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Drag King makeup guide masculine face

Unmasking the Art: Your Guide to Mastering Drag King Makeup

drag king drag king makeup kings of joy Mar 08, 2024

If you’ve never picked up a makeup brush in your life, knowing where to start with Drag King makeup can be baffling. And even if you’re familiar with eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss or highlighting and contouring, you’ve likely only learned how to feminise your face.

Drag King makeup starts with masculinising the face. And like all forms of visual arts, it requires time and practice. Don’t worry though, an artist isn’t born knowing how to paint. This is a skill that you can learn. 

Let me take you through the basics of Drag King makeup so that you can become the best expression of your persona on stage.

There are a few things to understand when starting on this journey. Firstly, put simply, makeup is drawing and painting. Drag King makeup is all about illusion and perception.

Secondly, stage makeup is different from everyday makeup. Stage lights wash out colour on the face, hence why professional performers of all genders traditionally wear makeup for stage or screen. Stage makeup is a thicker layer over the face to create an “air-brushed” look.

The Blueprint: Understanding Facial Anatomy 

Think of your face as a map. Each feature of the face, the jawline, forehead, nose, lips, eyes, and eyebrows are areas to be explored. If you, or friend, or a loved one have ever taken T, you may have seen the subtle but definite changes in the structure of the face. Understanding facial anatomy is crucial in learning how to create the illusion of masculine features.

Tip: Practice drawing faces, considering how different shapes and lines can affect the perceived gender.  A study by the University of Lethbridge found that individuals with more prominent brow ridges are perceived as more masculine. Notice the jawline and even the hairline.

Your Basic Kit: Must-Have Makeup Tools

As Ani di Franco sings, “You gotta have the right tool for every job.”

Beauty Blenders: Use these egg-shaped sponges to apply layers of cream for highlighting and blending.

Brushes: There are so many different types of brushes, so learn which brush works for the job you want to do. Start with one small angle brush (for lines on eyes/eyebrows and applying contour), one medium fluffy brush (for blending and adding powder) and one thin painting brush (for moustaches or eyebrows).

Stipple Sponge: This is the best and only sponge you’ll ever need to create the 5’oclock shadow or stubble.

Powder Puff: Use to apply setting powder once you’ve finished your masterpiece. 

Start with the Basics: Creating a Masculine Base 

The first step in your transformation is creating a masculine base. Skip your foundation and everything you know about it. Keep that for a daytime look, not for the stage.


You’ll need:

👑 3 cream sticks. A base colour that matches your skin tone. Then 2 shades darker and 2 shades lighter. Apply so that no skin shows through.

👑 3 matching powders (eg. eyeshadow)

👑 1 translucent powder

👑 Bonus for eyebrows: Mascara

Highlight: The lightest cream will reflect light. We will use it to create the perception of depth and angles. Apply with a beauty blender around the eyes to make them ‘pop’ on stage. Don’t worry, you’ll go over most of it in your base colour. Shape the nose you want.

Base: Cover the rest of your skin with the base colour. Apply with another beauty blender. Then blend by dabbing and rolling. You can go over the white. The aim is to create an airbrushed look.

The Details: Perfecting the Brows, Nose, and Jawline 

Contour: The darkest cream will sculpt and add dimension to the face. Apply with a small angle brush. This is where you masculinise the face by making the nose stronger, the deep set of the cheekbone, and the jawline's angles. A study from the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications found that contouring can significantly alter the perceived shape of the face.

Blend: Blend by rolling and dabbing with the beauty blender. Once you are happy with the shape of your features, use translucent powder to set it. Bake it on with a powder puff by pressing it into the skin. Use a lot and don’t miss any spots. Brush off with a big fluffy brush.

Do extra shading now with a medium fluffy brush. Then go over all sections of the face with a matching colour powder. Use a light rose to blend the white.

The Finishing Touches: Facial Hair and Hairline

The final step in your transformation involves facial hair and hairline. Here, you'll learn how to create realistic stubble and a hairline to match your new masculine persona.

Eyebrows: The quickest way to create bushy eyebrows is to apply mascara upwards onto your existing eyebrows. Fill in the gaps using a small angle brush and dark cream. Set with matching coloured powder.

Facial Hair: Use the stipple sponge dipped into the darker cream. Dab once, don’t smear and work your way from the jawline up. Now paint a moustache.

Hairline: Colour in your hairline using face paint. This will create a masculine frame for your face that makes an incredible difference. Blend it into your hair. 

The Breakdown: Removing Your Makeup Safely

Finally, just as important as putting on your makeup is taking it off. Proper makeup removal prevents skin irritation, breakouts, and premature ageing. Remember that water and oil don’t mix? Rather than splashing your face with water, a quick and easy fix is a rag from an old t-shirt and coconut oil to remove makeup. Avoid getting in your eyes.

The Evolution: Continuous Learning and Improvement

Becoming a Drag King makeup pro doesn't happen overnight. It requires continuous learning, experimenting, and improving. Remember, makeup is a form of art, and every artist evolves over time. Don't be afraid to take risks and experiment with different looks. 

With this starter guide, you're now well-equipped to start your journey from a makeup beginner to a Drag King makeup pro. Remember, practice makes perfect. So, embrace the process, keep experimenting, and most importantly, have fun. Remember, as RuPaul once said, "You're born naked and the rest is drag." So grab your brush, your courage, and let's get painting!


Danica Lani

The King Coach

Hello my friend, 🌈 I'm Danica Lani, here to empower you in your exploration of gender, sexuality, and performance. Known as The King Coach, I have proudly mentored, choreographed, and produced 106 first-time Drag Kings since December 2020 and built the uplifting Kings of Joy community. With decades of coaching and facilitation, I've led transformative workshops for hundreds of queer-identifying women, non-binary, and trans individuals, specialising in tantra within a queer context. My mission is that we can be 100% at home in our own skin.

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