Let’s talk makeup, shall we? I separate my makeup looks for ATS into three categories.

1. The stage look.
You need to be visible from far away, and the lighting is harsh. The makeup needs to be extremely dramatic. From close up, it can be kind of scary.

2. The outdoor/daytime/close up look.
The goal here isn’t to be so dramatic or harsh, but rather to match the color and festiveness of the costume and overall performance. The makeup still needs to be heavy, but the lines are softer and contrast isn’t as pronounced.

3. The nightclub look.
This is an unholy hybrid of the other two looks. Lighting in the venue can be dark and unpredictable, so you want intense color and contrast, but you don’t want to look too scary close up when you go exchange your drink ticket for a glass of white wine with a straw (so as not to upset your lipstick, natch).

This post is about that elusive nightclub look, because that’s the gig I was dancing at tonight!

As we go through, keep in mind: this is only a reflection of what works for me. Use whatever products work best for you, and feel free to experiment. There are very few hard and fast rules.

1. Prep and prime.
Don’t skip this! I use moisturizers from LUSH, followed by face primer and eyeshadow primer. The eyeshadow primer in particular is important, as it keeps your colors stable when you get sweaty.



2. Apply foundation, contour, and blush.
Please don’t skip the contour or blush. You’ll be tempted to, because no one really does that in their daily lives, but under any sort of odd lighting, you’ll want people to think you have cheekbones that can cut glass, and this is what contour gives you.  Without contour, you probably look like a large white blob (if you are white).

Blush softens the look, makes you look less like a zombie, and brings color to your cheeks.

Here are the specific products I’m using.  From left to right: contour brush, mineral foundation brush (both from Sephora), bareMinerals Ready foundation, Bobbi Brown contour, and then the “Balm Jovi” palette from theBalm.  I’m using the pink “Pop Pop! Don’t You Want Me?” blush from this palette.


After applying the foundation with a heavy hand, the contour goes right under my cheekbones, under my jaw, and around the hairline.  YouTube has lots of tutorials if you need help figuring out where everything goes. Soften this up a little bit and blend.


Blush goes on the cheekbones.  I forgot to grab a photo of contour + blush.  You’ll see it in later photos.

2. Apply eyeshadow.
I like to think about eyeshadow in three colors: the very dark (usually black, even for a paleface like me), the medium, and the very light.  The more contrast you can get here, the better.

Tonight, I’m using the white (“Sassy”) and black (“Serious”) from theBalm’s Nude’tude palette, shown below.  Those will be my light and dark, respectively.


The medium I’m using tonight is “Fringe,” which is a dark teal from the new Electric palette by Urban Decay.  It’s the one in the top right.


Apply medium color all over lid.  Then dark color on the outside crease and just under the eye, and then light color on the interior, sweeping up above where you’ve placed the dark color.


Then, just for kicks, I applied “Revolt” — silver metallic from the Electric palette — on top of the white.


Now, blend the hell out of it!  I like to blend from inside to outside with a wide flat brush, and then use the flat part of the brush to subtly wing the eyeshadow out in a line.  Here’s the blended look:



3. Lashes!
Yes, you do need to wear lashes. They just make everything better. And besides, they’re darned fun.  Here’s some tricks to make application easier.

You’ll need lashes (go big or go home!), eyelash glue, mascara if you want, liquid black liner, pencil black liner, and optionally this little spring-loaded tool that I found in the Japanese dollar store for a buck.


This little tool is the best thing ever.  It holds the lashes while the glue gets tacky, and then helps you put them on your face.  You can definitely put on lashes without this tool, but it’s so much easier if you can get your hands on one.


First, apply a thin line of glue to the base of the lash.  Then, wait for the glue to get tacky – at least 30 seconds.  Put on a coat of mascara while you wait.

If you have a lash tool, you can just let it sit like this while the glue gets tacky.


Now, put the eyelash on your face.  Again, the tool is helpful here!

I like to position the lash so the inside is just a little bit away from where the inside of my eye is.  This makes it a lot less pokey when I try to blink.

If using the tool, stick the middle part of the lash to the skin of your eyelid, then unclamp the tool and secure the ends with your fingers.  If you’re just using your fingers or tweezers, put the ends on first and then secure the middle.


I like to put my bindi on at this point too, since I’ve got the eyelash glue out.

Get out your black liquid eyeliner (I’m in love with the Illamasqua line – doesn’t budge) and fill in the space between the inside corner of the lash and the inside corner of your eye.  You can extend this line onto the side of your nose if you like.

Since you have the liquid eyeliner out, now is also a good time to put on any tribal markings, if that’s a thing you like to do.


Now is also the perfect time to fill in and darken your eyebrows to create contrast if you haven’t done it already, especially if you have light eyebrows.  And use the black pencil to line the bottom of your eyes, as you like.  Tonight I went about halfway from the outside corners.

4. Highlight.
I like to do this for club gigs, since I never know what the lighting situation will be like. I’m using the highlighter from the Balm Jovi palette shown above, and I’ve put highlighter just under my eyebrows, above my lip, and on my cheekbones.



5. Lips!
Start with your lip liner – a nice true red, or a darker red than your lipstick if you like.  Line the outside of your lips, and fill in.


Next, lipstick.  My current favorite is MAC Viva Glam III, which is a rich burgundy that looks great on my skin tone.  Do that “apply, blot, apply” trick that we all learned from girl magazines in middle school.



I like to highlight the pout (middle of bottom lip) with some shiny stuff.  It’s pretty, and if you want to add glitter to the pout later, this helps the glitter stick better.  I’m using Lipglass by MAC.



… and with a fingerful of that same silver eyeshadow on top of the pout:


And voila, my friends.  Here’s the finished look.  If you have some finishing spray, like Urban Decay All-Nighter, give yourself a spritz or two to help everything stick while you sweat on the dance floor.


Have fun!  Go out there and play!  And stay tuned for more ideas.

BONUS:  Want to know how to take all of this stuff off quickly at the end of the night?  This stuff below – “Just Release Me” from Philosophy, available at Sephora – is magical.  It’s a two-phase makeup remover.  You shake it up, saturate a cotton pad with it, and everything just comes right off, including your eyelashes, minimal pulling or tugging required.  It’s incredibly gentle, too, and doesn’t smell bad.




2 thoughts on “Makeup for performance: the nightclub look

  1. I NEED that Japanese Tool for eyelashes. … have had a serious encounter with eyelash-adhesive yesterday. Have been asked if i have a contagious eye-infection at my office …. *Howl*

  2. Thanks for this ! I am practicing and learning at home FINALLY( because I really suck at makeup) instead of waiting till the performance night and getting stressed out about it !

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