Anime characters have it good. They never have to worry about pimples, wrinkles, or discolored skin. Not to mention their big, adorable eyes. It can be difficult to translate these perfect cartoon faces onto our own very real faces. But, makeup is amazing! You can use these simple tips to create that perfect anime look for your next cosplay.
1. Focus on the eyes
The most important part of any anime look is, of course, the eyes. We need to design a look that gives us big, bold eyes. The rest of the makeup will be minimized so that we can put all the focus on the eyes.
However, that doesn’t mean the eye makeup has to be complicated. The real way to make your eyes stand out is by contrasting them with the rest of your face. This means creating sharp and distinct lines with eyeliner and emphasizing your eyelashes and eye creases.
To create the illusion of large anime eyes:
- Use a white eyeliner to fill in your waterline. You can continue the white into the area just under your eye.
- Use a dark eyeshadow to accentuate the eye crease. You can also add a smidge of dark shadow underneath the outer corner of the eye to add just a little more pop. Just make sure to not make this area so dark that it looks like an eye bag.
- Add thick eyeliner starting above the center of your eye. Draw the line from the center out past the edge of your eye. Then create a hook around the white eyeliner area you have below your eye and fill the area in with dark eyeliner.
- Apply thick mascara to the top and bottom lashes. You can add false lashes for an even more dramatic look.
For the illusion of even bigger eyes, consider using circle contact lenses. These are made with very large irises to give your eyes a baby doll effect. However, as someone who cannot wear most circle lenses because of an astigmatism in one of my eyes, I have to recommend caution with anime contact lenses. Always see your eye doctor before using them.
If you are using contacts, always put them in before starting your makeup. This way there is less chance of getting irritating makeup into your eye from the surrounding skin or your fingers.
2. Choose matte finish products
When it comes to cosplay, you need to think about how your face is going to look when it’s photographed. Many products that are used for everyday makeup, won’t make you look great in photos. The problem is with photography, you see everything! It’s even worse if you try to use products that are meant to be shiny or give you glowing skin. Most of the time, these reflect back at the camera in a way that makes your face look sweaty. Not what we’re going for.
Instead, get products that have a matte finish to them. These will create a more consistent canvas on your face. It might not look quite as natural up close, but it’ll make you look like you have perfect anime skin in photographs.
The other thing you’ll need to do is apply more makeup than you normally would for your everyday look. You don’t necessarily have to cake makeup on, but making sure you give yourself full coverage will do wonders for creating that flawless anime skin, especially in photos.
Personally, I apply my makeup in multiple layers, rather than adding one thick layer of foundation. To create my base makeup I will:
- Apply concealer to spots and under-eye bags.
- Apply a base, matte foundation.
- Apply a powder foundation.
- After the entire look is complete (including blush, contour, SFX makeup, etc.) I will apply a layer of matte translucent powder.
It’s always important to wear sunscreen (apply it before getting started with makeup). However, sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are more likely to reflect light and make your face look washed out in photography. You might want to consider using a sunscreen without one of these two ingredients while wearing your cosplay.
3. Make your face look younger with blush
Anime characters usually have faces that look eternally young. Well, I’m not getting any younger, but there is a simple way you can immediately de-age yourself using makeup. This is by creating young-looking, rosy cheeks.
Because young faces tend to have more fatty tissue on the face, the natural pink tinge will be in a different location than older adults. You can easily mimic this by applying the product on the apples of your cheeks instead of along your cheekbones.
Give yourself a big smile and see where your cheeks come up close to your eyes. Those are the areas where you want to add blush to make rosy cheeks. You can also add just a dash of color along the bridge of your nose to add to your youthful face.
Don’t be afraid to add a lot of blush. This is another area where makeup for cosplay photography will be different from everyday makeup. As a general rule, photos will be a little washed out, making all colors appear less saturated. To get your cheeks to stand out at all, you’ll need to go a little overboard with the blush.
4. Minimize the lips
Most of the time, anime characters don’t really have lips. They’ll have a line to indicate where their mouth is, but that’s pretty much it. Since we are human beings with real faces, we are not going to be able to copy this exactly. But what we can do is use makeup to minimize the appearance of our lips and de-emphasize them on our faces.
You do this by first covering your lips. Then you will apply only a small amount of lipstick as a gradient on your lips so they exist, but they don’t take any attention away from the eyes on your face. Avoid using bright or bold lipstick colors unless your specific character wears lipstick.
- Start by covering your lips with your foundation or concealer. You may want to apply a lip primer first if you have dry or chapped lips.
- Use a light pink or rosy color and apply it to the center of your lips. Focus the color on the center of the lips, where the lips touch together.
- Pat the lipstick to feather the edges and create a gradient. Use your finger to gently feather out the color you added. The area in the center of your lips should be brighter, while the edges of your lips should not have any color.
5. Don’t overdo the contouring
As a general rule, anime characters do not have sculpted features or chiseled cheekbones. They have soft faces with a pointed, yet underemphasized chin. For a while, I thought this meant I should forgo the contouring altogether. However, I’ve found that is a recipe for a face that looks flat and lifeless in photos.
Instead, you’ll want to create very soft contouring around the edges of your face. The only other contouring you want to do is around the chin of your jawline and on the edges of your nose. This way you can create more of a pointed chin and a smaller nose, to better match standard anime features.
- Use a fluffy brush to apply contour color around your temples and cheeks. Start at the temple and make a spiral around toward the edge of the face. Make sure the contour outline remains soft, with no hard edges.
- Add contour color on your jawline to create a sharp chin. Blend it in to look natural, but it does not have to be as soft as the contour on the rest of the face.
- Add contour on the sides of your nose to make it look narrower. You only need a little bit of product to make the nose look a lot thinner.
6. Highlight the nose tip and the inner eyes
There is very little highlighting that you need to do for your anime makeup. Typically, the only two places that I will highlight are the tip of my nose and the inner part of my eye.
Highlighting the inner part of your eye makes them immediately appear wider, younger, and brighter. It is excellent for adding just a little more emphasis to your eyes. Highlighting the tip of your nose will make it look just slightly narrower, mimicking the small pointed noses that are common in anime.
- Pat a white eyeshadow (or lighter than skin tone) onto the inner corner of your eyes. Feather out the edges so you don’t have any hard lines.
- For added effect, use a white eyeliner on the waterline at the inner corner. This will make the area closer to your eye even brighter.
- Use a dash of the same light eyeshadow on the bridge and tip of your nose. Feather out the highlighted area slightly by patting it with your finger.
7. Don’t be afraid to elaborate the eyelashes
When it comes to anime makeup, you can never go too far on your eyes. You want the eyes to be the focus, so adding false eyelashes for added emphasis is an excellent idea.
Apply falsies to the entire row of upper eyelashes. Then cut a small piece and add it to the outer edge of your bottom lashes. Use a mascara brush to help blend the falsies in with your own lashes.
For added effect, you can even draw lower lashes using a liquid liner or a fine-tipped eyeliner. I like to make a few lines just underneath the outer corner of each eye, but you can make these as dramatic as you like.