Tutorial: Male Makeup for Female Cosplayers

5 step crossplay makeup tutorial

One of the main challenges in creating a realistic crossplay is getting the makeup right. Believe it or not, male and female skulls are actually shaped differently. Everything from the protruding brow bone, to the wider chin, makes it more difficult to create a natural-looking cosplay when you are female trying to recreate a male character.

As a female cosplayer, create more masculine features by concentrating on darkening the area under the eyes and creating a square jawline. Creating thicker eyebrows and creating more prominent sideburns also add to the illusion for a great crossplay.

By looking at the basic differences in a male skull and anatomy, you can create a more realistic crossplay of your favorite male character. You can find more tips and tricks for cosplaying as a male character in this article, including ways to pose, walk, and change the silhouette of your body.

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Step 1: Base foundation

To start with, you want to apply your usual basic makeup routine with your primer, concealer, and foundation. This will give you a smooth base layer to work with, making it easier to apply shadows to change the appearance of your face shape. Don’t apply any highlights or contouring. Since the way you approach these parts will differ dramatically for the male makeup.

I typically will not include any eyeliner or mascara when cosplaying as a male character. However, you can choose to do so if you want your eyes to stand out a little more. My recommendation is to keep this eye makeup to a minimum. Maybe consider using a brown eyeliner instead of a black one so that it doesn’t look as much like makeup.

contouring your face with makeup
Contour your face by adding darker color under your brow bones, under your chin, squaring your jaw, and along the edges of your face for a more rounded appearance of your skull.

Step 2: Contouring your face

To contour your face, all you need is a blending brush and a dark bronzer or powdered makeup (I used a brown eyeshadow). The idea is to draw in new shadows on your face that would look more natural on a male skull. Then you will blend them until they look natural.

The areas that you are going to contour to make your face appear more masculine include:

  • Under the eyes/brow. Add a dark triangle to the inner corner of your eye, under your brow.
  • Square out the jawbones. Draw in a line that is lower and flatter than you would a high female cheekbone. Then blend it slightly to create a natural shadow.
  • Under the chin to widen it. Male skulls have a more rounded chin, so add some contour color under the chin and along the bottom edge of the jawline.
  • On the sides of your nose. This one is optional, but sometimes creating a more prominent nose can help your whole face appear more masculine.
  • Temples. The male skull is more rounded so you tend to see more shadows around the temples.
  • Cupid’s bow. This is another optional part. However, adding a small shadow on the cupid’s bow right above your lip can make your mouth appear less delicate.
  • Sideburn shadows. Add some contour color along the side of your face where men might have some sideburn stubble.
  • Forehead/hairline. Add a little bit of shadow along the top edge of the face, directly under the hairline, since this area is more rounded on a male skull.
thickening your eyebrows
Make your eyebrows thicker and flatter against your eyes for a more masculine appearance.

Step 3: Thicken the eyebrows

After you’ve finished contouring your face, it’s time to focus on the eyebrows. Take the time to make them slightly darker and thicker. The best way to do this is with a brow pencil, but I didn’t have any. So, I used a dark eyeshadow again with a thin brush that I could use to make small hairline strokes.

Carefully fill in your brows and thicken them a little. While you’re at it, lower the curve of your eyebrow over your eye. Women tend to have high arches (partially due to brow plucking practices, and partially due to the shape of the brow bone), so thicken your brow by adding volume below the arch. This will flatten the shape of the eyebrow and make it appear closer to the eye.

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.

Step 4: Lips

While men definitely can have very pink lips, they are usually not a very prominent feature. For that reason, it’s usually best to de-emphasize your lips using makeup. For this step, you will want some kind of lip balm to moisturize your lips, a nude lipstick (or foundation), and a natural pink lipstick.

  1. Start by moisturizing your lips or using a lip balm to keep your lips from cracking throughout the day. 
  2. Apply nude lipstick or foundation over your lips. You don’t need to make them completely invisible, just less prominent.
  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. Your goal is to reduce the size of your lips, not getting rid of them completely.
drawing a adam's apple shadow
Draw in and blend the adam’s apple for any male cosplay that is a teenager and older.

Step 5: Adam’s apple

If you are cosplaying as a male who is a teenager or older, don’t forget about the adam’s apple. All you need for this step is a small brush and the same color you used to contour your face.

With your fingers gently on your throat, swallow and feel for the slight bump in your throat. That will be your guide for drawing in your adam’s apple. Use the contour color to shade a deep shadow right underneath that part of your throat.  

use a stipple brush for fake facial hair
Use a textured stipple brush to create fake facial hair.

Optional: Adding facial hair 

Depending on the character you are cosplaying, adding facial hair can add a lot to the illusion. There are a couple of ways of including facial hair in your cosplay, depending on how obvious you want it to be.

  • Method 1: Use makeup with a rough stipple sponge to create a textured beard look on your face. You’ll want to use approximately the same color makeup as your wig would be. This method will usually not hold up to scrutiny in real life but looks great in photos.
  • Method 2: Cut wig wefts into little, tiny pieces and glue them to your face using. This creates an actual texture on your face that can look more realistic. It is, however, much more tedious to put on and take off after the convention.
  • Method 3: If you want to add a substantial amount of facial hair, such as a full beard, goatee, or sideburns, you can create the desired facial hair on wig wefts and lace material and then glue it to your face using spirit gum.

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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