Zombie Makeup tips from Howl-O-Scream creator


The zombie costume has been a staple of Halloween and Busch Garden’s Director of Creative Services Scott Swenson showed Oracle Montage Editor Shaunda Wickham some of his makeup tips and tricks as he transformed her into “a relatively undead, blistery, bloody, somewhat fresh” zombie.

“There are many versions of the zombie,” Swenson said. “We use a lot of different techniques, such as two-dimensional traditional makeup, three-dimensional makeup and latex and blood.“

Makeup color wheel and base cream

“A lot of people think that you have to use a whole bunch of colors to make zombies,” Swenson said. “I like to work with the basics. I like to use a color wheel that has a bunch of the colors I need to make bruises or scars. I also use larger cream makeups for a base color.”

Textured scars and 99 percent alcohol

“We use very high-grade latex scars that we make ourselves months ahead of time,” Swenson said. “We apply them with 99 percent alcohol to break the texture down just a little bit to thin out the edges, so it blends in perfectly with your skin and then you can go back and color it.”


“We go through a lot of blood,” he said. “We use three different types: squirt blood, used for spattering, so if we want to like splatter on costumes or an overall splatter on someone; we also use a darker version of the splatter blood; and a coagulated blood, which is a little thicker and works better when you try to get it to stick to scars and stuff.”



Simple steps from Swenson

The first thing to do is apply a barrier spray, which is alcohol based. It seals pores and helps the makeup stay on better. It makes it where it doesn’t seep into the pores, so it doesn’t disappear and makes it easier to come off at the end.

Next, apply a base color to give a clear palette. Start with green.

“I squirt it on my hand, similar to an artist’s palette,” he said. “It keeps it warm so it is easy to move around. I dab it on with a sponge, so it is not too organized.”

One of the biggest problems that many people have when they do monster makeup, especially zombie makeup, is that they put on too much. You don’t need a whole lot, because you kind of want it to look like it is the real skin.

After the base coat, apply another color to break it up and give it texture.

After spraying the scars with 99 percent alcohol, apply it to the most natural places (forehead, cheek, etc.). Try not to over do it. Keep it simple. You want to add the textures right away, before too much makeup is applied. If there is too much makeup, it makes it harder for it to stick.

Apply shadow to different areas to give definition to whatever needs highlighting. Shadow in the cheekbone and around the textured skin.

With an eyelid brush, dab on different colors to create a bruising effect by the opened wounds. Dab, instead of rub, to allow the colors to naturally blend. Good bruise colors are greens, blues, yellows and maroon.

Finally, dab the blood in the open-wound areas, as well as by the nose and mouth.

— Scott Swenson, Director of Creative Services