Airbrush Techniques in Makeup

by Pascale Recher and Sabine Courtant

AFC newsletter n°174

[English] [français]

Following the text by Sophie Landry published in the AFC newsletter, Pascale Recher and Sabine Courtant, makeup artists from the workshop "Lighting and Makeup" comment about their experiences filming in HD during the last IDIFF conference, which was held at the Palais des Congrés in Paris from January 30th to February 1st, 2008.

Public makeup tests were held at IDIFF, produced by Cine System and shot through the lenses of four different HD cameras (Thomson Viper, Panasonic HPX3000, Arri D20 and Sony F23).

We used both traditional and airbrush techniques, and we found that each technique had its own specific usefulness under different circumstances. For example, on people with youthful skin problems, the airbrush proved more efficient in hiding imperfections and obtaining a smooth fine complexion: one can work with small touches without using too much of the product or damaging initial corrections. On the other hand, with the skin of more mature women, airbrushing may be riskier unless used with great finesse, because any excess can accentuate wrinkles. There are many other examples.

Airbrush in no way precludes the use of a sponge and a brush; for modeling, it is often appropriate to combine airbrush and traditional makeup!

The airbrush is one of the tools that the professional cosmetics industry offers in response to the difficulties encountered in shooting HD, along with foundations with more pigments and with a silicone base offered by other brands.

The airbrush allows the sprayed application of three different kinds of foundation: a tinted silicone-based satin finish, a tinted water-based matte foundation and an alcohol-based foundation perfect for special effects and for the body because it is waterproof and will not transfer. It should be pointed out that the water-based and alcohol-based foundations dry too quickly to be applied by any other method than an airbrush.

The spray pressure can be varied with the fingertip, depending on the areas to be made up. The impact is not aggressive or unpleasant for the person being made-up.

Mastering manual control of the airbrush tool does not preclude the knowledge required in "the art of makeup". The makeup artist still needs the same basic understanding of dermatology as with traditional makeup, the same product knowledge, the same mastery of colors to correct imperfections, and of course, the experience that is acquired with years on the set.

This is a new technique, to be learned and mastered. The makeup artist will use it according to his or her personality and touch, as with all tools. The outcome depends on his or her sensibility, and "savoir-faire". We believe that the airbrush simply gives more options to the cinematographer and director, and as Sophie Landry states, pre-production discussion is crucial!

Translations by Benjamin and Kim B