In my short career as a set costumer, I’ve had the opportunity to work on three horror films. Each time, I worked with amazing SFX (that’s short for “special effects”) makeup artists, who have taught me the art of making someone or thing bloody. In honor of Halloween, I’ll be sharing some of these tips with you to make a horror-film worthy bloody t-shirt, a classic foundation for any scary costume. For my purposes, I will be demonstrating on an old t-shirt, but these steps can be done on any article of clothing. This is a great opportunity to give an old stained or ripped t-shirt a new life, so try digging in the bottom of your drawers for the perfect costume items first.
Note: Every time I mention blood in the steps below, I’m talking fake blood, so please take necessary safety precautions with that box cutter.
An old t-shirt (a light-colored shirt contrasts well with the “blood”)
Fake blood (try a Halloween specialty store, costume makeup store, or make your own)
Box cutter or seam ripper
Syringe, eye dropper, or thin paintbrush
Dirt, grease, or oil (brown paint also works)
Small spray bottle (optional)
Start with something you don’t want any more – a stained shirt, for example – or find something at a thrift store. Put a piece of cardboard between the shirt layers and lay on a flat surface. Using a box cutter, cut gashes, sparingly, in a diagonal direction. You can also rip up the hem and sleeves. Then, flip the shirt over and repeat gashes on the back.
Using grease, oil, paint, or dirt, smudge around the neckline, hemline, and across the body and back. Doing this step first will prevent smudging of your beautiful blood drips in the next steps. I used a “dirt bag,” industry jargon for a rag with mineral oil and movie “dirt” (a brand called Schmere) mixed together. Mineral oil helps the dirt not look dusty and also lasts longer than dusty-style dirt.
Next, paint or syringe the immediate area around the gash starting with a small amount of blood. Real blood tends to soak into fabric in a crisp line, so resist the urge to spread it with your fingers. To make it realistic (and we’re getting real here), blood is all about directional flow, so when you are ready for more “blood,” stand the t-shirt up or hang it on a hanger. Caution: it will drip, so do this step outside or cover your floor! Add to the amount of blood around the gash. Make drips stemming from the gash. Put a longer, thicker drip at the lower corner. Repeat these steps for all gashes. When you are satisfied or sufficiently disgusted with the amount of blood on the front, let it dry and repeat on the back.
Using a small spray bottle filled with watered down blood (just enough water so it can get through the pump), spray across the body. As seen on the finished shirt, I created arterial spray by holding down the pump and moving in a diagonal fashion across the t-shirt in different directions. I wanted it to be a little bit over-the-top for Halloween, so I sprayed more blood overall.
And for that extra little touch of reality, add blood on your body underneath the gash sites. If you want to go all out, scab gel blood is available and makes realistic gash wounds.
Please feel free to share a photo of your bloody look with me through Twitter @lisammagee #ThisIWear!