How to make your own zombie costume

Expert Advice On Making Your Own Zombie Costume

With a little help from a couple of makeup experts,’s staff went from normal to paranormal in this one-minute clip about the debt apocalypse…


…and we learned a lot of money-saving and creepifying tips that we want to share.

Although being a zombie remains one of the most popular costumes, you’ll have to shell out between $30 and $70 to buy a zombie outfit online. With Halloween in only a few days, you’ll also have to pay for quicker shipping.

Or you can turn yourself into a zombie for much less, much quicker — and with more gruesome results. Makeup expert Samantha Dubin oversaw the makeup in the video above and offered us the following advice on zombie costumes.

Getting the costume 

Since zombies are just undead humans, it’s not hard to find or make your own costume out of materials you already own or can grab at a thrift store. You can easily dress as a nurse, teacher, student, farmer, cowboy, homecoming queen, waitress, or housewife easily for cheap or free.

What you need for a…                                                                                           

  • Zombie farmer or hillbilly: flannel shirt, ripped jeans, old shoes
  • Zombie nurse: scrubs and shoes
  • Zombie schoolgirl: school uniform or skirt, stockings and button-up shirt, with Converse shoes
  • Zombie football player: football jersey with rips and holes, football helmet, cleats
  • Zombie housewife: tattered bathrobe, slippers
  • Zombie homecoming queen: prom dress, and a broken dollar-store tiara

You get the idea, and can come up with your own. All of these can be made to look “zombie-like” by ripping and shredding the fabric, splattering them with fake blood (covered later), and kicking them around in some dirt to make them look ragged and dirty.

The zombie skin shopping list

Full zombie makeup kits can run up to $50, and sometimes they don’t always have everything you need, or they have too much of one thing, or they come with a bunch of things you don’t need. The cheaper kits don’t always look that great, either.

Samantha recommends doing your own makeup — and shopping around for the makeup before you buy. The basics are the fake blood and liquid foundation, which you can get for less than $10 combined. Everything else is optional, but can really enhance your creepiness… 

Fake blood: You can buy this enormous 16-ounce bottle of fake blood for $5. Or, if you only need a small amount, you can buy this tube for $1.50. This stuff looks thinner and brighter than actual blood, so Samantha recommends mixing in coffee grounds to give it a more realistic appearance.

Liquid foundation: It’s best to go light, but not too pale. You can tint the foundation with green paint to look like you’re “rotting,” Samantha says. Choose a shade here for $4.

Bottle of latex: The brand doesn’t matter, Samantha says. Buy this one-ounce bottle for $5.

Gray cream makeup: Buy a tube for $2.

Brush: You can buy one of these brushes from Home Depot for a dollar.

Makeup sponge: Buy a pack of three for $3.29.

Eyeliner pencil: Buy this one for a dollar.

Eye shadow/ cream makeup palette: Buy this cream makeup palette for $10. Or, if you’re just going for the simple blacked-out eye, you can buy this black eye shadow for $5.

Mehron Tooth Paint: With color options like Nictotine Decay, Spinach, and Blood Red, this paint will make your teeth look like they are about to rot right out. Buy one bottle for $8. It’s a bit more expensive than some of the other brands because it tastes better. Or, if taste isn’t an issue for you, you can swish around water with brown food coloring. It’s bitter, but will get almost the same effect.

Zombie makeup tricks

Start by creating your “wounds,” which you can do in different styles. This can be done with latex, which you brush over your skin, whether on your jawline, neck, or arm. Use your fingertips to stretch out the skin where you are applying the latex. That way, once it dries, the skin will pull back together, creating a wrinkly effect.

You’ll want to apply the latex in multiple layers, depending on what kind of wound you’re going for…


Pockmarked skin: Apply thin layers of latex on both sides of your face and let dry. After you apply the rest of your makeup, take a toothpick and rip some holes in your latex “skin” to look like pockmarks.

Flesh wound: Apply multiple layers on top of a small section of skin, like along the jawline.


Over the top of the adhesive, layer a few thin sheets of toilet paper, then more adhesive on top of that.

Keep building layers until there’s as many or as few that you’d like. Once the rest of the makeup is done, decorate your wounds using the cream makeup palette.

Samantha recommends putting darker colors — brown and black — in the middle of the “wound,” and fake blood around the edges of it.


Undead skin tone: Take a makeup sponge and pump some foundation onto it.

Use it to cover your entire face and neck, making sure to blend in just beneath your jaw by rubbing it gently in a circular motion.

Use the sponge to saturate your eyebrows and make them disappear. Let it dry, then apply the gray cream makeup for an undead pallor.


Dead eyes: “Use contouring and highlighting to make it look like the eyes are sunken in,” Samantha says.

Start by lining your lids with black eyeliner pencil, and use another makeup sponge to smudge the eyeliner outward.

Then, take the applicator brush in the eye makeup palette and dip it in the red, black, and brown colors. Apply this mixture on your eyelid all the way up to your eyebrow.

Then, apply it below your eye socket, to give the appearance of extremely dark circles.

IMG956463You can also dip the paintbrush into the fake blood and use it to flick the blood all over your face.

Sunken cheeks and lips: Dip another makeup sponge in black paint and suck in your cheeks.

Smudge the black along the contours of your cheekbones to give a “sunken-in” look. You can also apply a mixture of the black and brown creme to your lips for a decaying, crusty look.


Zombie hair: Sure, you could buy your own wig for $40, but it’s just as easy to do your own ‘do, Samantha says. You’ll need baby powder, hairspray, and a spray bottle with water.

It’s pretty easy to create wild zombie hair, no matter what length or texture. First, flip your head upside down and spray it all over with tap water.

Next, empty out a few shakes of baby powder, clap between your palms, and run your hands all through your hair until the white is as evenly or unevenly dispersed as you’d like.

Then, hairspray all over, until your hair is standing up all over your head.

Clean up: Once your night of spooktacular fun is over, use warm water and soap to gently scrub off the adhesive and makeup.

All images courtesy of Samantha Dubin.

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