Between street fighters, zombie survivors and tomb raiders, being a video game character is dangerous work. They go through hell and back, so it doesn't really make sense for them to come out looking squeaky clean on the other side. If you're looking to take your cosplay to the next level, look no further — a little blood, grime and dirt is all it takes.
Photo by What A Big Camera
EB Expo isn't really known as a cosplay convention, so for the past two years I've found myself throwing together a quick and easy costume instead of bothering with anything too intense. My most recent cosplay of Jessica from Until Dawn, like my Wii Fit Trainer costume of 2013 fame, was bought entirely from retail stores (Cotton On had a sale, $80 for a full costume!), and sorely needed something to turn it from a regular outfit into a legitimate cosplay. As it turns out, that 'something' is a whole heap of blood.
Want to add some battle damage to your own costume? Read on for a couple of tips and tricks to look like you've been beaten up — with only a little bit of pain.
Video characters can accumulate everything from bruises and scrapes to life threatening injuries — and even more, if they are of the undead persuasion — and there are just as many ways to create these effects for your own costumes. For my Jess makeup, I used pre-made gash prosthetics from a local SFX makeup artist's store but you can also design your own if you have basic SFX supplies.
Liquid latex is the liquid gold of makeup artists — with just some tissue paper and a bottle of latex, you can create any kind of damaged skin that your heart desires. Just tear it up and dab the pieces onto your skin with some latex on a makeup sponge. You can also sculpt a more defined scar or gash with scar wax — again, covering it with latex can help to blend the texture with your skin.
If you're after something more subtle, it's worth looking into an SFX makeup product called 'rigid collodion'. This is a clear gel that shrinks as it dries, puckering your skin into recessed lines that perfectly simulate scars. The more layers you apply, the more extreme the effect will be. Painting a touch of fake blood in the scar recession makes for the perfect shallow yet fresh scratch. A freshly bleeding graze can even be faked with just a spoonful of regular old strawberry jam, of all things. You'd be surprised how many of the things found in your kitchen can be used to fake an injury — just stay away from the tomato sauce, it doesn't make nearly as good a fake blood substitute as most people seem to think.
Meagan Marie by Chris Fink
If you walk into any SFX makeup store, you'll see a hundred different types of blood. Congealed blood, stage blood, edible blood, even a browny-green kind of blood that can is used for creating undead characters. If you're buying one of these, choose carefully. Think about how viscous you want your blood to be, and what kind of colour would suit your vision best. Do you want it to smear or do you want it to stay dark and gathered in one place? Is the blood on your character meant to look fresh, or is it already old and dried?
If none of the store-bought blood suits you — or if you just want to experiment — you can always make your own blood at home. There are thousands of recipes for fake blood online; my favourite is made with glucose (you can get jars of it in the baking section at the supermarket), food dye and a little cocoa powder. The latter is the most important ingredient in my experience — not only does it make your blood taste delicious and chocolatey, it also makes it dry dark and brownish, just like real blood. When mixing your colours up, don't just add some red and call it a day. A healthy splash of yellow is needed to take the pink tones out, as well as the tiniest touch of blue.
Jenn Croft by Superhero Photography
If your character is covered in blood, wounds and bruises, it's likely they're going to be just a little bit dirty as well. Or maybe a lot. Like SFX blood, makeup stores will usually stock a collection of simulated dirt powders in different tones. There's a hundred different ways to apply these — the best way is to take a big powder brush and dab it all over, but you can also get a friend to blow a big handful at you for a windblown look. You can even get some on your fingertips and smudge it in the places you're likely to touch your face or arms. Try to keep it a bit random — fake dirt that's too even will often end up looking like poorly applied bronzer.
If you're already planning on raiding your kitchen for supplies, you don't have the buy the specialist powders at all. Instead, grab some powdered coffee for the most realistic looking dirt you can get without actually going outside. If you have a fireplace in your home, why not grab a handful of actual ashes and charcoal? Consider real dirt a last resort — you don't really want that all over your face.
Are you planning your own battle-damaged costume, or perhaps you've already done one? Tell us in the comments!