Tips for Creating Realistic FX Makeup from Special FX Artist Jaime Gruber

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

When it comes to creating realistic horror and special effects makeup, it's extremely important to keep the character's story and existing features in mind. Try using these tips to help bring more realism to your FX makeup.

1. Think of the scenario. How did your character get killed/hurt? How did they end up as a zombie? Were they bitten? Did they get scratched by a werewolf? A regular animal? Fall down the stairs? The more you know about the character you're creating the better.

Once you have answered that question then you can begin to put together your look. Think of the medical aspect. A scratch on the forearm might not injure you as much as a scratch to a major vein. If your character has been burned, ask: How were they burned? Hot water spill? Maybe it’s just one arm that’s burned. Were they in a grease fire? Maybe just one side of the face is burned. Keep in mind, a fire wouldn’t burn your left cheek and your right ear. Consistency will help sell the effect.

2. Think of the bone structure of a face or body and use it to your advantage.

When you’re tired, you get dark circles under your eyes where your eye socket ends and your cheekbone begins. This is the same area where the blood would pool if you have a black eye.

If you fell down the stairs think of specific points on your body that would hit the stairs as you fell. From there you can figure out what bones you might break or where you would be bruised or bleeding.

You can also use the angles of the face to your advantage, just like with highlighting and contouring in beauty makeup. If you create a gash on the cheekbone angled down towards the mouth, it will help create the illusion that the wound is worse by thinning the face. Don’t forget to leave skin showing between the wound and the red swelling marks to create the appearance of swollen/puffy skin.

*Halloween makeup hack*

My friend needed help creating her son’s Halloween makeup. He wanted a skull. I advised her to put white on the high points of the face, i.e., where the bone sticks out the most; cheek bones, forehead and chin. The black goes in the hollows of the face like the cheeks where there is only flesh or the tip of the nose were there is cartilage. The black also helps to sink in the lower/hollow parts of the face.

3. Don’t forget the ears, neck and hands!

Nothing ruins a look faster than forgotten body parts.

4. Don’t forget to add regular makeup too, if necessary.

Was the person on their way to work? Maybe going out for a date or job interview? Don’t forget what the character would have looked like before they got this injury.

Using these tips will help you knock your FX makeup out of the park. Have a tip of your own? Leave a comment below!

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About the Author

Jaime Gruber
Jaime Gruber
Jaime Gruber is a New York based Make Up Artist specializing in special FX. She is a Westmore Academy graduate and has worked on films including Flight of the Living Dead, Zombie Strippers, and Our Wild Hearts as well as commercials for mayoral campaigns. She has interned at M.E.L. and has worked with pharmaceutical companies.

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