Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Zombie Girlfriend and Finals

It's been quite a journey to get to this point.

For my final project, I wanted to do a full face prosthetic appliance. I've shown the steps of life casting my girlfriend's face, and now is the moment to show what I learned and gained from my first round of schooling in special effects make-up. This would be the ultimate test of how far I could push myself to deliver a quality look, unassisted, in three hours.

I wanted to create a Zombie, but I also wanted to put my own spin on it. Something horrifying, but not yet repulsive. Like scary magic. I decided to draw inspiration from Michael Jackson's THRILLER and the cult film classic EVIL DEAD 2. I wanted to marry the sunken lifelessness of Michael with the over exaggerated horror of a Deadite. Using this as a template I embarked on many sculptings of how to make this happen.

The perfect inspiration.

The perfect model; a clean face with no make-up or acne treatments present. Some acne treatments have been known to cause an adverse burning sensation when working in these special effects make-up scenarios.

I begin applying the latex face piece by first brushing a border of Pros-Aide on the inside edges of the appliance. Working from the middle of the nose and the forehead, I secured the piece. I secured further along the cheeks and temples.

I designed the piece to be two parts; a face piece and a chin cap. This would allow for full range of the mouth for snarls, eating/breathing, etc. This was important in keeping a very humanistic look to my creature design. Ideally I would have loved to have also crafted a set of fangs/jagged teeth, but time was against me with only having two weeks to execute this entire set of materials. You do know I've never done any of this before right?

When pouring my liquid latex to craft the appliance the weather was dipping below freezing. This added quit a bit of time to the cuing process. I initially did a dump pour to build my layers, but in hindsight, if I would have had the extra time I would have brushed on the latex in layers to insure more even flow to the piece, particularly the edges.
In the end the appliance is about 2x too thick, but I countered the stiff edges by using additional liquid latex to adhere torn strips of Kleenex to bridge the appliance to the skin.

I used this tissue method along the mouth and the eyelids as well. This helped blend the look of the upper face piece and the lower chin cap.

I then began the time consuming process of painting the entire latex appliance. Next time I would definitely cast in gelatin to cut down on the weight of the piece and the tedious process of painting. It would add a bit more flexibility as well when gluing it down.

This was a worthwhile lesson as I learned to take my time and work the colors.

I always have a difficult time matching skin tone with grease paints. They recommend a mix of three colors to balance it out, but I always find myself using 4-5. The trick is playing with light and shadow and using those colors to create that. It all comes from blending....


....shading & blending darker....

...and darker.

For the eyes, I went with a three toned purple. It lends a sense of disturbing feminity to it I think.

Here I added a bit of black to the nose cavity, lips and neckline. The neck is key as the eyes wander and takes in objects as a whole to perceive an image. Rewatch the original DAWN OF THE DEAD and almost all the zombie make-up you see stops at the chin line. That'll save time and materials, but you never want to do anything half-assed.

Here are a few make-up designs from some of my fellow classmates.

A whipped lacerated back was created by Erin Ausfeld. She also did the gory nail-gun accident depicted below.

 Jacqueline Olszewski - She crafted these fantastic boils by dropping liquid gelatin on tin foil and letting it cure. Amazing results!

Cindy Sanabria did up a piece of wax work that recalls the glory days of CANNIBAL FEROX.

Kevin English crafted a skinned hand, full of tendons and gore.

Here's a few snapshots of my finished results. To hide the seams along the hairline that I wasn't able to cover with Eva's natural hair, I thought quickly on my feet and pulled off my ski mask for her to wear. Instant fix.

From start to finish I used every second of our 3 hour class to achieve this look. I feel I really pushed myself and was able to significantly capture what I had planned in my mind's eye.

Clean up was a gentle peeling away of the latex, and a few baby wipes to take off the color.

I love the remnant piece left behind. It looks like it came straight from the set of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. I can now attach some elastic bands and have a half mask. I would probably deconstruct the jawline for better stability.

BEFORE -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------AFTER

I want to give a big thank you to Eva for being a trooper. I now know what tattoo artists refer to when they say their clients "sat like a champ". A big thank you to all my classmates that made learning fun. It honestly played like group therapy for horror junkies. And a big thank you to Carl Paulino, my instructor. I truly hope that they offer the ADVANCED SPECIAL EFFECTS MAKE-UP class so I can continue this new passion.

Stay tuned as I have several new projects on the horizon.


  1. Awesome stuff Zach. I love the nose cavity and the cheekbones. Very cool.

    Those whip lacerations were also cool. Looking at these pics, it must have felt like walking around hell in class.

  2. creepy, dude. creepy.
    now you have to kiss her like that