Whether you’re going for scary, weird, realistic, or funny, the key to a great zombie costume is makeup. Sure, other pieces of the costume such as
and props are also important. But the makeup does more to determine the quality of your costume than anything else.
It also tells a story about your zombie. Is she recently deceased, or has she been moldering in the grave for ages? Did he get infected by a single bite wound, or get mauled by a horde of walkers? The makeup you use, and how you apply it, provides the clues.
The idea of applying zombie makeup might seem intimidating at first, especially if you peek at some of the elaborate tutorials you can find online. Unless you’re experienced with makeup and/or zombie effects, it’s better to start with the bare minimum and then decide whether you want to try some of the more advanced techniques. If that sounds good to you, then read on.
Basic Zombie Makeup
At a minimum, a zombie needs pale skin, sunken eyes, and darkened or bloody lips. You can do some or all of this with regular makeup you might have at home. Alternatively, you can pick up a zombie makeup kit that has most everything you need.
You’ll also want to do something with your hair. There’s a whole other article for that.
Here are some of the supplies you might need for a basic zombie look:
- White face paint (or other pale foundation)
- Eye Shadow
- Fake blood or gray/black lipstick
If you have a little money to spend, also consider picking up these:
- Zombie/Halloween face paint (or other high-quality face paint)
- Liquid latex
- Fake scabs and/or other prosthetics
Where to Buy Zombie Supplies
Rather than buying your supplies at the Halloween speciality store that just popped up down the street, we recommend shopping online. Check out product reviews to find out which products are worth the money, and which ones might make you break out into hives.
In addition to your face, also apply makeup to your neck and any other parts of the body where skin is showing.
There are lots of tips and techniques to applying zombie makeup, but here’s the process in a nutshell:
- Wash your face. If necessary, shave any facial hair that might complicate makeup application.
- Apply liquid latex and any prosthetics you want to use.
- Apply the face paint or other foundation to give yourself a corpse-like complexion.
- Darken your eyes and check bones to give yourself a gaunt look.
- Apply fake blood or lipstick to your mouth.
- Apply fake blood to any wounds you have.
That should give you a basic understanding of what you need to do. However, there are a whole host of ways you can build on these basic steps to create a zombie that’s scarier, more realistic, and just plain better.
If you want your zombie’s skin to look rotten and weathered, you can’t go wrong with liquid latex (that is, unless you’re allergic to it). You can apply it to stretched out skin to create some gnarly imperfections. Or you can layer it with tissue paper, then puncture the surface to create nasty fake gouges on your face.
Many people are allergic to latex. If you’re not sure whether you are or not, you might want to apply a small dab of liquid latex on your skin to see if you react before plastering your face with it.
There are lots of other techniques for getting authentic-looking zombie skin, many of which use household items. Not all of the stuff you read on the internet is necessarily safe (there’s an understatement). Bottom line, be careful about what you put on your face.
A cheap prosthetic or two can have a big impact on your costume.
While the quality varies from product to product, store-bought prosthetics add an extra level of realism to your zombie persona. Prosthetics are latex based, and come in all sorts of varieties, such as:
- Open wounds
- Facial deformities
Zombie prosthetics are completely optional, but can really raise the gore factor (provided they’re high quality and properly applied). Consider adding a strategically placed prosthetic or two to your costume.
Honestly, there are too many possibilities for zombie effects to outline in one article. However, there are three more that are definitely worth mentioning:
Contact lenses. They’re not cheap or all that easy to use, but creepy contact lenses provide a perfect finishing touch to a zombie costume. You can find them at a variety of places online.
Tooth Makeup. Zombies aren’t big on brushing, so if you really want to be authentic, you can stain your teeth with a homemade concoction or store-bought tooth makeup. Fake chompers are another possibility, provided you don’t have to wear them for hours at a time.
Props. If you really want to stand out, get creative by incorporating a prop into your zombie’s appearance – a screwdriver through the eye, fork in the neck, you name it.
5 Awesome Zombie Makeup Tutorials
If you want detailed instructions on zombie makeup techniques, you can find loads of video tutorials online. Here are five of the best.
1. Basic Zombie Makeup Tutorial
These steps should be easy to follow for anyone who’s accustomed to using standard makeup.
2. Walking Dead Tips
Makeup artists from The Walking Dead offer tips for amateurs, including the latex skin-stretching technique mentioned earlier.
3. Using a Makeup Kit
This tutorial shows how to use a makeup kit that includes face paint and a prosthetic.
4. Neck Wound Tutorial
An example of what you can do with liquid latex and tissue paper.
5. Ripped Mouth Time-lapse
This one is not for beginners – or the squeamish.
So, are you inspired to go out and create your own horrifying zombie effects now? If you enjoyed this article, share with your zombie-loving friends or leave a message below!