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MUA Top Fives: Special Effects Makeup Books

by Natalie Wright
MUA Top Fives: Special Effects Makeup Books


The internet is a goldmine of information for makeup artists; both those looking to hone their skills, and those seeking a little inspiration. But nothing really beats a good book. Here we pick out five of the best books on SFX makeup ever written, so you can keep the words and works of the masters right on your bookshelf:

MUA Top 5: sfx books

Special Makeup Effects for Stage and Screen: Making and Applying Prosthetics by Todd Debreceni

If there's one book you need to have on your bookshelf, it's this one. Crammed full of information on what the best materials and products to use, useful techniques to try out and step-by-step tutorials, Todd Debreceni’s book is a great, practical guide for anyone wanting to get deeper into SFX makeup.

From use of silicone gelatin and foam latex, right through to prosthetic design, molding, casting and even hair work, almost every SFX-related topic you could imagine is covered here.

Technically written and highly detailed, this is one of the more intense reads for a intermediate or burgeoning artist but is an extremely useful, hands-on guide, and features tonnes of mold-making tutorials and industry insights, along with helpful anatomical information for referencing when sculpting or drawing.

Now with 2 versions available and a 3rd on the way, you can buy the latest addition here!

Special Makeup Effects Todd Debreceni


Grand Illusions 1 and 2 by Tom Savini

Legendary SFX artist Tom Savini has worked on some of the most memorable and technically stunning horror films of recent cinema history, including Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead. In Grand Illusions books he talks you through some of the gruesome effects he created for these films, offering an invaluable source of inspiration and knowledge, even for the more seasoned SFX artists amongst us.

What sets this book apart from other SFX digests is its perfect combination of candid personal snap shots and practical tutorials. Littered with highly detailed insights into Savini's work, facts on some of his lesser-known but equally innovative makeups from Manic, The Burner and Creepshow, are complemented by beautiful illustrations, and step-by-step guides.

Although some of the techniques outlaid in the book are now somewhat dated, it remains an extremely relevant reference point, as it provides an glimpse into the progression of materials and methods over the past several decades.

Purchase this book here!

Grande illusions Tom Savini
Dick Smith's Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-up Hand Book

Penned in 1965 by the godfather of special effects makeup Dick Smith, this is the book that taught the icons of today; now in its fifth printing, the most recent version even has a forward by Rick Baker.

Providing step by step tutorials on fifteen different monster makeups, Dick Smith's book is a fascinating peek into the mind, and toolkit, of a master. Much like Tom Savini's books, many of the products and practices are now outdated (the health and safety aspects are definitely questionable), the overall message of the book is still significant; above all else, makeup should be fun and inclusive.

A fun and historically captivating addition to the library of anyone intending to pursue a career in prosthetic makeup, its inspiring ethos makes for a great read, and stands as a reminder of how much the art has evolved. But maybe leave the breadcrumbs in the cupboard where they belong.

Purchase this book here!

Monster Makeup Handbook Dick Smith


The Winston Effect: The Art and History Of Stan Winston Studios by Jody Duncan and James Cameron

Celebrating the work and life of Stan Winston and his studio, this book is a must-read for any fan of Stan Winston’s SFX work, and anyone who has a particular interest in character and creature design. The book contains incredible visuals straight from the archives of the man behind The Terminator, Aliens, Predator, Jurassic Park and Edward Scissorhands, Every aspect of the design process, from detailed sketches, to the creation of the creatures, through to the finished shots, this book details the enormous skill it took to bring Winston's awesome designs to life. Truly inspirational.

Purchase this book here!

Stan Winston Studio

Monsters in the Movies by John Landis

As the director of An American Werewolf in London and Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, John Landis knows a thing or two about monsters. Brimming with more than 1,000 movie stills and posters, his book is an impassioned catalogue of beasts and creature, extensively chronicling the history of monsters from all corners of cinema history. A hugely stirring read, the book is divided into handy chapters which explore the design concepts and the visual portrayal of iconic monsters, from Space Monsters and Werewolves, to Mad Scientists and Atomic Mutations.

With in-depth investigation of the historical origins of archetypal monsters, the book is one of the finest reference points in any makeup artist's arsenal. Alongside Landis' own captivating, wittily constructed insights, the book includes contributions from world-leading film directors, actors and SFX artists. Unlike the other books in this list, it does not contain any tutorials, but is a brilliant work on a topic close to the heart of SFX makeup fan, and a top flight book to dip into when suffering from creative block.

Purchase this book here!

John Landis Monsters in the movies