If you’ve been reading through my trove of SFX Basics blogs, you probably saw this one coming. Latex is a typical product you’ll find in any special effect makeup artist’s toolbox, whether you’re a beginner or an expert. There’s a lot you can create with latex such as burns, wounds, and even full cosplays!
Liquid latex, in particular, is famous amongst cosplayers and has given imaginative minds the freedom to generate brand new character looks (i.e. my Attacked Debbie Thornberry look). It’s been used in theatre, film, and now cosplay for decades, so I hope this little bit of insight can help you in your latex makeup creations!
I’m putting this here first because the hazards of using latex are more serious than other types of SFX basic equipment.
Latex allergies are common, however, most people won’t know this until they’ve been exposed to the material. When using latex for special FX makeup, apply a small amount to your skin first to determine its effects. If your skin starts turning red, becomes itchy, or burns, remove it immediately.
Liquid latex is usually made of 33% latex, 66% water, and less than 1% ammonia. Some latex (i.e. the cheap stuff you see around Halloween) contains more ammonium, giving it a potent smell. This can cause itching or irritation (especially around the eyes) so try letting the latex air out before applying it to your face.
Credit (left to right): Mehron, Liquid Latex Fashions, The Monster Makers, Rubber Wear
From liquid latex to latex prosthetics, this white or translucent material presents a bevy of opportunities for fantastical looks. I’m going to dive into the four common latex materials just to give you an idea of what they’re all about.
Liquid prosthetics are seen a lot during the Halloween season. They’re usually on a shelf somewhere near the costumes at Wal-Mart or Target. They’re also available on Amazon, but I don’t recommend these products. They smell horrific, they don’t last long, and it can cause a slight burn. Mehron’s (est. 1927) liquid latex, however, comes in skin color so it’s easy to blend and just as simple to remove. There’s no smell and it tends to have a longer shelf life. This one is also Vegan and cruelty-free.
Latex prosthetics give novice FX artists the chance to procure mind-blowing and accurate looks without having to build up the latex themselves. These ready-made prosthetics can be used all over the body, but are primarily used on the face. They’re easy to apply and can be painted over for a more dramatic effect.
This is what prosthetics are generally made out of. Foam latex isn’t really considered SFX basics, but it’s a great tool to be familiar with. This is used heavily in film to create monster, alien, and full-body latex looks.
Yes, believe it or not, you can apply full latex to your entire body. This is a great alternative to water-activated paints because it doesn’t rub off on clothing and can last an entire convention day. I recommend the one linked here because it’s Ammonia-Free and comes in different colors.
Depending on which type of latex you’re using, there are different methods of application. However, removal is generally the same. To remove liquid latex or bodypaint, all you have to do is peel it off or use soap and water. For prosthetics or any other latex applied with something like Spirit Gum or Pros-Aide, you’ll need to remove the latex with Spirit Gum Remover or an oil-based adhesive remover.
Applying Liquid Latex or Bodypaint: Some people like to use brushes or sponges to apply their latex. However, because this material sticks to everything as it dries, I just use my fingers. The latex is usually built on with cotton balls or tissue paper for prominent scars or textures. Because of this, any time I’ve tried to use a sponge to apply the latex over the tissue, I find that the latex absorbs quickly into both the sponge and the tissue so you lose a lot of product. And it’s just a sticky mess.
Applying Prosthetics or Foam Latex: Prosthetics can be applied with adhesives such as Pros-Aide or Spirit Gum. Sometimes you’ll need to use 99% alcohol to rub away the edges of the prothetic to give is a cleaner blend into the rest of your face. Then all that’s left to do is add some color and maybe some gore!
Latex should definitely be in your cosplay toolkit, even if you’re not experienced with it. It can be used to apply elf ears, beards, and can help escalate your character’s persona to a whole new level.
Adding fake blood into your cosplay is an easy way to give your character a bit more, well, character. I don’t know why, but my SFX look for Captain Marvel has been one of my most popular posts on Instagram (and yes, the blood should be green/blue). I don’t know if it’s the fake blood or the classic Marvel superhero looking like she just beat a slew of Skrulls to get her Starbucks Cold Brew, but I’m ecstatic that so many people like it. The cosplay itself was only $30, I don’t have to wear a wig, and it combines my love for cosplay with my love for gorey makeup. Who knew the combo would work out so well?
But we’re not here to talk about that. No, today my friends, we are talking all about the different types of fake blood you can use for cosplay special effects (SFX) looks. I’m going to dive into products I’ve used, which ones that I think work the best, and at the end, I’ll even give you a DIY faux blood recipe!
Credit: Mehron and Ben Nye – Store bought, Squirt Blood, Stage Blood, Coagulated Blood, Scab Blood.
This time of year, we tend to see faux blood available on every supermarket shelf. Well, maybe only the shelves in the Halloween isles. These either come in kits or in separate containers, but essentially there’s no short supply of this product during the spooky season.
I’ve used various types of special effects blood products, including these cheap ones from Spirit Halloween. However, I do not recommend these! I’ll explain potential hazards a little further down, but for the time being here are a few different types of fake blood you can buy:
Store-Bought: Store bought blood is all fine and dandy if you only want to do SFX makeup around Halloween. It works almost as good as the stuff from Mehron or Ben Nye, but the shelf life is drastically shorter. I’ve also found that it’s harder to get off your skin, gets kind of crusty after a while, and smells really bad.
Scab Blood: Scab blood is honestly my go-to fake blood product. It really seals the deal in terms of realistically looking wounds. I also like to use it to create scratch marks on my neck and face. And the best thing about it is that a little goes a long way!
Squirt Blood: This is the blood you’ll need to create an all-over gorey look. Need splatter on your cosplay? Use squirt blood for an easy and natural-looking SFX. It’s water-based so it’s as easy to remove as it is to apply. It drips and dries quickly and effectively.
You can also you splatter blood which comes in an easy spray canister for a more spread out effect.
Theatre/Stage Blood: This is used primarily in active performances (so great for cosplay or videos!). It’s made of non-toxic ingredients so it’s safe to use in and around your mouth. It’s essentially its primary purpose. However, remember that this doesn’t dry, so use it sparingly.
P.S. It’s great for blood capsules for when men ask you to smile at the bar 😉
Coagulated Blood:This type isn’t meant to drip, but instead maintains a deep, glistening red consistency for your wound. It’s syrupy in texture and great for open wound effects
There’s really no limit to when you can use faux blood in your cosplay makeup. It can be a canon look based on a scene from a movie or it can be a completely fabricated scenario. For example, I did this SFX look using Stage Blood and Scab Blood to make it look like Debbie Thornberry got attacked by some sort of wild creature. I also used the same products to create a bullet wound look for Jenny Bravo (it was my 90s Horror Story Series).
My favorite, however, is using small amounts of scab blood and face paint to give superheroes the illusion that they just defeated the latest supervillain (i.e my Captain Marvel makeup). It’s quick, easy, and can be done in a matter of minutes.
Fake blood is relatively safe to use. Every single bottle will advise you to test the product on your skin first because you may have a negative reaction. They also warn that the blood is likely to stain your clothes.
Other than that, just be sure to read the bottle to see other hazards. Absolutely do not put this stuff near or around your eyes (there’s actually red eye blood for that), and keep in mind that most faux blood isn’t made for ingestion. Certain types like Ben Nye Stage Blood is safe to put in your mouth and even has a nice minty flavor.
DIY Fake Blood Recipe
I’ve tried a few fake blood recipes, and honestly, none of them are my favorite. I find the easiest method to use on your clothes is simply diluting/mixing red, black, and brown acrylic paint to get a deep, red, blood color. Obviously that doesn’t work on the face, which is why I just bought a supply of my own fake blood (my house isn’t creepy at all).
But if you’re on time or budget restrictions, here is a simple DIY fake blood recipe:
Red, Blue, and Green Food Coloring
All you have to do it mix in the three colors with the corn syrup and you have a tasty (and yes, edible) fake blood recipe! I could never get the color quite right, but my advice is to use the blue sparingly and throw in a tiny bit of green if it comes out too purple. Other DIY fake blood recipes include using chocolate syrup, honey, and agave nectar. So really, the options are endless.
Special effects makeup (usually referred to as FX or SFX makeup) is used throughout Hollywood to bring our favorite characters to life. It doesn’t matter if it’s Jason from Halloween or Iron Man from the Marvel– at some point, these actors have special effects makeup and prosthetics glued to their faces. Granted, a lot of CGI is now being used but hey… that’s the magic of film.
The product we are talking about today probably has been used in theatre since the for literally hundreds of years and remains a staple for easy adhesion. It’s not the strongest stuff out there, but it’s perfect for cosplayers who are new to SFX makeup and are looking for something that is easy to administer and can survive a day at comic-con.
If you want the Wikipedia definition, Spirit gum is an adhesive, made mostly of SD Alcohol 35-A (the solvent, or “spirit“) and resin (the adhesive, or “gum“).
In cosplay, Spirit Gum is used mostly to glue down wigs (it’s stronger than eyelash glue) or to apply facial hair or prosthetics. Thankfully, this stuff is easy to find and can be purchased year-round on Amazon. You’ll see it pop up a lot more in your local chain stores around the Halloween season as they’re typically included in those cheap makeup kits (Pro Tip: don’t use those… they suck).
How To Apply Spirit Gum
Applying this SFX product is relatively easy. It’s best used for lightweight items such as facial hair or for gluing down your wig. I actually used it to add on the frozen “crystals” to my Jackie Frost cosplay.
All you have to do is paint a layer onto the back of your prosthetic, wig, or facial hair. You’ll have to wait for it to be tacky before you place it on your face or body. You can test it out by dabbing your finger onto the area where you place the adhesive to check the consistency. If it’s still wet or slimy, it’s not ready to be applied.
For extra security, you can use this same technique on the part of your skin where you will be placing the prosthetic so that you will have a double layer of Spirit Gum to secure it. However, this technique isn’t really necessary for wigs or faux facial hair.
Spirit Gum is perfect for when you plan on wearing a prosthetic all day (i.e. at a convention). It works especially well with heavier prosthetics. I generally don’t glue down my wigs (because laziness), but I’d recommend this adhesive over eyelash glue or heavier adhesive like Pros-Aide. You can also use it to help hold down masks, gloves, or other loose accessories you may have in your cosplay.
Some characters that might require this SFX adhesive are:
Elves (Lord of the Rings, WoW, Skyrim): Use it to apply elf ears.
Poison Ivy: So you can attach leaves arbitrarily on your face and body
Gandalf/Captain Jack Sparrow/Aquaman: Pretty much any character that requires you to glue some faux hair to your face.
Nebula: To hold down the wig cap and her mechanical eye fixture…things
This product has been used in theatre as early as the 1870s. Crazy, right? Since it’s inception, professionals have been able to garner a formula that is pretty safe. The only real cause for concern when using this product is that it may cause some irritation on the skin. More so if you don’t remove your heavy prosthetics properly with Spirit Gum Remover.
Spirit Gum Remover
In case you couldn’t guess, Spirit Gum Remover is used to remove Spirit Gum. The remover smells vaguely of peppermint and can be used to remove a variety of SFX products, such as Rigid Collodion. I highly recommend having this in your SFX makeup supply kit, simply because it’s the safest and easiest way to remove a prosthetic after a long con day.
In order to remove your prosthetic, wig, or facial hair without hurting yourself, make sure to use Spirit Gum Remover.
Cosplayers are constantly on the hunt to fund this hobby. This is generally done by digital supply, whether you are offering cosplay commissions, prints, or eBooks. The two most popular eCommerce sites that cosplayers use are Storenvy and Etsy.
Each come with their own set of fees, and I wouldn’t really say that one is better than the other. I don’t have much personal experience with either, but because I needed a quick way to set up an online store, I decided to test them both out to see which one is more user-friendly and most cost-efficient for cosplayers.
So hopefully this insight will help in your battle for determining Storenvy vs. Etsy in this guide for cosplayers.
Storenvy is an online eCommerce store that is used to sell both physical and digital products. It comes with an onset store builder and even social media marketing tools for you to indulge in!
Setting It Up
Getting started on Storenvy is easy enough. You log in with an email and password and choose your plan. You’re automatically given the Hobbyist Plan because it’s 100% free. You can list up to 100 products, which seems plenty enough for cosplayers.
Basically, it’s the bare minimum, but as someone just selling digital eBooks, this worked great for me.
Plus – $15 – 2,000 products – Social Media Blasts – Custom Domain
Pro – $30- 5,000 Products – Discounts & Everything Else
You cannot have your own custom domain under the Hobbyist plan (i.e. cosplayandcoffee.com). However, you can choose a custom marketplace URL so it will look like this: http://cosplayandcoffee.storenvy.com/
The Store Front
It took me a minute to figure out the full layout of Storenvy’s dashboard because it seemed a bit all over the place. They do have the option for default settings as well as customized CSS and HTML if you are code-savvy.
I went for the default options and only added my logo, products, and social links. Storenvy automatically sets you up with FAQ options, a Contact page, an About Me section, and an easy-to-use system to add products, tags, and images to your store.
You need to set up PayPal and/or Stripe before you can officially launch your store. According to their website, this is how Storenvy fees work:
PayPal and Stripe take 2.9% plus $0.30 USD of the amount you receive.
Storenvy keeps a 15% commission on sales they drive for you through our marketplace. Sales that you drive to your custom store are free. I have yet to figure out how Storenvy dictates which sales they drive and which ones you do.
If you are doing physical products, you can determine shipping prices, taxes, and storefront fees. They say, “On your storefront orders, you can either allow your customers to pay the storefront handling fees (default) OR you can pay a 6% commission on your storefront orders, which will allow you to hide our fees in your price.”
You can get your profits paid out to you by Stripe or PayPal, both of which are online payment processors.
For PayPal, you must be registered under a business PayPal account that has the same name as your business. You will need the last 4 numbers of your social security number, and whether or not you are a Sole Proprietor (this is the default for most cosplayers unless you have a registered LLC).
Other Things You Should Know About Storenvy
You will automatically be given the Cooper theme for Storenvy. It’s easy enough to navigate, but customization is pretty limited. I only spent a few hours looking through the site, but I couldn’t even find a way to set up my own Menu. That was a little frustrating.
Most cosplayers automatically flock towards Etsy because it is described as an “e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies.”
However, there is a reason that many of cosplayers have been making the switch to Storenvy, and I’ve discovered the reason lies within the fees.
Setting It Up
The thing I liked initially on Etsy was that when opening your store, it asks you whether you sell your products full or part-time. I also appreciated the fact that Etsy helps you out with your images to produce the best quality. Not only do they give you photography advice, but they let you know that
“Listings look best with photos at least 2000 pixels wide.”
This kind of sucked for me because my eBook cover dimensions are different, which means I would have to readjust the images or just have an incomplete thumbnail image.
The Store Front
Setting up Etsy seems much more user-friendly. Everyone has the same default options and there is really no reason to add custom pages such as an “About” or a social links page because it’s all about the products and their images.
Unfortunately, that’s where my own Etsy journey had to end. You can only upload digital files that are under 20 MB and because Etsy charges a listing fee, you have to sell every item for a minimum of 0.20, which means I’m paying to list in order which may or may not sell.
Etsy charges $0.20 USD for every public product listed on your storefront. You are charged these whether or not you sell anything meaning, you might be out a couple of dollars if nothing sells on your website. Your listings expire every 4 months, which means you have to repay to list all your items three times a year.
According to their website, “you will be charged a transaction fee of 5% of the price you display for each listing plus the amount you charge for shipping and gift wrapping.”
You can also pay for shipping labels, which vary depending on carrier and location. The seller also pays currency conversion and payment processing fees.
What it all boils down to is that Etsy fees are extensive and complicated and should be researched in full before you decide to open your own store.
Getting Paid on Etsy
You can choose to use Etsy Payments for your shop in order to get your sales profits direct deposited into your bank account. You can also choose to get paid via mail, PayPal, or even in person.
To summarize, selling products on the internet can be as easy or as difficult as you make it. I apparently decided to be difficult, so I’m still trying to figure it out.
But here’s some food for thought based off of my experience and research concerning Storenvy vs. Etsy.
When Cosplayers Should Use Etsy
When you’re selling commissions or homemade items.
When you have limited stock. Selling hundreds of prints would result in a .20 fee for every single photo you sell on top of Etsy’s other fees.
When you are looking for an easy setup.
When Cosplayers Should Use Storenvy
When you are selling digital options.
When you are selling prints and other small items.
When you aren’t looking to pay anything upfront.
You want to gauge your analytics.
When Cosplayers Should Use Neither
When you want to earn morecommission off of your sales.
The best way is to set up your own eCommerce store. You can do this through your WordPress/Wix/Squarespace domain (my original plan), but you have to have pretty heavy HTML and especially SSL knowledge.
This is also essentially your only option if you’re trying to list free items. You can set it up through eCommerce or send them out via email signup forms.
Your last option, and by far the easiest and most convenient, is Shopify. This site allows you to sell products, write blogs, and use a custom domain name (i.e. cosplayandcoffee.com) all for the monthly price of $30.
The type of liquor you use is up for debate, but ultimately just choose something you can handle! Here is what I used:
1.5 oz. Triple Crown Butterscotch Whiskey
3 oz. Cream Soda
1-2 dollops Vanilla Ice Cream
You can do less whiskey because it’s pretty strong (for me anyway). I used a standard shot glass to measure. If you’re under the age of 21 (or I guess 18 if you’re in the UK), this is an alcoholic Butterbeer so… proceed with caution.
Step 2. Chill out
This will taste ten times better if you chill everything. Put the whiskey in the freezer for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Step 3. Concoct
I know you’re looking for something quick and simple, so let me just break down the perfect Butterbeer recipe steps for you.
First, Pour in the liquor.
Next, throw in the cream soda.
Finally, plop in the ice cream.
I used Halo Top Vanilla Bean ice cream because that’s just my personal preference and it makes me feel like I’m being healthy even though the cream soda kind of tarnishes that dream.
Step 4. Let the magic begin
The Butterbeer recipe at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is way too sweet for my tastes. That’s why I decided to use a butterscotch whiskey in lieu on a butterscotch liquor because it wouldn’t have sat well with my taste buds. Also, the one at the WWoHP is not an alcoholic Butterbeer.
Fun fact: J.K. Rowling placed specific rules stating that no one is allowed to pour their whiskey shot into the Butterbeer at the park. I tried to do this once at the park and they wouldn’t serve me the Butterbeer until I had taken my shot.
However, my cousin did manage to do it once, so I guess it depends on which bartender you have? Or you know… just make your own at home!
Anyway, if you don’t want that extra bite to your adult Butterbeer, you can swap the whiskey for something like Mr Stacks Butterscotch Schnapps or Dekuyper Buttershots Schnapps liqueur for about $11 USD.
And that’s it!
There’s been some debate on whether or not Butterbeer in the books ever actually had alcohol in it. So let me just debunk that question right here, right now.
Please remember to always drink responsibly. One or two of these babies will probably set you over the limit. But it’s the perfect Harry Potter cocktail to have after a day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or a convention after-party.
Or, if you’re like me, you can enjoy my DIY Butterbeer recipe so that you can do the Drunk Pottermore Sorting Hat Challenge and find out which house you really belong in.
MegaCon Orlando pulled off an unprecedented treat when they announced that the entire main cast of Back to the Future would be reuniting at the convention. Along with a Q&A session, convention attendees had the opportunity to meet the Hollywood elite through photo ops and autograph sessions. I myself took the bait and lined up with everyone else (Marty McFly garb and all) to meet the infamous Michael J. Fox.
I had tried to set up a few Back to the Future interviews with the cast (including Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Lea Thompson) since I was attending MegaCon as Press, but to no avail.
That is, until the 11th hour when I finally had the chance to interview Lea Thompson herself.
Lea Thompson and her sister were absolutely incredible and accommodating. I was admittedly nervous, not wanting to ask questions that she had heard over and over again, but with only ten minutes to spare…well, I did my best.
I also attended Ms. Thompson’s Q&A with Back to the Future co-star, James Tolkan, on Saturday afternoon and asked her a simple, yet daunting, question. This was before I knew I would have the opportunity to speak with her for a one-on-one interview. So you’ll see that at the end! Here is my full Back to the Future interview transcript with the lovely Lea Thompson, a.k.a Loraine McFly.
C&C: So, I had a couple questions about…which, hopefully, you haven’t heard too often before because I know you get asked the same questions… What was the first day on set of Back to the Future like?
LT: Wow… I don’t remember!
C&C: No? Were you intimidated?
LT: I’m so sorry, it was only like thirty-five years ago. Sure, it was intimidating. I mean, it was super exciting, it was a great script, and you know, it was super exciting to be part of a Spielberg movie. I’m no dummy.
C&C: Of course!
C&C: And do you remember the last day on set? Like if it was emotional knowing you weren’t all going to be together again working on everything?
LT: Yeah… but then we did the sequel so we spent another year working together. But we didn’t think there was going to be a sequel.
C&C: In terms of conventions and everyone being here, have you seen any Lorraine cosplays?
LT: Yeeeeees! A beautiful one. Beautiful dress — exactly like mine — she had a wig and everything. I’ve seen a few, but that was the best one I’ve seen.
C&C: I have been wanting to do the dress, the prom dress one, for years but I’m not great with sewing so it hasn’t happened yet.
LT: Yeah, the actual real dress is very uncomfortable.
C&C: Oh really? I was wondering if it would be because it looked like it was corseted and I hate corsets, they’re horrible.
C&C: So, what are you working on right now? What can we see you in next?
LT: I am actually directing an episode of Star Girl which is a new show for DC streaming. So it’s really exciting, it’s my first kinda superhero show that I’m directing. But yeah, people are giving me directing jobs and not acting jobs.
C&C: Is that a good thing?
LT: Uh, you know what, I like to work so… it works. It’s good to direct.
C&C: So on Back to the Future, we see a bunch of behind-the-scenes things and it looks like a ton of fun making films, like, it seems like the best job in the world. So is it more work than play, or like, an even balance of both?
LT: No, it’s a lot more work than play. You know, we take it very seriously. There’s a lot of money on the line and yeah… It’s actually quite a long day. So like twelve-thirteen hours and when we were doing all the age makeup it ended up seventeen hours a day so…
C&C: Seven days a week?
LT: No, only five days a week…
C&C: Still long!
LT: But they used to be able to do six days a week, but no, the unions came in and said no. It’s very long hours.
C&C: Well, I’ll let you get back to your convention.
LT: You look fantastic! Thank you, Tiffani.
C&C: Thank you! No problem.
LT: Thank you, guys! Come to the comic-cons! Support your local cosplayers! Woo-hoo!
C&C: Thanks, guys and I’ll see ya next time.
And a bonus question I got to ask her on Friday at her MegaCon Q&A panel with James Stewart Tolkan:
C&C: I feel like this happens a lot with movies, especially recently, and they get made into sequels. What would your thoughts be if they were to remake Back to the Future?
LT: We get asked this question a lot and Bob Zemeckis still owns the rights, they didn’t make a sequel deal or anything, so we got all the rights. and they said repeatedly ‘over their dead body.’
But! They just announced today that they’re making a musical. So I’m preparing,
(Thompson singing) Oh my God, he’s a dream, oh my God, he’s a dream! Oh my God, he’s a dreeeeeeam!