How to: Get started sculpting prosthetics for special effects make-up

Professional tips to sculpt prosthetics for SFX make-up

From Halloween costumes to horror movie characters, Broadway to the big top, prosthetics sculpting for special effects make-up is a talent that can take you places.

Special effects make-up (or SFX make-up) involves an array of carefully honed skills, plus a lot of creativity and a dash of magic. When you have the skills to create believable characters with sculpted prosthetics, there is almost no limit to the weird and wonderful things you can achieve.

How are special effects make-up prosthetics made?

To sculpt prosthetics for special effects make-up, you will need some of the right materials sourced from reputable places. Most prosthetics are made using:

  • A stone or cement to create the mould (Our Prosthetics expert, Alistair, recommends Ultracal 30!)
  • Clay (Like Monster Clay or Chavant NSP)
  • A spray epoxy mould release
  • Foam Latex, silicone or gelatine

Check out Freakmo’s great step-by-step video on Youtube for tips on how to start making your own prosthetics.

You will also need some sculpting tools. When you first try sculpted prosthetics, household forks, knives, and textured objects (like leaves) will do. Once you get serious about SFX make-up you can graduate from kitchen cutlery to professional tools.

How to get started in special effects make-up

Ready to tackle your first prosthetics sculpting project? Here are the steps to follow:

Reference material

Study your reference images closely. What details do you notice? Can you see the techniques they used? What about the colours and textures? Try to visualise the model in terms of the shapes and contours you need to create.


Draft your design with wiggle room. The professional prosthetics sculptors in SFX make-up don’t always stick to their original vision; the outcome often depends on what works best on the model.


Draw your design from different angles, like an architect sketching the first draft of a new house.

  • Show the boundaries where the prosthetic pieces and skin meet
  • Make notes about shapes
  • Consider texture and colour
  • Refine your design into its components

Lay the foundation

Most prosthetic sculptures for special effects make-up start with 2-3mm blocks, to ensure the design holds together when the more intricate pieces are added later. Even, carefully blended segments give the finer details the support they need.

Refine and add detail

Once your main shape is visible, it’s time to create the detail that brings your SFX make-up to life.

  • Add small intricate details like hair, warts, skin folds etc
  • Carve the texture using your hand tools
  • Cut away extra material, being careful not to compromise the structure
  • Add colour and texture, such as blood or blush

Take your SFX skills further with TrainSmart Australia

TrainSmart Australia’s Diploma of Screen and Media has the best reputation for special effects make-up in Perth, with a track record of nationally respected graduates ready to hit the ground running in the SFX make-up industry. And we have some of the best international award-winning trainers in WA!

Read more about the course to discover all the skills you can learn from talented industry professional Trainers. Keep an eye on our website as well, to be the first to know when we re-start Perth short courses like sculpted prosthetics for special effects make-up.

Ready to learn more?

If you liked this blog post, you'll love our courses.