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Cosplay Makeup – All in the Contour

Cosplay Makeup – All in the Contour

Here you are. You’ve got the cosplay. You’ve got the con tickets. But did you remember to plan your makeup?

Makeup may seem like a small thing, but it can make or break a cosplay. It’s also something many find to be an absolutely daunting task. Where do you start? What do you use? That’s what I hope to help answer.

In this tutorial, I’ll be showing you the basics of contouring and how they applied to my cosplay of Vanessa Ives from Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. It’s a minimalist look that relies a lot on the foundation and contouring being just right.

Let’s get started.

Prepping the Canvas

Like a fine piece of art, makeup is nothing without a ready base to apply it to. This means the magic starts before you even consider putting on the first drop of foundation. Your face and body are the canvas, and to begin prepping it, you will want to look at your basic skin care routine. That means washing your face at least once a day, finding a moisturizer that works for you, and drinking lots of water.

Without these steps, you’re likely to experience a lot more trouble applying your makeup as well as keeping it on.

Once your face is properly moisturized, you will want to apply your concealer and foundation. Make sure that you’re using a foundation that matches your skin tone well and gives you full coverage over any red spots or circles under your eyes.

Let the Contouring Begin

What you need:

  • Contour cream or powder
  • Small bristle brush
  • Kabuki brush

I’ll say it now: I hate applying contour. I love the way it looks, but it can be frustrating. And if you’re vampire pale like me, it can be very hard to find a shade that doesn’t make you look like you turn a wrong turn at a tanning salon. But it is something that can drastically change the look of your makeup, and even the shape of your face.

In the case of Vanessa Ives, I needed to give myself more sculpted cheekbones and a more overall gaunt appearance without looking like an extra in a Tim Burton film (which is also a look contour can help you achieve).


I started out with Too Faced’s Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer. It’s soft, layerable, blends well and smells a bit like chocolate. (Pro Tip: In a pinch, you can use a matte eyeshadow in light brown to achieve this look.)

I started by applying it with my smaller bristle brush along the bottom of my cheekbones, along my jawline, along the sides and under the tip of my nose.



I then took a kabuki brush and gently blended it in. You’ll know it’s on right when it appears to be a natural shadow on your face.


In the above photo, only my face on the left side is contoured. It looks like it’s extra shadowy, but it’s actually the makeup.

This is also the time to play with different configurations. Depending on the placement, you can make your features seem more angular, make your nose appear slimmer, make your eyes appear more sunken in, et cetera. Just remember, contour is more about taking away and adding shape, and it’s something I recommend you experiment with prior to jumping into your cosplay and hitting a convention floor, as it will take some practice. It’s worth spending the time on as it is the building block upon which you can build almost all cosplay makeup. 

For Vanessa Ives I finished the look with some brown eyeshadow, dark eye lined, filled in eyebrows and a gently rosy lip. Here is the final result:



I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Be sure to leave a comment below to tell us what you’d like to see in the future and check back soon for some quick and fun Halloween makeup looks!

Sweeney Todd image by CE PhotoGenetiX. Sweeney Todd cosplay by Chris Dorman.
Vanessa Ives cosplay images by Dave Lucchesi Photography.
Feature Image Credit: Showtime

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