Horror theater makeup tips; Ghoul, skeleton, monster face painting for Halloween, Zombie Apocalypse

Theater makeup techniques work very well for Halloween face painting and costumes. Here is a diy guide on how to face paint zombie, ghoul, ghost or skeleton makeup. You don't need expensive theater makeup or lots of experience to create some pretty eerie looking effects.

You will need a basic makeup palette, available from any retail store. No need to spend big money; you just need white, red (carmine), blue (cyan), black and luminescent (glow in the dark) face paint. You can also use greasepaint or makeup crayons. Blue and purple eye shadow and black eyeliner or eyebrow pencil work well also. You will also need loose face powder, a powder puff or blush brush, Q-tips cotton swabs and moist towelettes or baby wipes.


Before face painting, comb all hair away from face and secure with a head band or pony tail. Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or mineral oil along the hair line to prevent makeup from bleeding into, discoloring or damaging hair. Cover clothing or costume. It is recommended that you dress before applying makeup if your costume goes over your head. This will prevent makeup from smearing and soiling clothing.

Zombie, ghoul, skeletons
For zombie, ghoul or skeleton face painting, begin with white or glow face paint or makeup. Apply a basic coat to face, eyelids, nose neck, throat, hands, ears and any skin that will show (otherwise you will appear only half dead!) Next, using a sharpened fine point black eyeliner or eyebrow pencil, lightly outline eyes, contours of temples and cheekbones. For a zombie or ghoul, use your finger to lightly smudge the lines. For a skeleton face, leave lines clear. For skeleton face painting, paint lips white and draw "teeth" on lips with black eye liner. Outline the nostrils to emphasize the bone structure.

Use blue or purple, create shadows by filling in all facial hollows: around the eyes, along the side of the nose, under the lips at each side, in both temples, in the cheek hollows under the cheek bones. If you don't have purple, mix red and blue in the palm of your hand. For best effects, use different shades of blue and purple to create a bruising effect for a zombie or ghoul. Leave some red paint "dripping" for blood.

Makeup scars and wounds for Zombies

For face painting zombie or ghoul scars, you can do one of two things. First, draw a wavy black line where you want the scar. Cross the line horizontally in several places to create stitches. For open gash wounds, draw a wavy red line, outline it with smudged purple and trace around the whole thing with black. This creates a 3D effect. For a wider wound, start with mottled shades of red (blood and flesh), outlined with smudged purple (bruise), outlined with thin black line (torn, decaying flesh).

Wrinkles for hags, witches, crones, vampires
Create zombie or ghoul wrinkles by outlining natural face wrinkles with black or brown eyeliner. Then highlight the bottom edge with a color that is lighter than the face. For zombie or mummy flesh (that is already white), simply use black or brown to create wrinkles. Follow the natural lines of the face, in the corners of the nose and mouth, at the bridge of the nose between the eyes, and across the forehead. Draw wrinkles lines on the neck and throat to create a withered look. Lips should be black or red. Finish with fluorescent highlights, to create an eerie, other-worldly look.

Set and finish
When you have achieved the desired look, set make-up by dusting with loose powder. Puff the powder on, do not blot, rub or wipe. Be sure to wash all face paint off thoroughly after Halloween. Baby wipes work very well to clean make up out of creases.