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Special Effects Makeup Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Special effects makeup is used in theater, television and film to transform actors into characters. Training programs commonly offer opportunities for participants to practice makeup techniques on fellow students and models.

How to Select a Special Effects Makeup School

Nearly all makeup programs with a special effects focus are available through private, for-profit beauty schools and makeup academies, which award certificates upon completion. However, students may also learn to apply special effects makeup through the theatre departments of some community colleges and 4-year colleges and universities.

Summary of Important Considerations

  • Program type and emphasis
  • School location and internship opportunities

Program Type and Emphasis

Special effects makeup training is available for film and television or theater production. Because some schools emphasize one mode over the other, individuals may wish to decide what medium they prefer before they choose a school. Most programs result in a certificate. But standalone courses in special effects makeup are also offered at some cosmetology schools.

Individuals who are interested in theatrical makeup can look for a degree program in production technology and design, or they can choose a school that is focused exclusively on special effects makeup. They can also learn to apply special effects makeup through a general theater degree program, but these lessons are usually limited in scope and show up in only one or two classes over a 4-year degree program. They also learn set design, lighting, playwriting and directing, which can help them get ahead in their careers and understand how makeup professionals relate to other creative team members in the production. Graduates receive a bachelor's degree rather than a certificate.

School Location and Internship Opportunities

Because it's a competitive field, prospective students should look for a school that offers internship opportunities with local production companies. They may also want to consider attending a school in New York or Southern California, which are the most popular locations for production companies and studios.

Special Effects Makeup Program Overview

Certificate in Special Effects Makeup

Completion of a special effects makeup program can vary from a short, intensive course to a 1-year program. Students typically need to purchase their own makeup supplies. Courses focus on performance makeup techniques, including those used to simulate a certain age or expression. Students learn to apply prosthetics and other body alteration molds. They also create fake hair, bruises, wounds and skin textures and learn how these skills vary between film and the stage. Other subjects instructors may teach include:

  • Skin care
  • Color theory
  • Traditional makeup applications

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