Artist Review

“I want to thank Brad for creating these amazing Zazzo® Template designs. I have used them on makeup applications from old-age to beauty and effects related to prosthetic work. The versatility of the shapes and designs make the Makeup FX™ an essential tool in my makeup kit!”

—Allan A. Apone


Body Makeup with a Twist

by Bradley M. Look

Almost a year ago I received a phone call from makeup artist Barry R. Koper. Barry was the Department Head on the feature SANTA CLAUS III. I worked as the Elf Supervisor on that same picture. It seems that Barry was calling to see if I would be interested in working with him on an upcoming commercial which would involve extensive airbrush body makeup. The commercial was for a well-known soft drink that would have two large sumo wrestlers running through a dark forest to converge on an unsuspecting man who was sitting on a tree stump. The enormous bellies of the wrestlers were to squish the man between them! Oh, and I left out the most important part of all to this scenario. Each of the two wrestlers would need to be airbrushed from head to foot, one lemon yellow and the other lime green!

To prepare for the makeup job, Barry and I drove to Gower Studios in Hollywood to meet with the two actors who were cast as the sumo wrestlers. We set up our supplies in a nearby makeup room. After doing a number of makeup tests on the performers, it was determined that for the yellow to look concentrated enough on the skin an underbase of white would be necessary. For the green, a mixture of white, green and a dayglow green created the perfect match to the “hero” can of the soft drink that the producers wanted the colors to correspond to.

With liquid samples in hand, I drove out to Canoga Park, which was some 45 minutes in the opposite direction of Gower Studios. There I met with Fred Blau, the owner of Reel Creation. To airbrush the two performers, we were going to need a quart of white, two quarts of yellow and a gallon of green in temporary tattoo ink! The yellow was fairly easy to mix, as it was similar to a canary yellow (a mix of yellow and white). The green was a much more elusive color to obtain. It took many tries by Fred to finally match it.

Because of the extensive amount of body surface to be covered and the time factor involved, and since the commercial was to be shot in Angeles Crest Forest, Barry negotiated for two additional makeup artists. Steve Anderson and Mike Smithson were hired, as they both had extensive knowledge of airbrushing.

On the day the commercial was to be shot, I drove the long, winding road up into the mountain, car loaded down with lots of airbrush equipment and various makeup supplies. My choice of equipment was the Iwata RG-3 Spray Gun and the LPH-50 Spray Gun, the HP-CH Hi-Line, the Power Jet and Power Jet Pro compressors. A complete airbrush kit was also brought along in case anything had to be fixed on the fly, but that never happened.

A tent was erected near base camp. Portable heaters were placed inside for the comfort of the performer. The heater, while a good idea, had to be placed a fair distance away as we were to be spraying an alcohol-based product and safety was of utmost importance. After all, none of us wanted to become a human Roman candle!

To begin the process, everyone placed filter masks on. Our performer sat in a swivel chair as we lightly hazed the white underbase on. It was extremely important that this first layer not be sprayed on too heavy, as any running would be visible under the yellow and ruin the effect. It was a slow process to build up this “primer” coat. I should also note before going on that when we first met with the two performers, it was explained in detail that they would need to shave every inch of their bodies so that the airbrush product would take evenly on the skin. Further, on the day when they work, they were to use only a roll-on deodorant and not an aerosol. Aerosol deodorants leave the skin with a large overspray area that won’t allow the makeup to adhere properly. And lastly, they were not to use oily moisturizers on the skin for the very same reason as the aerosol deodorant.


The Hi-Line was used on the face. In Photo #1, the performer has been covered, with the exception of his hands, feet and upper eyelids. This took approximately an hour and a half with the two of us applying the white. The white tattoo product was lightly dusted with Colorless powder to remove any stickiness on the skin. The excess was dusted off.

Before applying the yellow, I strained the color using a fine mesh strainer that I purchased in the baking aisle at a grocery store.circles This helped to remove any large particulate matter so as not to clog the spray guns. In Photo #2, the yellow is hazed carefully over the white. Steve begins work on the lower section of the legs, while I work on the stomach.

The makeup has progressed still further as seen in Photo #3. Matching yellow cream makeup has been applied around the eyes and the edge blended off before being powdered to set. The Hi-Line was used to base out the entire face with the yellow. It’s now time to begin work on the hands.


In this closer shot, Photo #4, the hands are nearly complete. As with the white primer coat, Colorless powder was applied over the yellow base to remove any tackiness. The excess was dusted off. To seal the makeup, Reel Creations Blue Aqua Sealer was airbrushed over the entire body. Then Barry instructed us to pat a light coating of Derma Shield (a skin protectant) over the entire body to give the makeup a more lifelike sheen. This was a technique he developed when he worked on the feature HOLLOW MAN (with Kevin Bacon).


The airbrush was also used to enhance the hair. The hairline was sprayed in after being styled to give it a more structured appearance. A similar approach was taken for the other performer who had to be green. Once the two men were totally ready, we were driven by van up to the set where the rest of the crew was finishing last minute lighting. Some of our airbrush equipment was brought up to the set, where a small tent was set up for any touch-ups that would be needed throughout the night.

The director placed all three of the performers in their respective positions as the First Assistant Director called for several rehearsals with the camera on the dolly. This is commonly referred to as a dolly shot. A dolly is a track that the camera sits on so it can move smoothly as an actor walks or runs through a scene.

While the performer in yellow needed only minor touch-ups from time to time, alas, that was not the case with the green one. It took all four of us to maintain his makeup. Granted, he was running through a forest; however, it was night and it was probably only 30 degrees out! It took many hours to get the shot. The shoot might have gone longer, but one of the guys sprained his leg while running.

To remove the makeup, a 50/50 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and isopropyl myristate was used on powder puffs. This easily broke down the tattoo inks.

The commercial was an interesting use of airbrush makeup. After all, it’s not everyday you get a makeup that comes with a twist of lemon. Or do you prefer lime?

NOTE: A special thank you to Barry R. Koper for supplying all photos for this article.

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