Darth Maul, the Wicked Witch of the West and your favorite zombie wouldn't be believable without makeup.
And according to a panel of makeup artists at Comic-Con Friday, it takes a veritable chemistry kit to do it right.
"Read your labels," warned Keaghlan Ashley, a makeup artist on Syfy's "Face Off." "It sounds silly but it's absolutely, very important. What you're working with can be dangerous and can harm your skin."
Added Kelton Ching, who works in Los Angeles as do the other panelists, "Don't be too ambitious - start with small projects."
Cosplay Makeup 101 drew about 50 curious cosplayers (costume play) wanted to know the secrets of transforming themselves into your friendly neighborhood monster or superhero. San Diego identical twin sisters Nicole Kushch and Rachel Steinberg, both 29, came dressed in costume but with no makeup.
"I just wanted to get a little more information on how to do makeup," said Nicole, a hearing aid technician, dressed as Doctor Strange. "We don't use it in our daily lives much so we thought getting the cosplay version it would be awesome to see and very interesting."
Dawn Banks, the lead makeup designer for the fan series "Batgirl Spoiled," said she first determines what era or version of a character she wants to recreate in a costume getup. She will consult a vintage comic book, for example, if a client wants the look set at a particular time.
"I want people to look at at an eye and know it's exactly what the character is based on," she said.
Besides makeup, the artists also work with props that add to a character's authenticity. Panel moderator Mac Beauvais came dressed as "Darth Niekas," a "very bad" "Star Wars" character she invented, complete with a trunk-like appendage sticking out of her head.
Chrissy Lynn, known for Super Power Beat Down's Darth Maul character, drawn from the "Star Wars" prequels, said most wigs are sythentic and need to be washed in fabric softener before using.
Ashley Troub, who worked on "The Nerdist" TV show, advised cosplayers to be on the lookout for bacteria that can breed in some makeup products. Ninety-percent alcohol is one of the standard products to cleaning makeup kits.
"I've met many models who've gotten infections in their eyes," Troub said.
Several said they were self-taught but also have attended workshops and classes on makeup. They said some YouTube videos demonstrate techniques but not all are reliable. When seeking a makeup artist to help get into a role, seek references to make sure they know what they are doing.
And men: Bring your own compact mirror to check that your red Darth Maul makeup isn't down your neck.
"If you ask a woman for a mirror all day long, you'll drive them crazy," Lynn said.
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