My very first experience doing my own makeup effects was when I was in the 4th grade.
There was a Halloween contest at my elementary school, and of all things, I wanted to be a spider.
Since there were no ready made spider-esque makeups, I chose a pimple face makeup prosthetic that I painted with grease paint. It was the first time I ever bought a prosthetic.
It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered I could make my own makeup prosthetics.
Making them is so simple. There really is no reason to buy them anymore.
Here’s what I’ve learned about what it takes to make your own prosthetic makeup appliances.
These are the five main types of materials used in making makeup prosthetics.
With the exception of liquid latex, I haven’t had experience using all of these. What I have here is just from my own research.
If you find anything that you’d like to add, I hope you’ll leave it in the comments for the rest of us.
I call it plain ole liquid latex. It’s also called slip latex, slush latex, or mask makers latex.
I’ve bought it from several places: Halloween stores, specialty makeup stores, Amazon, and even Walmart.
I haven’t seen much of a difference in the quality in the ones I’ve used, but some say there is a difference in the more expensive brands. They tend to last longer and be more durable.
You can use liquid latex directly on the skin or create a makeup prosthetic with it.
If you want a good, in depth description on how to make makeup prosthetic using liquid latex you can get more detailed instructions at FX Supply.
Pros of using liquid latex:
- Easy to use.
- Easy to purchase and inexpensive.
- Fast set up time.
- Can be colored with water-based acrylic paint.
Cons of using liquid latex:
- Can yellow over time.
- Rots over time.
- Some people have allergic reactions to latex, so you have to be careful.
- Perspiration, oils, sunlight and heat can ruin latex.
- Adheres permanently to porous materials (like jeans, t-shirts, etc.)
This material doesn’t need an oven to cure. That makes it easier to work with and faster than foam latex (more on that below).
Cold foam is also called flexible expanding urethane foam.
Artists use it to fill hollow pieces to keep them from being flimsy (i.e. horns). And it’s good for quick jobs since you don’t need any special equipment to create with it.
Pros of using cold foam:
- Quick and easy to use.
- Great for prosthetics where flexibility isn’t required (i.e. noses, chins, horns, etc.).
- Cures in minutes rather than hours.
Cons of using cold foam:
- Not flexible, so characters would not be able to emote (dramatize or show emotion) or talk through an appliance.
- Since it is polyurethane, it can be dangerous to use on the skin when not cured. After it has cured, it is considered safe.
This material is quite versatile and, for the most part, easily accessible.
For a fantastic tutorial on making a makeup prosthetic using store bought gelatin, watch Pinkstylist’s tutorial on YouTube.
Pros on using gelatin:
- Gelatin can be melted and reused.
- Gelatin cuts and acts just like flesh.
- Gelatin can be frozen to last longer.
Cons on using gelatin:
- Larger pieces can be heavy.
- Can usually only be used on the day you make it.
- It rots, another reason to use it the same day.
- It does not need very high temperatures to melt. Keep it out of your hot car or trunk.
- It isn’t durable, and you have to be careful when handling it.
Here are some more tidbits on gelatin that I thought were important:
- Gelatin is heavier to wear than foam latex.
- Gelatin is less expensive than foam latex.
- Glycerin and Sorbitol are added to help gelatin last longer. See the recipe to make FX grade gelatin here.
This material is often used in costuming, puppets and stop motion animation in place of clay.
The base material of foam latex is, of course, liquid latex. It’s mixed with other additives, which are often sold together in kits.
Pros of using foam latex:
- It’s light and fluffy.
- It’s reasonably easy to repair if torn.
- You can paint it with PAX paint.
- It can be made to be as tough as leather or very soft, depending on the additives used.
Cons of using foam latex:
- It can begin to rot in as little as 6 months, so your work won’t last forever.
- Mixing isn’t always easy, as there are many factors to consider, namely timing.
- It has to be mixed in a dedicated mixer and cured in a dedicated oven. Neither can be used again for food.
- The natural oils in your hands can alter the composition, so you have to wear gloves.
Silicone is a product I can’t wait to try. The results are so realistic.
Watch this video of a good comparison between foam latex prosthetics and silicone. You’ll see what I mean.
The beginner kits I found were either Platsil Gel-10 or Smooth-On.
Pros of using silicone for prosthetics makeup:
- Silicone makeup prosthetics don’t rot and will last for decades.
- There are two components that you mix 1:1, making it simple to mix.
- Curing is done at room temperature.
- No special equipment needed.
- Soft, so it flexes and moves with the move of real skin
Cons of using silicone for makeup prosthetics:
- Silicone can be heavy.
- It can be difficult to paint; the only thing that sticks to silicone is silicone.
- It’s difficult to repair tears.
- Some plasticene clay contains sulfur, which will react to silicone.
- Silicone is often more expensive than foam latex.
- Has a shine to it that may or may not compliment your prosthetic.
- Cannot be reused.
Have something to add (or take away)? Let us know in the comments.
The following sites helped with this post: