Getting started as a professional effects makeup artist can be overwhelming – and I’m not just talking emotionally! Feeling like you have to have all the things and every shiny new product you see advertised makes your kit building seem like a daunting and expensive task. So here are just a few of my favorite products that can form the start of a basic effects makeup kit, and show you that you don’t need every special effects makeup product under the sun, especially in the beginning.

what products do you need to grow your special effects makeup kit?
Brown Makeup Brushes in Clear Glass Mason Jar

Listen to Episode:


This post may contain affiliate links, such as Amazon and Shop My, that I may earn from qualifying links. This means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, but never fear, because it means no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.


In This Episode We Cover:

  • some of the basic essentials for a beginner’s effects makeup kit.
  • a trick or two for makeup removal, color matching with a limited shade range and so much more!
  • that you don’t need to spend a fortune, or have every product under the sun when starting out.


click here to read the transcript!


Episode 47: Show notes

Brown Makeup Brushes in Clear Glass Mason Jar

Starting out in this field can feel overwhelming, especially with the cost of makeup and tools. But fear not, because with a few key items, you can kick start your journey into the world of special effects makeup.

Key Products for Beginners

As a beginner, focusing on a select few items that can cover a wide range of effects and looks is essential.

Let’s dive into some of these must-have products.

Glue Brushes

Starting with a small set of glue brushes is crucial.

While art store sets are affordable and effective for beginners, investing in quality brushes as you progress is crucial. Check out my podcast episode 38, where I discuss my favorite glue brush brands in detail.

Alcohol-Activated Palette

An alcohol-activated palette is incredibly versatile. From creating cuts and bruises to fantasy-based looks, these palettes offer a wide range of options. They can also be used to create sheer, translucent colors on the skin, making them a valuable addition to your kit.

Good Remover

Having a reliable makeup remover is non-negotiable. Different makeup types require specific removers, so exploring and finding the best options for your needs is essential. I prefer isopropyl myristate and telesis supersol, but you’ll discover your go-to removers as you gain experience.

Opsite Tape

This clear tape is a game-changer for makeup artists. It can be used under bald caps and in various other scenarios, making it a versatile tool with multiple applications that can save the day on set.


A humble but efficient hairdryer is a must-have for quick applications. Opt for a smaller, travel-friendly option to avoid issues with the power supply in makeup trailers. The Baybliss Bambino hairdryer is my go-to choice for its sleek design and functionality.

Setting Powder

Invest in a large tub of RCMA No-Color Powder, a versatile and reliable option that will last you a lifetime. This powder is a staple in my kit and offers a hygienic solution for makeup application.

Cream or Grease Palette

While classic, rubber mask grease paint remains an essential item in my kit. With a small selection of primary colors and red shades, this palette can be a lifesaver for on-the-spot makeup changes

Airbrush Inks

Consider stocking up on airbrush inks such as skin illustrator, EBA, or allied effects. A selection of primary colors, along with neutralizing shades, can cover a wide spectrum of makeup needs

As you embark on your special effects makeup journey, remember that starting small is perfectly okay.

Invest in these essential products, and as you gain experience, you can expand your kit.

If you’ve found value in this post, consider checking out my podcast and leaving a rating or review if you don’t mind. Your support helps to spread the love and knowledge of makeup artistry. With that said, go out there, start creating, and I’ll catch you in the next episode. Until then, take care!

Click here to listen to this episode!


Episode Transcript

[00:00:03]: Regardless of your chosen niche within makeup, making the decision to embark on a career in special effects makeup can be a really expensive undertaking. It can feel like the world is against you. When everything from a simple makeup brush costs at least ten or $20, it can be really expensive.

But I want to reassure you that starting out doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to start out with every single makeup and tool available to humanity.

The good news is that by having just a few key items in your kit, you really can get by in the beginning.

And then as the work comes to you and your experience expands, no doubt so will your makeup kit.

[00:01:28]: Let’s take a look at a few key products that you should have from the get-go that I think are essential for getting by in the very beginning.

First, a small but solid set of glue brushes. And if you’re literally fresh and starting out, art store sets will do just fine to begin with and honestly can be super affordable. On the other hand, if you’d like to know some of my favorite glue brushes, I mentioned quite a few of my go-to brands in episode 38, where I spend a decent chunk of time talking about special effects and glue brushes as well. So check it out.

An alcohol activated palette. Now this can be a really versatile palette to use anytime you get the call to create cuts, bruises, black eyes, wounds, and just character shading. And you can even use them for more fantasy based creations too.

[00:02:20]: The best thing about alcohol palettes today is that the activator that you use with the alcohol product can really create a very sheer and watered-down version of the shades within the palette, and you can create lovely washes of color on the skin and just build up layers of translucent color.

So have a play on your own face or arm once you get an alcohol palette or two. I also mention, I think, ten of my goto alcohol based palettes in a blog post as well.

I think it’s called top ten special effects makeup palettes for your kit, but I’ll link to it below on the show notes page on my website so you can check it out at a later time when this episode finishes.

Next is a good remover. Now, a special effects makeup kit is virtually useless if you don’t stock something to remove your makeup as well. And if you’re applying prosthetics, this is an absolute must. Now, there are quite a few to choose from, and they all have varying thicknesses, viscosities, and even intensity of removal capability as well.

[00:03:33]: I tend to use Isopropyl Myristate or Telesis Supersolv for the most part. And the further that you get along in your career and the different people you work with and projects that you work on will no doubt expose you to so many other removers that are most efficient for various makeup types.

For example, if you’re gluing on Prosaide transfers like three-dimensional transfers, you might find that using a product called two four four, which is beauty or cosmetic fluid, that two four four will do the job the best.
Or removing fake blood that has stained the skin, your humble can of shaving cream might just take that stain out the best.

I’d love to also introduce you to opsite tape. I feel like I talk about this product all the time, and that’s with good reason. Spending money on a clear tape might seem unheard of when you’re a starving artist, but trust me, even investing in one small roll of opsite tape will completely change your working day, I promise. Opsite tape has become an absolute staple in makeup kits the world over.

[00:04:47]: From using it under bald caps across the back of the neck and across the front of the hairline, it gives you an extra surface to glue your cap to and say goodbye to the old back of the neck lifting forever. I promise you.

This is a game changer, and it has a million other uses that will only be limited by your imagination and your onset predicaments. That it will no doubt be the solution to all of these things.

Make Opsite tape a must-have for your kit. If you haven’t heard of it, I’ll link to it in the show notes, as I will all of these products that I’m talking about today, so you can go and get them straight away.

Now, opsite tape has a little learning curve to apply when you first use it.

[00:05:36]: So it’s basically a thin and flexible membrane or adhesive layer, and it comes with a backing paper that you remove first. So you peel off the backing paper, you stick it down, and then you remove the clear film that has green grid lines on it like guidelines. So that’s the last thing to come off. And voila. You are left with a very thin, flexible, and strong film that can cover hair, open wounds, and so many other things. And the good news is that you can paint right over the top of it with your alcohol paints the best.

Now, something that gets overlooked a lot is just a simple yet decent hairdryer. A humble hairdryer is a must for quick, efficient applications, and you may even need it on set at times as well.

[00:06:27]: And now, when I say decent, I don’t necessarily mean the strongest or the most powerful hairdryer that you can find. In fact, I mean quite the opposite, because the more powerful hairdryers tend to be so powerful in voltage that they can short the power in a makeup trailer after just a few seconds of use.

So my advice to you is to stick with something smaller. It’s easier to pack and store, it takes up less room in your kit and it’s still going to do the job well for you.

In fact, my all time favorite hairdryer is a travel hairdryer. It’s the Bay Bliss bambino I think it’s called. And I’ve got about four of them now. I get it in black.

[00:07:09]: They look sleek and simple and they’re tiny and their noise isn’t too ear piercingly hideous as well. Some of those travel dryers can be kind of offensive to the ear, so that’s why I stick with the babeliss bambino. Check them out. I’ll link to them below so you can get your own setting powder, another easily overlooked but very important part of your kit. Just get yourself the big old tub of RCMA. No color powder and you will never look back. And the best thing is when you have that big jar, you can just decant or tap out a little powder onto a dish or a palette. And now get one that’s specifically and only for your powder.

[00:07:53]: It’ll become your powder dish and you’ll never have any hygiene issues with it at all. So easy and that will last you a lifetime. Cream or grease palette now call me old fashioned, call me old school, call me old whatever, but I still love rubber mask grease paint or RMGP.

And a small selection of primary colors and some lovely crimson and red shades can be such a handy little palette that you can create and customize with, let’s say a small Vuesette Palette and a little depotting. But please don’t go down that rabbit hole of depotting. Because in my heart I truly feel that we don’t need plastic upon plastic and depotting and more depotting. But just a few key palettes can really be lifesavers in your kit, especially in your onset kit. Be so versatile and honestly save you in a pinch when you’re on set and you have to do some unexpected changes or character makeup bits on the spot.

[00:08:56]: A grease paint can be the perfect solution to keep in your set kit at all times, and you can also thin them down with alcohol or an alcohol iso do decay mix and use the similar sort of washes that I was talking about with your alcohol based palettes too. I love the RCMA rubber mask grease paints, and in fact the Mac Pro Paintstick Palette too, although I’m not sure if it’s been discontinued at this point. I’ll try and find a link if I can, and I’ll add it below on the show notes too. And another favorite is the makeup forever flash color cream palette. It has a fantastic range of primary shades and also the basic shades from the RGB color model too.

You can make yourself a brilliant mini set palette with these shades that you will come to rely on time after time after time. A decent supply of airbrush inks such as skin illustrator, eba, european body arts that is, or allied effects. Now, they were formerly the Bluebird company, and you can start with primary black and white and go from there.

[00:10:12]: And check out my blog post of alcohol-based makeup if this is entirely new to you, but a handful of shades such as your primary colors red, blue and yellow, and then just introduce a couple of red or pink shades such as capillary and coral adjuster, rose adjuster, or lividity. Some important shades are what are called your neutralizing shades, such as your olive adjuster, cool tone and vein tone as well.

Now, these are all Skin Illustrator titles for colors, and they’ve become pretty much universally recognized. So that’s why I mention, because any artist all over the world will hear those names and know exactly what I’m talking about. So it’s good to get in with that color system and then you can move from there. Now, having said that, EBA and Allied Effects are solid favorites of mine as well.

And a hidden bonus with these two brands is that their products are so well pigmented that with the concentration that we use in makeup and more often than not using them through an airbrush, they have to be a certain thinness or their viscosity has to be quite low, doesn’t it, to get pushed through the airbrush without clogging it. So you’ll no doubt always end up thinning these inks down.

[00:11:29]: And that being the case, these single bottles will last you such a long time. That is if there’s no spills. And sometimes that can be easier said than done. So always screw that lid on tight and always remember to close that little applicator head.
As soon as you’ve used the ink, close it straight up. That’s my bonus tip for the day. And then you can start having a look at skin tones as well.
And if you pick, say, one very light skin tone, one medium, and one dark shade, this can be all you need starting out.

[00:12:03]: Because with your reds and blue shades and yellow, you can adjust these flesh tones for any skin tone, right? Because your color theory understanding should take care of the rest. And once you get into it, it will become like second nature.
So building your paints in these ranges can effectively be exactly the same as you would build in your beauty makeup in your foundation range.

You really don’t need to spend money on every single shade within a makeup range, just a few key ones to start out and simply mix and tint as needed.

Okay? So that’s just a handful of the essentials that you should think about investing in, especially when you’re starting out. And remember, just start small. It will come to you, I promise. Did you enjoy this episode? If you did, it would mean everything to me.

[00:12:57]: If you could just take a minute and give me a little rating on Apple Podcasts or whichever platform is your platform of choice for listening. This tells Apple that I’m providing you with great info that you enjoy, and it tells me that I should keep going and create more episodes too.

And if you really love this episode, you can help even more by leaving a short review to recommend this podcast to other makeup fans and artists. That would be just great and help to share the love and info with more folks just like you. Okay, till next time, thank you for the love and support. And here we are at the time of recording a few weeks into 2024. So my advice is to get out there, start creating, and I’ll see you next time. Okay, bye.

Take Me Back to the Podcast Homepage

More about the Podcast

If you loved this episode, and you haven’t subscribed to the podcast yet, don’t forget to subscribe.

And if you know someone, perhaps you have a friend who’s a makeup artist or loves makeup, and is always looking for a new makeup podcast to pop in their ears, then it would mean the world to me if you could share my podcast with them.
I love makeup and skincare, and it’s my honor to share my passion with you, so you can listen to my show, Monday and Thursday, by simply subscribing below.


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.