The general principle of applying stage makeup is simple: emphasize and exaggerate the features by using darker tones to create dramatic shadows and lighter tones to create bold highlights. But for African Americans and other actors of color, those principles don't work the same way. Dark tones over dark skin may appear washed out, and highlights designed for lighter skin may not look natural on an African American actor, even from far away onstage. Applying stage makeup for African Americans requires a different set of techniques and guidelines.
Apply the foundation with a sponge onto a clean skin. Choose a shade that closely matches the skin tone and blends well without too much effort. Choosing a foundation closely matched to your skin tone is important for darker complexions; lighter-skinned people should select a foundation slightly darker than their natural skin color. Apply in dabs and blend smooth with the sponge. Blend the color into the hairline and down the neck.
Apply shadows and highlights with lighter and darker foundation tones. Choose shades that harmonize with the skin tone. Typically, a dark, blue-toned color is effective for creating shadows on darker skin. Lighter tones with hints of red or gold work well for African Americans to create highlights.
Set the foundation with a powder that matches the base tone of the foundation. Apply with the larger brush.
Apply eye makeup. Exaggerate the eyes to make them appear larger. Match the colors to the skin tone, with one shade of eyeshadow that is lighter than the skin tone, one that is matches the skin tone, and one that is darker than the skin tone. Cover the entire eyelid with the lighter eyeshadow, and draw a line under the eyebrow with a lighter eyeliner to emphasize the eyebrow. Apply the darkest shade of eyeshadow to the crease of the eyelid, the inside corner of the eye, and up and away from of the outer corner of the eye.
Apply black or dark brown eyeliner around the lash lines. Follow and enhance the natural shape of the eye, then fan the line away at the outer corner. Eyeliner or eye pencil may also be used to darken and emphasize the eyebrows if desired, but this step may be unnecessary for most African Americans.
Apply blush with the smaller brush and one or two shades of blush powder. Use a darker tone below the cheekbone and a lighter one above the cheekbone. Select colors that will work with darker skin, such as a purple or red with blue undertones for the darker shade and a red or orange with red or gold undertones for the lighter shade.
Apply lipstick and lip liner. Use a base coat of lipstick or lip liner to provide something for the makeup to adhere to. Select purples, reds, or corals to work with darker skin tones. Intense colors will work well with dark skin, particularly for female actors. Blot the color when done applying.