A special thanks to @jayqartistry for the information and images within this blog

We got to take a glimpse inside the fantastic and horrifying world of the haunted house industry, SFX makeup brands, and advice for makeup newbies in this interview with the renowned, self-taught SFX makeup artist Jaime Quintana, aka @jayqartistry.

The Beginning

Like many accomplished SFX makeup artists, Jaime first began creating his looks from his own home before stepping out into the haunt world.

“I started dabbling in SFX and character-building when I came across character videos on YouTube back in 2006 and 2007,” Jaime recalled. He used whatever makeup he had in his kit to create looks while teaching himself through the limited online resources available back then until he found mentors in the SFX industry who provided hands-on training. “I didn’t know there was such a thing as cake makeup, grease makeup, and creams,” he said. “I just had my beauty tools, and that was it.”

Like with learning any new set of skills, the key to growth is consistent practice. Jaime was searching for all the training he could get, so at the beginning of his career, Jaime charged a mere $5 to get some makeup experience under his belt.

“Any money that I earned, I would walk to my local CVS or Walmart and buy makeup to practice on myself, my mom, my tias, and any client that I was able to convince I could paint them,” Jaime recalled. He eventually had the opportunity to apply for a makeup artist position at Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, an annual Halloween haunt in Long Beach, California. “I started off as a sponge artist,” Jaime recalled. “I shadowed all seasoned artists, and they taught me how to pay attention to detail. The following year I became an airbrush artist for the team and was placed with the more advanced artists. I was super nervous, but knew this was the leap I had to take to further my position, my career, and my education.”

Little did he know that his life would change forever, and over the course of nine years, he’d become a lead, do media for the haunt, and see his work on billboards. It wasn’t always an easy path, though. Long workdays spent creating looks and having talent request to have work redone when it didn’t meet their standards inspired Jaime to take his work to the next level, and he says he wouldn’t change a thing about his experiences.

“As an artist, the most rewarding part of this was being able to get hands-on training from some of the best in the industry. I got paid to learn, basically,” Jaime said. Since then, Jaime’s career has only skyrocketed with more SFX opportunities.

“I’ve had the opportunity to add some new designs to ‘Scary Mary’ from Dark Harbor and had the pleasure to work with haunt actress Samanta Lokelani,” he said. “We connected and bonded and really developed this beautiful character into what she is today.”

Iconic Inspiration

Jaime sourced inspiration for his new, iconic characters through movies and the emotions that come along with them. Talented artists such as Christina Cofran, Maryann Yee, Jen Fregozo, Dick Smith, Rick Baker, Jack Pierce, and Pat McGrath were all noted by Jaime as references who help him channel his eye-catching looks. Additionally, directors like Tim Burton and Guillermo Del Toro have inspired his creativity. “Inspiration is very personal to each and every artist,” Jaime said. “Some people get inspired by music, movies, celebrities. Different strokes for different folks.” Most importantly, he noted, was to find a way to draw inspiration from others while still creating new looks and new ideas of your own.

In addition to traditional forms of inspiration, Jaime used constructive criticism on the job and throughout his career to shape his work. “Just remembering people telling me that I wasn’t good enough or people [who] didn’t believe in me, really sparks up that fire to show them that, yes, I am capable of doing this and much more,” he laughed.

A Glimpse Inside the Haunt World

Character Creation

Before the haunt itself, a fantastic spooky event has to create and design even spookier characters. But how do artists get inspired to create fresh, long-lasting looks that still manage to startle guests?

Planning the Haunt

As for the actual timeline of the haunt, the schedule can be a scream within itself. There are a ton of things to do, with very little time to do them and no room for errors.

“Planning a haunt can be very fun and very stressful,” Jaime explained. “Having multiple meetings with other artists that each have their own visions can be challenging.”

In addition to the tight crunch times, you have to trust your teammates and cast members to do their jobs right. Different things can happen during a haunt. For example, he said, your airbrush can get clogged, talent can show up late, exhausted from a night on the town, or even worse, they may not show up at all.

“However, when opening night is just around the corner, and things start to come together, that’s when all the stress and headaches go out the window… and you realize it’s worth it,” he said. “Regardless, you keep pushing through.”

Roles & Responsibilities

With such a dynamic work environment, there’s a predefined structure of artists, department heads, and leads. While every haunt production is different, and roles may vary, Jaime breaks down some of the typical roles within the haunt industry and explains their primary responsibilities in more detail:

Department Head

“This role oversees the whole entire department,” Jaime explained. “They’re typically in charge of designing makeup for scare zones and mazes, have a count of inventory and supplies, interview makeup artists for the season, and host training sessions throughout the season to keep their team up to speed.” Basically, their main job is to keep things running smoothly, manage the makeup team and ensure the schedule doesn’t get backed up.

Department Head Assistant

“The department head assistant is more hands-on with the team,” Jaime said. “If the department head is busy or needs help with anything, it’s their responsibility to step in and help.” These crucial professionals help in everything from training, inventory, and designing makeup looks to organizing paperwork.


Jaime himself has experience as a lead at Dark Harbor, so he’s familiar with all the in’s and out’s of this critical position.

“Leads are there to help fellow makeup artists with whatever they need,” Jaime stated. “Leads are typically seasoned artists that have been in the haunt industry for over three to four years.” He continues, “They help with setting up the workroom and breaking it down at the end of the night, help clean bottles and help count inventory by the end of the season. Leads are also used for media marketing shoots among other media days the haunt might have.”

Makeup Artists

The makeup artists themselves are the lifeblood for a fantastic haunt, and Jaime gave some advice for those who may be interested in applying their skills in the haunt world. .

“Come on time, make sure that your station is clean and sanitized after every talent you see, follow continuity, don’t slow down, and most importantly, have fun!” It’s not mandatory to have professional training at many haunts, but in his experience, most of the makeup artists did or had been to makeup school.

“For a makeup artist that is looking to apply at a haunt, I would recommend them doing their research on the haunt itself,” he added. “Know the history behind the haunt, follow some of the makeup artists on social media so you can get a feel of what kind of makeup you’re expected to produce. By following them on social, that can also be an ice breaker to introducing yourself to the team.”

Brands to Live (and Die) By

Behind every successful makeup look is a wide variety of makeup products artistically combined to create a spooky persona. Of course, when it comes to SFX products, Jaime knows pro approved brands deliver high pigmentation and durability that his productions require. Some of his favorite products to create bright and realistic makeup looks come from brands including European Body Art, Wolfe, Ben Nye, Mehron, Premiere Products Inc, and ProAiir.

For Aspiring Haunt SFX Artists

As with any other career, researching the industry you're trying to break into is the first step to achieve your dreams. However, when it comes to the haunt industry, there aren't many resources for aspiring artist, so we ask Jaime to share some of his top tips:

  1. Research the haunt you’d like to work at and follow on social media to see what kind of looks they need to be created.
  2. Find makeup artists who work there and connect on social media.
  3. Have your portfolio prepared with a variety of looks showcasing your skills.
  4. Take the leap and apply as a makeup artist!

He recommended having a portfolio packed with high contrast makeup looks, blood work, brush control and technique examples, and some showing makeup shot in different types of light.

“Everything else is a plus or can be trained,” Jaime shrugged. If your portfolio isn't quite up to par or you're worried you don't meet specific educational requirements to join, Jaime says don't worry.  “Can you enroll in a school that can teach you SPFX? Sure! But I didn’t,” Jaime laughed. “To be honest, no one needs a piece of paper that says you’re a certified makeup artist or SFX artist. It needs to come from within.”

If you’re looking to build up your skillset without breaking the bank, he suggests looking into resources like YouTube, attending makeup seminars and demos, or joining a haunt to jump in head-first.

“There’s honestly no better way to do it than just going for it,” Jaime said. “We learn from our mistakes and make it better the next time.”

“Life is all about taking risks,” he explains. “Take that leap and show the world you’re not afraid. Entering a haunt can possibly be the start of something bigger for your career and can possibly open other doors that can lead to other projects.”

The Future of Haunts

Because of talented makeup artists like Jaime and his mentors, people can pursue their passions and create iconic looks during one of the best holiday seasons of the year for creatives. Even though many artists may not be sure if they’re prepared for these intense and challenging looks, self-taught artists like Jaime are an inspirational reminder that anyone can learn new things and pursue their passions.

“Don’t be afraid,” Jaime emphasized. “Be brave and contact your local haunt!” Talented SFX makeup artists work behind these haunted scenes to create frightening looks straight out of nightmares, but everyone has to start somewhere!

A special thanks to Jaime, aka @jayqartistry, for sharing his insight and experience with us! Be sure to visit him on Instagram to see his latest work and SFX adventures!

About Camera Ready Cosmetics

Camera Ready Cosmetics was founded in 2003 by Makeup Artist Mary Erickson. She dreamed of having a pro makeup showroom where artists could play with professional products without the typical makeup store attitude.

Today, our team of beauty industry veterans work together to curate the best quality products on the market. We partner with brands who respect the industry and formulate products for true working artists. You won’t find CRC in high-end malls, and we don't wear matching brush belts.

If you want to play with products for a few hours and buy nothing, that's okay ... come in and play! Our store is your playground. 

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