Theatre Thursday

Correcting Corrective

Theatre artists all find it necessary to begin their work from a neutral foundation.  Actors find a neutral, unaffected voice and posture as the build a character.  Costume designers start each rendering with a neutral figure so that they can illustrate clothes for a character.  Lighting designers use neutral colors (amber and blue) to create a realistic look.  Makeup designers start with a neutral makeup design for an actor’s face.

Every school day I help in a stage makeup class at my local high school.  We have just finished our first unit – Corrective makeup for the stage.

We start by teaching students about the human face.  We teach them the scientific names of the arches and the hollow spaces.  We talk about how the arches reflect light and the hollows create shadows.  We teach them how to draw the face and how to get the proportions of the face correct.


Next we work on eyebrows.  We teach them how to make the eyebrows disappear using a glue stick and their foundation.  It is important get the glue on both sides of each little hair and to press the hairs firmly into the face.  Once the hairs are pressed to the face, students pat foundation over the glue.  It is important not to rub because the glue stick and the foundation get very messy.


The idea is to teach them application skills and just expressive the face can be.


Then we have them draw on new expressive eye brows.


They are graded on how smooth they make the hair, how evenly they apply the foundation and how smooth and expressive their new eyebrows are.  (It is fun to have my daughter in the class to to watch her blossom as an artist).


We have them create a morgue and assign them to collect a variety of pictures of eye shapes, eyebrows, noses, mouths, face shapes, corrective make up for men and women and glamour makeup for men and women.  It is important for the students to be experts in facial features and to understand the difference between corrective and glamour.

Next, we teach them to draw makeup plates.  We teach them about foundation application, highlights and shadows and blending techniques.

Basic corrective makeup is used to erase, or “correct,” any blemishes, scars or facial imperfections.  Corrective makeup enhances the natural contrast between light and shadow on the actor’s face.  This is called contouring and is an important technique used in basic corrective stage makeup.  Theatrical makeup is very different than street makeup as the level of contrast between highlight and shadow are not the same.  Theatrical makeup is meant to be expressive from up to 100 feet away.  This is a hard concept for students to wrap their brain around.

Student designers should start by asking a few basic questions about their designs:

  1. Does the make add contrast and dimension to the face?
  2. Is the character clear?
  3. Have I addressed every area of the face?
  4. Does the design fulfill the assignment?


The following are the steps we teach to apply basic corrective makeup for the stage:

  1. Start with a clean face and tie back hair.
  2. Use a makeup sponge to apply foundation all over the face.  Use the flat sides for more broad application and the fine edge for more details.  “Load” the sponge with the appropriate amount of foundation.  The best way to ensure even coverage of makeup is to go over the same place twice.  I like to start in the middle and pull out toward the edge of the face and hairline.  Be sure to pull the foundation under the jawline and onto the neck.
  3. Apply shadows.  Shadows go on the soft places on your face… the facas… those spaces between bones.  Be sure to apply shadow on the sides of the nose; below the check bones; at the temples; on the mandible, just below the jawline; above the eyes just below the eyebrows; at the top of the forehead next to the hairline.
  4. Apply highlights.  Highlight goes on the boniest parts of the face.  Pay attention to the top of the nasal bone; top of the cheekbones; upper eyelids; above the eyebrows; on the audible on the jawline; top of the forehead.
  5. Use the highlights and shadows to adjust crooked noses, uneven lips or uneven eyebrows.
  6. Blend!  This takes practice.  We are not looking for mud!
  7. Add blush between the highlight and the shadow on the cheekbones.  Get those apples of the cheeks to pop!
  8. Add lip color.
  9. . Define eyes.  Use the eye pencil pencil in your kit to line the upper lid and the outside half of the lower lid of each eyes.  If you want you can apply mascara.
  10. Use the pencil to fill in your eyebrows.
  11. If you want to, you can then apply a neutral eye shadow to the eyelids.
  12. Sprinkle powder on the powder puff and pat over all the makeup to set the makeup.


These kids are one step closer to becoming great artists!


3 thoughts on “Correcting Corrective”

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