The world of SFX and prosthetics at Halloween

Katie Gallagher

“Creativity is your best makeup skill, don’t be afraid to experiment” – Pat McGrath.

The world of makeup and beauty has evolved enormously in the past decade. Anyone with a passion for beauty can become makeup experts today with endless amounts of makeup tutorials on YouTube and intense short-term courses available.

Halloween is no exception. In fact, it’s an excuse to unleash all that trapped creativity and use every colour and tool you’ve ever purchased for your collection for these special occasions of unlimited creativity.

They say anyone can be a good makeup artist with the right brush but there are some people who just have a flair for creativity and it really shines around this time of year.

Alanna Gormley, a freelance makeup artist from Donegal has been doing ‘31 days of Halloween’ on her Instagram account since the beginning of October. This is a social media trend where she posts new Halloween style makeup on her Instagram every single day coming up to the big night. This is not a task to take on lightly, especially with the amount of time and effort spent planning and creating each and every look which are all so different and out there in their own respect.

“I could spend days preparing prosthetics for a look. It can be a long process. I could spend a day sculpting, a day casting and running the prosthetic, and a few hours to get the finished look ” she said.

While some people may just add a little bit of fake blood to their regular makeup routine and pop in some plastic fangs for their Halloween look, there is a massive market at the minute for more detailed gory looks and complete transformations.

Your average Halloween costume can look cheap or generic at times, usually due to flimsy, shiny material and bad sizing but the use of prosthetics means a complete makeover into a whole new character, not just pulling on a black cape and a witches hat.

The freelance makeup artist said it was this realism that really got her hooked on the popular makeup phenomenon.

“I got into sfx makeup and prosthetics when watching Grey’s Anatomy and horror movies. I developed an interest for stimulated gore and realism so I decided to start playing around with it,” she said.

The art of makeup can be tricky for the best of us. While some can go from a five to a solid ten in one makeup application, others just about know how to apply some mascara, so something as complicated and time consuming as sfx and prosthetics takes a lot of practice and training to perfect.

“I’m still learning prosthetics. You’re never finished learning” according to Alanna who trained in the art after she left school.

Makeup is generally an application of layers and layers, first you prime and set your skin then you apply your base and build on from there as you please but prosthetics and sfx requires you to go even further than that which is what makes it such a hidden craft.

Speaking of the challenges artists face with prosthetics, Gormley said “there’s so many stages in a makeup that involves the use of prosthetic and not every step will suit someone’s talent. There’s sculpting, moulding, casting, painting and then applying, so to be amazing at every step is hard.”

The freelancer, who goes by the name of Alanna Gormley MUA on social media, said she’s had people booking in for her Halloween services since August.

But the interest in prosthetic makeup applications does not stop in Donegal.

Emma Farrell, owner of EF Creative Studios in Dublin, said the trend is getting bigger and better every year.

“Halloween makeup is a huge trend that grows year on year. We find people are being more brave and really going all out for Halloween. In the past we have done everything from the basic skeleton to a full body painted Avatar character to a prosthetic two-faced Halloween makeup” she said.

“People usually come in to us with a picture and then we would use creativity to make a character inspired by the photo, but personalising it to the person we are making up. Appointments take anything from an hour to four hours for our more advanced characters” Emma continued.

EF Creative Studios
EF Creative Studios

It appears clowns are taking over this year especially since It was released, so you can expect to see some more realistic versions of Pennywise floating around next week as Alanna said it was already a popular request.

However, she said her favourite look so far, from a technical point of view, would have to be her ‘pig woman’.

“It was my first ever two-part mould, so I’m really proud of that one.”

If you are thinking of getting made up as a character this year, Alanna said she tried to keep it affordable with her pricing for a full body paint starting at €25 and her full on prosthetics coming in at around €35. That’s cheaper than most costumes online at the minute and could be the solution to going all out at Halloween without spending loads of money doing it.

Katie Gallagher

Image Credit: Alanna Gormley, EF Creative Studios