So if you've been here a while, you know that I'm really excited for Halloween this year! Noah and I have been working hard on his Mad Max: Fury Road costume and it came together amazingly. We're frantically putting the finishing touches on mine this week too.
In the spirit of last minute costumes, I asked my gorgeous friend Susan (who is an accomplished cosplayer) to come stop by and show you how she does her Zombie makeup for what could be the easiest, coolest last minute Halloween costume ever! Check it out, she's going to show you step by step how to make your own DIY zombie costume below! Walking Dead, anyone?
Hello, DB2 friends! Jessica asked if I had any Halloween-type ideas to share, and I thought, “Um, duh! Of course I do!” My boyfriend and I recently participated in a Zombiewalk that happens in our downtown. A Zombiewalk, if you’re not familiar, is exactly what you think it is: fans of the undead don their best zombie costumes (along with the occasional zombie-hunter or mad scientist), mob up, and shamble through the streets. There’s usually a costume contest, and our Walk does kids’ games and makeup stations, pre-walk. At some point, someone will, I can guarantee with 100% certainty, blast “Thriller.”
I took some pictures of zombie-prep, and will guide you through your own Zombie Conversion process, just in time for the very best of holidays: Halloween! Something to keep in mind about “levels” of costuming/cosplay: it will vary from individual to individual, but there is NO WRONG WAY TO COSPLAY. I, for instance, went straight to the Halloween Spirit store that pops up every year, and bought all my makeup and a jug ‘o blood there. I have friends who won’t touch anything less than Ben Nye theater-quality makeup. I also have friends who just use whatever the box-store had on sale that week. No one is doing it “wrong.” However and whatever you choose to use for supplies is awesome. The rule here is that we’re having fun! Please also bear in mind I’m not a photographer, and I took all my photos on my phone, in the middle of the costuming process. Fortunately, it turned out to be pretty easy to clean the makeup from my screen protector. (Le sigh…)
For supplies, you’ll need the following basics:
~Gray Makeup, and plenty of it, depending on how much skin you’re showing (Bill and I went through 3 of the Spirit cakes of cream makeup. In retrospect, I should have just bought a tube or two. I was showing maybe a slightly-above average amount of skin as you can see in the photos, and he was showing very little.)
~Green Makeup. I really like the “zombie stack” set for this. It included green, a deep purple-red, a gross yellow and black. I bought a tube of plain green, but didn’t end up even opening it.
~Fake Blood. This comes in a lot of forms. If you don’t have a spray bottle to put the blood into, I recommend getting at least one prepacked spray bottle of blood. The spray format gives a really nice “splatter” look during application.
~Clothes. I went to Goodwill and bought a pair of PJ bottoms, and then used two old “bleaching-my-hair” tanks that I already had. I also chose an old bra that I don’t really wear anymore. Keep in mind that whatever you use for your zombie is not going to come back from the process! It’s going to be permanently stained/bloody/muddy! I wanted to add slippers to the ensemble, but ran out of time/motivation, and ended up in a pair of flip-flops.
~Elmer’s Glue. It doesn’t have to be actual Elmer’s, but a similar washable formula is important. The glue is an easy way to make “wounds.” Latex is also a good way to do wounds/effects, and definitely holds better, and I’ve used it before. But I was at “glue-level” with my costuming this year.
~Space. You’re either going to want a space you can completely trash (the fake blood will stain, unless you get it right up!) or to put down a drop cloth, or maybe do this out in the yard.
Begin with your backstory. For instance, this year, I was a Pajama Zombie - I converted at night, so I didn’t do much with my hair or makeup (a little wax product in the hair for a “greasy” look, just enough makeup-makeup to make my features visible. I’m extremely blond with hazel eyes, so unless I tightline, do one coat of mascara, and enhance my eyebrows with pencil, it essentially looks like my features are one big ….blur. Very weird, I know. Do any regular makeup you’re going to do before the costume makeup. Any messiness that results can just be written off as a side effect of Conversion.) Bill was a Lab Zombie, which means he was at work at his low-level lab job, where - of course - they were messing with the zombie virus when he converted. He had a “bunny suit” and a respirator, and didn’t need much base makeup at all. Your backstory will establish what kind of clothes you were wearing, any accessories you might carry, how your hair is done, etc… It will also establish where you have been bitten/injured. My “bite” was on the outside of my left knee, so that pant leg was torn off from there. I also had my heart partially “torn out”, which resulted in a pretty impressive wound being necessary. We decided that Bill didn’t need a bite - he got an injection or airborne version at the lab to begin his conversion.
Once you have your backstory/costume on, you can begin with your effects. I used “Zombie Skin” from Spirit, which is supposed to give a “cracked/dead” look when you spread it on and let it dry. It’s an ok product, but I’m not sure I’d full-on recommend it. You have to use very thin layers, and let it dry between applications, and some of it will rub off when you apply the grease makeup over it. I did like how it created darker patches wherever I applied it - wrists, hairline, elbows, etc. While one thing is drying, you can usually work on another. I went on to creating my “bite”. This is done by making a ring of dots of glue.
Let the glue dry, but poke at it as it’s drying, with the wrong end of a fork or a toothpick, etc, to give it texture. I did the same on my upper left chest, but instead of dots, I just smeared the whole area liberally with glue. Then I used my sophisticated FX tool (still the fork, ok?) to rake across and jab at the glue while it was drying.
The actual “heart” was a rubber model that I also got at the Spirit store, which I safety pinned to the underlayer of my tank tops. I used scissors to start a rip in the top tank, so that it looked as though the heart had torn out.
While you’re waiting for your effects to dry (patience, padawan!!), start applying the gray grease makeup to any visible body parts. Fortunately, since I was working with a partner, he was able to get my shoulders and back.
I just applied all of his, since he doesn’t have much experience with any kind of makeup. Your hands will work just fine for this, or you may want to get some disposable makeup sponges. Work around any wound/bite areas while they’re drying. For detail work, I switched to the green, and a disposable eye shadow applicator. My key here was “angles/edges.” That curve on the side of your nose? Your eyelid and directly under the bottom lashes? Behind your ears? Inside your elbow? Between/inside of fingers? All of these are fair game for the green, plus anywhere else you think would look good. I lined directly under the bottom lashes with green, and then (with a different applicator) I used the purple-red. For some reason, this dash of red underneath the eye will make you look scary-dead!
I also dabbed the purple-red into the center of each of the “toothmarks” on the bite.
I’ve never done much makeup on someone with glasses, so while doing Bill’s I was surprised to learn that if you’re going to wear glasses with your zombie costume, you will want to add more layers of color, and also drag it higher - I pushed right into the eyebrows - and a bit lower. I also worked the red and gray into my chest wound as it got dry enough to work with, and dabbed more gray around the bite.
The last step and the one I most encourage you to go outside for, is the blood! Yay, blood! Spray it on in patterns appropriate to your wounds (for me, that was down the left leg from knee level, and up from heart level on the left side; for Bill, I sprayed the “mouth” portion of his respirator), wipe it all over your hands (paying attention to shove some into the cuticles for a nice touch), and dab it onto your mouth/chin. Fair warning: this particular brand made my lips feel a bit itchy and swollen for a while (a bit like a plumping gloss, but ...more). You might want to allergy test when you bring your makeup home if you have sensitive skin. If you have trouble with the store blood, there are a lot of videos and recipes on Youtube for how to make your own, often with better texture and color than the store brands. Whatever your particular blood needs, let yourself dry for a while before heading indoors to the party, or to the car to drive to the Zombiewalk. We had to clean blood off Bill’s steering wheel later. The things that *don’t* cross your mind at the time….
Happy Zombie Halloween! I hope this gives you a little more confidence in your own costuming!