Budget Zombie Cosplay Make-up

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When I think of SFX makeup, generally my first thought is a wide array of expensive products and various techniques that come together to create a stunning visual effect. Then I remember that I’m a student on a budget with no time for professional classes.

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(cheap) tools of the trade

However, as I have shown in previous articles, there is always a way to craft on a budget, and stage makeup is no exception to this rule! There is a plethora of simple tutorials online for just about any gory (or normal, for that matter) makeup look you could want – you’ve just got to shop around a bit to find the method that works best for you. While I have taken a little inspiration from other sources over the years, I found that at the end of the day it’s mostly a matter of mixing the right colours, so I have adapted my own methods for budget bruises and gory zombie bites!

For the bruises I only spent £5 on makeup: three eyeliner and two lipliner pencils are all you really need! I’ve found that fake bruises work just as well with eyeshadow, but it’s hard to find palettes with no glittery base to them, which ruined the effect a little for me. Here’s a basic step by step guide on how to create two different bruise looks!

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The final results

Fresh, Dark Bruises

For this, I used a base layer of the brown pencil. I tend to draw onto my finger and then smudge the eyeliner on to keep the colours light-ish. (I’ll be layering them over each other a lot in my quest to get the right balance so I can’t start off too heavy.) Then I add another layer of purple and mix in for a darker base. I add small dabs of blue and green where I feel the colouring looks natural. Don’t feel the need to make your bruise stand out a lot now, you can always add more in, taking it out is harder. To finish, smudge on more brown and purple until you’re happy with the colouring and blend. My technique for this makeup is literally ‘dab and hope for the best’ so I’ve found a lot of practice was needed before I was happy with the results, but with the materials being so cheap and the overall effect taking only five minutes, practice is a luxury you can afford. My finished bruise was a little full this time, so I took a makeup wipe and gently dabbed at it to take off some of the colour, which made me much happier with the end result!

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Working out the colours.

Healing Bruises

Any variation of these bruises will only be a matter of re-distributing colours and their quantities, so these next two effects are just as simple. For a healing bruise you need a more greeny/blue tone, so feel free to experiment with how you want it to turn out. For mine I started with a base layer of green and added a layer of blue. I added a very light overlay of purple and brown, but only enough to blend the colours naturally. I wanted this one to look a little faded so left it mostly to the lighter colours.

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Beginning with green and adding more colours.
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More cheap tools of the trade

Zombie Bites

And finally, my absolute favourite makeup trick has to be zombie bites. I first attempted to replicate this apocalyptic gore when I cosplayed Ellie from The Last of Us. I was in a hurry, on a bumpy train ride, and only had some fake blood, purple eyeshadow, and a blue biro. Needless to say my work has improved since then, although I still always end up leaving this part of my cosplay until I’m on a train…

While you will require a few more items for this piece, I’m sure you’ll notice some crossover with previous work, and the other materials are easy to find for a good price. (Keep an eye on pound shops around Halloween for great fake blood!)

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The final results

To start off the zombie bite, I use a base of dark purple eyeshadow and dab it in a messy crescent, as I add more makeup I’ll try and keep to this shape as much as possible to give the look of actual teeth marks. Next, I’ll take a very small amount of fake blood (or red liner, your choice) and dab that over. Do the same with blue eyeliner.

To darken the bite and make it look more sinister, I used black lipstick (again, a Halloween poundland purchase). Dab it gently over your bites. From this point on, it’s just a case of adding layers of colours until you’re happy with the look. I found mine looked a little messy towards the end so I used a makeup wipe to clean to gaps between the teeth marks which made the overall effect much better. When you’re totally finished with the base, be sure to add some more fake blood to make the whole thing look fresh!

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Working out the colours

I hope these tips and tricks have been useful to you. Use these tutorials to experiment with products and techniques work best for you – creating your own methods is the best part!

Rosie Clarke

Rosie Clarke

Rosie is a blogger, amateur cosplayer, theatre lover, and hot chocolate enthusiast. She is currently pursuing her passion for writing through an undergraduate Creative Writing/Television course in Kingston, where she can pretend the adult world doesn't exist for at least two more years.