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Designing Show Makeup for your Color Guard

So you have a color guard. At this point in the season you’ve probably gotten about halfway through setting your show. Uniforms have been picked, silks have been taped. Perhaps your program is already looking ahead to winter season. You feel like you’re prepared, but do you have your show makeup picked out? It may seem like a small part of the bigger picture, but makeup is the part of the uniform that helps bring everything to life.

You might be saying “But Sam!! How important can makeup really be?” The answer is very important. It helps pull the look of the guard together to make it look finished. It helps the guard convey emotions to the judges and every spectator. It can transform a regular member into a mermaid or a skeleton or whatever you need to be for that 10-minute show.

Now that I have convinced you of the importance of makeup you’re probably saying “Sam, that’s great and all, but where do I start?” And that is what I’m here to help you with.

Step 1: know how to apply makeup. If you do your own makeup on occasion (yes even just that concealer and foundation counts!) then congratulations. You’re on your way. If you don’t, fret not. The internet is a wonderful place full of tons and tons of resources. Pintrest, Youtube, and even a quick Google search will return tons and tons of results to help you start learning. Knowing how to apply even the most basic makeup is helpful because you know which products go where on your face (liquid lipstick is not great eyeliner, trust me).

Step 2: consider your theme. Different themes require different kinds of makeup. You wouldn’t do a full face of white grease makeup for a patriotic show and you wouldn’t do strong eyeliner and red lips for a show about light and dark. Start thinking about the color pallet you want to use and what will look best. *Side note that nude makeup is NEVER a good idea. I’ll touch more on it in Step 4.

Step 3: Consider the skill level of your guard. You don’t want to pick out something ridiculous that no one will be able to accomplish to an appropriate level. Sure, you sent them those pictures off of pintrest from that makeup artist, but if none of your kiddos know what a blending brush is it may not turn out great. There are ways to get around this including scheduling a sectional to do the makeup together to make sure everyone is self-sufficient, but if not everyone can get perfectly contoured cheekbones you may need to take a step back. You can typically still get your theme across without going all out.

Step 4: Picking the show makeup. This is the step that takes the longest for me. I tend to watch movies or shows related to the theme and look through a lot of pintrest. (This year I pulled out all of my Halloween movies early!) Typically I pick each part of the makeup separately, then I start putting them together to make sure they work. If they don’t I keep the parts I like best and reconsider what really isn’t working. Here’s the order I pick the makeup.

1. Foundation. Are you using skin tones, or will your entire face be blue? This is what will help set the mood for the rest of your face. If you’re not sure, your normal skin tone is never a bad idea.

2. Contour. Will you be doing it? This is completely optional, but sometimes it adds more. You can overdo it to make incredible sharp cheekbones, or to soften everyone’s faces. If your show is a little more on the creepy side you can use contouring skills to make your face gaunt looking.

3. Eyes. At the bare minimum eyeliner and mascara is a must. Judges need to be able to see your eyes from the press box or the top of the gym. Also consider if your eye makeup is going past just your eyelids. Will it reach the eyebrows or go below the lower water line? If you aren’t doing color on the lids, but want something dramatic falsies are the way to go!

4. Lips. This is probably the most expressive part of the whole look. You need to select a color that is easily visible from the box. Nude or very light pink lips are never a good choice because it covers up so much of the expression you could be portraying. Even if the whole guard has Miss America worthy smiles plastered on their face the whole time you’d never be able to tell with a nude lip. (Also consider doing something that’s not typical lipstick like drawing on your smile/frown, etc).

5. Eyebrows. If you already have dark eyebrows or your eye makeup comes up far enough that you don’t need to mess with them, then congrats. You’re already done. If you aren’t doing anything with eyebrows though I’d suggest making the people with super blonde ones fill them in a little darker. It makes a difference!

6. Any other additions. This is where you decide if your look is finished. If you’re happy with it as is, congrats! If you feel like you’re missing something maybe consider drawing shapes on your cheeks or foreheads. (Did you know you can get that pretty diamond pattern by stretching mesh over your face and brushing on the desired product?) Also don’t forget about those rhinestones!

Step 5: Products. Congratulations! You have officially designed your show makeup. Now you should think about which products you use. Many guard instructors don’t care what their guard uses as long as its similar and some demand that everyone buy the same exact product. This is honestly personal preference and my game plan is to tell the group what products I use and like and let them bring in their own in order to swatch products to see if they look the same. I highly suggest this method if your guard is super diverse. You want to make sure the look is good for everyone, regardless of skin tone.

I have several favorite products for both every day and show use. I really try to use cruelty free products, so I hope my list will reflect this.


• Nyx

o Stay Matte but not Flat foundation (This one got me through my last winter guard season)

o Wonder Stick (for highlight/contour)

o Highlight and Contour Pro Pallete

• Hard Candy

o Glamoflauge concealer (I’m not entirely sure if they’re still making it, but if so it’s good).

o Conceal and Correct Pallete

• Tarte

o Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation 15spf (Pricey, but good! I wore this in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Tournament of Roses Parade!)

Eyes (There are more brands out there than Morphe, but that’s basically all I own!)

• Morphe (I think they’re finally getting into Ulta, but ordering online is the easiest I think)

o I own the 35B, 35S, and 12P palletes. (I believe they actually quit making all of these, but their stuff is super affordable and pigmented)


• Nyx

o Liquid Suede Lipsticks (The color Cherry Skies looks great on everyone I swear!)

o Liquid Suede Metallics (These have a serious shine)

• ColourPop (online orders only)

o Ultra Matte Lipsticks (Put some chapstick on before you use these)


• Nyx (I own A LOT of Nyx stuff, sorrynotsorry).

o Tinted Brow Mascara (This is an easy one swipe application and it comes in a light enough shade to not clash with my red hair!)

Other Stuff

Don’t be afraid to try other fun things. My girls this season are using some grease makeup that you can find at Party City for Halloween. There’s also lots of brands of cosmetic glitter (I’ve never used any, but I know they’re out there). You can also glue rhinestones or flower petals or whatever your heart desires to your face with some eyelash glue. Have fun with it, just remember to use cosmetic grade products!

Thanks for bearing with me through this essay. Hopefully now you have all the tools you need in order to design some truly kick butt show makeup. Have a great rest of your fall season and get ready for winter!!

❤️ Sam

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