The Ultimate Guide to Cosplay Makeup
Cosplay makeup brings together all the worlds of love, art and science. Unlike regular makeup, the accuracy required in the cosplay world can be pretty tricky, especially with the more complex characters.
Don’t worry - whether you’re a cosplay makeup newbie or a seasoned pro, this guide covers all of the basics, so that your face can truly make a bold statement.
Prep Your Skin
Chances are, you’re going to be using quite a few different face makeup products, meaning that skin care should always be your very first step. The three things you need to do are:
- Cleanse: removing dirt, oil and other impurities will give you smoother makeup application
- Moisturize: this will hydrate your skin, keeping it healthy
- Prime: a mattifying face primer will give you the perfect blank canvas to work from, while giving your products extra staying power
Foundation & Concealer
Pretty much every anime and video game character out there has flawless skin, which is where foundation and concealer come in.
The products you choose should perfectly match your own skin tone, so be sure to test out various shades before making your decision. Experts tend to agree that the most accurate way of finding your shade of foundation is by testing it out on the jawline, in natural daylight.
Trying out different foundation formulas is key too. There are several out there, but the two most popular options are:
- Liquid Foundation: can provide both light and full coverage, while also being more hydrating for the skin.
- Powder Foundation: easy to apply, powders provide a light amount of coverage, while also absorbing away excess oil for a matte finish
One thing to keep in mind when choosing a foundation formula is your skin type. If you have oily skin, a powder will help to minimize shine and is less likely to clog up your pores. On the other hand, those with a drier skin type do best with a hydrating liquid foundation, since powders can often cake on dry skin, exacerbating rough patches.
Contouring & Highlighting
Contouring and highlighting are both great methods for bringing attention to certain facial features, while also drawing focus away from others. Whether your character has a super-slim nose, an ultra-defined jawline, or exquisitely-chiseled cheekbones, highlighting and contour makeup products are the way to replicate this. Highlighting is also a good method for adding some shine and luminosity to your face, which is especially useful for fantasy or magical cosplays.
Again, when it comes to highlighting and contouring makeup, you have a few different formula options. While creamy formulas tend to be easier to apply, many find powders more effective at carving out the face, giving you a more dramatic finish.
Incorporating a few different shades is always a good idea too, as this enables you to mix and match until you have achieved perfection. For this, palettes are usually best, not to mention so much more convenient. Look for a dedicated palette each for contouring and highlighting, as this will give you even more flexibility when creating your look.
What many cosplayers don’t realize is that their contouring and highlighting is only as good as their blending. Unless you are intentionally going for harsh lines, then understanding how to blend will give your face a softer and more natural look. Brushes work well for this, but most pros turn to a beauty sponge, not only for the ultimate blend, but also to make application easier.
Make an Impact with Your Cosplay Eyes
If you want to replicate a wide-eyed, anime look, you need to get your cosplay eye makeup right. As always, a good base is key, and while a foundation and concealer are great for perking up the eye area, a dedicated product designed to brighten and smooth the skin around the eyes will give you a better start.
Intense and defined eyes are key in a successful cosplay look, making eyeliner a must.
Liquid liners tend to be more dramatic and long-lasting, but they require a steadier hand to apply. Eyeliner pencils are easier to handle and can still provide sharp definition. A pencil can also give you that smoky effect - useful if you’re dressing up as an antagonist and want to mimic those angry eyes. Either way, the goal is to apply your eyeliner in a way that makes your eyes appear striking and intense.
Some are able to go full-on with their liner while still achieving that coveted, doe-eyed look, but others, especially those who naturally have smaller eyes, may need to practice a lighter touch. If a heavily-lined lash line doesn’t do your look any favors, turn your attention to your lashes instead.
A few swipes of a volumizing mascara will immediately give your eye lashes a more noticeable flutter, making your eyes look wider and more awake.
If you could do with a little assistance in the eyelash department, consider false lashes. Available in different sizes, shapes and styles, fake eyelashes are easier to apply than you would imagine, and have the power to totally transform your look.
It’s common for cosplayers to stop after their eyeliner and eyelashes are done, but, even if the character you’ve chosen doesn’t normally wear obvious eye makeup, an eyeshadow can still take your cosplay look to the next level.
It’s always worth having a couple of different eyeshadow palettes to experiment with for cosplay makeup. A selection of vivid and vibrant hues, such as in the Trendy in Tokyo 16-Color Eye Shadow Palette, will complement even the most outrageous of makeup styles, while a more neutral eyeshadow palette will still enhance a subtle eye look.
Cosplay makeup incorporates quite a bit of layering, meaning that blending your shadows well is key. A quality eyeshadow brush set will make this much easier, giving your look a polished and professional finish.
Spending some time learning how to apply your eyeshadow correctly will help to give you those pronounced eyes that all the best characters are famous for.
Just like with eyeshadows, the brows are quite an undervalued part of cosplay makeup, but they can really make such a difference to your finished look.
If your character’s eyebrows look similar to yours, then there isn’t much you need to do. Just make sure that yours are well-groomed and defined, so that they don’t detract from the rest of your makeup.
Many cosplayers tend to struggle when their character’s eyebrows are of a lighter color to their own. Yes, you can always leave yours as they are and then fix them on Photoshop later, or you can strive to achieve a more authentic look to begin with.
The glue stick method is a popular technique, but, if you would prefer to go the safer route, try using a white eyeliner pencil instead. All you need to do is cover your brows with the pencil, before topping with an eyeshadow shade that matches your character’s brow color.
Wondering why freckles are being listed with eye makeup products?
Because those same products that work wonders on your eyes can also be used to create freckles on your face. From brow pomade to an eyeliner pencil to a dark eyeshadow color, drawn-on freckles can look surprisingly natural if you use the right products.
Don't Ignore Your Lips
While lip colors may be quite subtle and light in the cosplay world, this doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore your lips. You have probably noticed many cosplay photos where the character’s lips look washed out, and this is usually because they have been left bare. Even if it looks as though your character goes au-naturell with their lips, a nude lipstick will still really help your look to pop, especially in photos.
Begin with a quick exfoliation to remove any roughness. Then, find a lip color that matches the lips of the character you’re dressing up as. Light pink is always popular, although you will likely need to go for a matte formula, rather than a glossy liquid lipstick. A waterproof lip liner can also be helpful when it comes to keeping everything in place, as well as for simply adding a bit of extra definition.
What should you do if your character has a noticeable lack of definition and color in their lips?
In this case, you may be best off applying a coat of lip balm, following this up with a light wash of foundation. Sometimes, under-emphasizing your lips can make just as much of an impact as a bright pop of color.
Glitter & Shimmer
Although not as common as some of the other makeup features seen in the cosplay world, magical characters lend themselves well to the shimmer that a bit of glitter makeup can provide.
Makeup glitter couldn’t be easier to apply - whether on your eyes, your cheeks, or even on your body, make sure that you begin with a glitter glue to keep that sparkle lasting for hours.
All of these extra products may seem like quite an investment to begin with, but the key is to shop smart. Regularly check your favorite cosmetics brands for makeup sales and deals - you never know, your newest bargain find could be perfect for your next cosplay look!
Face & Body Paint
Many costumes require something a little extra, usually in the form of face or body paint. Whether you need to recreate a facial feature or completely color all areas of exposed skin, quality paints are a must for so many characters.
The two most popular options for face and body paint are either liquid formulas or powdered formulas. Liquid tends to be easier and faster to apply, but it does take a while to dry. It can also bring the disadvantage of dripping over time, once the sweat and oils from your skin mix in with the pigment.
On the other hand, powdered paints have a bit more staying power, but do take longer to apply. They usually require at least two coats for their color to be noticeable, but, do dry quickly.
The Final Touch
Once you’re done applying all of your makeup, there’s one more thing you need to do…
Finish it off with a setting powder or spray!
Sprays are faster and easier to use - a few quick spritzes and you’re ready to go. However, a setting powder with a fine, light-diffusing formula will give your skin a softer and silkier finish, while blurring away any imperfections that may still be showing through.
Cosplay makeup can be difficult to master - this is something that really does take so much practice! However, making sure that you have the right products to work with is a great start - this will give you the opportunity to experiment with a much wider variety of different character looks.
Need some Character-Specific Cosplay Makeup Help?
Here are a few useful tutorials to check out:
Abaddon from Supernatural: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ELYgt4ZhuU
Ashe from League of Legends: http://prettymuchgeeks.com/ashe-makeup-tutorial/
Annie from League of Legends: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRYKO5GpP9I
Asuna from Sword Art Online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1ORrNnBTZw
Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ii2bbzSqYYI
Jolyne from All Star Battle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFZpt7Zyzsw
Mirai Kuriyama from Kyoukai No Kanata: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-buP5637iU
Wendy from Gravity Falls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FipJJLpoDJw
Blood Elf from World of Warcraft: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_X7oHkbBoc
Zarya from Overwatch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UulmeR0XoooFace & Body Paint Image Credit:: ractapoulous / Pixabay