You look different…Did you lose weight or something?

 Zombie MakeupImage courtesy of  Haunted Illinois

Criscura Makeup via criscura

Sometimes a wig and some jewelry just don’t cut it. Theatrical makeup can be used to completely transform you, making you look like something from a dream or a nightmare. It can be really intimidating if you’ve never done it before, though. This section will help you turn into a beautiful butterfly…or a flesh-eating zombie, whatever floats your boat.

Types of Theatrical Makeup

 full body cheetah makeupvia baobella

Theatrical makeup blurs the already fuzzy line between cosmetic makeup and fine art. You’re using your body as the base for a masterpiece, requiring that you treat it both like skin and canvas.

 Kinds of Theatrical Makeup

Like with all makeup, there are a few different kinds of materials to work with:

Cream-Grease Makeup


Cream/Grease  – Grease, normally used in face paint, is very easy to apply but must be set with powder or it will smear. Cream can stand up to more and will make stronger lines but takes longer to apply. Neither allow your skin to breath very much.

Clown Makeup Tutorial

pressed powder makeup container


Powder – A great way to apply base coats and contour, powder (like cake makeup and eyeshadow) will give a very life-like effect and is easy to put on. It’s the gentlest on your skin but is difficult to use for sharp lines and fine details. It also won’t be as vivid as cream, liquid, or airbrush.


 How to apply powder makeup with a sponge 

How to apply powder makeup with a brush

(Please note! If you soak the makeup with water like she did, it will crack when it becomes dry. That means you’ll need to soak it with water whenever you want to use it…even for touch ups. Wetting the applicator alone–and not the makeup itself–will avoid this.)

liquid theatrical makeupLiquid – Used for foundation and details. It lasts for a very long time, but can be hard to work with and may crack. Liquid also doesn’t blend very well (if at all), so it’s best used for flat colors. Unfortunately I can’t find any tutorials for this one! You use it as you would any liquid foundation or eyeliner, but you need to be more of a stickler about having even coats (uneven application will make the job look splotchy).

bottles of airbrush makeupAirbrush – Long-lasting, resistant to wear, realistic-looking, and great for both fine details and broad plains. This is probably the best makeup for costuming. On the downside, it can be very expensive, takes a long time to put on, and is nearly impossible to touch-up. If you’re changing your skin color for a costume that shows most of your body, you should airbrush the color on. Any other kind of makeup will fade and come off where your body brushes against itself.

How to turn your face into a skull:

Use them all!

It’s best to combine these types of makeup to create your look. The varying depths of color and texture left by each one will make your project look more professional. When I work, I always start with a powder foundation and use cream and liquid makeup for the details (my skin is oily and doesn’t react well to cream), but there’s a few different ways to do it.

This Skeletor makeup tutorial shows you just how effective using many different kinds of makeup can be:

What Do I Need to Make My Own Prosthetics?

Whether you just have to slip on a pair of elf ears or want to make yourself look like Hellboy, prosthetics are going to be essential for your costume…and if you can’t find them anywhere else, you’re left to your own devices.

If you ever need to make your own prosthetics, you’ll need…


tools for applying costume makeup Wire-end Modeling Tools –These are used to shape clay. You’ll want thick and thin rounded, square, and pointed tool to start off with.

Makeup Brushes – See the list of basic makeup brushes in the Cosmetic section. This is for making the prosthetic look like it’s part of your face.

Paint Brushes – See the list of basic brushes in the Painting section of Crafting. This is for painting more intricate, strangely colored pieces like horns.

makeup supplies

Foam Makeup Applicators –You’ll use these to put on glue and to smooth out the transition between the piece and your face.

Very, Very Cheap Container – It can even be a sturdy cardboard box. Once you fill it with plaster of paris, you’ll have to throw it out.

Covers – To protect your work area

Old Clothes/Smock/Apron


Makeup Materials

  1. Prosthetic – The most common kinds are liquid latex and gelatin.
  2. Petroleum Jelly –To protect your face and the molds as you’re casting them.
  3. Modeling Clay
  4. Plaster Cast – This is to make the model of your face/body.
  5. Plaster of Paris
  6. Prosthetic Adhesive
  7. Prosthetic Adhesive Remover – If using high-grade adhesive, you’re going to need an equally strong remover…otherwise you’ll hurt yourself trying to take the prosthetic off.
  8. Modeling Wax – To create texture and smooth out the edges of the prosthetic.

You’ll need a get a lot before you can make your own prosthetics but the effect is well-worth it. After all, nothing feels better than saying, “Oh, these? I made them myself.”

How to Use Prosthetics

If you’ve bought them or made them, you’re going to need to know how to use your prosthetics properly. Nothing sucks more than getting to your event, looking in a mirror, and seeing that your scars are starting to look like floppy Band-Aids. Use these tutorials to keep any mishaps from happening!

How to Make Prosthetic Pieces 

How to Put On and Paint Prosthetic Pieces:  You don’t have to have a homemade prosthetic to paint it! If you want to buy one (there are several very high-quality pieces around), you can still touch-it-up to make it look as realistic as possible.

How to Take Prosthetics Off:

Remember, always test out products before you use them. If you don’t, you could trap your skin underneath an allergen without realizing it and end up with one heck of a rash. Putting the glue and prosthetic on a small section of your skin and let it stay there for an hour. Once you’ve figured out that you aren’t allergic to any of the materials you’re using, you’ll be able to wear the prosthetic with total confidence.

 Creating Scars

You want to look battle worn, not war-torn. These materials will help give you hyper-realistic scars without making it seem like a zombie just ate half your face:

Rigid Collodion: Stretches the skin into itself as it dries. Perfect for old scars:

Glue: Not the most adhesive but great if you’re on a budget.

Modeling Wax: A putty-like material that will stick to skin. Long-lasting and easy to work with.

Liquid Latex: Do you know how you used to put glue on your fingers and peel it off to see all the little grooves in it? Liquid latex is basically the same thing, only a gajillion times better. Good for skin flaps.