How to apply makeup for video

You already know that you need good lighting and a flattering camera angle in order to look great on camera. But it’s easy to focus so much on these production skills that they overlook another simple step that can make you or your talent look even better. That step? Properly applying makeup for video.

Here are some practical video makeup tips that you can apply in 10 minutes or less, even if you don’t know the difference between mascara and foundation. You’ll learn principles that you can apply to anyone who needs to appear on camera — including yourself. The pros do it. You can, too.

Makeup for video: Tricks of the trade

With all makeup applications, start with a clean, dry face and never apply makeup below the jawline. If you’re doing other people’s makeup, carry disposable brushes and hypo-allergenic powder.

In general, you can let women apply their own makeup. Even so, check the makeup to make sure it will work well for the camera. Men, on the other hand, will typically have less experience and so will need more help and assurance.

Always check your makeup on-camera under the lights you’ll be using for the shoot.

One final note: Always check your makeup on-camera under the lights you’ll be using for the shoot. You’ll find that you may need to use more makeup for the camera than you would for the naked eye.

On face powder

Powder is an essential tool in the video makeup kit since it hides the oils and shine that often accompanies bright video lighting. Use translucent powder to take the shine off the face without changing the skin tone. Translucent and color powder come in loose or compact form.

Loose color powder gives the face a smooth, non-oily look. It can be used as a foundation or applied alone. Sheer powder is lighter in texture than translucent or regular loose powder. It is available in a compact or loose form.

If the face has too much color, dust it with powder to tone it down.

Three examples

With these general tips out of the way, let’s look at three archetypes to help guide you to the right makeup techniques for your specific situation.

Darrell, African-American male, Age: 30

Makeup tools

  • Box of tissues
  • Hypo-allergenic translucent loose face powder
    • This is a must for on-screen personalities with dark skin. This powder comes in a loose or compact form. Hypo-allergenic powder is for sensitive skin and since you probably don’t know what type of skin your talent has, it is best to use one that is hypo-allergenic.
  • Disposal lip brushes
  • Eyelash comb
  • Eyebrow pencil
  • Lip primer


Remove the shine from the face without changing the natural skin tone. Enhance natural face-framing features.


  1. Start with a clean, dry face. Use a tissue to wipe away any moisture.
  2. Drape an apron or towel over the talent to make sure no makeup residue gets on the clothes.
  3. Using a medium-size powder brush, apply a small amount of translucent powder to the forehead, coming down around the cheeks and finally covering the entire face. Do not apply to the neck area. You should apply only as far as the jaw line and blend it from there, so it looks as natural as possible.
  4. With the eyelash comb, brush the talent’s eyebrows in the direction they naturally grow. This will give the face an even look, with all facial hair going in the correct direction.
  5. With the eyebrow pencil, going in the natural direction of the eyebrow, run a very light pencil over the eyebrow. This prevents your talent’s features from washing out under hot studio lights.
  6. Get your lip brushes and primer ready. Stroke the brush across the lip primer (never place the lip primer directly on the talent’s mouth) and apply the primer to the lips in even strokes.

Jessica, White female, Age: 21

Makeup tools

  • Concealing cream
  • Liquid foundation (full coverage)
    • Liquid foundation gives the skin a smooth, even look. Full-coverage foundation will block out any blemishes or blotches that would normally show up under hot lights and video closeups.
  • Triangular sponges
  • Loose powder
  • Blush
  • Lip liner
  • Lip gloss (semi-transparent)
  • Disposable lip brush
  • Eyebrow pencil
  • Optional: mascara


Even out skin tone and hide blemishes from the camera. Emphasize and enhance key features that frame the face.


  1. Start with a clean face. Apply concealing cream to any areas that appear dark (under the eyes) or to any skin discoloration. Blend. Professionals often apply some concealing cream under the nose to highlight any area shadowed by the lighting.
  2. Using a triangle sponge, place a small amount of foundation on the sponge and apply in upward/circular strokes. When applying foundation around the nose and under the eye area, be extremely careful. Use light strokes that go inward toward the nose. The skin under the eye is the most sensitive.
  3. With the powder brush, apply loose powder to the face, using light, even strokes.
  4. With the blusher brush, swipe blush over the cheeks. Start from the cheek and mid-center eye and brush into the temple. The color concentration should be on the cheek itself. The closer you get to the temple, the lighter the blush should appear. Reminder: keep lipstick and blush in the same color family. Do not let your talent wear pink lipstick and red blush; this will give the talent’s face an awkward appearance.
  5. Use lip liner (in the same color family as the lipstick) to line the lips before applying gloss. This will prevent the lipstick from “bleeding” on screen. If you would like to make lips appear smaller, move the lip liner inside the lips’ natural line. To make lips appear larger, apply the lip liner outside of the lips’ natural line. Apply lip gloss/lipstick with a disposable lip brush
  6. Brush the eyebrows in the natural direction of growth. Apply eye pencil to the eyebrow with a medium/light hand.
  7. Option: Apply a thin coat of mascara to further frame and emphasize the eyes. Avoid eyeliner and colorful eyeshadow to maintain a natural look.

Arnold, Balding male, Age: 55

Makeup tools

  • Matting lotion or liquid powder
  • Compact sheer face powder
    • Sheer powder can be translucent or have color to it, but is lighter than other powders in texture and weight. It will keep the talent from shining.
  • Oil-free/water-base sheer liquid foundation
    • Water-based sheer liquid and sheer powder create a natural appearance.
  • Blush
  • Lip primer
  • Disposal lip brushes
  • Eyelash curler and comb
  • Eyebrow pencil


Create an invisible makeup look that prevents shine and adds color to the face.


  • Start with a clean, dry face. Also, wipe any shine or moisture on the bald area of the head.
  • Apply a matting lotion or liquid powder to the head and face. This is used directly on a clean face and head to prime the area and prevent shine.
  • Apply the sheer foundation, so the talent does not appear “made up.” Blend to the jaw line. Place emphasis in the eye area, making sure there are no dark spots. Also, make sure the shaving area of the face is smooth. Utilizing a lighter liquid than the talent’s complexion, blend out any dark spots that may appear after applying the foundation.
  • Dust the entire face and the bald area of the head with sheer powder.
  • Apply a natural blush to the talent’s face, something a little darker than the complexion but in the same color family. Use an extremely light hand so the face appears natural to the camera.
  • Brush the eyebrows in the natural direction they grow. Run an extra-light eyebrow pencil over the eyebrow.

Time to practice

Now that you know the basics of applying makeup for video, you’ll need to practice and experiment to build up your skill and figure out what works for you and/or your talent.

Next up? Wardrobe.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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