Using Liquid Latex to Create Realistic Wounds and Skin Effects

Ever wondered how to create those realistic scars, wounds and skin effects seen in the movies? You may think it’s beyond the average persons capability to create anything as convincing as Brad Pitt’s aged skin effects in ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button‘ or the gaping cuts and wounds so evident in ‘Zombieland‘. Not so. Liquid latex, the main constituent of any realistic skin effect, is relatively inexpensive and readily available, both on-line and at most craft stores. Be sure to read the label before buying liquid latex for skin application and avoid any brands that state ‘Not for cosmetic use’ or ‘Not suitable as body paint’.

Before You Start

Before using liquid latex on your skin you should always patch-test a small area of the skin before beginning your project. Dab a small amount on the back of your hand to check for any allergic reaction. If you experience any discomfort or a rash appears you most likely have a latex intolerance and should discontinue using it. Most people are not sensitive to latex and should be OK but a small percentage of people have reported adverse reactions so it’s always advisable to check first to be on the safe side.

The other thing to bear in mind at this stage is that liquid latex will bond to fabric and hair; and it does not come out. Once it comes into contact with your clothes or your carpet it stays there… forever. The only way to remove liquid latex from hair is to pull it out, which usually brings the hair off the skin with it. You should also ensure it does not come into contact with your eyes or mouth. Needless to say, children should be supervised at all times when liquid latex is around. So a little preparation is necessary but it’s well worth it as there’s lot’s of fun to be had with liquid latex.

When you first open the latex container you will notice a fairly strong smell. That’s the ammonia used to preserve liquid latex. Even though ammonia is added to liquid latex in minute doses (approx. 0.3%, depending on the brand) it’s advisable to have some ventilation in the area you’re working. For best results use a foam make -up sponge or foam brush to apply the latex. Whichever applicator you decide to go with it will need discarding after use. Soaking the applicator in soapy water prior to use will extend it’s usage but once liquid latex dries on the applicator not even turpentine will save it from ending up in the bin.

How to Make a Fake Wound

Dab a little liquid latex on the skin, remembering to keep it away from your eyes, hair and mouth; and wait a few minutes until dry. Then gently peel a little of the dried latex away from the skin. This will give the appearance of torn or blistered skin depending on how you manipulate it. The more coats you apply the deeper the appearance of the wound. Drying time for each coat is usually around five minutes or so and can be sped up using gentle heat from a hair-dryer. Each coat should be allowed to dry thoroughly before applying the next or the wound will take much longer to dry. Liquid latex is available in a wide range of colors but is mostly sold as ‘clear’ or ‘transparent’ therefore only minimal decoration is usually required to match the end result to individual skin tone. Red food coloring can also be added to give the wound a fresh or infected look.

How to Create Aged Skin effects

Place a small piece of tissue paper on a non-porous surface, such as greaseproof or tracing paper, and coat it evenly with liquid latex. After a minute or so place the tissue paper on the desired area of your skin. Using your chosen applicator, cover the tissue paper with more liquid latex and it will begin to adhere to the skin. As the latex dries it will begin to shrink, causing the skin to contract and form a wrinkled effect. When thoroughly dry, talc & make-up can be used to decorate the area until the desired effect is achieved.

How to Make a Fake Scar

To form the base of your scar take a 1/4″ strip of cotton wool and twist it into a long straw shape. Apply some latex to the skin where you want the scar to appear and place the cotton wool on top. Let it sit for a few minutes until it sticks to the skin. With your foam brush or applicator apply two or three even coats of liquid latex over the cotton wool (remembering to allow the latex to dry in between coats) until the desired result is achieved. You will notice the end result has a rubbery, skin-like texture and seems realistic to the touch. Make-up, foundation & eye-shadow pigment can then be applied to blend the scar to your individual skin-tone.

Liquid latex is easily removed from the skin by peeling away. As already explained, if liquid latex has been applied over hair it is likely to pull the hair off the skin which can cause some discomfort.

So there we have it. Now there’s nothing to stop you turning into a zombie or fooling your friends with your own realistic home made wounds.