How Do I Start Clowning? Makeup Essentials, part 2 – your clown face

Clown Tutorial – Clown Makeup tutorial, part 2 – designing and applying your clown face

raynbow-headshot-whiteHere is a picture of my clown character, Raynbow the clown, in make-up. ¬†Bear in mind that no rules are carved in stone; initially, my auguste character had a beard; so what? When I was first clowning, I was very torn about this (since my wife loves my beard), but felt ‘reassured’ by seeing a picture of Mitzi in the Creative Clowning book (another bearded auguste).

Now, how do you get to this point? You start with the proper tools. You will need:

  • Paper toweling
  • Q-tips
  • A make-up mirror of some sort
  • Clown make-up (greasepaint, not water-based!)
  • Grease stick (optional, depending on your design)
  • Rouge (also optional)
  • A partner (if you’re desperately nearsighted, as I am)
  • Shower cap
  • Large beach towel, etc. to keep the make-up off yourself
  • Baby powder (without ¬†cornstarch – ¬†very important!)
  • A cotton sock (very important! — you want to fill the bottom 1/4 of the sock with the baby powder, and then tie the sock off)
  • Cloth towel (not the wife’s good towels)
  • You’ll also need some baby shampoo to remove the make-up afterwards (no, soap & water by itself will not do — you need something to cut through the grease in the greasepaint).

Regardless of the style of clown make-up (whiteface, auguste, or tramp) the basics remain the same:

Start with a clean face (scrubbed & dried)

Start applying the make-up in layers, going from lightest to darkest. In my case, I begin with the white around my eyes & mouth. (a tramp or hobo would be similar, ending with a gray ‘muzzle’ — a whiteface clown would actually do the entire face, except for areas that will be filled in with other colors. You don’t want to put color on top of color — just leave those areas blank for now, to be filled in later) For me, I put a little daub of the make-up on the palm of my left hand (I’m right-handed) and use this as my palette. I spread it a little bit around (making a small ‘well’ about the size of a fifty cent piece) — this warms up the make-up via my body temperature, & makes it easier to apply. I apply large areas with my fingers, and use the Q-tips for smaller areas.

If you ‘slip’, feel free to use the Q-tips to ‘fine-tune’ your work. Make sure that the make-up covers, but that it’s not too thick — a good way to fix overly thick make-up is to take the first two fingers of each hand and ‘pat’ the make-up — this has the benefit of spreading the make-up smoothly, as well as preventing any ‘gooping’ of the make-up. Dry your hand(s) with the not-the-wife’s-good-towel. Once you’re satisfied, you want to ‘set’ the make-up in place, so it doesn’t accidentally smear. This is where the baby powder & cotton sock come in to play. You want to look upwards, and tap the sock against the palm of your other hand. This causes a small cloud of baby powder to descend on your face, ‘setting’ the make-up in place. How much is enough? If you have to ask, you haven’t used enough. You’ll develop a feel for this with time, but initially you want to overdo the powder. A good test is simply touch your face — if it feels dry to the touch, it is. If it feels moist, more powder! Once your done, you’ll want to use a make-up brush (or, if you’re feeling macho, a shaving brush) to wipe away the excess powder. (Big hint: you’ll be making a terrible mess doing this! You want to be in an enclosed shower, outside, or in Clown Alley, where you won’t bother other people).

Take a look in the mirror. See any missed spots? If so, fill them in and repeat the powdering.

Once you’re done, it’s time for the next layer. In my case, I now apply the Auguste ‘flesh’ tone. For different people, this will be different shades of ‘flesh’ — we’ll talk about particulars of make-up next time. For the whiteface clown, here is where you would fill in some of those ’empty’ areas. Apply, set, wipe away.

My final ‘layer’ is actually two different colors — I apply rouge to my cheeks (you can’t imagine how macho I felt the first time I did this — but, I have to give credit to PeeWee, aka Betty Cash of — it works well for my face), as well as using black to outline my eyes & grossly exaggerate my eyebrows. Since the two areas don’t touch, I don’t worry about them mixing together, & powder & set them together.

Some people recommend doing the entire make-up wet — i.e. putting on all of the different colors at once, and setting only once. Feel free to experiment — it’s never worked for me, but if it works for you, more power to you!

Look in the mirror. Do you see a clown face smiling back? Experiment with different expressions. Notice how you can smile, frown, etc. and see an exaggerated look in the mirror. When you’re done, show someone you trust — get their opinion. Don’t be crushed if they find something you missed, or have a suggestion for improving your make-up; after all, that’s why you’re asking them.

When it’s time for the make-up to come off (this also is messy), you want to ‘shampoo your face‘ with the baby shampoo. Lather your face with the baby shampoo (I recommend the shower), and let it sit for a minute. Perhaps two minutes. Give the shampoo a chance to break down the grease in the greasepaint. Rinse, check your face, and probably repeat two or three times.

Next time, we’ll follow up with some notes on clown noses, make-up brands and types, and wigs. See you then!


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