I have been wanting to try a zombie makeup since I starting learning how to face paint and do SFX makeup. I’ve really been mostly just face painting up until this point with a few small SFX experiments here and there. I’ve given myself a Pop Art Zombie face paint before but nothing with any real “meat” to it.
Because I have been wanting to try some kind of zombie effect, I have watched tons of different zombie makeup tutorials and there are seriously so many ways to get your living dead rotted flesh look on. My favorite look was by Freakmo so I took the main idea for the mouth prosthetic from her Zombie Mouth Prosthetic Tutorial video.
Before I started this project, I had created a plaster face cast.
You could create this on a face cast or maybe even something close to the shape of your face that liquid latex could be slathered on to and then peeled off of. If you wanted to, you could even apply it directly to your face but it could take quite a while for all that liquid latex to fully dry.
If you want to create your own plaster face cast but need help, Ellimacs has a great video tutorial on how to create a face cast of your own face.
Step 1: Selecting the Teeth
My first step was to select some teeth from my box of fake nails. I chose some bigger teeth for the front teeth and picked smaller ones for the rest. I snipped the edges off the four canine teeth so they’d look a little more real. Once I had all my teeth picked out, I set them aside to get the prosthetic ready.
Step 2: Creating the Zombie Mouth Prosthetic
I cut two cotton pads in half, spread a layer of liquid latex over the mouth of my face cast, and arranged the pads on top of these to create a barrier for where the teeth would go. In retrospect, I would have liked to actually pull the cotton pads apart to create a thinner layer because I found the full pad made this spot pretty thick.
To apply the liquid latex I used a plastic spoon because I don’t have to worry about my latex drying and harding to my brush. I may try a sponge for liquid latex in the future though but the spoon has been working out for me so far.
I coated the outside of the pads with liquid latex and spread the liquid latex into the face to get a decent edge on this prosthetic so it could be glued to my face. I knew I was going to cover the edges with tissue paper later so I didn’t bother making them thin and easy to blend.
While the liquid latex was still wet on the cotton pads, I arranged my teeth across the mouth area in a vertical line. I cut up some more cotton pads, soaked them in liquid latex, and laid them across the outer edges of the teeth. I used my plastic spoon to push the cotton down in between the teeth to create some gums. I soaked some thin strips of cotton pad in liquid latex and arranged them over the sides of the teeth give a rotted, hanging flesh look.
I let the prosthetic dry overnight and then carefully peeled it off my face cast. I used baby powder and a makeup brush to avoid any latex sticking together and to help lift it off the face cast without tearing.
Step 3: Painting the Zombie Mouth Prosthetic
To start with my paint job, I busted out my Mehron Face & Body Paint Palette and filled the inside of the mouth and between the teeth with black paint. I ended up going over the black paint with my black liquid eyeliner because I wanted it as dark as possible. I find the eyeliner just goes on so much blacker.
I’m not sure what my intended result was, but I stippled brown paint over the fleshy part of the prosthetic, added a little red, yellow, and black and it all kind of came out looking like a dirty mess. I definitely need to work on my paint skills for a Basic Rotting Flesh Tone. I'm a little disappointed Maybelline doesn’t just carry it as a liquid foundation but, whatever, they’re free to make their own decisions.
I used a very fine brush and painted some white, brown, and yellow streaks on the teeth. I used the liquid eyeliner to create little chips on the edges of some of the teeth and added Mehron red paint in around the gums. I also dabbed a little red around the handing flesh strips that went across the teeth.
Step 4: Applying the Zombie Mouth Prosthetic
I could have painted the prosthetic a lot more carefully and spent more time on it but I didn’t know what was going to happen to it when I covered it in liquid latex soaked paper towel. I left it with a “that will do” kind of paint job and moved on to the application.
I coated the back edges of the prosthetic in spirit gum, let it get a little tacky, and slapped it on my face. I left the area where my lips would be free of spirit gum because they’re chapped enough as it is without ripping three layers of skin off them when I took this mouthpiece off.
I coated some paper towel in liquid latex, leaving the spots that would cover the prosthetic mostly dry. I laid the strips across the mouth prosthetic, careful to not press them down into it. I coated the whole piece with more liquid latex and added some liquid latex soaked tissue paper to the areas under my eyes.
Once the latex was dry I ripped a hole in the middle over the mouth and started just pulling chunks away until I had some hanging flesh around my mouth. I ended up ripping big pieces right off altogether. I could have probably started with less paper towel but I wanted to leave my ripped flesh options open. I also pulled away at the tissue under my eyes until I got some saggy, ripped skin happening.
Step 5: Applying Makeup to the Prosthetic
Using a sponge, I dabbed some liquid foundation to all the white parts of the tissue including any holes and hanging pieces I had created. I used my Mehron Bruise Wheel to create some bluish circles under my eyes and just went to town with my bruise wheel and stipple sponge filling my forehead up with red, greens, yellows and blues.
I used some black eyeshadow on my eyelids to give my eyes a sunken in look. I could have gone way darker and made my eyes much more sinister but I was too excited to get to the fake blood and didn’t put enough effort into creating some really haggard, death like eyes.
I filled all the holes and ripped cracks in with Mehron Coagulated Blood Gel and dabbed some regular, brighter fake blood around my nose and forehead. I let a little of the blood drip down the hangy flesh piece over my teeth as well but I didn’t go too crazy with the blood because I didn’t want to cover up all the work I had done.
For some final touches, I popped a Subzero Primal Contact Lens into one eye and gave my hair some 1980’s level backcombing. Backcombed hair and fake blood are definitely going to touch somewhere along the way. I am always a little paranoid that the bright red is going to stain my blonde hair but so far it has always washed right out and I’ve even gotten some pretty big globs in there.
Things I Learned
This was one of the most fun makeups I’ve done but it has also been one I’ve wanted to change the most about. For one, I would definitely not use paper towel again because you could see the bumped pattern of the paper towel still showing through after the liquid latex was dry. Next time I do something like this I will use tissue paper and build up the ripped skin in thinner strips.
I also would have glued the mouthpiece a little higher on my face because it ended up looking pretty low by the end of the application. My face is long enough without adding a mouth to my chin and then adding even more low hanging ripped flesh to that.
I feel like I rushed a little too much around my eyes and forehead. I definitely should have added darker makeup around my eyes, but also layered blues and reds in to give them more dimension and a little more creepiness. I also should have added some liquid latex soaked tissue to my forehead and created a few extra rips there as well because my forehead ended up looking way too smooth.
Even with everything I would change about this makeup it is one of my favorites that I have done so far. I’ve been trying all different, somewhat random makeups in order to teach myself how to pull off these different techniques and I like this one so much because of how much I learned while trying to make this work. I feel that having a bunch of things I’d like to do differently just means I’ve learned that much more about SFX makeup.
Products I Used
Aside from the face cast I made, cotton pads, paper towel, & tissue paper, the following are the products I used to create this zombie makeup, including creating the DIY zombie mouth prosthetic. They can all be found on Amazon (I've linked to them for you) except for the Primal contact lenses which don't seem to be available on there. I bought mine at a local FX store here in Vancouver.