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Halloween costume 101: An easy on-set 'Walking Dead' makeup trick to create rotting zombie skin

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Image Credit: Gene Page/AMC

It’s Halloween and if you’re celebrating, you’ve probably already plotted your costume down to the last ghoulish detail. But if your look for tonight got caught up in the zombie apocalypse, don’t leave the house until you’ve set off your costume with a trick that The Walking Dead’s special effects makeup artist Greg Nicotero uses to help create decaying ‘Walker’ skin. “I love is this time of year,” Nicetoro told EW.com. “In the last six or seven years it’s become an obsession with makeup and haunted houses. People do costume contests and I love that.” Ready to beat out the Honey Boo Boos and questionable ‘sexy’ costumes that’ll inevitably be out in full force? Let’s get started.

What You’ll Need

  • Liquid latex
  • Tissue paper
  • A foam sponge
  • A blow drier
  • Makeup (in burgundy, yellow, blue and brown colors)

Putting it Together 

“Take the foam sponge and put a little bit of liquid latex on the back of your hand,” says Nicotero. “Then adhere the tissue paper to [the liquid latex] while crumpling the tissue paper and fashioning it into leathery looking skin. Stipple a little more latex on it and set it by drying it with a hair dryer. When it dries, the latex is not only going to accentuate the wrinkles but the texture of the tissue paper gives you a really cool mummified look.”

The makeup guru strongly recommends testing this process out on your hand first, before trying it elsewhere.  “For somebody who doesn’t have experience doing this I’d say play around with it a little first and get used to it before going to your face.”

Once you’ve got the base of the skin set, grab your makeup to create festering sores and complete the decaying effect. “Get a bit of makeup — on the show we use pretty much three Tatu brand colors which are primarily used with an airbrush,” Nicotero said. “We use this color called ‘dead’ which is like this yellowish jaundice color. We have ‘aged blood’ which of course is a burgundy color. Then we use a little bit of browns and blues to shade in. When you use all those colors, start with the ‘dead’ [yellow] base and go in and shade in the recesses of the hand, the low points, with the darker color.  Then you can go over and put a lighter mix on the high points so that you’re accentuating the highlights and shadows of it.”

Voila! Now you’ve got disgusting, rotten-looking skin. Happy street roaming!

Read more:
‘Walking Dead’ makeup guru on transforming stars for blood drive, more zombies in season 3
Halloween 2012: Stars Dress Up As…
Halloween Costumes: Which TV Star Did That Kid Grow Up to Be?!
Halloween begs the question: Where are all the scary pop stars?

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