10 Easy Makeup Hacks to Level Up Your Cosplay

10 hacks to level up your cosplay makeup

Before I started cosplaying, I didn’t wear makeup. I didn’t know what foundation was and had no clue how to apply eyeliner, eyeshadow or anything. It took a number of years of cosplaying before I really started getting the hang of it. But the thing is, even if you are great at your everyday makeup, cosplay is a little different.

The secret to good cosplay makeup is using tips that help you look good in photographs. This means it’s okay to go a little over the top with your makeup and make it look more theatrical. Using these tips to accentuate different areas of your face will help your makeup translate into excellent cosplay photographs.

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white eyeliner on the waterline of your eye
Use white eyeliner on the waterline and inner corner of your eye to make it appear larger in photos.

1. Widen your eyes with white eyeliner 

Many anime and cartoon characters have really big eyes that don’t quite translate into real life. While there is no way to actually enlarge your eyes, you can create the illusion of larger eyes by adding white liner along the lower waterline and inner corner of your eyes. 

While you may think this looks a little odd when you look in the mirror, in photographs it will look as if your eyes are just a little bit bigger. Some people will go even further and draw in an extra lower lash line a couple centimeters below the eye to further enlarge them.

Making your eyes look bigger with white eyeliner will also help you look a little younger. If you’re cosplaying as a character who is a child, you can use this technique as a way to subtly de-age your face.

put blush on the nose and apples of your cheeks to look younger
Adding an ample amount of blush across the bridge of your nose and the apples of your cheeks (marked above) help create a more innocent, younger look.

2. Use blush to look younger

Adding blush to the bridge of your nose and the apples of your cheeks will make you look younger while adding blush along your cheekbones makes you look more mature. If you’re cosplaying as a child, you can generously brush more blush onto your nose and cheeks to create a more innocent effect.

Don’t be afraid to overdo it on the blush. Most cameras will end up muting colors, making them less vibrant than they appear to our eyes. You don’t want to go so far that you make yourself look sunburnt, but giving yourself an obvious pink tinge to your cheeks will make it look better in photos.

creating smaller lips
De-emphasize your lips by covering them with foundation and adding a small amount of color back. This is great for anime characters and when you are crossplaying as a male character.

3. Nude lipstick is very useful

Sometimes, rather than emphasizing a feature, your goal will be to reduce it to match the source material. The lips are a good example of this. Many anime characters, in particular, only have a line to indicate their mouth and don’t have any lips at all. You can use a nude lipstick (or your regular foundation) to help you de-emphasize your lips.

  1. You’ll want to start by moisturizing your lips or using some kind of lip balm to keep your lips from cracking throughout the day. 
  2. Apply a nude lipstick or foundation over your lips.
  3. Use a natural-colored lipstick to add a little color back in, but don’t cover your entire lips. This is necessary because completely nude lips look unnatural on a human face. You are reducing the size of your lips, not getting rid of them completely.

4. Always use a matte finish

In general, there are two ways to finish a face of makeup. One is to create a healthy, glowing look, while the other is to remove all shine completely with a matte finish. When dealing with photography, you always want to use a matte powder to finish your makeup.

If you wear any kind of shiny or glowing makeup, it will usually come out looking sweaty in photographs. A matte look, on the other hand, does a much better job at evening out the light and shadows that fall on your face.

To create a matte finish to your makeup, I recommend using a matte translucent setting powder. It’s a good idea to also use a foundation that has a matte finish and avoid eyeshadows that sparkle.

eyebrows darker than the wig
Making your eyebrows a couple of shades darker than your wig creates a more natural effect than trying to match the color.

5. Don’t make your eyebrows the same color as your wig

In general, your eyebrows should NOT be the same color as your wig. Instead, you should make them two shades lighter or two shades darker than the hair of the character. If you have a light-colored wig, change your eyebrows to the same color as the wig, but a couple of shades darker. If you have a dark-colored wig, do the opposite.

This is a trick that just makes your eyebrows look a little more natural since the reality is that most people’s eyebrows don’t exactly match their hair. While it might be tempting to think you need bright blue eyebrows if you have a bright blue wig, a darker and duller blue will usually look better for the overall look.

6. Blot your face before a photoshoot

If you’re at a convention and you have a scheduled photoshoot, you may end up perspiring a little. Even if you did an excellent job preparing your makeup for the long day, sweat will inevitably become a problem and photographs will make it stand out, especially if you have naturally oily skin.

I like to carry around a small packet of blotting paper with me to solve this problem. If my face is getting sweaty or shiny, I can easily rip out a sheet of this paper and gently blot the excess oil and sweat from my face without having to do any makeup touch-ups. I generally won’t use this blotting paper when stopped in the hall for a photograph, but it’s super useful to have before a photoshoot. 

adding contour under your chin
Adding contour under your chin can help create more contrast and depth in photographs.

7. Use a dark powder under your chin

Photography will often make objects appear less three-dimensional than they are. Faces will look a little flatter than they normally would. Making sure to use general contouring techniques around the edge of your face and alongside your nose are important. However, a place that most people don’t think about is under the chin.

Use a bronzer or dark-colored eyeshadow and brush it underneath your jawbone and chin. This will increase the contrast between your neck and chin, making your face stand out a little more. It will also make your jawline look more elegant and makes your neck appear slightly longer.

glueing the wig to your face
Use eyelash glue or spirit gum to attach your wig’s bangs and the hair in front of your ears to your face.

8. Attach your wig to your face

The way a wig frames your face is just as important to the overall look of your makeup. Unfortunately, most wigs tend to move out of place or leave an unnatural gap between your face and your ears.

To make your wig in the right place around your face, you can glue it down. I recommend using a bit of spirit gum or eyelash glue to glue down the bangs so they frame your eyes correctly. Then, glue the wig to the sides of your face right in front of your ears. This trick does wonders to frame your face correctly and make the wig look more natural.

NYX primer
Use primer before applying makeup to help it last longer.

9. Plan to wear your makeup all day long

If you’re wearing your cosplay to a convention, you’ll want to take steps to help it stay in place all day long. Convention days are long days, but I know that in the beginning, I did not know how to wear makeup that would last. 

I have since found that using a primer to start with does an amazing job at keeping makeup from moving around on your face too much and settling into wrinkles. A translucent setting powder or fixing spray to finish everything will do wonders for keeping everything from rubbing off your face after only a couple of hours.

While you may still find your makeup needs occasional touch-ups, these two steps can do a whole lot for keeping makeup looking good all day long.

10. Bring supplies to touch up your makeup during the day

The supplies that I always keep with me for a quick touchup are lipstick, a powder foundation, blush, and a contouring color. Lipstick is needed the most frequently because it will rub off any time I eat. The powder foundation I use all the time if I’m afraid my makeup will start to rub off. It comes in handy more at hot-weather conventions because I tend to have sweaty, oily skin. The blush and contour help with touch-ups after I’ve reapplied foundation.

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been cosplaying since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years, I've experimented with all different kinds of cosplay costumes, especially loving the process of creating props and styling wigs. I also delved into cosplay photography, and love exploring how to optimize costumes so they look excellent in photos. Most of the photos you find on this site were taken by me over my years at anime conventions.

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