How to Take Classic Halloween Looks to the Next Level


Have some of your Halloween costume ideas gotten a little tired? Sure, you could throw on some fake blood and be a vampire again this year, but where’s the fun in that? There has to be some way to bring some life back into a zombie costume … figuratively speaking of course!

For those of you who are ready to try out some new techniques and tricks, here are some new ways to add flare to old costumes. These are just a few simple ways to improve your DIY costuming skills. Costume makers of any skill level can use these techniques to create a multitude of frightening monsters. Mix and match any of these techniques to make a unique look. Get creative and have fun!

New Ways to Use Face Paint

The internet is full of amazing makeup tutorials. None better than this site. There is a Youtube video for every look you could ever imagine. When trying to design your own face paint it pays to do a little research. Look at videos and find lots of reference photos. Don’t feel inclined to just copy a makeup guru’s step-by-step plan. Experiment with several and make your own!

Having a little knowledge of painting and makeup contouring goes a long way here. Using highlights and shadows can change the shape of your face without going through the trouble of using prosthetics. Experiment with using different types of paintbrushes for a variety of textures.

Going to a party with black lights? Make a psychedelic Cheshire cat or tribal design! Take advantage of this golden opportunity and invest in some neon or glow in the dark paint. Simple, high contrast and cartoony designs work the best for this technique. Areas of color will light up while areas of black will disappear completely. Using this technique you can change the shape of your face and body.

Add Some Sparkle

Combining face paint and rhinestones is a great way to add some flare to a sugar skull or fairy character. Use some spirit gum or eyelash glue with some rhinestones from the craft store to brighten up your look. Admittedly, this can be a time consuming process if you decide to fill in large areas, but the effect is worth the effort.

Another, slightly quicker, way to add sparkle to your makeup is to use some mesh. Go to any sewing or craft store and pick up a small piece of fabric with a wide mesh. Hold it up against the skin and use a makeup sponge to stipple on some spirit gum. Wait for the adhesive to get tacky and then use a makeup brush to apply some glitter. The negative spaces left by the mesh will make interesting patterns, so experiment with different meshes. This technique is excellent for scales on mermaids or lizard men. Anyone with access to an airbrush gun can use this same technique for more subtle textures.

Fun with Fur

Thinking about being a werewolf or a bearded lady? Crepe hair is something every aspiring makeup artist should have handy in their kit. It can be purchased through most Halloween stores, and it comes in a variety of colors. Even if the store does not have the color you are looking for, it is easy enough to combine colors to get the shade you need. It has the perfect texture for making fur and facial hair.

Mix the color of hair you want and use some scissors to trim one end straight. Begin laying the hair down starting in the back and working your way to the front. Always keep in mind what the natural direction of the hair should be. If you are unsure just look up a photo for reference! When you are finished carefully use a pair of scissors to trim the hair to the desired length. To keep the glue from gumming up your fingers just use a very small amount of Vaseline on your fingertips.

Latex Build-Up

For zombies and fake injuries, latex is your best friend. It is inexpensive and easy to work with, which is part of the reason it is still used by professional makeup artists today. We could probably write an entire article on the uses of latex alone. While they’re certainly useful, you can get away without molds and fancy equipment to make DIY prosthetics. All you need are some cotton balls, tissue paper and a jar of liquid latex from a costume or craft store.

Dipping cotton balls and tissue paper can be dipped into latex and applied directly to the face. Different thicknesses of paper can be used to create different effects and textures. For thicker areas use a hair drier on low heat to help the drying process. Rip a makeup sponge in half and use it to stipple on latex to smooth out your edges for a seamless look. If the edges begin to lift then simply tack back down with a little bit of spirit gum or eyelash adhesive.

But wait that is not all! Find a Tupperware lid or smooth surface and spread out a thin layer of latex. Leave the latex to dry and then peel up the edges with your finger. Don’t worry about ripping and clumping because that is exactly what you want to happen. This technique is useful to making quick and easy skin tags and ripped skin. Use a dab of wet latex to attach it to the rest of your creation.

Get creative with how you use your latex. Simple things like purchasing a set of cheap acrylic teeth on Ebay and embedding them in latex around the mouth will take your tired old zombie to the next level.

Want to do some killer old age makeup this Halloween? Latex can help with that as well. Simply stretch out an area of skin with one hand and stipple on a layer of latex with the other. Hold the skin taunt until the latex is dry and then release. The latex will cause the natural wrinkles in the skin to be more pronounced. This technique works best if the skin is looser to begin with, so the younger you are the less effective this will be. Younger makeup artists will have to use some strategic highlighting and contouring to bring out the wrinkles.

Just a quick warning before you get started: be mindful of body hair. If you are putting latex over your face then you will want to use wax or school glue to protect your eyebrows. Boys, if you are putting latex on your arms or legs it is probably a good idea to shave those areas first.

Gelatin Prosthetics

Of course there are people out there who are allergic to latex. For this situation there is a solution. Gelatin prosthetics are an excellent substitute for anybody with allergies or sensitive dry skin. The nicest thing about this material is that anyone can make with supplies from their local grocery store.

The ingredients for Gelatin Prosthetic Gelatin:

  •         1 teaspoon Knox Gelatin
  •         1 teaspoon hot water
  •         ¼ teaspoon glycerin

Mix ingredients and place in the microwave for about 10-20 seconds. Mixture should be runny and semi-clear. A few drops of makeup foundation can be added to help match the skin tone. Test on small patch of skin to make sure it is not too hot, and have fun!

This gelatin mixture works much in the same way as the latex. It can be built up on the skin to create a variety of looks. For DIY customers who are a bit more advanced, the gelatin mixture can also be poured into special fx moulds as well. To help smooth out edges either stipple some gelatin on with a makeup sponge, or use some warmed witch hazel extract and a paint brush to dissolve the edges.

Oops, my gelatin solidified before I finished my awesome costume! Not to worry, simply put the gelatin back into the microwave for another 10-20 seconds and it will be workable again. Some professionals will make this gelatin in batches, cut it into cubes, and keep it in sealed containers in the fridge to be used again and again.

For the best results, mix and match any of these techniques. Look at other artists creations for a little inspiration. Go to craft and costume stores, gather supplies, and make something completely new. Above all have fun!