How to Apply Basic Horror Face Makeup

Updated September 30, 2021
Horror make up

It's not for everyday, but when the occasion calls for horror makeup, get your cosmetics out and let your creativity fly. From a realistic zombie to a scary clown, dramatic Halloween-style looks are easy to create once you know how.

Applying Basic Horror Face Makeup

Your makeup look can vary widely. You can go for a light application, which may only take minutes, or you can go all out in creating a brand-new face, which may take hours. The more involved your horror makeup, the more likely you'll need stage paint or a special kit. Regular makeup is fine, but may not last as long. If you're planning to play a character all night long, you'll want makeup that lasts.

Creepy Eyes

Woman Wearing Face Paint

This is an area where detail counts. Eye makeup can make or break your scary look. You'll probably veer toward dark colors when creating a horror look around the eyes. Good color choices include black, charcoal gray, indigo, violet, and even red or pink.

  • To create that sunken eye look, apply dark colors on the upper lids and underneath the eyes in a wide circle. Blend well.
  • Light-colored eyes contrast well with dark colors, but some people go even further by wearing colored contact lenses in unnatural shades especially for the occasion.

Sunken Cheeks

Young Man With Spooky Make-Up Holding Crystal Ball

Want sunken cheeks when you go out dressed as a ghoul? Horror makeup can help you achieve a suitably scary look. This is when knowing how to contour helps a great deal.

  1. Suck in your cheeks to identify the hollow part. This is where you'll apply your makeup.
  2. Apply blush or stage paint in your choice of color to the hollow. Good colors include gray or brown for a ghoulish look.
  3. Blend well with your fingers or a cosmetics sponge.

If you want a pale tinge to your face overall, stick with a foundation that's lighter than your skin tone, or use a thin application of white or other light stage paint.

Horrifying Lips

Woman Wearing Halloween Make-Up

Vampires, even those who identify as male, will probably want to use some type of red lip color to imitate fresh blood. This is not the time to be shy about that crimson lipstick! Matte color works well for creating an "undead" appearance, but if you want to create a sexy and scary look, you can opt for glossy red lips.

  • Other lip colors that work well for creating frightening creatures include black, burgundy, and dark brown.
  • If you don't have or don't want to use lipstick, you'll find "gel blood" that can be applied just about anywhere to simulate the look.

Super Scary Extras

Young woman in zombie makeup

Depending on who you plan to be for Halloween, your horror makeup look may require special effects as part of your overall costume. This can be in the form of fake blood dripping from a vampire's mouth or something you use to create realistic-looking wounds on your face and/or body.

  • If you only apply horror makeup once a year, you don't need to spend a lot of money. The inexpensive makeup kits you find mixed in with other Halloween supplies may be all you need.
  • If you take part in theatrical productions, it's worth investing in better-quality materials. Lines like Ben Nye are made specifically for creating realistic looks that last.
  • Inexpensive makeup kits sometimes contain all you need to make scars and scabs that appear all too real, in addition to red, black, and white makeup used to create most horror makeup looks.
  • Use tools such as sponges, Q-tips, and cosmetic brushes to apply your makeup. This helps you get the detail you want, making for a more realistic appearance.

Horror Costume Options

Naturally, horror makeup looks are most popular around Halloween. There are many great horror makeup ideas to consider. Kids and adults can have fun portraying their favorite characters or simply making themselves up into unique and frightening creatures. Good personas to adopt include:

Vampire putting on her makeup
A vampire tends to be one of the most popular Halloween looks as it can easily be recreated. Whether you opt for a scary or sexy version, you're sure to stand out.
Mummy costume
A mummy is a great option for men, women, and children alike. All you need are fabric bandages and a little white and gray makeup to take the look to the next level. Plus, it's one of the warmer costumes for a cold Halloween night.
zombie scar makeup
More scary than cute, a zombie requires skilled makeup to successfully pull off the look. And don't forget the vacant expression!
girl with witch makeup
Witches are all about the makeup. Whether you choose a subtle look or something more dramatic, horror makeup makes this costume awesome.
red demon
Whether you prefer to rock a hot and sassy devil or a terrifying demon, this is a fun costume for all ages. And the more red involved, the better!
victorian ghost

Often confused with a ghost or ghoul, a phantom is an appearance or illusion without material substance. Get the look by dressing all in white with white face paint.

skeleton face makeup
Skeletons are a cool and quirky Halloween costume. You can keep your outfit simple because this aesthetic is all about the detailed makeup.
Girl wearing ghost makeup
Perhaps one of the easiest costumes, ghosts are great for all ages. Get your ghost on for Halloween using a few simple makeup techniques. A white sheet is optional.
Evil clown face
Scary clown

You can choose to be a happy, friendly clown, but everybody knows that Halloween is made for scary clowns. The costume might be similar for both, but it's the makeup that will transform your look from cute to pure evil.

You can even recreate any variation of the above by channeling your favorite horror movie villains. From Scream's Ghostface to Saw's Jigsaw, there are plenty of options available.

Practice Makes Perfect

Look at pictures and photo galleries of scary makeup ideas to find inspiration if you don't know where to begin. Once you have a look in mind, take your time and practice makeup application beforehand. You may have to go through several looks before you find one you're happy with. Once the big day rolls around, you'll be ready to apply your horror makeup like a real pro.

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How to Apply Basic Horror Face Makeup