Halloween Makeup!

Tips, techniques & sources for creating awesome Halloween makeup effects!

While some prefer an actual mask as part of their costume, others prefer to use makeup in place of a mask. And I've seen some pretty good "makeup masks" so if you prefer to go this route, by all means, do so--the effect can be incredible!

Plus, Halloween makeup allows for easier breathing and a less sweaty outing than a mask so, if comfort is a high priority for you, this may be the way to go. Not to mention, if you're the artistic type, you get the added benefit of having fun by experimenting with the various unique and customized effects you can create with Halloween makeup.

One of the big names in Halloween makeup and theatrical make-up was Stein's which has, sadly, gone out of business recently. However, many retailers still have an existing inventory of Stein's products to offer. I'd been using Stein's Halloween makeup since I was knee high to Frankenstein's monster.

If you can still get your hands on Stein's products, I highly recommend it as it's high quality, reasonably priced, and was a reputable company that had been around a long time (which I value for safety's sake--after all, we don't want to put just any ol' stuff on our skin, do we?).

Another reputable name in the theatrical makeup biz is Cinema Secrets. Both Stein's and Cinema Secrets products can be found here (opens new window).

skeleton arm

Halloween Makeup Basics

Here’s a little Halloween makeup trick I pulled on my mom once, bless her heart...

I was out in the garage working on my old Dodge Challenger when I came running in, holding my right arm. I had this huge, bloody gash running the length of my right forearm.

I told mom that as I was working on the car, I had to make some checks with the engine running and that, as I did, my arm got caught in the spinning fan belt. I shivered and my voice quivered as I asked: "Do you think it looks serious?". She was freaking out so bad though that I had to let her off the hook immediately.

Similarly, I liked to create a roundish, dark and nasty open wound on my cheek and have something coming out (fake roach, fake worms, whatever---or heck, if you really want to totally freak people out, get some real worms down at your local bait and tackle! :-)

These and many other great Halloween makeup effects are easy to create once you have the right materials...

First, you'll need a container of derma wax (preferably flesh colored or neutral) to build up the area in which you wish to create a cut or open wound. The bigger the effect, the more wax you'll need. So get a good size container if you think you'll want to experiment and/or try several effects.

[Here's a little secret I learned the hardway: It's best if you use some liquid latex to seal the wax to your skin. When I first experimented with this stuff, I skimped in this area and didn't seal it. As a result, I was constantly trying to keep the wax setup from sliding off my arm, face, wherever I had put it.

You see, the part of the wax in contact with your skin begins to melt due to your normal body temperature. So, even if you're in an air-conditioned environment, the great wax illusion you worked hard to create will eventually be trying to slide off and, as you keep trying to slide it back in place, it'll just look messier and messier. So, if you can, use the liquid latex to help seal the edges into place.

And, by all means, if you're going outside with your wax setup, do it at night when you won't be exposed to the Sun and the hottest temps of the day…no amount of liquid latex will keep your work of art from becoming a glob of waxy mess very quickly under those conditions!]

Now that your wax buildup is made, use a good mix of makeup colors that you can blend together to simulate bruising, etc. There is now a set of colors on the market appropriately called Injury Stack that is ideal for this very thing!

With Stein's, I use a sponge applicator to gently daub the colors on top of each other which mixes them nicely. I'm not sure if the new "Injury Stack" comes with an applicator however, so you may need to get one locally if you don't already have something similar at home.

Next, a thin-tipped paintbrush comes in handy to create the gash. You can get these at many places locally (hardware stores, cosmetic counters, Wally World, etc). Now that you have your wax buildup in place and have colored it up nicely to look all gross, dark and bruised, simply take the blunt end of the brush (or a pencil tip will do) and carve a nasty, jagged gash into the wax.

I never carve all the way down to the skin nor from end to end as I feel that it would weaken the integrity of the wax build-up and cause it to slide off even quicker but hey, it is your effect so create it any way you want. :-)

Ok, so now you've got a nasty looking gash... but the inside of it should be blood red, not the whitish wax color we've got showing through at the moment. So, take your brush and dip it in the red color from the "Injury Stack" and paint the inside of the gash.

Now you're ready for the "icing on the cake". Break out the fake blood (Stein's stage blood or Cinema Secrets' coagulating gel if you need the thick stuff that'll stick!) and drizzle it down the length of your now red gash, perhaps even drizzling a little "run-off" down one side onto your skin.

Voila! Now take your "terror-ific" gash and go scare someone out of their wits! ;-)

You can use these same basic materials for a variety of cuts, gashes, wounds anywhere…on your arms, legs, face, even on a mask as I did (read more about that over at the scary masks section).

Or, if you're not the artistic type and would rather not mess around with too much experimentation with the do-it-yourself route, there's plenty of pre-made prosthetics on the market that'll accomplish similar effects with less hassle. I personally feel that using the wax buildup technique creates a more "fresh" (and therefore realistic) effect, but it depends greatly on the quality of the prosthetic and "artist"...

Some prosthetics look real...some look real cheap. Some wax buildups look great...some may turn out not-so-great. Even the cheapest, low-quality prosthetic wound can look much better than one poorly done as a wax buildup. So, considering your own talents and what you want to achieve from the outset will go a long way to creating a very horrific effect that Mom would be proud of! ;-)

Speaking of prosthetics, whether you're costume requires the addition of horns, special ears, noses, eyes, burns, parasites, projectiles, trauma, you can find them all here (opens new window).

More Halloween Makeup Tips

Here's a few basic tips to get you started with applying/removing Halloween makeup:

1) To attach a prosthetic device (fake beards, scars, fresh wounds, etc) to your face or arms or mask, first clean the area with spirit gum remover which can be obtained here

2) Next, apply Spirit Gum Adhesive to the side of the prosthetic that you want attached to your skin (shave the area first for best adhesion) and hold in place for a couple moments. That's it! You're all set to scare 'em out of their wits! (In some cases, such as attaching a latex prosthetic to a latex mask or to blend in prostheses with the skin such as bald caps, etc., try some liquid latex which is essentially a rubber adhesive).

3) When you're ready to remove the prosthetic, use your spirit gum remover again to slowly and gently separate the prosthetic from your skin. If you're careful, the prosthetic will remain in good condition and can be re-used multiple times while still looking good.

Fake Blood Tips

Fake blood has always been a staple of Halloween makeup and for it, you have a couple options...

1) You can make your own if you enjoy experimenting, have the time, and don't mind using up some of your Karo corn syrup and red food coloring. You can vary the mixture to make the "blood" look either old or fresh. Of course, the oldest standby of all is ketchup and I've known some who simply use chocolate syrup.


2) If you don't relish the idea of wearing smelly condiments, it's probably best to just go with the prepared stuff. Here again, there are varying qualities of fake blood on the market. Some look very realistic and even coagulate like real blood while others (such as I've gotten from magic & gag shops) don’t look very realistic at all. If it's just for play, don't sweat it and go for the cheap stuff. If you're trying to achieve a really convincing look though, stick with the higher quality formulations such as Cinema Secrets Professional Stage Blood. If you want it to "stay put" and be less runny, get their coagulated gel version here: Cinema Secrets Blood Gel.

Halloween Makeup Techniques

For more advanced instruction in Halloween makeup, there are many instructional resources available...

Many make-up effects artists consider Academy Award winner Tom Savini's Grande Illusions to be the "bible" for creating special makeup effects.

Perfect for taking your Halloween makeup techniques to the next level. If you're wanting to make some really cool, custom makeup F/X for that independent horror movie you're planning, this book is a must have.

In fact, it was so well received, Mr. Savini came out with a sequel to satisfy the appetities of his fans: Grande Illusions Book 2

Another frightastic, teach-yourself book that exposes Hollywood monster make-up secrets is Dick Smith's Monster Makeup Book.

This book teaches how to recreate the horror of your favorite classics, or invent your own twisted monstrosity.

Or, if you prefer to watch a video to see how the Halloween makeup application is done, there are some great instructional videos out there too such as this Special Effects Master Class DVD

Look for all of these as well as Special Effects Makeup For Stage and Screen here: Horror Makeup Books.

Share your expertise (or lack of it)!

Got any Halloween makeup tips you'd like to share with the world? Maybe you've even got a great pic demonstrating the technique to go with it! Perhaps you've created the ultimate recipe for homemade fake blood?

Or, maybe you just have a funny story about the time you and your Uncle Joe tried whipping up a batch of fake blood in the kitchen….or how your first time experimenting with spirit gum or liquid latex went oh so wrong.

If you have Halloween makeup tips or stories than can educate, entertain or humor your fellow fright fans, submit them using the form below and you just might win the monthly drawing! And that's just the beginning...there's a special drawing for monthly winners to be held on Halloween night! Check it all out at the Win Free Stuff page!

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

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