Posted on: May 1, 2020
By Daniel C Townsend
We all know the feeling of waiting in your seat for a theatre show to begin. Staring at the iconic red curtains expectantly, overpriced ice-cream tub in hand, the excitement palpable in the air. The sense of realness and immediacy sets the theatre apart from other mediums, and is evident in everything from the live stunts to the special effects (sfx) makeup. CGI isn’t an option in the theatre, and indeed, isn’t always the best option in film, as I’m sure any viewer of Cats (2019) would agree. For that reason, the skills of a theatrical makeup artist will always be in demand for theatre productions, films and tv shows.
Stage makeup can work magic - ageing a character 40 years, transforming actors into fantastical creatures, or creating all manner of gory injuries. Using makeup to create wounds and injuries is known as trauma makeup, and this blog post will take you through how to create two areas of trauma makeup – bruises and cuts.
What is Trauma Makeup?
Trauma makeup refers to creating a bruise, wound or other type of injury on the skin. The skills needed for trauma makeup range from careful application of colour, for example in creating a bruise, to using gelatin or liquid latex to make protrusions or prosthetics. Creating these injuries is one of the most basic and in-demand skills for a stage makeup artist, so read on to learn how to create bruises, cuts, scars, or burns realistic enough to make onlookers squirm.
Key Factors to Consider Before Applying Bruise Makeup
Let’s start with one of the most common injuries you’ll come across: bruises. The art of creating a believable bruise lies in knowing the answers to the following questions.
How did the bruise occur?
Knowing what caused the bruise will of course lead you to the shape you’re trying to create, whether that’s having been punched in the eye with a fist or strangled with rope. If the individual was injured in a fight, the weapon used should also be considered - whether it was blunt and flat or more pointed. Or alternately, if the bruises were caused from being thrown through the air for example, consider which parts of the body would make impact and likely been bruised.
Where is the bruise on the body?
The colour and size of the bruise will vary depending on which part of the body has been affected. When it comes to the face, the cheek bones and chin are often bruised, whereas bruises to the fleshy part of the cheeks are rare. The eye area can be easily bruised, and black eyes have pockets of dark purple and red in the early stages, whereas bruises to the arms or back would contain more violets and blues.
How long ago did it happen?
What makes trauma effects so fascinating is that they have a life cycle, meaning the bruise will look different depending on whether it’s fresh, or a few days/weeks old and healing. No two bruises will ever look exactly alike, so when applying them it’s important to make each one look unique. This can be achieved by making them asymmetrical, with different pockets of intensity. Carefully considering the above questions before getting started will help elevate your work to a higher standard.