Enjoy my “Pan” inspired SFX Makeup? Planning on creating an amazing cosmetic look yourself for this Halloween season? When it comes to special effects cosmetics and body painting not all makeup is created equal, and sometimes the cosmetic products available can be downright confusing! Everyone knows how to use eyeshadow and lipstick, but how about spirit gum, prosaide, final seal, wax and latex? I’ve spent over eight years in the film industry doing advanced techniques for productions, and I’m here to give you the lowdown on the best cosmetic brands to create any and all of your favorite ghoulish looks this Halloween! I’ll describe what each product does, and how to use it so when you venture into your local Halloween store this year to create your costume you’ll know exactly what you need!
Spirit Gum: Spirit gum is what I like to call a level 2 FX, theatre, and film adhesive, as in it’s not the strongest adhesive for FX makeup which would be Prosaide. This adhesive is matte when it dries, and is a sticky liquid right out of the tube or bottle. Best used for basic applications to your makeup on the facial or any area of the body.
What it’s used for: This adhesive is not as sticky as Prosaide, which is fine. Prosaide id used to glue down prosthetic pieces, so if you aren’t gluing down a prosthetic you can use Spirit Gum easily for what you'er doing. Spirit gum works best for gluing down wax appliances, lace beards, lace in general, various hair pieces and small minute details to your makeup. If you are gluing pieces that need to look realistic especially under heavy lighting, sweat, or wear use Prosaide instead.
Best Brand: Ben Nye Spirit Gum ( $3.50 for 0.25 fl oz )
Makeup Ideas using Spirit Gum: Fake Noses, Wax Cuts, Fake Wax Stitches, Fake Beards, Fake Mustaches, Fake Eyebrows, Lace front Wigs, Latex Horns, Gems on the face
Tips and Tricks: To make your Spirit Gum stick with the best results, make sure the area you are sticking things to on the skin is first cleansed thoroughly with alcohol. Pat dry. Natural oils in the skin can prevent Spirit Gum from working well. After you dry your cleansed area, apply a thin layer of spirit gum to your piece and to the area of skin you want to stick it to. Let it dry or blow dry slightly until tacky with a blow dryer. Get some cotton and put small fibers of the cotton on the spirit gummed area of the piece and your skin. Then attach the piece to the skin! You’ll have a much stronger bond.
How to Remove it: You’ll need a product like Spirit Gum Remover, Bond Off! Or Remove-It All to remove your Spirit Gum safely without ripping or agitating your skin.
Latex: Latex is a wet, goo like substance that comes from a tree and is often used to make rubber balls. In FX we use this for all sorts of things, from zombie makeups to fake cuts, aging makings and giant gashes. Latex is very versatile and can be used for all types of FX looks. The smell usually is high in ammonia, so once you get over that aspect of it, it’s a fun product to work with. Make sure you have no LATEX ALLERGIES before using any Liquid or Mask Latex product on the skin. Don’t use Latex to glue things to the skin, it doesn’t work well.
Best Brand: Ben Nye Liquid Latex ( $8.50 for 1 fl oz )
Makeup Ideas using Spirit Gum: Zombie Makeup, Elderly Person Makeup, Fake Gashes, Fake Cuts, Blisters, Burn Victim
Tips and Tricks: There are two types of Latex. Mask and liquid. Mask is thick and is great for building up shapes and 3D illusions on the skin. Liquid works great for aging effects, blisters and smaller cuts. Use toilet paper or paper towels in unison with your latex on the skin to build up forms like cuts and blisters. Less is more, try not to pile latex everywhere it doesn’t look real! Also try to blend the latex down into the skin so it appears as if it’s a part of the skin. Cleanse the area of the skin you are about to put your latex on. Then apply a small amount on the area. Use a mixture of paper towel/toilet paper and latex to create holes, cuts, or forms. Dry with a blow dryer then powder it to set the latex. Wallah! You can also get Latex in various colors like clear, and skin tones. This is unnecessary though because you’ll be painting it with latex paints anyway.
How to Remove it: You’ll need a product like Bond Off! Or Remove-It All to remove your Latex safely without ripping or agitating your skin.
ProsAide: Prosaide is the stickiest, strongest adhesive we use in FX other than silicone based adhesives which we only use for Silicone prosthetics. Prosaide is used for full foam and latex Prosthetic applications and usually not found in Halloween stores. Most people aren’t applying full prosthetics most likely as a costume. This stuff is extremely strong and will hold your piece realistically onto the body for hours! Great for any prosthetic piece, small or large.
Best Brand: Ben Nye Prosthetic Adhesive ( $8.50 for 1 fl oz )
Makeup Ideas using Spirit Gum: Prosthetic Knife in Head, Demon Prosthetic, Realistic Fake Nose Prosthetic, Full Face Prosthetics, Prosthetic pieces.
Tips and Tricks: You need 99% medical grade Alcohol to activate ProsAid adhesive, so you’ll need to pick that up. Cleanse the skin where you’re about the put the piece with the alcohol. Pat Dry. Apply a layer of prosaide to the skin and allow to get tacky. Then apply your piece. Blend your edges with your alcohol to make it look flush with the skin. Alcohol only blends the edges of FOAM prosthetics, so if your prosthetic piece is made of latex you’ll have to use latex and cotton to blend the edge. Prosaide can still really bond latex strongly to the face though so you can definitely till use it for latex prosthetics.
How to Remove it: You’ll need a product like Bond Off! Or Remove-It All to remove your Prosaide without ripping your skin. Do this in the shower, the water helps and take your time. This stuff is STRONG but will ensure the life of your makeup. Be patient when removing!
Glitter Glue and Glitter Gel: Glitter Glue keeps sequins, glitter and gems in place, while Glitz It is a two in one glue WITH glitter in it that dries matte. Often people think these are the same thing, when Glitz It is technically glitter glue but it already has glitter IN it.
Best Brand: Ben Nye ( $5 - $8.50 )
Makeup Ideas using Glitter Glue or Glitz It: Katy Perry Inspired Alien from the music video “E.T.”, Glittery Disco Gal, Exotic Dancer, Human Disco Ball, Princess with Gem Stones on the face
Tips and Tricks: If using Glitter Glue, place the glue on cleansed skin where you plan on putting your glitter. Let dry and get tacky. Then put your glitter on! If using Glitz It, just get the shade you desire and apply! Easy! Glitter Glue works best for larger pieces of glitter or glitter shadows while Glitz It works best for an ALL over glittering, ethereal bodily effect. You can use Glitz It ON TOP of ANY cosmetic shade to add glitter as well! So you could put blue all over yourself, then Glitz It in translucent to create a glittering blue effect.
How to Remove it: Use a professional remover like Detachall.
Adhesive Removers: There are many different adhesive removers out there. Remember, FX cosmetics don’t just come off with soap and water! Especially Prosaide or silicone adhesives! If you are using an adhesive, you’ll want to purchase a remover as well.
Best Brand: Detachol, removes everything ( Spirit Gum, Latex, Prosaide ) except silicone based prosthetic adhesive. Telesis removes silicone prosthetic adhesive, which you won’t probably worry about because they don’t sell silicone based adhesives in Halloween stores.
Removers take care of: Spirit Gum, Prosaide, Latex. Silicone Based Adhesives are removed with Telesis.
Tips and Tricks: Take your time when removing a piece. Saturate the glued area with the remover and slowly and patiently remove the piece. Hopping in the shower always helps!
FX Cosmetic Products:
FX Powder: Fx Powder is similar to regular cosmetic powder however it also is meant for use on non-skin surfaces like latex! I’ve seen some people swear by this stuff for their normal cosmetic routines, however it’s sort of over kill because this stuff is meant for theatre and film, although it does work for everyday wear if you really want it to. Make sure you get a film quality or theatre quality makeup to apply over your FX to set it in place, and to avoid any unnecessary shine that may make it appear fake!
Best Brand: Ben Nye Translucent Luxury Powder ( $15.00 ) These powders provide superior matte and subtle finishing. Often compared to French powders with silky-fine textures. Ben Nye Bella Luxury powders are translucent with just a hint of color or totally translucent.
Makeup Ideas using FX Powder: Setting prosthetics, setting wax applications, aiding in the blending of edges
Tips and Tricks: Get a giant kabuki brush and roll the powder onto it. Dab it onto your piece of whatever you’re powdering in light dabs. With a clean brush, powder free, blend the powder in lightly.
How to Remove it: This powder removes with soap and water
Alcohol Activated Palettes: Alcohol activated palettes are used almost more than anything in FX for their staying power. They are sweat proof and smudge proof! They only work with 99% alcohol, so make sure you pick some up! It MUST be 99%! When you add 99% to these palettes they become liquid and work for spattering, detailing and designing of any kind! LOVE these! They stay on all day and work great with latex, foam, or skin.
Best Brand: Matthew Mungles Stacolor Character Palette: ($60.00)
Makeup Ideas using Alcohol Activated Palettes: You can literally create ANYTHING with these! From zombies to Marilyn Monroe, it’s endless! They come in every palette for any use and as I said are sweat/smudge proof.
Tips and Tricks: Purchase a palette that corresponds to your costume, such as a vampire palette specifically or Pirate palette. They come in almost every costume concept.
How to Remove it: Use a professional removing agent like Bond Off or Removal All
Aqua Palettes: Aqua Palettes are the opposite almost of Alcohol palettes because they use WATER to activate. This means they unfortunately come off easier, but these do work better for face painting and 3d face painting effects. The colors in Aqua Palettes are usually more neon and vibrant, while alcohol palettes are very natural, muted and ghastly. Runway and Theatre artists use these more commonly than FX artists however they work awesome for Halloween!
Best Brand: Kryolan Aquacolor Palette (60-80$.00 depending on what type you get )
Makeup Ideas using Aqua Palettes: Any 3d Face Paint, Clowns, Vibrant beauty Makeups, Makeups requiring metallic, Tin man/woman
Tips and Tricks: Get a wet sponge and dip in any shade you want for quick and easy application. Spritz with final seal to set this makeup and make it sweat proof.
How to Remove it: This removes with soap and water
Non Alcohol Cream Bases and Wheels: Cream base cosmetics and wheels are some of the most important FX cosmetic tools FX artists use! These can cover large areas of the face and be used to shade, blend and detail a piece in any way imaginable. Character bases are a single color in a plastic container, while cosmetic cream wheels come in a palette of shades meant to compliment each other. Wheels are great because they also come in themed tones such as “Zombie” or “Vampire” you can always mix and match as well!
Best Brand: Ben Nye Cream Character Base, Ben Nye Cream FX Wheels ( $5.00-$15.00 ) You can get these bases and wheels in many different palettes, themes and shades!
Ideas for using Character Bases and Wheels: Use a character base like green for instance for a zombie makeup all over the body erratically with another base like brown or grey. Then, using a character wheeling like the “Death” or “Zombie” wheel from Ben Nye, detail your piece with bloody tones, trauma wounds, or gore!
Tips and Tricks: Get a base that corresponds with a character wheel for the perfect makeup. Such as a green that compliments a the character wheel you’re thinking of.
How to Remove it: This cream removes with soap and water
Teeth Stains: Teeth Stain products can make your mouth look disgustingly black, green, yellow or even as if you’ve smoked since you came out of the womb. Teeth stains usually taste minty or slightly like alcohol and make the teeth look diseased without of course actually hurting the teeth.
Best Brand: Fleet Street Tooth lacquer Palette ( $30.00 )
Makeup Ideas using Teeth Stains: Zombies, Ghosts, Creepy Vagabond, Vampire, Heavy Smoker
Tips and Tricks: You need 99% medical grade Alcohol to most teeth stains, so you’ll need to pick that up. Keep the lips parted and away from the teeth. Dry the teeth slightly with a paper towel. Apply the lacquer to the teeth and allow to air dry for a few minutes.
How to Remove it: Simply brush the teeth with toothpaste
Wax: You can literally make almost anything out of wax! Just apply spirit gum to the area, let it get tacky, apply your wax and sculpt whatever you want! Want comes in all shades from translucent to varying shades of skin tones, and even zombie or vampire toned. Sculpt your wax with a sculpting wooden or metal tool and then paint it.
Best Brand: Ben Nye Nose & Scar Wax ( $14.00 )
Tips and Tricks: Put cotton in your spirit gum when you apply the spirit gum to make it anchor the wax better. Blend the wax into the skin well, and then paint it realistically with a base and spatter paint to hide any edges.
How to Remove it: Comes off with some scrubbing and spirit gum remover
Hair Stains: Hair stains are great if you want to alter your hair, add weird highlights or any sort of temporary color change. These won’t alter your actual hair shade and yet look real!
Best Brand: Ben Nye Hair Color ( $7.00 )
Makeup Ideas using Teeth Stains: Age your hair for an elderly look, add a blackish tint or green for a ghoulish effect, add fake highlights with a blonde or brunette color
Tips and Tricks: Apply this to clean hair with a small brush or even a tooth brush for more blended look, and then hairspray over top it make it sweat proof!
How to Remove it: Simply wash hair with shampoo and conditioner.
Fake Blood: Although there are hundreds of blood recipes out there ( sorry I can’t give you mine, trade secret! ) and you can easily make your own, if you don’t feel like it you can always buy some. But trust me, handmade is best!
Blood Powder: Blood powder is great for anyone who needs a ton of blood, with perfect coloration, and fast. You can create different consistencies with this by adding more or less water. Instant blood!
Best Brand: Ben Nye Mass Causality Blood Powder
Tips and Tricks: Get three different containers and fill each one with a different amount of water, so you have various types of consistencies of blood! Label them accordingly. ‘Thick blood, normal blood, runny blood"
How to Remove it: This stuff comes off normally with soap and water!
Dried/Scabbing Blood Gel: This product is used for an “old” trauma effect, great for zombies and older wounds. This gel dries and stays in place to create the look of a wound that’s been there a while.
Best Brand: Fleet Street Drying Blood
Tips and Tricks: Add a little black food coloring to really
make this blood look disgustingly old
How to Remove it: This stuff comes off normally with soap and water!
Eye Blood: NEVER put anything in your eye unless it was MADE for the eye. THIS IS WHY EYE BLOOD is so important! NEVER put other forms of fake blood in your eye, it’s not a good idea! Ever! Eye blood is like eye solution with a tint. It’s harmless and creates a creepy bloody eye effect.
Best Brand: Kryolan Eye Blood ( $14.00 )
Tips and Tricks: Look up at the ceiling then drop one drop in the eye. It doesn’t last long and sort of runs out of the eye after a few minutes but is super creepy while it does last!
How to Remove it: Comes out on its own
Liquids and Sprays:
Final Seal: Final Seal is exactly what the name entails, a final sealing spray agent that locks your FX makeup. I often use this on beauty makeups or facepaints as well that will need to hold up for hours, such as runway or wedding makeup. This spray doesn’t smell or feel hard when applied. This works wonders for FX makeups and beauty makeups alike!
Best Brand: I love Ben Nye’s Final Seal MATTE Spray, because it dries without any sheen. However Mac’s Fix it spray is great for beauty makeup alone.
When to Use Final Seal: When you need a makeup to last hours without sweating off or being altered. Costumes, FX, Face Paints, Weddings, Runway….
Tips and Tricks: To make your Final Seal work to its best potential, spray in three intervals a few feet away from the face. Spray once, air dry with by fanning your hand over the face until dry, and repeat two more times. Make sure not to spray this too close to the face or it will just get sticky! Also I hold my breath or tell my clients to hold theirs so they don’t breathe it in. It won't hurt you, but it doesn’t taste too great.
How to Remove it: You do not need a special remover for Final Seal, soap and water and a little bit of scrubbing works fine but if you do have a remover it comes off faster.
99% Alcohol: 99% alcohol is a major tool of the trade for FX Artists. We use this too blend prosthetic edges, water down products including cream makeups and to of course use our alcohol based products like alcohol palettes and alcohol tooth lacquers. We use alcohol based products frequently to make them smudge and sweat proof, and last longer. Make sure you pick up 99% alcohol, because any lower of a percentile won’t be high enough to get the blending powder you need!
When to Use 99% alcohol: Blending foam edges, blending wax, thinning cream makeups, for alcohol cosmetic palettes and tooth palettes
Tips and Tricks: Swirl your brush in the 99% before putting it in the palette or in the cream makeup, then spatter it with your finger for a speckled effect.
How to Remove it: You do not need a special remover for 99% alcohol.
Collodion: Collodi0n creates realistic scars and aging in seconds! Simply apply it to the skin, wait 2-4 minutes and wallah!
When to Use: Fake scars, fake cuts, fake scratches. DO NOT USE directly near the eyes.
Best Brand: Kryolan ($16.00 )
Tips and Tricks: Apply collodian in the design you want your scar or cut to look. Such as zig zag, or large, or small. It will set exactly that way. Apply a deep redor brown in the crevice to make it appear realistic.
How to Remove it: Use Detachall
Unique Tools of the Trade:
Chip Brush: The chip brush is one of the most common and cheapest tools used in FX. You can buy an entire box for $6! How we use this tool is unique. We cut the tip off almost down to the bottom of the brush, pretty much slicing off half of the bristles at an angle. Then, after dipping it in our color of choice we “spatter” or flick the brush to achieve speckled, mottled results. This technique really adds to the realism of a piece and adds tiny details that would take hours to do any other way.
Best Brand: Really any brand works! I like the small ones.
Makeup Ideas using the Chip Brush: Adding freckles, ages spots, fading two colors together flawlessly, adding realistic bruising, realistic trauma
Tips and Tricks: Flick the chip brush in the direction you want the paint to lay, and not erratically to achieve the best results.
Stipple Sponge: A Stipple sponges work wonders! These work best for applying a molted or freckled base that is believable. You don’t want your base to be FLAT or one color. Always use 2-3 colors for a base to your makeup, and using a STIPPLE sponge makes that even easier.
Best Brand: ANY works! Just make sure it’s a stipple sponge and not a regular one, they usually run about 75cents.
Makeup Ideas using Aqua Palettes: Anything requiring a multilayered look.
Tips and Tricks: Dip the sponge in any base, whether alcohol, water or cream. Apply one shade, clean the sponge, then apply another, and another. Do so erratically creating a layered look. Then apply details.
Crepe Hair: Crepe hair comes in almost every shade and is perfect for applying fake beards, stubble and mustaches! You can even make fake WIGS out of this stuff, but that’s a bit advanced for this article! FX artists use this to create wearwolves, hairy creatures and fake facial hair.
Best Brand: Ben Crepe Wool Hair ( $16.00 )
Makeup Ideas using Crepe Hair: Werewolf, Fake Mustache, Hairy Face, Big Eyebrows, Giant fake beard
Tips and Tricks: Put spirit gum where you plan to glue the hair down. Let it get tacky. Cut your Crepe Hair and carefully lay it in the direction that looks real on top of the spirit gum. Lay it in layers until you get the desired effect!
How to Remove it: Use Bond Off, Spirit Gum Remover or Detachall!