D.I.Y. Blood, Sweat and Tears

12 min read

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Battledress's avatar
Ah, the seduction of Gore.  What kid hasn't used ketchup to make fake blood and french-fry fangs? Some of us never grow out of that phase…

This is an expansion on the topics discussed in "Non-Toxic is Not Makeup" news.deviantart.com/article/68… .  If you haven't read that first piece, you won't be totally lost, but might have a few more questions than those who have done their homework.

We're going to discuss homemade gore and special effects products – and when PRO is the ONLY way to go….  And why. There are plenty of "How-To's" out there, so again the focus will be on what the products are with a few tips thrown in. The Hollywood special effects community is famous (or infamous) for using anything that will get the makeup job done. But, they have a very healthy respect for how caustic, irritating and downright dangerous many of the things in their bag of tricks are to human beings.

So, let's do this backwards…


Beyond what happens when the wrong thing gets put into the eye, one of the most frequent internet makeup requests is about how to make real tears, fake tears, running mascara….

The first thing you need to ask? Does the model have contact lenses in? We do NOT want to expose the model to anything that will ruin those contacts. Products can be absorbed by the lenses, creating a very uncomfortable and painful situation.

Getting a model to generate real tears is not that difficult. But unless the model is a Method Actor, some level of discomfort will be involved. Common tricks include: eye drops (single use vials), a menthol inhaler stick or peppermint oil held up to the corner of the eye, a freshly sliced onion, or something I just learned at a recent shoot – a rapid camera flash close to the face with a model who refuses to blink. The nice thing about real tears, you get a realistic red eye because the effect is not an effect, it is real.

The problem with real tears, they can ruin the rest of the makeup. The counter strategy is to rely on grease paint and cream products and avoid liquid foundations and water activated products.

Now, tears that flow down the cheek in great rivulets of angsty drama? Glycerin from the pharmacy isle is a popular choice. Just don't get it IN the eye. Not safe. Black eye shadow mixed with water thinned glycerin makes good mascara goo that can be applied by dripping off the end of a small paint brush.

Here is an image from a recent test shoot of mine that used the rapid camera flash method to produce real tears: Complications by Doomsday-Dawn

If you notice, only one thing is mentioned that should go INTO the eye – ONLY new, sterile eye drops. Even the Pro "blood drops" are ophthalmic and need to be opened, kept sterile (don't touch the eye with the applicator) and used within 30 days. According to those who have used them, these red tears blink out of the eye quickly and the effect can be a little on the puny side. In the instance of red tears in the eye, I say be willing to keep it simple and safe; use photoshop.

Here is an image courtesy of Guirnou that uses a professional product: Flirt by Guirnou

Here is the allergic reaction image from EveryNextDream :thumb103964549:

So, one may ask, how do they do those cool bloodshot eyes on TV and Film? The production will use the simplest, quickest, and most consistent scene-to-scene method the can. Contact lenses. Big, full sclera ones. Expensive, hand painted ones. A pair can easily cost $300.

Here is an image courtesy of Countess-Grotesque that shows a full sclera contact lens: . lost little alien . by Countess-Grotesque


A spray bottle with watered down glycerin is your best friend. For a more dramatic effect, or to keep the "sweat beads" longer, moisturize the skin real good beforehand. The glycerin will easily wipe off or make rivulets that run down the face.  

If you want faster rolling sweat… put plain water in that spray bottle. Add a drop of detergent if you want no beading, but a fast run instead.

Body hair is not an ally with body sweat effects. But, if it is a good hairy arm, you might be able to get some nice clinging, matted effect. Just a thought…..

Subtle, but in this age makeup image I used glycerin in a spray bottle to produce forehead perspiration: Slipping. Five. by Battledress


Ah, the heart of the matter. In truth, pro products are not that expensive compared to the grocery list bill you'll pay while compiling a kitchen recipe. A $25 4oz jar of Blood Pigment Powder can mix up 4 to 7 gallons of the good stuff.

Red food dye is not the same as color as what is in Pro fake blood, even though they are all FDA colors. Staining and bacteria growth are the biggest concerns with DIY blood. Now, if food color stains clothing and skin, what will it do to a model's bleached white or veneered teeth?

It is fun deciding what kind of blood is needed for a project. Fresh? Arterial? Venous? Old? Clotted? Coagulated? Putrid and pussy? Maggot infested?

Recipes abound, but some of the most common ingredients are food color (red, green and blue – color theory 101), water, corn syrup, glycerin, chocolate milk syrup, and desert or plain gelatin. I've added chunky strawberry preserves and orange marmalade…

Here is an older image with homemade blood we mixed up from corn syrup and food color: Metamorphosis by Battledress

Here is an image that shows the use of professional mouth blood – known to converts everywhere as "Zesty Mint":

Mature Content

Snack Time for a Rock Troll by Battledress

Cuts & Gashes

Texture is a fun thing. Liquid latex, nose putty or wax, unflavored gelatin, even white glue – all are common ingredients for giving edges and texture to cuts, gashes, gouges and other mortal wounds. All are easily available and inexpensive, with more than one enthusiast waiting for the 75% off after Halloween sales to stockpile all manner of blood and gore.

Liquid latex is available from many a novelty store. It must be used carefully. Not all latex is skin safe. Many people are allergic to it. It stinks of ammonia and should be allowed to sit long enough to "gass off" before applied to the skin. Latex will remove any body hair, even the tiny "baby fuzz" of an arm, unless very careful skin prep is made. Thin layers applied with a cosmetic sponge makes for very cool zombie or age wrinkled skin. Add a single layer of a facial tissue, and a nice flaking skin can be achieved. Careful layering and drying will build up a thickness that can be used to create skin edges or "pockets" for blood or other goo.

Here is a tutorial courtesy of sweetgreychaos that shows a few latex ideas:

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Liquid Latex Tutorial I by sweetgreychaos

Nose putty or wax is inexpensive but can be hard to use. It softens and becomes sticky from body heat and fingers. Petroleum jelly on the fingertips helps. Wax works better on hard boney parts where skin is thin and there is not a lot of bending. Noses and eyebrow covering are a favorite spot for wax to be used. Wax will crack if it is on too flexible an area.

Gelatin is very easy to use and has a nice translucent "skin" look and feel. Unflavored gelatin from the grocery store is not as strong as the pro version, but works. Use ¼ to ½ the water that is called for in the recipe. (Pro gelatin recipes use glycerin and sorbitol instead of water) Once cooled, the gelatin can be heated in the microwave in very short 10 second bursts until soft and workable. Just be certain to test the temperature – gelatin can burn if it is overheated and can burn the skin if not careful.

Here is a Mature Content image from a recent workshop that combines some of the Cuts & Gashes topics of discussion. Grease paint for bruises. Kryolan Rigid Collodioum scar (another very smelly product) and 1/8" thick flexible gelatin sheets body painted after they were glued on the model.

White glue…. This is not a makeup product but is used. It is safer or better than say, latex? Depends on who you ask. The MSDS doesn't specifically have cautions about skin contact. What's an MSDS? A Material Safety Data Sheet – something manufacturers must provide which declares any shipping, handling and storage considerations a product has. An internet search by product and MSDS will provide some solid information on any given product.

Here is an image courtesy of Guirnou that uses over the counter products to make some very convincing stitches:

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Stitches Close up by Guirnou

Here is a test image courtesy of littlegett AKA "King of Zesty Mint: that uses a mix of over the counter and pro products. Without the creepy set lighting, it is easier to see how many different disciples must come together to create a successful image:

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Zombie Candy Striper 01 Makeup by littlegett
and on set:

Mature Content

Pray for me by littlegett

Homework assignment: Visit Photography: Horror & Macabre or Traditional: Body Art for galleries full of wonderful executions of every special effect discipline from every background of artist.   

It is important to note that everything I know, I've learned from mentors and research… you have to WANT knowledge. You have to look for it. You have to have a scientific mind set. Be skeptical. Second, third and forth source information. Then, and only then, put makeup to skin.

Contact lens examples – just a very few of the many companies out there:

Special Effects Supplier with Recipes, Formulas & How To Guides:
© 2009 - 2022 Battledress
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Amazing and very informative news article, thank you for sharing! :-)
Fallen-Red-Ninja's avatar
Apt timing on your article, am designing stage make-up for an exceptionally low budget vampire play. This has given me a few ideas :)
Guirnou's avatar
Wow this article is so interesting !! It's great to learn new stuff ! :heart:

Thank you so much for including some of my pictures :thanks:!

And thank you for those links, they sure will be helpful!
Battledress's avatar
Glad the piece was useful.
Just took me longer to get it posted than I wanted....

Story of my life!
oilsoaked's avatar
Fabulous and informative as always!
EveryNextDream's avatar
This is so awesome! I'm going to put it in the Horror Resource Guide right now :hug:
Battledress's avatar
What do you want me to "soap box" about next?
cosfrog's avatar
I just bring someone like you on board so I dont have to worry about it
Battledress's avatar
Ah.... tell me more!
You know how to make a girl feel special.
arhcamt's avatar
thanks for sharing. :)
Helewidis's avatar
Stripp's avatar
Thanks for posting this :heart:
Snozzberry4947's avatar
This was incredibly informative. Very well laid out. Thanks for all this!
Battledress's avatar
Glad to hear!
Thanks for the feedback... helps me figure out what's useful to the community.
littlegett's avatar
This makes me warm and fuzzy (-;
arachnid15's avatar
Very nice resource. :)
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