How to apply the actor’s makeup for the stage

By | April 4, 2021


Buy a makeup package that has a base color as close to your skin tone as possible. Some step makeup providers have tools to help you find the closest match. There is a cheap kit called a ‘Personal Makeup Package’, which contains Base, a black and a brown eyeliner, highlight, shadow, lipstick, blush, powder, a triangle sponge, putty sponge, brush and pillow.


If you have done your best to match it, you think your base is still light or dark, take a piece of paper and use it as a color palette, mix your base with the highlight or shadow color to lighten or darken it. Always start with the lighter of the two colors and add the darker shade.


Use one side of the triangle sponge to spread an even layer of the base over your face from your hairline down. Cover the neck to where the collar of a T-shirt would begin. You do not need to apply makeup to your ears.

You can use another side of the triangle sponge to apply blush under your cheekbones to highlight them. A small crescent shape under the bone will work. Mix blush with the base slightly. Some players choose not to use blush


Use the eyeliner to draw a line just below your lower eyelid, where the lashes are. Do not put the pencil in the eye. Press very gently, if the line seems too light, go over it again until it is dark enough.

You can apply the lip color on your lips with a brush. Many actors choose not to add lip color.


Press the pillow to the powder and then allow the powder to swell slightly over the face. Rub very lightly so that you do not infect the base, but spread the powder evenly everywhere you have applied make-up. The powder prevents the make-up from looking wet or shining under the stage light.

Tips and warnings

  • Be sure to provide accurate coverage of any skin. Missed spots are very visible from the audience.
  • Choose an old shirt or smock to put on make-up so that you do not get other clothes or costume pieces.
  • These instructions are written for a cream-based makeup package. If your kit has something different like a heavyweight hook, you may need to experiment a bit
  • Not every theater has a makeup artist so every actor needs to know how to apply their own basic makeup. Step makeup is important so that actors do not look pale and are washed out under stage lights. Each actor should also own their own makeup package and avoid sharing makeup, to prevent the spread of bacteria.