Makeup DIY: How to Make Prosthetic Scales (Mystique/Lizard Style)
I am always one who is trying to think of unique costumes for Halloween. Now that my boyfriend and I have gotten into going to conventions like Dragon Con in Atlanta, I am also starting to get into the world of cosplaying. When I thought of this idea I was really trying to think of something unique I could do for the Halloween costume contest at work so I could win some money.
I had such a hard time trying to figure out what I wanted to do, but I did know my costume had to fulfill two requirements this year:
- It had to incorporate funky contacts.
- It had to involve unique makeup.
I'm really big into doing crazy makeup any time I have the opportunity. I work part time at Ulta Beauty so luckily I've had a lot of opportunity to experiment with looks I can wear to work, and I am able to test many products to find the ones that work the best for whatever it is I'm looking for. Last year, I was able to pull off a Tron outfit using a black leather jacket from Goodwill that I made into a vest, EL wire, Black pleather leggings, some spray on hair color, and my Urban Decay Electric Palette. I wanted to do something like that, but even more fun!
I had some trouble figuring out what I wanted to do for the costume so I started by looking through my closet to see what clothes I already had, because buying clothes for a costume can get expensive. What did I have that was already unique and would be great for a halloween costume?
I immediately spotted my holiday party dress from last year and decided I wanted to use that somehow. The dress is knee length, 3/4 sleeve, and covered in holographic blue/green sequins. I thought, "that kind of looks like scales. I should be a human lizard!" And from there I set out researching ways I could do that.
Initially I thought I might just do normal makup in a scaly pattern, because that would be easy and wouldn't require any extra supplies. But I wanted the scales to look life like and 3D. How could I do that? Immediately I started doing some research.
Making the Prosthetic Scales
I started looking for ways that I could easily make prosthetic scales at home. There are so many different ways to do it but so many of them looked more complicated than I needed it to be. I stumbled upon a Youtube video from user Smearsmell which I have linked below. This tutorial shows you how to make a mold out of plasticine clay that you can pour liquid latex into to make your scales.
This ended up being an extremely handy tutorial for me! In the tutorial it says you will need plasticine clay, liquid latex, and a button or some other piece to help you make the pattern you want. I didn't have any spare buttons laying around, and I also wanted a more textured scale. So when I bought my supplies, I ended up actually using the butt of a cigarette lighter to make my scale design.
Plasticine clay is a great clay to use for making DIY prosthetics because it is an oil based clay that doesn't dry out, so you can re-mold it as many times as you want without worrying about running out or messing up. The other nice thing is that liquid latex, once dry, peels right off of it.
As far as liquid latex goes, I used a few bottles from Spirit Halloween for this. There's no need for high end expensive latex in my opinion, because this worked just fine. The only thing is that when used in layers, such as making a mold, this particular latex will dry a yellowish white and I knew that was going to be difficult to work with if I wanted to make them colorful, so I made mine different colors.
You can color your liquid latex using acrylic paint, because acrylic paint in small quantities will not affect the texture or drying power of the latex. I poured the latex into two bowls. In one bowl I squeezed a drop of green acrylic paint, and in the other I squeezed a drop of blue acrylic paint, and mixed each together to get the coloring I was looking for.
I rolled my plasticine clay out with a PAM spray can from my pantry because I couldn't find my rolling pin. I rolled it out in an oval section big enough to cover a significant porton of my face. I pressed the butt of the cigarette lighter into the clay to form the scales.
After I made the mold, I placed it on a ceramic plate and using a paintbrush I painted a thick layer of latex onto the mold. I let this dry overnight and applied another coat of latex after the first coat had completely dried. I did this three times, to ensure the latex was strong enough and thick enough to support me peeling my scales off in one big piece without stretching them out.
This process worked perfectly and was exactly what I needed. I made a few more molds just so I would have some pieces to work with for my scales. Because of letting them air dry, it took about three days for the scales to be ready to remove from the molds, though I'm sure you can blow dry it to speed the process up.
One of the main components of my costume for me was my special effect contacts. I used a red and yellow lizard eye contact called "Banshee" made by the brand Gothika, which is an industry leader in special effects contact lenses.
If you don't live in a large city, it can be hard to find a dealer where you can pick the contacts up directly. I had a lot of trouble with this as most of the places I found were online only, but said shipping might take up to two weeks, and I didn't have two weeks.
Luckily, I live in Atlanta, so I was able to purchase my contact in person from the great people at Marietta Optometry (click that link to see what they offer). You can buy contacts online from them as well as picking up in person if you live in the Atlanta Area. They also hand paint custom contact lenses in addition to selling the Gothika costume lenses. The people were so easy to work with and I highly recommend them!
The main thing to be concerned about when buying theatrical contact lenses is to make sure the lenses are FDA approved and that you have a prescription. The contact lens industry is heavily regulated and legit places will confirm on their website that their lenses are FDA approved and they will ask for a copy of your prescription before selling them.
Even if you have good eyesight and don't need glasses or contacts on a regular basis you must have a prescription for them. If the location you are purchasing from is selling Gothika lenses, then you are safe because Gothika is FDA approved.
The downside of having bad eyesight like me unfortunately is that you will have a more limited selection of lenses to choose from if you absolutely need the vision correction. Most theatrical lenses do not come with it so that can be a bit of a pain when trying to find the perfect contact. If you determine that you can live without the vision correction, then you could go with the non-correcting ones.
The one thing I would have changed about my lizard costume was the point in which I put my contact in. I was stupid and waited until I had all of my prosthetics on and painted before putting my contact in. Terrible idea - it was much more difficult to get it in because I didn't want to mess my makeup up. The other problem is that costume contact lenses are often about a millimeter larger than normal contacts in order to fully cover your irises, so you have to open your eye wider to put them in. This was difficult to do with the prosthetics on my face. Moral of the story: always put your contacts in first before applying anything to your face!
Adhering the Scales to My Skin
I did a test run on my arm before applying to my face to determine the best way to put them on and make sure they stay. After determining what I needed additional of to make the costume a success, I went to the halloween store and returned back with some scar putty, more latex, and gel fake blood.
I used a layer of liquid latex to adhere the scales the right side of my face. I cut pieces of scales to fit areas that were not covered by the largest scale piece, because I didn't want it to be just one round area of my face that had scales on it, I preferred a half scaly look. After the scales were applied, I sealed the edges with more latex by painting a layer on top of the prosthetic edges and pulling that layer onto my skin with each brushstroke.
The latex worked impressively well considering my makeup had to stay on for 16 hours straight, but I think there was still a better way to do it. By the end of the 16 hours the pieces closest to my mouth and base of my neck were coming off because I was talking a lot and moving my neck. Our Halloween was also a pretty warm day, so towards the end of the prosthetics' run sweat was reducing the adhesiveness of the scales as well, but for the most part as long as it's a cooler day the sweat issue is not a problem.
If you decide to use liquid latex to adhere your prosthetics, use it on areas that are not as prone to sweat, and keep it away from body parts that will be moving a lot such as the base of your neck, near your mouth, wrists, elbows, hands, and ankles. The latex appears to pass with flying colors on parts of the body that don't need to move much - forearms, forehead, temple, shoulders, etc.
I did a little research on skin adhesives after this project and found that in order to apply prosthetics to heavily moving parts, it would appear Pros-Aide Professional Medical Grade Adhesive is the best way to go. It has incredible staying power but you have to be very careful removing it or it could take some skin with it. To remove the adhesive you should purchase the . According to the directions, you apply the adhesive remover and let it set, then it will come right off. Any residue left on your face, you will need to apply more of the remover and wipe it off. If you are attending a convention or a costumed event that will require you to have your makeup on for more than a few hours, this is definitely the way to go as far as making sure sweat and movement don't affect your prosthetic. Pros-Aide Adhesive and Cosmetic Remover
Applying Makeup to Blend the Prosthetics In
When you first apply the prosthetics to your skin it will look pretty stupid. That's because you can't just use prosthetics and be all ready to go! There are steps you need to take to blend the prosthetic in with your skin to make it look realistic, and the way to do this is with makeup.
For my prosthetics, I started by applying a face primer to the scales with a makeup brush. I used a primer by Smashbox. I let the primer set a minute or two so that it wasn't completely wet on my face, and then I used the colors Fringe, Gonzo, and Chaos from the Urban Decay Electric Palette to add some color over top of the prosthetic. After that powder was applied, I used the colors Lightyear and Vega from the Urban Decay Moondust Palette to make the scales look shimmery and lizard like. I didn't apply the colors in any sort of pattern - just all over, to even out the blues and greens from the prosthetic and make the scales look more like actual lizard scales.
For the parts of my skin not covered by a prostethic that I needed to blend in so that the scales looked as one cohesive piece, I applied an eyeshadow primer first. Eyeshadow primer is much stronger than a face primer since it's meant for eyelids which are constantly moving. I personally prefer Urban Decay Original Eyeshadow Primer Potion. After this primer was applied, I used a combination of the same palettes I used to color the prosthetic so that the makeup would blend well.
The next step of the process for me was making my skin look like it was peeling up to reveal the scales. To do this, I used scar wax (also known as scar putty). Using scar wax is in my opinion the least time consuming way to make skin look like it's peeling.
I applied the scar wax by rolling it into a long piece and pressing it in around the edges of the prosthetic. I dragged the edge of the scar wax into my normal skin so that it faded gradually from skin to scarwax. Using the tip of a safety pin I made "cracks" in the skin. For parts of the scar wax that were appearing to come up, I put a little liquid latex underneath to try to adhere it a little better.
This process took about 20 minutes to do which was convenient and worked well for this costume. After the scar wax was applied, I carefully applied foundation to it so that the coloring would blend to my skin a little better. For the non-moving parts of my face, this worked perfectly and didn't move all day. But as with using latex as an adhesive, towards the end of the day the parts near my mouth started to come off because of me talking, eating and sweating. And as always, there is a way to prevent that.
I found the video tutorial below by the Youtuber Kelsey Bobain showing a method of peeling skin with elmer's glue and layers of tissue. I recommend using latex instead of elmer's glue personally but you could use either one. If you choose to do your prosthetics this way (which I will next time), you will need to apply the peeling skin first before applying the prosthetic. Once the skin is on, you will apply the prosthetic to your skin underneath the peeling skin and then apply the makeup from there.
Applying the Rest of My Makeup
I only did half my face as a Lizard, so obviously the other side of my face had to be made up. Since this was a costume I wanted to go all out on the makeup. Here's what I used:
- Smashbox Photofinish Primer in Light
- Boots No. 7 Beautifully Matte Foundation
- Tarte Cosmetics Colored Clay CC Undereye Corrector in Light-Medium
- Urban Decay Flushed Palette in Native (used bronzer and highligher only)
- IT Cosmetics CC Radiance Ombre Blush in Coral Flush
- Anastasia Brow Definer Pencil in Soft Brown
- Urban Decay Original Eyeshadow Primer Potion
- Urban Decay Electric Palette (Colors Used: Fringe, Gonzo, Chaos)
- Urban Decay Naked 3 Palette (Color Used: Blackheart)
- Urban Decay Moondust Palette (Colors Used: Lightyear and Vega)
- Stila Stay-All-Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Intense Black
- Urban Decay Perversion Mascara
- Lashes by Spirit Halloween
- NYX Cosmetics Cosmic Metals Lip Cream in Out of This World
The Finishing Touch: Fake Blood
There's just something about fake blood that is awesome when it comes to a costume like this. In addition to covering any mistakes you may have made, I feel like it really ties the costume together. But not all fake blood is the same - particularly for long-wear costume makeup.
When I did my test run, I applied a tube of fake "vampire" blood from Party City. But this blood was messy, sticky, and got all over everything. I mean, I know I was using my holiday dress for a costume but I still wanted to be able to wear it after Halloween and not destroy it! So I went to Spirit Halloween and came back with gel blood.
You warm the bottle in a bath of boiling water for a few minutes, and it becomes a liquid. Once it's a liquid you can apply it to your face, but as it cools it turns back into a gel again - giving you realistic looking bloody areas without the sticky mess of regular blood. For this costume the fake blood should be the last thing you put on.