Here's how to take your look from bright-eyed to rotting and decayed!

Whether you’ve got a costume party coming up, are participating in a Zombie Crawl, or just want to know how to blend in when the zombie apocalypse hits, doing your own makeup is fun and easy. Here’s how to take your look from bright-eyed and fresh-faced to rotting and decayed!

Start with a clean canvas. Wash your face, dry it thoroughly, and do not apply any moisturizer or primer. Facial oils and skincare products will keep your zombie makeup from adhering properly.

Now’s the time to apply liquid latex or gelatin, if you are using them. They aren’t necessary, but latex or gelatin (or both) can really add verisimilitude to your undead look by adding gashes, scabs, and rotting patches. Both are very easy to work with, so don’t be scared off if you’ve never tried them before.

Liquid latex is easy to buy online, and costume or theatrical supply stores have it as well. Using a clean makeup sponge, gently apply a thin layer of latex to one area of your face at a time. Stretch the skin out before applying to create an extra-creepy wrinkled appearance. If you are applying multiple layers, allow the latex to dry before adding the next layer.


For scabs, mix a little uncooked oatmeal with some latex, then apply. You can also put single-ply tissue between latex layers to create realistic-looking decayed texture. Or, once the latex has dried, you can make cuts and gashes in it by carefully ripping the latex with a toothpick or scissors. (You’ll apply fake blood later, after the rest of your makeup is done.)


Gelatin can be used to create lumpier wounds and skin textures. You’ll need to prepare this ahead of time so it has time to set. Combine 1/3 cup of water with an envelope of unflavored gelatin then add red food coloring for bloody chunks, or liquid foundation for a flesh-like appearance. Let the gelatin set in the refrigerator for a few hours.

When the gelatin is set, cut it into small cubes and microwave it at ten-second intervals until it just begins to loosen up and become gooey. With a popsicle stick or tongue depressor, stir the gelatin, then smear globs of it wherever you want your lumpy spots. Allow to dry completely.

Once you’ve got your base layers on, it’s time to do your makeup. Start by applying a thin, even layer of white or very light makeup base or facepaint using a clean makeup sponge. This will give you that nice, straight-from-the-grave deathly pallor. Avoid applying makeup to any areas you put gelatin on earlier.


Add depth with a layer of one or more other colors: grey for an ashen, decayed look, purple for bruises and lividity, olive green for gangrenous areas. If you used oatmeal and latex to create “scabs”, color them brown, with red at the edges.

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For sunken, hollowed-out eyes, use brown or grey facepaint, makeup base, or eyeshadow. If you are using eyeshadow, make sure it is matte for a realistic look: zombies should not be sparkly! Using a medium-sized makeup brush or a sponge, apply the color to your upper lids and undereye area, then blend outwards to create a gradient with your base. For a bruised black-eye effect, use dark purple instead of brown or grey, and blend a little red at the edges.


Use the same brown or grey to create shadows under your cheekbones. Suck in your cheeks, then use a brush to sweep color onto the hollowed-out area.

Apply a dark lipcolor for that I-just-ate-a-brain look. Again, avoid sparkly, shiny, or metallic finishes.

If you’d like to add wrinkles, draw them in with a dark grey pencil. Look where the lines are already on your face, then emphasize them with the pencil.

Finally, add your fake blood. You can buy it ready-made, or you can make your own by combining a cup of light corn syrup with two drops of red food coloring. (The homemade kind WILL stain your skin!) If you made any gashes or lacerations with latex, use a paintbrush to fill them in with blood. Add blood trickles at the corners of your mouth to look like you’ve just chowed down on a fresh victim. Dip a thin paintbrush in fake blood, then run it lightly over your face to create scratch marks. If you’ve got red lumpy gelatin areas, carefully add fake blood underneath so it looks like your wounds are bleeding.

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Happy human hunting, my undead friends!

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