I was fortunate in high school and college to have had extensive training in theater make up. Theater make up techniques work very well for Halloween costumes, too. Here is my diy guide to creating a zombie, ghoul, ghost or skeleton face. You don’t need expensive theater make up or lots of experience to create some pretty eerie looking effects.
You will need a basic make up palette, available from any retail store. No need to spend big money, as long as you have white, red (or carmine), blue (cyan) and black greasepaint or make up crayons. Blue and purple eye shadow and black eyeliner or eyebrow pencil work well also. You will also need loose face powder and a powder puff, Q-tips cotton swabs (moistened to clean up mistakes) and moist towelettes or baby wipes. If you have luminescent (glow in the dark) make-up that an extra plus. I’ll give you tips using white and luminescent make up.
Before applying make-up, comb all hair away from face and secure with a head band or pony tail. Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or mineral oil along the hair line to prevent make up from discoloring or damaging hair. Cover all clothing or costume. It is recommended that you dress before applying make up if your costume goes over your head. This will prevent make up from smearing and soiling clothing.
Next, using either basic white or fluorescent make up, apply a basic coat to face, eyelids, nose neck, throat, hands, ears and any skin that will show (otherwise you will appear only half dead!). Next, using a sharpened fine point black eyeliner or eyebrow pencil lightly outline eyes and contours of temples and cheekbones. Use your finger to lightly ‘smudge’ the lines for a zombie or ghoul. Leave lines clear for a skeleton. For a skeleton face, paint lips white and draw ‘teeth’ on lips with black eye liner. Outline the nostrils to emphasize the bone structure.
Using blue or purple, fill in all the facial ‘hollows’ to create shadows: around the eyes, along the side of the nose, under the lips at each side, in both temples, in the cheek hollows under the cheek bones. If you don’t have purple, mix red and blue in the palm of your hand. For best effects, use different shades of blue and purple to create ‘bruising’.
For scars, you can do one of two things. First, draw a wavy black line where you want the scar. Cross the line horizontally in several places to create stitches. For ‘open wounds’ draw a wavy red line, outline it with an area of purple and trace around the whole thing with black. This creates a 3D effect. For a wider wound, follow the red, outlined with purple, outlined with black.
You can create wrinkles by outlining face wrinkles with black or brown eyeliner and then highlight the bottom edge with a color that is lighter than the face. For zombie or mummy flesh (that is already white), simply use black or brown to create wrinkles. Follow the natural lines of the face, in the corners of the nose and mouth, at the bridge of the nose between the eyes, and across the forehead. Draw wrinkles lines on the neck and throat to create a ‘withered’ look. Lips should be black or red. Finish with fluorescent highlights, to create an eerie, other-worldly look.
When you have achieved the desired look, ‘set’ make-up by dusting with loose powder. ‘Puff’ on the powder, do not blot, rub or wipe. Be sure to wash all make up off thoroughly. Baby wipes work very well to clean make up out of creases.