From latex to airbrush paints to prosthetics, special effects makeup products can get pricey. We recommend investing in professional products for your kit. But these hacks definitely work if you’re in a pinch or just want to experiment!

The great thing about some of these hacks is that they use common items you already have in your house! Always keep in mind which products should not be put near your mouth or eyes, and read labels before mixing products!

Keep reading if you want to know some cheap special effects makeup hacks!

Glue & Tissue

This one’s a classic. We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that most SFX artists tried this one in the early stages of their training.

The glue and tissue trick is a great way to build texture on a client’s skin. All you need is non-toxic white glue and toilet paper or facial tissues! Here’s how you might go about applying the products:

  1. Place a small amount of glue on the desired area (avoid places with hair, like the arms or eyebrows – that will make removal a painful experience!)
  2. Add a small piece of tissue on top of the glue, and then add more glue around the edges and on top of the paper.
  3. Build up layers of tissue and glue! Mold and shape them as you go to create raised edges and definition!
  4.  And TA-DA! Add some face paint or makeup to create blood, skin, or bruises and you’ve got yourself a wound!
fake blood special effects makeup

DIY Fake Blood

For gore looks, fake blood is a requirement! Is it even gore if your model isn’t dripping in fake blood?

You can DIY fake blood with simple ingredients in a few ways! Here’s how to do the first one:

  1. Grab some sifted flour or cornstarch along with food coloring and corn syrup.
  2. Combine one part water with three parts corn syrup. Slowly add a few drops of red food coloring (If you add a little of blue and green too you’ll end up with a much more realistic color).
  3. Add your flour or cornstarch (these will act as a thickening agent) until the “blood” is the right consistency!
  4. VOILA! Gory blood that you can even put in your mouth (though it might not taste great…)

For a tastier alternative, exclude the water and cornstarch/flour and mix strawberry jam with corn syrup and coloring!

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Wax Paper Stencils

You may have come across wax paper nail stencil tutorials… well this is pretty much that, but on your skin! All you need is wax paper, tape, and a sponge. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Cut out your desired pattern onto a sheet of wax paper (we recommend alien-esque scales!)
  2. Tape the paper/stencil onto your skin.
  3. Finally, use a sponge to apply skin-safe paints on top! Experiment with colors and blending to get some cool effects!

fishnet scales special effects makeup

Fishnet Scales

This hack is pretty common too. It’s another great way to create texture without buying fancy products! All you need is a pair of fishnet stockings and some skin-safe paint (or even just eye shadow!)

Here’s how you go about it:

  1. Stretch the fishnet over the desired area. We recommend the face, arms, or legs! FYI, you’re going to look real wacky with a fishnet over your face… so brace yourself!
  2. Take your paints or eye shadows and experiment with blending colors in different areas. It gives an incredible effect when you contour and highlight with bright colors over the fishnets.
  3. Carefully remove the fishnets so you won’t smudge your work. And you’re done!

Veins of Thread

This one is by far my favorite. It’s super easy and beginner-friendly but gives an incredible result! All you need is some yarn, which you’ll want to pull apart into thin threads. Plus, some adhesive (eyelash glue works great!) and white liquid glue. Here’s how you get some creepy veins:

  1. Spread a thin layer of eyelash glue or skin-safe adhesive on your desired area.
  2. Take some pulled-apart wool yarn (in red) and spread it in lines (like veins, duh!)
  3. Tap it on with your finger, and keep layering and overlapping different strands until you’re satisfied!
  4. Dab some white liquid glue on top to seal it in (careful not to mess up your pattern!)
  5. Finally, finish it off by using eyeshadow to create bruising and redness!

So now that you know all these budget-friendly makeup hacks, which one are you going to try? Let us know in the comments!

Learn the benefits of getting a special FX makeup certification with this article!