Good at Looking Bad

by Stage Directions

Makeup as special effect is often needed to bruise and bloody actors. We asked makeup companies Ben Nye and Mehron to share some products and tips for casualty simulation, or moulage, French for casting/molding referring to the art of applying mock injuries. Here are some methods to create bleeding wounds as well as scabs and bruises and to make them also appear that the injuries have started to heal.

Ben Nye – HD Ultimate FX Palette

The HD Ultimate FX Palette provides ultra-realism for bruises, abrasions, black eyes, burns, and character effects. “This Ultimate FX Palette is what every Moulage effects artist needs to ensure all the right colors are there to bring out the real trauma effect,” says Dana Nye, president of Ben Nye Company, Inc. “You can blend with alcohol on the skin for more translucency.” The kit contains 18 colors, including Dried Blood, Dark Crimson, Black & Blue, Fresh Cut, and Vein.

Makeup Tip: “Distress area around wound with colors from Ultimate FX Palette,” explains Nye. “Red and burgundy simulate freshly injured skin; dark blues and purples simulate deep injuries where the blood has collected, such as bruises and black eyes. Yellows and greens simulate older, healing bruising.”

Ben Nye – Thick Blood & Fresh Scab 

Ben Nye Thick Blood and Fresh Scab create realistic coloring and dimensional casualty textures that simulate fresh bleeding or crusty abrasions. “Both are ideal for stage as they are gel-consistency bloods that will not drip or run,” comments Nye. “Thick Blood produces a fresh blood look; Fresh Scab has a brownish hue that simulates day old scabbing. “Fresh Scab blood doesn’t completely set but the outer layer “sets” to touch and scabs over. To work with these products, remove a quarter-size dollop with a spatula and place on a makeup palette,” explains Nye. “Pick up the gel material with a black stipple sponge, and scrape the material from top of wound downward. This will provide three-dimensional detailing. A light touch is essential to create a delicate visual effect” These come in 1oz, 6oz, and 16oz bottles.

Makeup Tip: “Though either shade dries or sets-up after time, the material never fully dries,” cautions Nye. “It should not rub against costume because it will smudge the effects created. Some fabrics maybe stain when it contacts; it’s wise to test the fabric before use. Cottons and polyesters normally wash clean. You can remove it with Hydra Cleanse or soap and water.”

Mehron – Pro Color Ring Bruise

“The best product we have to create the bruises is our Mehron Pro Color Ring Bruise,” says Gene Flaharty - sales manager / makeup artist with Mehron. “It’s becoming the go to product for bruises. The Bruise Ring is designed to easily provide all the colors of an aging bruise. Start with the red (bloody rose) and simply go clockwise around the ring as the bruise ages. The colors are great for providing deep coloring in wounds can be applied with sponge or brush.”

Makeup Tip: “When doing wounds, it’s very important to know your anatomy,” says Flaharty. “So many times, I see injuries that look gross but don’t look real. For the stage, watch your time line. If the play happens over days, a bruise will change colors and a wound will heal.”

Mehron – SynWax

For cuts, Flaharty would recommend Mehron’s SynWax, a pliable modeling wax the moves with the skin. “This product is great for wounds all over the body and for blocking out eyebrows for special characters like a witch,” he explains. “SynWax is easy to blend into the skin, and to apply makeup to it. It’s great for doing cuts and joints and other moving parts.

Makeup Tip: “When working with SynWax and modeling waxes: use a mineral oil to blend the edges and to put on the blending tool,” Flaharty comments. “Powder off the oil and then apply your makeup.”