Jedi Makeup Techniques: Cosmetology at the Movies

Jedi Makeup Techniques: Cosmetology at the Movies

Are you excited for the new Star Wars movie? We certainly are! There’s just something about this enduring science fiction franchise that makes us feel giddy, and we know we’re not the only ones.

The Star Wars movies are the stuff of legend. They have a magical combination of action, intrigue, and fantasy that just cannot be topped. Of course, the special effects have always been a big part of their appeal. After all, great effects make it easy to suspend disbelief and immerse oneself in the story.

Although students at Paul Mitchell The School at Campus don’t spend class time styling Wookiees and Ewoks, our cosmetology program provides a solid foundation for the development and expansion of one’s creative breadth. Additionally, for those looking to get in on all the special effects action, our Advanced Makeup add-on course offers instruction in facial prosthetics, meaning you can learn to create fake scars, bruises, and deformities just like the professionals.

Imagine Star Wars Without the Makeup and Special Effects!

Picture lightsaber battles without their signature buzz and glow, or R2D2 without his trademark blips and chirps. While you’re at it, try to imagine Darth Vader’s death scene in Return of the Jedi without that fantastically disturbing makeup – the moment when the powerful villain was finally unmasked, revealed in all his startling vulnerability.

Yes, it’s safe to say that without special effects makeup, the Star Wars movies would be lacking a very key element. Makeup artist Rick Baker has done a phenomenal job bringing the characters of Star Wars to life, just as he has done in An American Werewolf in London, Men in Black, Hellboy, and so many other amazing cinematic masterpieces.

Of course, he’s not the only unsung hero bringing our movie icons to life – makeup artists are an essential part of any truly great movie. Let’s take a look at some of the greatest moments in movie makeup history, in addition to the artists who brought those looks to life.


Painting William Wallace and his Scottish warriors in blue woad may not have been entirely historically accurate, but it certainly lent a sense of drama to the film’s battle scenes. Additionally, as a testament to the quality of the work, Lois Burwell took home the Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling for Braveheart in 1995.

Citizen Kane

This 1941 drama is still a touchstone among film buffs – and with good reason. The story is recounted in flashback, with most of the cast members done up as elderly folks reminiscing about the events of the past. In addition, Orson Welles was made up to look even younger during these flashback scenes in order to highlight the contrast between his character’s older and more youthful versions.


In Tootsie, an out-of-work actor who’s burned all of his bridges dons drag to land a role on a trashy soap opera. Dustin Hoffman may not make the world’s most attractive lady, but he did manage to play a very convincing woman thanks to makeup courtesy of Allen Weisinger and George Masters.


The X-Men series is full of awesome makeup effects, but it’s hard to top the blue-skinned, basically nude Mystique. This shapeshifting supervillain’s signature appearance can be attributed to Gordon J. Smith and Ann Brodie, who used more than 100 prosthetics and a whole lot of blue makeup to create the look.

Make Your Own Movie Magic

Obviously, makeup is just as important as any other piece of movie magic, but great makeup doesn’t happen by accident: well-trained experts create it.

If you’re interested in learning to create some movie makeup magic of your own, check out Paul Mitchell The School at Campus. We offer a full suite of classes on cosmetology, hair design, aesthetics, barbering, and much, much more.