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Ghost Makeup Tips and Tutorials for Halloween

MakinBacon writes on a variety of topics across the internet and loves finding new ways to celebrate and look at the world.

Learn how to take your ghost costume up a notch with creepy makeup.

Learn how to take your ghost costume up a notch with creepy makeup.

Ghost Makeup Tips and Tutorials for Halloween

Between urban legends and Hollywood, ghosts have become an extremely important part of popular culture. Human nature seems to be drawn to the idea of interacting with departed loved ones.

That, of course, keeps ghost costumes near the top of the list of ideas for dressing up for Halloween parties. It's popular among kids who can simply cut holes in sheets to drape over themselves so they can run around on Halloween collecting candy—appearing to float at times as they glide from door to door. However, it is also popular among adults, who often opt for more "realistic" costumes involving face painting or makeup.

The ghost is a very versatile costume. Although some ghosts, like those made of sheets, seem fun and harmless, others are portrayed as unable to rest. These unfriendly ghosts partake in haunting activities to communicate or exact revenge. Whatever the reason, ghosts are unpredictable, and you never know what the outcome will be when the living encounter the departed, which adds some interesting possibilities to the costume.

Who Wants to Be a Ghost This Halloween?

In my unofficial research among adults, a far larger percentage of women would like to dress as ghosts, complete with face makeup, than men. Perhaps this is due to cultural norms surrounding makeup. Men generally have far less experience with it and struggle even figuring out how to use the stuff, while for the ladies, it's just a matter of creating a different look.

Whatever the case, in this article, we will see a very cool example of a male ghost, but the majority of the examples will be women (of course, the same techniques can be used across genders).

Skull-Inspired Ghost Makeup

Skull-Inspired Ghost Makeup


Now, most ghosts share predictable looks. The two most easily identifiable features of a ghost are:

  • Pale skin
  • Dark circles around the eyes

Ghosts are almost always on edge, so they don't get a lot of sleep. That results in nearly all of them having dark circles around their eyes from walking around all night—we all know the living who participate in similar behavior have the same problems!

So when thinking of ghost makeup, you will need to have a white base and dark circles around your eyes, no matter how you customize the rest of your design.

You can use various colors for the dark circles, such as:

  • Black and gray
  • Multiple shades of gray
  • Navy blue and gray
  • Shades of brown or purple

How to Apply Ghostly Makeup

Materials Needed

  • White cream foundation (or base) makeup
  • White face powder
  • Dark eyeshadow
  • Stippling brush
  • Blending brush
  • (Optional) white eyeliner, dark lipstick, and other eyeshadows and brushes for bruised/veined effects

Basic Instructions

  1. Use the stippling brush to apply the white cream foundation makeup. If you are unfamiliar with how to use a stippling brush (it requires more of a dabbing motion than a painting one), watch the "Undead Ghost Makeup" video in the tutorial section.
  2. Use the blending brush and dark eyeshadow to create rings around the eyes.
  3. Optional: Paint veins around the eyes and temples and line your inner lower eyelid with white eyeliner.
  4. Use the blending brush and dark eyeshadow to create contours on your cheeks and the sides of your nose.


  • Apply the white cream foundation makeup to your entire face, neck, and any bare skin. If you are worried about getting makeup on your clothing, the look can work without it, but it needs to at least gradually fade from the neck down—a sharp contrast between white skin and natural skin color can leave you looking a little unconvincing and odd. However, children tend to get away with only face makeup.
  • Don't want to wear too much makeup? Most ghosts are traditionally shown wearing high-necked clothing—find a similar outfit and eliminate the need to paint those parts of your skin.
  • Take advantage of the dark eyeshadow on your eyes and cheeks. It can create a sense of anger or foreboding and draws attention to the face, making it less likely that people will notice your natural skin color showing elsewhere. Notice the male ghost, where dark makeup is used to great effect to make the cheeks look sunken.
  • To whiten your hands, brush them with chalk dust. It works well, though the look wears off with time.
Don't forget to make your hair look creepy too!

Don't forget to make your hair look creepy too!

Ghost Lip Makeup

Option 1: Dark Lips

Nearly everyone who creates their own ghost makeup uses a dark lip color. I think dark lips are an excellent choice when dressing as something no longer living because they give the sense of being cold. Almost any dark shade will do, with dark blue, burgundy, and black being among the best choices.

Option 2: White Lips

Having said that, I have also included an interesting contrast to the usual practice. One woman ghost below is a professional model who had her lips painted the same white as her face.

Option 3: Cracked Lips

Another thing some people choose to do is crack their lips to add to the impression that they are no longer living. Some only need to leave their lips alone for the day to generate the cracked, chapped look. If you are blessed with healthy lips, dab them with a thick concealer, which will dry and crack. You can cover the concealer with matte lipstick.

Final Touches

It's especially important to add a little differentiating touch to your makeup because the ghost costume has become somewhat ubiquitous. You want to be sure to stand out from any other ghosts that may be attending the festivities.

You can take away some tricks for how to do so from the picture above, with the much larger-than-normal dark circles around the eyes, a blood-red teardrop, and purple hair.

All of these cool touches guarantee she won't be competing with anyone else with this look.

© 2012 MakinBacon


ThirstOfTheNight on May 28, 2012: