup looks range from Skin Illustrator inks to Ben Nye powders, which can all really provide versatility and creativity that can be unleashed even with a seemingly simple medium like dirt and grime.

Now, if you know me, you know I love to talk movies. So see the transcript below for some off the top of my head for movies that showcase remarkable breakdown makeup, and hopefully encourage you to take inspiration from different eras and styles of cinema.

In my years of experience, I’ve come to understand that effective makeup artistry goes beyond applying beauty products; it’s about understanding the needs of the characters, collaborating with fellow creatives, and constantly pushing the boundaries of creativity.

I can’t wait to see you implement these insights into my upcoming projects and see the transformative impact they will have on your own characters and their journeys. The next time you get to create a breakdown makeup, I hope you keep my tips in mind and experiment with different techniques to achieve the most authentic and compelling looks.

If you’ve been inspired by this chat tpday, I’d love to see your dirt makeup creations. Tag me on Instagram @themakeuprefinery and share your own innovative approaches to dirt and breakdown makeup.

I’m always up for learning new techniques and products to create cool looks and get the job done well, and efficiently.

Until next time, stay creative and keep exploring the world of makeup artistry.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00]: How long have your characters been in their dirty area or out and exposed? Perhaps you can use dirt to tell the story of their emotional journey as well, and continuity becomes extremely important in these situations and on projects that take place over a longer period of time. So, definitely be aware of the time frame of your character’s journey.

[00:00:59]: And hygiene is another thing too.
It may also be that your character takes a lot of baths or showers in the story and that they actually keep themselves quite clean in amongst a dirty time or location.

All these things require conversations, questions that you can ask your makeup designer or department head and the director prior to shooting and makeup tests.
So collaborating with the hair and costume departments is really incredibly vital.

And just generally, having great open communication channels can help you to do your job more effectively. Now, let’s talk about how to apply realistic dirt. And this is important. I mean, it’s all important, but this is key.

[00:01:46]: As I say, the key for me is to not only apply, but to remove. Yeah, it might sound weird, but it actually works a treat for dirt makeup.

You put it on and you take it off, and I think what looks really lovely and as lovely as dirt can look is leaving the product behind under fingernails, in the creases of your skin, like it’s lived in and real.

And what’s a particularly subtle and effective technique is to paint Kryolan Aquacolor in Black. And then there’s a lovely Brown as well, over the hands, and use a water spray to spread it really quickly.

And then I take a Wet Ones or a Baby Wipe, and I roll it over the hands to remove the excess of the aquacolor that I’ve applied. And what this should do is leave what remains under the fingernails and settled nicely in the creases on both sides of the hands too.

Using Aquacolor is a really quick way to cover a large area as well, and you’d be surprised how well it stays in place once it’s settled into the creases of the skin.

[00:02:54]: Another go-to method for me is the old faithful Skin Illustrator Grunge Palette with a Ve Neill Powder Brush. They’re my faves. I mentioned these in my recent episode not too long ago. All about my favorite brushes. I think it was 38.
So you pair those with a bottle of 99% alcohol or skin illustrator activator if you’ve got a budget. And I basically work the alcohol into the Dark Brun color, which is another go to for products and shade for me when it comes to breakdown makeup, for sure. So work the dark brun within the palette and smoosh the brush into the skin.

[00:03:34]: I like to work quickly and move about on the surface of the skin, but not hitting everywhere. So this way, you create a very un-uniform application.
This helps it look more realistic and not even all over sometimes. Then I’ll wash all the product off the brush, and then with some alcohol in the bristles, I’ll come back over and stipple to rework where I’ve been. This will help minimize some parts, and I can come in with more depth in other parts if necessary.

Try to avoid creating any areas that are too distinct looking, because when you do this, it becomes more difficult to recreate on a daily basis. And you’re essentially creating more work for yourself, aren’t you? Make work lighter for yourself, I say, not harder. Our jobs are hard enough as they are.

[00:04:25]: Another thing that’s really fun is adding sunscreen spray after you’ve finished, which can also add that final level of authenticity to your makeup. But it’s important to test your sunscreen spray beforehand, and I can’t stress this to you enough.

Certain sunscreens contain Isopropyl Myristate, which, if you’re not aware, is one of the most common prosthetic makeup removers in the industry.
And sadly, if this is in your sunscreen, it’s going to remove your beautiful work. And we don’t want to have to deal with that nightmare on set, do we? Believe me, I have been there. And it’s not fun when your breakdown makeup is basically removed before your eyes by the sunscreen that’s been sprayed right over the top of it.
The right sunscreen, however, can help give a lovely sweat finish and create some interesting textures on top of the dirt makeup as well. Now, the faint of heart could use a water spray, but this will take a lot more spritzing in between takes and setups.

[00:05:31]: And you could also get out your trusty airbrush and go for using inks for a dirt effect, too. And I have done this, and I’ve done it when I’ve had to put dirt over realistic prosthetic makeups or silicon appliances.
And this way, you can create a dirt look without disturbing your prosthetic application.

A spatter look can also add some areas of interest to your dirt makeup as well, whether achieved with an airbrush or a toothbrush or hard bristle brush, and the old flick technique that I will never be able to master. No, I’m not a flicker. I’m a certified spatter airbrush person from way back. But those choices are entirely up to you, aren’t they?

Now, some of my favorite dirt makeups have to include combinations sometimes, and all or any of the following. So first of all, Skin Illustrator Dirt Works, Skin Illustrator Inks, because how can you go past dark brun for dirt, Kryolan, and Aquacolor?

As I mentioned, the Ben Nye Powders are always on there, too.

[00:06:41]: The clean dirt, ash powder, plains dust, and charcoal, depending on your locations, of course. Or you could even mix those to really get your very own tailor-made shade rhymed. The Allied Effects company, which was formerly known as Bluebird, their Dirt Grime. They have some wonderful new products, too.
And of course, David Stoneman’s Maekeup Dropper Dirt, one of my favorites. It’s such a lovely shade, too.

Now, another thing worth mentioning is to think smart. Years and years ago, I worked on a show in New Zealand and the makeup department.

[00:07:21]: I was in the prosthetics department at the time. They showed me their massive tubs of dirt that they had hand mixed for their soldiers and background in the project. And it was a delicate mixture of sunscreen and brown and black pigments.

And it worked a treat because not only did the product stay in the right places, the cracks and creases because it was rubbed into the skin, but at the same time, it was giving the performers some sun protection. Pretty cool. And you can really have a play with the density of color. You like the tone and custom make it to whatever look you’re going for. And it can be pretty cost effective, too, if you’re on a shoestring.

[00:07:59]: And let’s face it, they’re always shoestrings today, aren’t they?

And one last thing before I go, I wanted to give you some of my favorite recommendations of movies to take a look at. If you’re on or you’re about to create.

Breakdown makeups might sound a bit weird, but I feel there’s actually a real beauty to a well realized breakdown makeup.

And I love to see a nice big close up on the big screen.
So I wanted to mention these few movies, as they’re some of my favorites as an audience member and as a makeup artist, fan and yes, researcher too. So the first one has to be Saving Private Ryan those gritty close ups and almost desaturated shades and colors. I loved the different textures of dirt as well. There’s sort of powdery dirt layered with wet dirt, the new remake of All Quiet on the Western Front that just came out last year, The Revenant and The Way Back.

[00:08:57]: These are more modern movies because I guess it’s more applicable to our techniques and our technology and our products today. But I also love watching older movies from the 1960s and really enjoy the different styles and products that you can clearly see were available at the time and just how different the camera technology led to those makeup looks.

So much has changed and it’s always fun and I still believe, highly educational to take a look back at what’s come in these decades before us.

What’s your favorite dirt makeup?

Please feel free to message me on IG @themakeuprefinery. I know I’ve left a few. This was just the ones that spring to mind as I’m talking, but I know there are plenty more that have beautiful, well realized dirt makeups in them and that I hope you’ve learned some quick techniques and some new things to try out next time you get to do a breakdown makeup. And feel free to send me photos too. I love seeing dirt makeups.

[00:10:00]: It’s always inspiring. So shoot them to me at the makeup refinery on Instagram. I’d love to see them. Alrighty, we’ll see you next time.

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