How to Do Stage Makeup for Ballet

You’ve been rehearsing for months, and now the big day is finally here: It’s show time!

But no matter how good your arabesque or sharp your petit allegro, if you don’t know how to use stage makeup, you aren’t going to be properly prepared for opening night. When applied correctly, the makeup simply allows your features to be shown more fully on stage; without it, your entire face can look washed out and unremarkable.

Both men and women use stage makeup, though women must follow a few additional steps to turn from maiden to princess. Don’t know what to do or where to start? Don’t worry. Check out these simple tips to guide you through the process.

What You’ll Need:

  • Moisturizer (suited for your skin type)
  • Foundation primer
  • Concealer
  • Foundation
  • Foundation & concealer brush
  • Finishing powder
  • Buffing brush
  • Highlighter
  • Contouring cream or powder
  • Blush
  • Angled brow brush
  • Tinted eyebrow wax
  • Eye shadow primer
  • Eye shadow palette—medium, medium dark, dark, and highlighting shades (men only use dark and highlighting shades).
  • Eyeshadow brush
  • Eyeshadow blending/crease brush
  • Brush cleaner
  • Eyeliner (cream)
  • Angled eyeliner brush
  • False lashes (women only)
  • False eyelash adhesive (women only)
  • Eyelash curler (women only)
  • False lashes (women only)
  • Mascara (black) (women only)
  • Washcloth
  • Lip balm
  • Lip liner (women only)
  • Lip brush (women only)
  • Lip color (women only)
  • Tissues (for wiping excess/fallout)
  • Finishing spray

Hot Tip: About Face

Guys should shave at least 60 minutes before you need to apply your makeup, though it is best to shave in the morning if you have an evening show. Women should try and do their show hair after makeup, so you don’t have to stress mussing up your hair. Make sure to keep hair pinned back or pulled away from the face with a headband as you apply—you want your canvas to be as clean and clear as possible!

1. Start Clean and Moisturized

Wash your face before applying makeup to ensure it goes on smoothly and evenly. Remove any excess dirt/oil and apply a moisturizer made for your skin type (oily, combination, or dry).

2. Apply Skin Primer

Skin primers are an often overlooked but vital part of the makeup process. They help keep makeup in place, so that it doesn’t smudge off under the heat of stage lights and performance.

3. Apply Concealer

Apply concealer to any dark circles, blemishes, or other flaws in the skin, then blend lightly. The concealer should be a cream or liquid in a color that matches your skin tone

4. Apply Foundation

Dot foundation on the forehead, nose, cheeks and chin. Blend it outward toward the edges of the face, making sure to blend color onto the jaw-line and neck to match your skin tone. Women should also apply a light coat of foundation to the décolleté area, as most tutus have lower bodices.

5. Reapply Concealer

Sometimes the application of foundation can smear/disturb the concealer, so reapply anywhere coverage may have faded.

6. Apply Powder

Use a large buffing brush to apply a coat of skin-toned or translucent powder over the entire face. Girls should also buff powder lightly over the décolleté area to set the foundation.

7. Set Concealer

Set concealer by dabbing powder with a small concealer brush onto the areas it has been applied. This not only sets the concealer into place, but also gives a solid, matte finish to the entire face and neck.

8. Highlight

Clean your foundation brush, then use it to highlight the contours of your face. Not sure where to highlight? No problem! The areas you’ll sweep with highlights are the areas of your face that get hit with the sun when you stand outside. Here are the general areas you’ll want to hit:

  • The center of the forehead
  • The center of the nose
  • The chin
  • The inner corners of the eyes
  • The crescent shaped crevasse above the cheekbones
  • For women, the inner sides of the neck and the décolleté area where the collarbone is raised.

9. Apply Shading

Clean the same brush, and then use it to apply shading to complement the highlights. Shadows should be smooth and blended with your (cleaned) buffing brush. For men, the shadows should be enhanced and slightly heavier, accentuating the brow bone.

Place the darker areas where shadows naturally fall on the face:

  • The sides of the nose
  • The temples
  • The hair line
  • The jaw line
  • Under the cheekbones
  • The sides of the neck
  • The hollows of the collarbone.

10. Apply Blush

Use your buffing brush to apply blush, starting in the center of the cheek and lightly streaking upward toward the temple. Work the blush onto the skin slowly, building color and coverage until the color is visible, but not overpowering.

Women should use pink tones; men should use a shade slightly warmer than their natural skin tone.

11. Apply Tinted Wax to Brows

Take the angled brow brush and work the tinted wax onto the brows in short, hair-like strokes, following the natural shape of the eyebrow. If you’re having difficulty with the shape or have naturally very thin or over-plucked brows, you may want to use a brow stencil (available in many styles and shapes at both drug stores and higher line makeup departments and boutiques).

Women’s eyebrows should be a brown shade that gradually darkens in color depending on the natural skin tone. Men’s brows should always be deep, dark chocolate brown to accentuate the brow bone.

12. Apply Eye Shadow Primer

Apply eye shadow primer from the lid all the way up to the brow bone. Primers vary in consstency, but one that goes on as a liquid or cream with a tint that matches the skin tone is ideal. Wait approximately 15 seconds after applying primer before beginning eye shadow application.

Hot Tip: Keep It Matte

Try to use shadows that are matte or opalescent, and free of loose glitter. While super glittery shadow can be beautiful, it can also cause fallout below your eyes or run into them while you dance. If you want a more glamorous look, look for shadows that are pressed and opalescent or iridescent. Pressed shadows will make the makeup more solid and less likely to scatter, while the subtle sheen gives you the extra glamour you want.

13. Apply Medium, Saturated Shadow to Lids

Use your flat eye shadow brush to apply a medium saturated shadow all over the eyelid. Depending on the coloring of the person, this shadow may be a medium brown, deep brown, or golden brown.

14. Apply Medium-Dark Shadow to Creases

Clean the flat brush, and then use it to apply a medium-dark shadow, one to two shades darker than the shadow on the lid. Work the shadow into the inner and middle portions of the crease of the eye. Men should extend the shadow out to the other crease as well.

15. Apply Darkest Shadow to Outer Crease

Clean the flat brush, and then apply the darkest shadow in a “V” shape into the outer crease and outermost portion of the lid. Lightly buff the eye shadow to form a smoky corner. Take your crease/soft shadow brush and blend the dark shadow into the other two, creating a seamless gradient between the colors.

16. Apply a Highlighting Shade Below Eyebrow

Clean your brush again. Following the contours of the brow bone, take your highlighting shade and gently stroke the brow bone with your brush. Then apply your highlighting shade to the inner corners of the eyes; this will reflect the light and prevent eyes from looking too close together (something that frequently occurs with dark shadows).

For men, a matte, bone colored shadow should be used to highlight.

17. Apply Cream Liner

Using your angled liner brush, apply cream liner to the upper eyelid, close to the lash line. Start from the center of the lid and work outward, then double back and lightly apply liner toward the inner half of the upper lid. The line should extend just past the outer corner of the eye, darting slightly upward.

Do not connect this line with the ends of the eyebrow.

18. Apply Liner to Lower Lid

Using the same brush, apply liner to the outer half of the lower lid, below the water line. Work liner outward from the center at the level of the lower lash line—never above. Apply an additional parallel line slightly below the lower lash line, curving upward to be parallel with the extended line from the upper eyelid.

19. Apply Fake Eyelashes

Steps 19-21 are for women only. Men do not need to apply heavy false eyelashes or worry about their eyelashes, in general. And their lips look better in nude hues, without heavy lining or color.

Women should apply a thin strip of eyelash adhesive to the bands of their fake eyelashes, then press them gently onto eyelids, as close to your natural lash line as possible. Press the lashes gently against your lids, leaving the eyes closed for at least 20 seconds before letting go.

If you need to trim the lashes, cut at the band rather than the lashes for a more even look.

20. Curl Eyelashes

Use your eyelash curler and start at the root of the lashes, close to your lash line. Squeeze the curler and hold for 15 seconds. Move outward slightly and repeat, curling approximately four times per eye, working to the ends.

21. Apply Mascara

Take the mascara wand and place it horizontally against the roots of the upper eyelashes. Wiggle the wand against the lashes, and then sweep it outward to the tips. Repeat until coverage is sufficient and makes the lashes appear full and dark.

Black is usually the best color to use for eye makeup. But if you’re feeling daring and your director’s okay with it, experiment with mascaras that are a little pigmented and may further enhance eye color: plums for brown eyes; maroons for blue eyes; and deep emeralds for hazel eyes.

22. Exfoliate the Lips

Take the wash cloth and rub it in circular motions over the lips. This increases circulation, giving the lips a natural rosy glow, and also exfoliates any dead/chapped skin that may make color application uneven.

23. Apply Clear Lip Balm

Lip balms provide a great base for lip color. They smooth and sooth lips, and also enhance the colored makeup once it is applied over it.

Men should apply a lip color close to their natural shade over the clear balm. Warm beiges and nudes work well to give the mouth a matte, but still visible, finish.

24. Apply Liner

Line the outside of the lips, following the natural lines and curvatures. Then color in the outline with the same liner, stretching the lips out as you do so to prevent creasing or feathering. It should be the same shade or one darker than the lip color you intend to use.

25. Apply Lip Color

Steps 25 – 27 are for women only. Men can simply apply a lip balm tinted two shades darker than their skin tone.

Using your brush, rub the lipstick until sufficient color has been worked onto the brush. Apply the color to your lips by following the shading you did with your lip liner.

A creamy, matte lipstick is best for stage makeup application, as excess shine is both distracting and wears off more quickly.

26. Blot Away Excess

Use a Q-Tip to adjust the color. Blot to remove any excess by pressing down on a tissue placed between your lips. Make sure to avoid blotting too many times as this will remove too much of your lip color.

27. Finishing Spray

Hold your finishing spray bottle six to eight inches away from your face. Close your eyes, and spritz the entire area two to four times. While a finishing spray is not absolutely necessary, those specifically designed for the stage will keep your makeup in place and flawless, no matter how much you sweat under the heat of the stage lights.

Be Beautiful!

Stage makeup can be tiresome and take a good amount of time, but if done properly, it will transform your face so that your natural features can be seen from the back row of the balcony. Check out these additional looks for ideas to suit your character!

  • Princely types can always look great with strong contours and brooding brows.
  • For dolls, blue eyeshadow and circular patterns of blush can make you look positively porcelain.
  • Snow Queens are never out of fashion in Nutcracker, so play it up with icy shadows and shimmery highlights.

Remember to always give your makeup a test run a few days before your show. That way you’ll have time to see what you like in your look and whether or not you want to buy anything extra. And of course, always check with your director about what (s)he wants for the show. Once you have your makeup applied and gorgeous, get out there and dance!

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