If you haven’t procured a Halloween costume yet, your best bet might be to just add some gaping wounds to whatever you’re wearing and head to the party. Zombie-fy to simplify. With that said, this week’s flashback is another gem from from Make: Halloween Special Edition, a 2006 collaboration between the editors of MAKE and CRAFT, our sister publication. Courtney Mault and Max Sparber, experts in horror makeup, wrote an entire Macabre Makeup DIY section for the issue, and this offering will teach you how to work liquid latex into a truly horrific wound. Also check out this week’s flashback on Craftzine.com, which covers how to do gory ghoul makeup using bread crumbs. And finally, for tons more Halloween inspiration, pick up the full Make: Halloween Special Edition in the Maker Shed, where it’s currently on sale for 5 bucks!
Wounds and Prosthetics
By Courtney Mault and Max Sparber
Liquid latex rubber is great for wound makeup, large and small. Courtney likes to use it to create small flaps of skin for a skinned knuckle, which are convincing enough that when she occasionally wears her makeup to work as a prank, employers have insisted she seek first aid and write a medical report, even after she has explained that her injury is just makeup.
Using Liquid Latex
Liquid latex dries on contact with air. It’s available online and at most costume stores, and it’s a favorite of special effects makeup artists because it’s easy to mold, can be precolored with acrylic paints, and is both cheap and reusable.
Before liquid latex became popular, creating monster makeup was a laborious process, involving hours of building up an actor’s features with cotton and flexible collodion, a noxious chemical that smells like a photo lab. (Rigid collodion is still used for making realistic scars.)
This makeup was not reusable, and so every day the actor would have to go through the process all over again. Dermawax, or mortician’s wax, was often used for creating injuries, but it doesn’t take makeup well and tends to melt under hot lights. Liquid latex can be used to create reusable masks and injuries, simplifying the process greatly.
Caution: Before you use latex on anyone, be sure they’re not allergic. Put just a drop of liquid latex on your subject’s arm — if they react with redness or itchiness, you should not use latex on them.
Again, don’t get liquid latex on large amounts of hair — don’t put it on the hair on your head, for instance. This stuff sticks to hair and can be painful to remove, even on little hairs like arm hair. If you have trouble removing it, baby oil will help, as it will dissolve the rubber.
If you need the latex to be a specific color (it usually comes in a light skin tone), mix up the color you want using acrylic paint, and blend it into the latex before applying. This might be desirable if the latex is too light or dark for your complexion, or if you’re creating a character with a radically different skin color, such as a red devil. It’s easy to apply makeup to latex, so there’s no need to try to give the latex a “bruise” color, or an “open wound” color. Just make it skin-toned and add the grisly details later.
Step 1: To make a wound with liquid latex, first make sure the application area is clean and dry. Apply a thin layer of latex a little larger than the size you’d like your cut to be, taking into consideration how much “skin” you want flapping around. Wait until the latex is completely dry, which generally won’t take more than 10 minutes.
Step 2: Once the latex is dry, disguise the line between latex and skin. This is done by applying makeup color with a stipple sponge. Use a light hand; you can always go back and add more. If you’d like a clean cut without bruising or too much discoloration, use various hues of natural skin tones. For a bruised area, use mustard yellow, dark red, dark purple — the colors in your “injury stack” of makeup.
Step 3: When you’re satisfied with the color of your wound, you can create the cut. I recommend using a toothpick for small cuts — and even larger ones — because you’ll have more control in how your cut will look. Gently pick through the latex with the tip of the toothpick, a little at a time, forming the cut.
Step 4: You’ll see clean skin underneath the cut. Color that skin with a dark-color creme makeup, preferably black — this will give your cut more depth. Gently apply a red color to the edges of the cut and apply fake blood.
Again, use a light hand here. You can always add more if you’d like. For an even more dramatic cut, use your stipple sponge and gently drag it in the direction of the cut with a dark red color. This will create smaller scratches.
Liquid latex is also great for making your own prosthetics. Drip dots of it onto wax paper or another smooth surface to create moles. Add a few sprigs of crepe hair before it dries completely. If you don’t have crepe hair, use a few strands of your own hair.
As you advance to more intricate makeup creations, it’s great fun to make your own latex prosthetics by using Sculpey modeling clay, plaster of Paris, and liquid latex. To make a zombie-bite prosthetic, Courtney actually bit into a chunk of the clay to create the bite, and placed that into plaster of Paris to make a mold. When the plaster mold dries, brush in a couple layers of liquid latex. When the latex dries, pull it out, and voilà — your very own latex prosthetic.
Once you’ve completed your liquid latex project, you can save it and reuse it whenever you want. But you’ll have to peel it off without the assistance of baby oil, which would destroy your creation.
About the Authors:
Courtney Mault is a Minnesotan who’s been a horror makeup hobbyist for years, and has provided makeup for several indie and student films. Max Sparber is a blogger, playwright, and journalist from Minneapolis.