10 Special Effects Makeup Ideas for Beginners Who Don't Have a Kit Yet

10 Special Effects Makeup Ideas for Beginners Who Don’t Have a Kit Yet

I watch a ton of SFX Makeup Tutorials on YouTube and quite often I don’t have the proper products that the makeup artist is using. In this situation I do one of two things; I decide that this makeup may be too advanced for me to tackle with my current skill level and SFX kit or I try to figure out a way to work around needing those specific products.

In doing so, I usually come across fantastic tutorials that use cheaper and more readily available products.  I sometimes also come across new SFX makeup techniques that are helpful to me. Because I find videos like these so useful, I thought I’d share a bunch of them with you that I found useful. 

Here are 10 special effects makeup ideas that you can create from home (even if you have an extremely basic SFX makeup kit or in many cases, no SFX products at all!): 

1. Cuts and Wounds

Items Needed:  

  • tissue paper
  • eyelash glue
  • fake blood (you can DIY this -- see number 2)
  • eyeshadow or paint (optional)

The artist in this video uses eyelash glue and tissue paper to create cuts on her face. When I first started out I didn’t have liquid latex and had been trying to use Elmer’s glue as a substitute but I found that stuff incredibly frustrating to work with and it took forever to dry when you soaked tissue paper with it. When I came across the eyelash glue trick I was so excited that I could actually build up skin and make 3D wound effects without the liquid latex. I do have liquid latex now and in comparison the eyelash glue really does have the same effect and gives the same results when creating small wounds.

To make cuts and wounds with this technique you only need tissue paper, eyelash glue, and fake blood. If you don’t have a bruise wheel in your kit and want to bruise and irritate the skin you can use different shades of eyeshadow to add some realism and depth to your wounds.

2. Fake Blood

Items Needed:  

  • red food colouring
  • optional other kitchen products like cocoa powder and corn syrup

A lot of tutorials, such as the first one I put in this list, assume you have fake blood. If you don’t, no problem. Fake blood is probably one of the easiest SFX makeup products to make from home and there are gazillions of different possible recipes out there. I included an Ellimacs tutorial because they give four different recipes and it’s all stuff that you can easily find in your home. With a little bit of experimentation you can even come up with your own fake blood recipe.  

Another reason I wanted to include a homemade fake blood tutorial is that I never know if a store bought blood is mouth safe or not so if I’m going to put any blood in my mouth I feel better knowing it all came from stuff in my kitchen. A third reason, as if you needed one to make tasty, homemade fake blood, you can really customize the color and consistency of your blood. Depending on how old the blood is, where it’s flowing from, how bright red and garish you want it to look, a standard jug o’ stage blood might not work for you.  It’s definitely helpful to know how to customize your own fake blood.

3. Fake Scars

Items Needed:  

  • eyelash glue
  • concealer or foundation
  • face powder, pink/red eyeshadows

One item I didn’t have in my kit for a while but really wanted to try was rigid collodion. I’m not sure if this is how all SFX makeup artists feel but seriously, how fun is it to create the illusion of shocking and grievous bodily damage? Scars are right up there with all that ghoulish fun.

While rigid collodion is used to create an indented scar and this technique creates an outward healed scar, it’s still a great substitute if you aren’t picky about how your healing process had occurred. All you need for this one is some eyelash glue, face powder, concealer or foundation, and some pink and red eyeshadow.  The artist in this tutorial does a pirate look with the scar but the technique could be used for any makeup and applied in any shape or location you’d like.

4. FX Gelatin and Gelatin Prosthetics

Items Needed:  

  • gelatin
  • glycerin
  • water

I come across so many prosthetics tutorials using silicone, latex, foam latex, and every other product I don’t have. Using homemade FX gelatin for prosthetics is so amazing when you are starting out because it’s cheap, easy, and very forgiving. If you don’t like how your prosthetic comes out you can easily remelt the gelatin and try again. The materials you need to make this concoction is gelatin, glycerin, (which are both easy to find in your grocery store or drug store), and water.

I included a second tutorial on sculpting and molding with clay, plaster, and gelatin but you may be using your gelatin in a variety of different ways. Plaster of Paris is pretty cheap and it’s easy to use. I just want to point out that you should never apply plaster directly to your skin because it heats up while curing so always use a clay sculpt instead of your skin to create your plaster mold.  When using gelatin, you may choose to apply that directly to your skin to create different effects but again, be careful with the gelatin because it gets quite hot when you melt it.

5. Burns with Gelatin

Items Needed:  

  • gelatin
  • fake blood (you can DIY this -- see number 2)
  • face paints or red and black eyeshadows

A lot of the makeups I always want to do tend to require liquid latex. I didn’t have this for a long time and the one time I tried to buy it locally, the bottle was a dried up solid mass of spoiled latex. I didn’t bother trying a second bottle and I just eventually ordered some online. You might not even be able to find liquid latex locally in your area or maybe you happen to be allergic to it. I’ve found that it’s extremely helpful to know some decent substitutes for liquid latex.

This burn technique uses gelatin, cream makeup, and fake blood. The gelatin can be found on any supermarket shelf in the baking aisle and it’s quite cheap. Some products work better than others on gelatin but from my experience you can use any kind of makeup or face paint on it. If you don’t have the darker scab blood that they use in this tutorial you can always highlight some of the areas with black eyeshadow or face paint and use a little of the regular blood over it.

6. Burns with White Craft Glue

Items Needed:  

  • white craft glue
  • vaseline or glycerin
  • face paints or eyeshadows (optional)

I really had to add in this second burn tutorial because while the gelatin tutorial looks awesome, the white glue tutorial gives a really different style of burn scar. Personally, I think this style is even nastier and I just love it. While I said before that I don’t like working with Elmer’s glue, I will admit that it’s not so bad when you’re putting it directly on your skin and you aren’t layering a bunch of tissue paper in with it.

This tutorial uses white craft glue and vaseline or glycerine.  I’ve seen other similar tutorials that use liquid latex and the artist paints the inside of the exposed flesh with red and yellows.  This can be done with eyeshadow or face paints and you can really use your own creativity with this technique to make it just horrifying.

7. Exposed Hand Bones

Items Needed:  

  • Liquid latex (or white glue/eyelash glue as a substitute)
  • tissue paper
  • face paint and/or eyeshadows
  • liquid foundation, and fake blood (you can DIY this -- see number 2)

Cuts and wounds are great but maybe you want to dig a little deeper into the SFX makeup gore and show some exposed bones. There are plenty of ways to create the illusion of fake bone but this tutorial is very simple and you can do it without any of those special SFX products that you might not have yet.

The artist in this tutorial uses liquid latex but as you’ve seen and read from the tutorials above, you can definitely substitute eyelash glue or white craft glue for the liquid latex.  It also uses tissue paper, face paint, liquid foundation, eyeshadow, and fake blood. Again, you can make your own fake blood if you don’t have any and you can even use eyeshadow instead of face paint for the blacks and reds.

8. DIY Scar Wax

Items Needed:  

  • vaseline
  • flour
  • liquid foundation (optional)

Scar wax is another product I didn’t have in my kit at first but I come across it in a lot of tutorials. It’s great for creating more realistic cuts and it is also a must when you are creating the illusion of stabbing anything through your skin. You can use your imagination and build up all kinds of fun stuff like broken skin, exposed bones, and augmented facial features.

This tutorial uses vaseline, flour, and some liquid foundation which is optional. I do have some scar wax now but I didn’t get a flesh coloured wax. I find that trying to put foundation over my blended wax makes my edges stand out more so the pre-tinted wax is definitely helpful. You may prefer the wax to be a different colour such as red, pink, or yellow, depending on what kind of makeup you’re doing. Making your own wax also lets you decide how dense you want it in case you may be using it for something like a fake nose and want it a little thicker.

9. Scabs and Road Rash

Items Needed:  

  • coffee grounds
  • adhesive (liquid latex, white glue, or spirit gum)
  • fake blood (you can DIY this -- see number 2)
  • face paints or eyeshadows, face powder (optional)

I really wanted to add this tutorial because while it’s obviously an awesome tutorial to make easy scabs and road rash it’s also a fantastic inspiration for looking around your house and thinking about what you could use to get a certain effect. While a lot of tutorials I see use expensive SFX products that I don’t have, a lot also use things like tinfoil (fabricating pieces), Cheerios (suckers on a tentacle), Corn Flakes (scabs and rotted flesh), and coarse table salt (frost).

This tutorial uses coffee grounds, liquid latex (or another adhesive like white glue or spirit gum), fake blood, cream paints (or eyeshadows work as well), and face powder (which is optional). The dark brown of the coffee grounds give a very convincing dried over scab effect and the added paint, eyeshadow, and fake blood add a lot to the raw, abraded effect.

10. Blisters

Items Needed:  

  • FX gelatin (you can DIY this -- see number 4)
  • red face paint or eyeshadow
  • alcohol (optional for blending)

The last tutorial I’ll mention is very short, very simple, but looks disgustingly cool. To create blisters the artist just uses some fx gelatin (super easy to make) and some red color to add irritation. This is a great trick that can be used for any kind of sickness or infected type of SFX makeup. I’ll mention again though, always be careful when applying melted gelatin to your skin because it can get very hot.

Which of These Special Effects Makeup Ideas for Beginners Are You Going to Try?

Not only are all of these tutorials helpful for showing tricks that don’t require any special SFX products, they’re also helpful in getting you to look at the stuff you have around you and consider another use for it. A lot of really great SFX makeups I’ve seen have used nothing more than supermarket or dollar store supplies and the artist’s own creativity.  

When you’re just starting out with SFX makeup it’s so important to practice as much as you can and get really comfortable with creating fake wounds, bruises, prosthetics, and all that other good stuff. There’s no need to wait until you have a full kit to do it, just find a way around needing that one product and go for it!

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