Halloween is the time to transform yourself, whether you’re going to a party with friends or taking your kids trick-or-treating. And an essential part of a killer (not literally, Grim Reaper) Halloween costume is makeup. If you’re dressing up as a princess or nurse, you may be able to get away with the same makeup you’d wear for a normal night on the town, but if you’re planning to spend this Halloween as something ghoulish or dark, you’ll need to invest in something much more elaborate—and sustainable.
Unfortunately, typical Halloween makeup can be both expensive and complicated. Even if you’re a makeup artist with cinematic credentials, sweating on the dancefloor (in a celebratory boogie after winning best costume, of course) can end up eroding your hard work and blowing your photo opps. There go your chances of landing in the social media hall of fame!
Enter technology. Photo editing software like Photoshop can help you enhance existing makeup or create a completely different look. In fact, using Photoshop, you can do much more with your photos than you would ever be able to do with makeup alone. Once finished, you can get those images to Instagram, enter them in contests or show them off at your next gathering.
Sourcing tips from some of the most talented Photoshop YouTubers, we found a few simple things you can take to create the perfect Halloween shots.
Use face-melting layers
Layering is one of the most popular features in Photoshop, allowing designers to stack images on top of each other to create interesting effects. Using layering, YouTube member Photoshop Picture Editor superimposes a subject’s face onto a photo of a hooded skull. He then uses the pen tool to cut out the areas of her face to make it look as though she were wearing the hood.
Once the basic layers were in place, the YouTuber uses the paintbrush tool to turn her eyeballs red, going just outside the circumference to give the illusion of bleeding. He also paints blood along the lower rim of her eyelid. He pulled the lower layer out on the mouth and nose to create the illusion of skull makeup. For the cracked face effect, he creates another layer that looks like a cracked surface. He then fades it and blends it with her face.
Go zombie-tastic with textures
With textures, layering takes on a new dimension, giving you the option of adding lines, surfaces and other patterns on an existing image. This technique is especially useful when creating a zombie look. YouTuber FX-Rays uses Photoshop to improve upon a look that started with the liquid latex and blood textures available in any Halloween costume shop. Once the model has the basic bloody look, he pulls the best picture into Photoshop to enhance it.
Using a hard brush, he replaces part of the face with a cloned background to create the illusion of missing chunks of skin. He then adds a new layer, names it “blood” and begins painting flaps of bloody skin into the areas where he had removed part of the model’s face. In the “horror texture” package available on his website, FX-Ray offers a free downloadable group of images that can be used to create the creepiest of images. One is called “raw meat.” You can use his downloads or source your own photos, but once you have the image you like, add it as a layer. Move it just above the wound on the right cheek and paint back the top layer to give the impression of meat showing through the skin. Super gross and amazing.
FX-Ray repeats the same process on the chest wound, using the stock image of meat. You can use the color palette to change the tint of your skin as desired. He also paints shadows around the eyes and pulls the lips back over the teeth, using the meat image on the top lip to give it a more raw appearance.
Create an It-worthy creepy clown
It isn’t the only scary clown in town. Using Photoshop’s various paintbrush and pen tools, you can add color to any image, as YouTuber CarlosKalid did while creating an evil clown for his Halloween tutorial. He starts by covering the model’s face in black paint.
Once he has the base layer, he changes the layer to Color and the base makeup becomes a subtle gray. He then colors the model’s hair green, using the blending tool to make sure the green doesn’t bleed onto the model’s face.
Once the hairline and base makeup is in place, you can paint red makeup over the nose and black makeup around the eyes. Use the blending mode to reduce any uneven lines. Be creative here, drawing the patterns you want. Add a scary background to enhance the spookiness and you have magically transformed yourself into an evil clown.
Forge a fang-tastic face
If you plan to use Photoshop’s layers, you can spend time creating each layer separately, then combine them. For his vampire makeup job, PSD Box Official creates teeth in Photoshop, then adds them as a separate layer. He samples a color from the real tooth and then uses the pen tool to draw it in. Once he has one fang in place, he can match the second tooth’s length exactly.
Using the pen tool, create two points and expand until you have the shape of a tooth. Superimpose it over the original tooth, leaving enough room to blend the original tooth to the fang. Once you have the shape you need, use a soft brush to blend the tooth to the gum and tooth. You’ll use layer styles and gradient overlay to make the tooth more three dimensional.
Unzip the fright
Photoshop’s zipper feature has long been popular for horror-based images. It’s especially effective at Halloween, whether you use it alone or in combination with your existing costume. After using the technique above for adding blood and blackening the eyes, you can also add a spooky zipper to your headshot. Check out the finished product, below!
To achieve this look, source an image of a dark red leaf and a zipper. These textures are available for download for $1 on the YouTuber’s website. Layer the leaf in first, then add the zipper, centering it on the face. Contour it to the shape of the leaf image around the cheeks.
Halloween is a time to have fun—and get busy with Photoshop. Using the software’s many excellent features, you can design a unique look or simply enhance the makeup you’re already sporting. As you gain more experience in working with layers and blending, you’ll really begin to wow your friends with your creepy creativity!
Stephanie Faris is a freelance writer and novelist. Her children’s books include 30 Days of No Gossip, 25 Roses and the Piper Morgan series, all published by Simon & Schuster. Her freelance work has appeared on Creative Live, NYPost.com, Mental Floss and in Writer’s Digest.