Have you ever showed up to a makeup gig entirely unprepared? It sucks, right? Well, read on to learn, and truly learn to value the importance of research and reference material in the world of makeup. I promise, you’ll never go to work without a reference image or two, again!

the undeniable importance of research to a makeup artist
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In This Episode We Cover:

  • How embracing authenticity and gathering inspiration from nature can elevate your creativity and success in makeup artistry.
  • Why research and reference material is a form of reinforcment.
  • The visual cues of reference images can significantly enhance the quality and impact of your makeup work.


click here to read the transcript!


Episode 54: Show notes

eyeglasses with gray frames on the top of notebook

Like all of us, I’ve encountered many challenges within the makeup realm over the years, but one aspect that has always remained constant is just how important thorough research is. And, specifically, the use of reference materials.
In one of my earliest experiences in makeup school, (when I was just a teenager!) I was lucky enough to engage with seasoned professionals who shared their insights and emphasized the significance of researching historical time periods for period projects in movies and TV shows.

This experience certainly left an indelible mark on me and if nothing else, solidified my belief in the transformative power of research in the world of makeup artistry.

So I want to share the epic significance of conducting research in the realm of makeup artistry.

Drawing on my own journey and the wisdom of the brilliant industry veterans whose paths I have crossed, I want to tell you how research, particularly in historical and period projects, can form the bedrock of our creative process.

It’s not just an optional extra; it’s an essential component that can elevate our work to new heights.

In our industry, the ability to transport audiences to different eras and worlds through makeup is an art form that demands such meticulous attention to detail, and this is only achievable through dedicated research.

However, the implication of this extends beyond period projects.

Whether it’s fantasy, science fiction, or alien-themed projects, incorporating reference materials from nature, animals, and other sources provides a wellspring of inspiration that enriches our creative output.

My own experiences in using such reference materials have shown me, time and time again, that they serve as more than just visual aids.
They act as a catalyst, sparking ideas that may have otherwise gone unnoticed and ignite a creative fervor that can reverberate through the entire makeup process.

Additionally, using reference materials reinforces and bolsters our work, providing a solid foundation and instilling confidence in our creative choices.
I firmly believe that in the world of makeup artistry, reference material is synonymous with reassurance and reinforcement, elevating the standard of our craft.
Can you tell I get passionate about this stuff? I love research! There, I said it!

But having said that, the role of research and reference materials goes beyond personal enrichment. It also serves as an invaluable means of communication and collaboration.
In an industry where effective communication with directors, performers, and other departments is paramount, using reference images can bridge gaps and clarify your own (and others’) artistic visions, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

Now, having said all of this, given the evolving nature of our industry and the proliferation of online resources, the process of finding authentic and unique reference images has undergone significant changes.

With the ubiquitous internet dominating our day-to-day lives, why would we look anywhere else for reference images?

Stay tuned for a future episode to learn some of my best discoveries and places to find fantastic reference images online (and offline!).

So, here’s to the transformative power of research, and the boundless horizons it unveils. Let’s continue to embrace this indispensable facet of our craft and cultivate a community of makeup artists who thrive on the foundations of wisdom and creativity.

Until next time, in our pursuit of inspiration and growth in the realm of makeup artistry!

Click here to listen to this episode!


Episode Transcript

[0:00]: I want to tell you a story of when I was in my very first year of makeup. I was 17 years old. Yep, straight out of high school. Yet, I’d already been involved with makeup for a number of years, in fact, many, many years, because I grew up immersed in all forms of dance and performance as a kiddo. And I. I first wore makeup at the tender age of four. Can you believe it? I’ll have to dig out some old photos and share them on Instagram one day. But, yeah, I was in amongst it.

[1:31]: It’s like it was in my blood.

But let’s cut back to being 17 at makeup school, and we were lucky to have some very impressive guest instructors that would come in for the day and share their own stories and bring in their 1990s portfolios. Yep. Those giant black folders that they shared, newspaper article cutouts, press photos, and glossy images of all their proudest makeup moments.

One of the loveliest human beings, Carolyn Tyrer, who had worked on the George Miller movie Babe, will always stand out in my memory.

And it was just a thrill as such a young novice makeup artist, hear beautiful stories. And she even shared her makeup with us. I got some old Tuttle foundation from her, which I still have somewhere hidden away in the dark depths of my storage.

And another was Deb Lancer, who had worked on the De Niro version of Frankenstein. I was in awe. I never thought about being involved in anything as epic or as impressive as those projects myself. I mean, I was 17, after all. But the real reason I wanted to share this with you today is that a great majority of the projects that were shared to me and my classmates were, in fact, period projects.

And what that means is movies and tv shows that were set in a different time period from the present day, even though at the time, it was the. That’s very much a period era in and of itself. Oh, my goodness.

When did that happen? That’s terrifying. Well, more importantly, I learned just how crucial research is to preparing for these period historical, whatever you want to call them projects. In fact, researching historical time periods can take up a big chunk of your preproduction. It’s really that important.

[4:18]: I hear you ask why, Kerrin? Why is it that important?

Because it gives you visual reference, and reference material can often provide you with ideas that you may have otherwise overlooked entirely.

And to be honest with you, this goes for any type of creative project, not just historical or recreation jobs. Now, I’ve been involved in many fantasy, science fiction, or alien projects over the years where I did in fact use reference material from nature, from other animals, trees, sea, life, you name it.

Even something as simple as skin texture or a pattern or even color schemes from other animals or plants. Honestly, if you’ve ever worked with me, you know I always say always use reference material. I do, and I will continue to do so. And that’s why I’m telling you that I believe you should too.

There is something indefinable and 100% reassuring about stealing from Mother Nature.

[5:59]: I highly recommend it. Even as far as taking skin color patterns or color combinations and using them as an inspiration for a high fashion beauty makeup. Reference material can help you to think outside the box, and gathering reference images can help bolster your confidence.

It can reinforce your work and your processes and give you the knowledge and a solid crutch to lean on to support your creative choices inside your work so that when you do show up for work, you feel prepared and ready with some inspired ideas in the back of your mind.

In fact, I truly believe that reference material is reinforcement. And of course, depending on the type of work you do or the situation you’re in on any given project, showing up well prepared and with plenty of references and inspirational images can also prove that you take your work seriously, that you’re passionate, and that you care deeply about going the whole nine yards with your job, no matter how big or small it may be.

Even your rudimentary face charts can go a long way in communicating looks to other departments. If you’re doing a project that involves recreating characters that are based on real life figures from either past or present day, your research and reference material is absolutely essential, 100% and depending on the size of the project, your show might even have someone whose job is solely to act as a dedicated historical advisor or expert to provide authenticity and yes, to help you with your job.

[7:33]: I love it when I’m on a period makeup show and there is a historical researcher who’s in the crew. They sometimes have access to images and resource materials that you and I can’t even access online, and it can be a real treat if this is the case, as they can be invaluable and help save you time as well.

Using reference images can help you achieve the exact style and look that your director is going for. More and more these days, I find that the people we work for tend to need to see something in front of their very eyes to understand and grasp what exactly you’re attempting to communicate with them, even down to something as seemingly straightforward as dirt colors for a war or survival film.

And if you have a project coming up about just that subject or in that environment, you should check out episodes 43 and 44 of the podcast as I take a deep dive into the world of dirts and breakdown makeups. But getting back to working with people that need to see something before their eyes, well, what reference images can do is bridge that gap. Images can be a shorthand in helping to clarify the lines of communication between you and your director or performer or bride, and ultimately ensure that you’re both on the same page. Now, I know I mentioned face chats, so I wanted to offer you a little something special for me because I love it so much.

[8:55]: And if you haven’t already got this, I’m excited to introduce you to one of my favorite little freebies. If you go to https://themakeuprefinery.com/free-facechart, you will find the link to sign up for my very own custom made face chart, and then you can simply download it and use it on every single job you do with plenty of room for written product info. Options for left and right sides of the face I made this face chart out of necessity as I got so tired of never being able to squeeze all my product info in.

So just go to https://themakerefinery.com/free-facechart and get your very own free face chart today.

So how do you find authentic and unique reference images these days? Well, that’s a very good question.

And you know what? Well, I think I’ll tell you in the very next episode of Five Minute Face Talk because these episodes are starting to creep longer and longer in their time. So I’m trying to reign it in.

I’ll see you next time where we’ll go through some great recommendations that I found that might surprise you, where you can find fantastic images.

Yeah, there might be a few surprises in there, but I’ll see you next time for more Five Minute Face Talk. Bye.


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