As a professional clown, you’ve got to be confident telling jokes, juggling, and doing whatever else it takes to keep kiddos giggling. But before you get to the funny stuff, you’ll need to give thoughtful consideration to the type of clown face you’ll wear. Professional clowns develop their own unique faces and create them using special techniques and high-quality makeup. Go ahead and search clown faces online and notice how no two are exactly alike!
Before we get started on how to do clown makeup step by step, you’ll need to decide which type of clown look you’re going for. There are three main categories of clowns, which we’ll cover in this article.
A traditional Whiteface clown builds on a white base with red, blue, and black. There are both neat Whiteface clowns (painted nose, eyebrows, and a normal size mouth) and grotesque Whiteface (exaggerated eyebrows, mouth, and false nose). Glitter and rouge are a couple of ways to make a Whiteface clown unique. Keep in mind that if you are performing in hot climates, you may want to avoid this style and try Clown Light instead. This is a type of clown face that requires less makeup and can include characteristics of all three types. Clown Light makeup is kept just around the eyes and mouth. Wigs and nose are optional.
The friendly-faced Auguste clown has exaggerated features on a pink, ruddy, or flesh-tone base. White makeup around the eyes and red or black mouth are also trademarks of this type of clown. And don’t forget the large false nose.
A black or gray beard on a flesh-tone base is the look of the Tramp. White eyes and mouth topped off with a red or flesh-tone false nose are other identifying features of this clown’s sad or happy-go-lucky, good-natured character.
Once you’ve decided on your type of clown, take the time to make it your own by adding distinctive details. Your clown face should be unique to you. Drawing your design ideas on paper is a great way to get started.
If you’d like to read more about different types of clowns, this post may be helpful.
WHAT DO CLOWNS USE FOR MAKEUP?
Professional clowns typically use an oil-based greasepaint makeup instead of a water-based face paint. Why? Because opaque coverage can be achieved easily using greasepaint. When set with powder, it will stand up better to perspiration. A water-based face paint is likely to smudge, drip, and settle into laugh lines.
HOW TO APPLY CLOWN MAKEUP: THE BASICS
Whether you are putting on a Whiteface, Auguste, or Tramp clown face, the technique for applying makeup is basically the same. More specifics for different clown types will be discussed later.
Start with a clean face and consider prepping with Mehron Skin Prep Pro to protect against perspiration.
Using an oil-based makeup (specific colors for each clown type are described later in this post), apply a base of color using your fingers, a brush, or sponge. Pat the makeup into place until you achieve a smooth, opaque consistency. Experiment until you feel confident applying the base. It’s very important to make sure your base is as smooth and opaque as possible.
Next, “carve out” a space for the eyebrows and mouth area where you will be applying a different color. Use a dampened q-tip (do not use makeup remover) to lift the base color off.
Then, using a brush fill in the eyebrows, mouth, character lines, and any other details. Brushes come in several different sizes and shapes including round, flat, tear drop, petal, chisel, and angle. A kit like Silly Farm’s 6 Piece Classic Brush Set should give you enough options to explore which type of brushes you prefer.
You’ll want to use a small round brush to make more detailed character lines or thin eyebrows and a flat or chisel brush for filling in larger spaces. Petal brushes make perfect flowers and tear drops. Again, experiment with different shapes and sizes of brushes until you find what works for the style of clown face you’ve designed.
Tip: A makeup pencil can help you define character lines, eyebrows, and mouth before you fill them in with cake makeup.
A makeup setting powder or spray is the final step to your clown makeup application. Applied on top of your makeup, these products will help keep your clown face from streaking, fading, or sliding.
HOW TO APPLY WHITE FACE CLOWN MAKEUP
Use a high-quality white makeup such as Ben Nye Clown White Makeup, Mehron Foundation Grease White, Kryolan Clown White Makeup, Kryolan Clown Paint Stick, or Graftobian Clown White Makeup apply your base. Don’t forget your ears and neck if it will be showing. Watch a professional clown put on Whiteface makeup here.
Applying a white setting powder like Ben Nye Super White will brighten your white base and protect against perspiration. Be sure to apply this before you add any other colors.
Tip: There are several brands of clown makeup out there. Experiment with smaller containers of makeup to find what works for you. Starting out with a kit is another good option. The Ben Nye Clown Makeup Kit - Deluxe Whiteface is a great choice because it includes the specific colors you need for a Whiteface clown, plus extra white makeup.
Now it’s time to color in the features using a brush and blue, red, and black grease paint.
Define brows, mouth, and character lines with red, blue, and black makeup. If you are a neat Whiteface clown, paint on a nose. For a grotesque Whiteface, you’ll need a false nose (see the “Picking Your Nose” section below).
If you’d like to add rosy cheeks, use a pink grease paint and, starting lightly with just a touch of color, pounce it onto your cheeks with a sponge. Build up until you reach the intensity of color you desire. You can also use powder makeup and a brush for cheeks and eyeshadow.
Use a neutral setting powder like Ben Nye Neutral Set to go over your final makeup.
HOW TO APPLY AUGUSTE CLOWN MAKEUP
Keep in mind the specific colors that define Auguste. The makeup base starts with a more flesh-tone grease paint that ranges from orange/pink to red/brown. Newbies may want to try out the ProFace Auguste Makeup Palette or Ben Nye Auguste kit.
You’ll also need a large, professional clown nose. See the section below to find out more about clown noses.
Tip: Give yourself time. Make sure you allow yourself twice as much time as you think you’ll need when putting on your clown makeup, especially, when you are just getting started. Rushing through your makeup application is a sure-fire way to get lackluster results.
HOW TO DO HOBO CLOWN MAKEUP
A Tramp clown (or Hobo Clown) has a sooty, flesh-toned face with bright white around the eyes and mouth.
Apply a base and the details. Gray makeup is great for creating a five o’clock shadow.
A stippling sponge is perfect for creating rough-looking stubble.
Powder rouge will also create weathered skin or a five-o-clock shadow.
To find the right nose, see the section below.
HOW TO MAKE A CLOWN NOSE STAY ON
Mom told us not to pick our noses, but if you don’t pick your nose who will? I’m talking about your professional clown nose, of course. Clown Antics carries a wide selection of professional clown noses by ProKnows, Jim Howie, and Woochie.
The last thing you need to worry about while you’re performing is having your nose fall off. To adhere your clown nose, use a product that’s made for the job. There are a wide variety of latex and non-latex adhesives that will secure your nose and allow you to perform with confidence.
When your act is done, be sure to use a remover that is suited for the type of adhesive used.
If your head is spinning from the variety of shapes, sizes, finish styles, and materials to choose from, read this post that goes into detail about how to find the right clown nose.
Tip: Accidents happen, even when you’ve followed all the rules of clown makeup application. Here’s a helpful post on how to avoid some common Makeup Mishaps.
HOW TO REMOVE GREASE PAINT MAKEUP
Just as important as putting on the clown makeup is taking it off properly. For best results, use a makeup remover that is specifically designed to remove grease makeup. Your skin will thank you!
But..what if you want to look like a scarry transvestite clown?