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Zombie Makeup

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So I was thinking I wasn’t going to have a zombie post this year, but I just can’t let that happen. This Zombie Makeup post actually serves a specific purpose. Since I’m the one putting on Thriller this year, I also need to teach my newbie zombies how to do their makeup.

After 4 years of Thriller (and a run of CATS to boot) I know a couple things about makeup. I’m by no means an expert, but I get by. So this will be an intro to basic zombie makeup. I won’t be doing anything fancy like prosthetics, but it’s easy to find instructional videos if you want to build on what I start with here.

A Thriller Zombie is not like a Resident Evil Zombie. The Thriller Zombie has been dead, buried, and decaying for years. Keep that in mind when planning your makeup. Decay happens unevenly so your makeup should be asymmetrical. Also, there should be no blood.

First off, supplies!!

1. Makeup: I use Mehron makeup. They sell it in the seasonal costume shop on Maui, but it’s also available online. I have two different kinds, the stick makeup and the tube makeup. I believe the stick makeup is cream-based while the tube makeup is water-based, so they don’t blend well together. If possible stick to just one type or another (I recommend stick over tube).

Mehron is really good stage makeup which is very important if you’re going to be sweating a lot. But it isn’t cheap. If you’re just doing Halloween makeup you could probably go with the cheap stuff at Wal-mart, but there’s always the chance it won’t blend well. If you’re going to be dancing on stage, go with the good stuff.

I usually use the Wal-mart $1 tubes for body coverage since it doesn’t need to be as precise.


Base Color: Green or grey are (in my opinion) the best zombie base colors. Brown could work though you want to make sure you look dead and not just really tan. Blue could also work, but I’d stick to a blue-grey so you don’t look like a smurf. Same with purple and Violet from Willy Wonka. Yellow is a possibility, but might end up being a little too bright. Sometimes I use the Mehron Zombie White as my base, though I usually blend it enough so it turns out looking greyer.

Avoid red. Same with fake blood. Wrong kind of zombie. Also, most red makeup stains your skin.

Red and yellow makeup should not be used near your eyes!!

Highlights and shadows: Black and white are great for highlights and shadows. They also generally blend in really well all colors and work great for mixing. Depending on your makeup design, however, you could use other colors as long as they are darker or lighter than your base color. I’ve used purple as my shadow color before. Often I’ll use black for shadows and then purple for stippling.

2. Makeup applicators: For zombie makeup I use my fingers a lot. But makeup sponges are important for blending. Sometimes I’ll also use paintbrushes, but that was more for CATS when there was lots of detail. Another good tool for zombie makeup is a stipple sponge. It creates really great textures.

3. Translucent Powder: For setting the makeup along with a spray bottle of water. Often I’ll use the set-spray from Mehron or hairspray (basically the same thing) instead of the water.

4. Baby Oil: To remove the makeup. Makeup remover just isn’t enough; you need baby oil and lots of paper towels.

5. Astringent: Use it before applying any makeup to close your pores and prevent breakouts.

6. Dish soap: Best stuff for cleaning brushes and sponges.

7. Colored Hairspray: What good is Zombie makeup if your hair doesn’t look destroyed too? Plus colored hairspray works really well for body coverage.

8. Other: For added effect you can always add tooth-black, and a couple drops of red food coloring on your tongue to continue the look in your mouth.

Zombie Makeup

Applying the makeup! Make sure to have paper towels nearby because this can get messy.

1. Start with a clean face and apply astringent to close up your pores. Using your base color you pretty much just cover your whole face. You can use a sponge, a paintbrush or your fingers, whatever. It doesn’t have to look pretty and it really doesn’t need to be perfectly even. Often times I’ll leave the areas with large shadows (eye sockets, cheeks) clear just to save makeup.

Zombie Makeup
Base Color – Cake Grey and Cream Moonlight White

I started using the Cake grey that I had but it was pretty dry so I mixed in some Moonlight White cream to help it out. I think next time I might just use the Moonlight White.

2. Then using the highlight and shadow you want to accentuate the structure of the face. Because of the decaying, zombie faces should look sunken in. So make sure you have shadows in your eye sockets, the sides of your nose, your cheeks. Sometimes I’ll also do the sides of my forehead or I’ll create a hollow above my eyebrows to make them appear to stand out. Use your highlight color to accentuate the things that stick out like your nose, chin, cheekbones, and parts of your forehead.

Zombie Makeup
Shadow before blending.

3. Make sure to blend your shadows and highlights into your base. Using a makeup sponge just dab at the borders until they are blended together and gradient. You don’t want to look like you’re wearing war-paint. It should look like it’s caused by the light hitting your hideous, distorted, sunken face. Fortunately being onstage means the makeup doesn’t have to look perfect up close. It does have to carry across the room though, so the shadows and highlights should be somewhat drastic.

Zombie Makeup
Shadow after blending
Zombie Makeup
Highlights before blending
Zombie Makeup
Highlights after blending.

4. I ended up adding more shadow in a couple places because it wasn’t dark enough. The black and the grey didn’t blend well in certain places so I had to reapply the black.

You also need to remember to do your ears, neck and any other exposed skin. I usually use the cheap stuff and some colored hairspray for my arms and back (though I have seen some dancers do some really cool stuff with makeup on their hands), but since my neck is so close to my face I like to keep going with the same makeup. The neck should have highlights and shadows as well, and you can also accentuate the collarbone.

5. After I’m done with the base, highlights and shadows I like to add stippling to create texture. Sometimes I’ll set the rest of the makeup first, but not always. I like to stipple near the edges of my face and the edges of the shadows. I also use stippling to make things asymmetrical.

Zombie Makeup

6. Once you’re happy with your makeup you need to set it. All of it. Including any makeup you’ve put on your ears, neck, arms and any other part of the body. Use a powder brush and apply an even layer of the translucent powder over any skin with makeup. You can set different layers at different times, just be aware that once you’ve set a layer you can’t blend it with any other layer.

Once you’ve powdered you can:

  • Spray your face generously with water. Take a paper towel, drape it over your face and slowly dab up the excess water.
  • Spray your face with a setting spray.
  • Spray your face with hairspray.

This will set your makeup.

7. After setting you should be good to go!! When dancing and sweating a lot sometimes touching up is necessary, but if you’ve set your makeup well it should last a long time.

Removing the Makeup!! You’ll want plenty of paper towels for this too.

8. When all your zombie fun is over, grab that baby oil and apply generously to your face (and anywhere else with makeup). Mush that baby oil all over, then grab some paper towels and wipe off what you can. Usually I do this once or twice then use those disposable makeup-removal wipes to clean up the remainder. I usually finish off by washing my face with a simple face wash – usually in conjunction with a shower to get all the hairspray out of my hair.

9. Use the dish soap to clean up your brushes and sponges.

Good Luck and happy zombieing!!

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.

Introducing “The Devine Double-D’s” of Sadie Vine. Sadie Vine is world-famous for 2-things: her high kick, and her boobs. Although, technically that’s 3 things. Sadie has a vast dance and theater background and is the lead organizer, script writer, and costume maven for Cabaret & Cocktails.

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