The Beginner’s Guide To Special Effects Makeup

Happy Tuesday, friends and fam! I hope you have been loveloveloving my makeup tutorials (click here to see all my Halloween tutorials) and have been following along with my 100 days of makeup (click here to catch up on that if ya missed it). Today is a highly requested post this time of year: The Beginner’s Guide To Special Effects Makeup. I am going to break down my favorite affordable brands and what makeup you should have in your Halloween arsenal (as well as what brands + products aren’t worth the $$$). Let’s dive into it!

The Beginner’s Guide To Special Effects Makeup

The Beginner's Guide To Special Effects Makeup

Special effects makeup is being sold in convenient stores everywhere right about now. Tubes of white paint and fake blood are lining the shelves of Walmart and Target and it LITERALLY makes me cringe. Sure — it make work if you’re 9 years old and attending your classroom Halloween party, but for those of you who really want to WOW your party guests this year, there’s a better way (and it includes two-day shipping and doesn’t break the bank). 

Everything I’m including on this guide can be purchased on Amazon – so you don’t have to have a Halloween store near you to get the good stuff. Plus you can buy your costume makeup in your pjs, and nobody will judge you for putting a few extra goodies in your cart.

The Beginner's Guide To Special Effects Makeup

Different Types of Base Paint

This is important. You need to know what kind of look you are wanting to do, so you can determine what kind of paint will be best suited for your needs. 

Detail base: If you are wanting to do detail work on your face + body (like Day of the Dead or something equally as detailed), you are going to want a water-based paint. This paint will dry down completely, allowing you to paint fine lines in different colors without blending into the white or black base below. It dries quickly, so you have to apply it quickly, but it doesn’t budge once it’s dry and can be set with powder to last all night (just make sure you aren’t sweating TOO much). 


Blended base: If you are doing something that requires blending (like a zombie or colorful skull, etc), I’d opt for an oil-based paint. This remains tacky (it doesn’t dry down – so be careful touching it through out the evening), but doesn’t sweat off and is extremely pigmented and vibrant. You don’t need to worry about fast application, either, so if you are newer to Halloween or special effects makeup, it’s much easier to use because you don’t have to worry about being speedy. 


The Beginner's Guide To Special Effects Makeup

Liner + Lashes + Lips:

Eyeliner: Often times, a really good liquid liner works just as well as anything else when it comes to detail work. I prefer to use a liquid liner with a brush, and something that dries matte black. It looks better on the face and doesn’t smudge. You are better off buying a cheap drugstore liquid liner than purchasing anything that is labeled specifically for Halloween. Wet ‘n’ Wild has awesome options. You can get many different colors to paint on your face for the details you need. They do take a bit to dry so try not to touch them during that process, but they’re waterproof and vibrant!

Lashes: Lashes are an important part of most costumes — they play up your eyes and can add interesting detail to any look. However — lashes can be INCREDIBLY expensive and most people are just wanting something to add detail to their costume. I do not recommend buying costume lashes from drugstores because they are typically made of plastic and other eye irritants and it isn’t worth the risk to your eyes. Try these options below instead (and save your eyes the trouble):


Lipstick: If you want bold lipsticks without the price tag, look for lip kits! They often have several colors with require a lip brush to apply. You can even put the colors into a little pot for touchups so you can bring your custom color on the go. I love mine from Anastasia Beverly Hills, but you don’t need to worry about the price tag for one Halloween costume. Try these other ones below (they’re great and a quarter of the price). If you are looking for something similar (say – a solid red or a really good black), I’ve included some of those below as well.  


The Beginner's Guide To Special Effects Makeup


Brushes: I’m going to be honest with you here. You could spend a fortune on legit special effects makeup brushes (and for some of them — that is probably the case. But not for where you’re at right now so don’t worry).  Here’s the secret though: 90% of my brushes for special effects makeup are from the craft aisle at Walmart. Literally children’s paintbrushes. They work PERFECTLY. And a set of 6 is $3.97. #winning


Sponges: I prefer my beauty blender for most things, but you can get a really cheap set of 6 (knock-offs) for very cheap. I order them for when I do makeup artistry on clients so I don’t have to use multiple sponges on different people’s faces. They work well, and are just a little bit of a different consistently than the original beauty blender. I would compare it to the real techniques sponge! Regardless — they get the job done. And you can use them for your regular makeup when you are all done!


The Beginner's Guide To Special Effects Makeup

Special Effects Stuff:

Fake blood: Fake blood doesn’t have to be pricey (it’s actually SUPER easy to make yourself, honestly) but choose the right blood that looks real and doesn’t cost a fortune isn’t as easy. I opt for Mehron, because I know the quality and since it will probably be going in and around my mouth, I trust their ingredients and feel comfortable doing that. If you have kids, it’s important to be careful what kind of fake blood you are using. Some of it stains teeth and gums, tastes terrible and some are just bad for your body. Here are my cheap favs below:


Latex: Latex is a tricky one. You need to be 100% positive your child is not allergic to it before putting it all over their face. Latex allergies are hard to diagnose, and most people forget that it’s even an allergy. I know all this because I have a severe latex allergy and it can be really dangerous for me to touch it. When working with clients, I’m always careful to use gloves or barrier spray so I don’t come into direct contact with it. In terms of which latex is the best (and the cheapest), I like to buy Ben Nye or Mehron. They’re 100% pure latex, no weird added ingredients like some other cheap brands, and they’re affordable. Keep in mind, even though it’s awesome, Mehron latex smells bad. Like rotting fish until it dries. So. Use at your own risk.


Stipple Sponge: These are important if you are trying to do a fake beard, blood splatter or burlap texture. They’re pretty cheap anyways, and they’re great to have on hand for lots of different looks. 


The Beginner's Guide To Special Effects Makeup


The Beginner's Guide To Special Effects Makeup

Not everyone has to be a special effects makeup artist to look amazing on Halloween — and you don’t have to have a professional makeup kit to get the job done. Feeling ready to take on the best holiday of the year? ME TOO. 

Let me know what you though of this post in the comments below + don’t forget to recommend a makeup look for me to film!

About The Author

Taylor Mobley


  1. Rachel @ The Confused Millennial | 3rd Oct 17

    ahh this is so helpful! I still would rather you just fly to FL and do my halloween makeup though? haha!

  2. Kristen | 3rd Oct 17

    These are great tips for beginners! I am so bad with makeup that I would probably mess it up if I tried haha 🙂

  3. Jessy | 3rd Oct 17

    Such great info here! I’ve never dabbed into special effects makeup but it’s always so cool to see all of the creative makeup looks that people do this time of year!

    xo, Jessy |

    • Taylor Mobley | 5th Oct 17

      Isn’t it?! I am constantly inspired by other artists.

  4. Christie Brown | 3rd Oct 17

    I admire those who create amazing SFX make-up looks so much, but I’d never even thought to give it a try myself. It looks like it would be so much fun! Thanks for the tips, girl. I’m keen to try my hand at some cool special effects Halloween make-up. 🙂

    Christie’s Take on Life. xx

    • Taylor Mobley | 5th Oct 17

      You’re so welcome! People are more excited to do the looks if they don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars, you know?!

  5. Cameron - Diary of a Southern Millennial | 3rd Oct 17

    Love this guide! I’m planning to dress up as Maleficent this year, and while I won’t need fake blood or anything, I will definitely need some lashes and bright colors!

  6. Ashley @ GrowingSpangs | 3rd Oct 17

    I love this guide…I’m one of those who have done the same makeup since high school (almost 15 years ago…), and feel totally helpless every Halloween. Your guide dispels some of the confusion between what things are used for! Admittedly, I rarely have hope that I’ll learn anything from a makeup blog, but I have to say, this is actually helpful, thanks!

    • Taylor Mobley | 5th Oct 17

      I’m really glad that you enjoyed the post and found something useful 🙂 Hope you stick around!!

  7. Essay Champ | 3rd Oct 17

    Taylor i love your blogs and everytime i see you i get totally shocked that you are married. You look like a cute teenager dear. If you don’t mind please do write an article related to eye makeups of different cultures.
    Thanks dear.

  8. Gayle | EverSimple Mom | 4th Oct 17

    These are great tips. I am guilty of trying those cheap make up kits from the store and they never work! I would never have known there was a difference in base makeup or to use eyeliner instead.

    • Taylor Mobley | 5th Oct 17

      Right? It’s little stuff like that that make all the difference!

  9. Kelsie | 4th Oct 17

    Ohh I love this post!! I’m such a novice when it comes to makeup of any kind, especially special effects. I’m often really cheap and it comes back to bite me in the end!

    • Taylor Mobley | 5th Oct 17

      It usually does – but this stuff is cheap AND good quality!! 😀

  10. courtney | 4th Oct 17

    Girl, I honestly admire you so much. You are so creative and you have such stunning ideas that you are not afraid to jump in and create. I LOVE makeup and playing with it but SFX stuff has always intimidated me. You are killing these halloween looks!

    • Taylor Mobley | 5th Oct 17

      Thank you so much Courtney! That really means a lot. Makeup is art and I am LOVING developing that skill more this year!

  11. Bethany Simmons | 5th Oct 17

    This special effects makeup is something that you have to be very careful about. I really like the idea, but is it applicable to every face structure. I really doubt it is! If that is truly the fact, I really like to try it on mine.

    • Taylor Mobley | 5th Oct 17

      I’m not sure what you mean, Bethany! Every look can definitely be tailored to each facial structure. It isn’t really about the structure of your face when it’s special effects.

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