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How to make fake skin out of gelatin

For the aspiring zombie, one of the biggest challenges is getting your undead skin to look just right. Scars, wounds, wrinkles and sagging flaps of flesh are a nightmare to achieve with ordinary make-up. That's where gelatine can help. This humble jelly-and-custard ingredient has long been used in movies for monstrous make-up effects. Follow these tips and your zombie nightmare will be at an end, leaving you with gory, grisly and gruesomely realistic fake skin.

Preparation

Put 1 tbsp (15g) powdered gelatine into a bowl. Add 2 tbsp (30g) hot water from the kettle and stir briskly. The gelatine will quickly thicken into a clingy gel. Stir in 1 tsp (5g) plain flour and mix well to fully combine the ingredients. That's all you need for simple, ghoulish, dead-white skin.

Add a drop of red food colouring for a pinker flesh tone, or a few drops more if you're after bloody flesh. Try green food colouring for a gangrenous effect. If you want thick lumpy skin, break up a couple of cotton wall balls and add them to the mix. Stir the resulting witches' brew well, until it you have a thick sludge.

Let the mixture cool. When it is just lukewarm and comfortable to touch with your fingers, you can spread it over your skin in small amounts using a teaspoon. At this point, the mixture is still liquid and will stick to your skin easily. If instead you want to mould specific fleshy features, skip this step and go on to the next one.

Leave the mixture for a few minutes, until it starts to congeal into a jelly. Pop the blob of jelly onto a sheet of kitchen foil. Break up the blob with your fingers into little gobbets. Shape them into whatever forms you want: maybe flat and ragged flaps of skin, large round warts, or long worm-like scars. Work quickly to establish the shapes before the jelly sets completely.

Application

Rub a little hair gel over your skin, if you are working with moulded bits of fake flesh. Gently press your fake flesh into the hair gel. Hold the fake flesh in place for a few moments until it is fully fixed. Check the results in a mirror.

Build up your zombie look from individual elements of flesh -- a wart here, a scar there, a flap somewhere else. You'll find the gelatine is flexible enough to easily stretch over the contours of your face. Twist, wrinkle or pucker flaps of skin to create seams, lumps, lines or craters.

Use a cocktail stick to draw details into the gelatine. For example, you could add fine lines, pock-marks, or stitches for scars. Dip the tip of the cocktail stick into hot water first, if the gelatine resists the marks you wish to make. You can add extra colour effects using eye shadow.

Embed a few snippings of hair into the gelatine for extra authenticity. Simply touch the gelatine with the tip of a hot teaspoon for a moment, to melt your fake flesh a little, then sprinkle in the hair. You could use your own hair, or trim the bristles from an old brush.

Tip

Add almost anything from the kitchen cupboard to liquid gelatine and create weird skin textures and effects. Bits of jellied cereal make effective boils, while a little custard powder makes splendidly yellow and putrid pustules.

Peel off your fake flesh and wash your skin with soap and water when you're ready to take your place in the world of the living once more.

Warning

Always check the gelatine mixture is comfortably cool before applying it to your skin.

Gelatine is made by boiling the skin, bones and tendons of cattle carcasses, so it is not suitable for vegetarian or vegan zombies.

Things You'll Need

  • Powdered, unflavoured gelatine
  • Tablespoon
  • Bowl
  • Kettle
  • Teaspoon
  • Plain flour
  • Food colouring
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Kitchen foil
  • Hair gel
  • Mirror
  • Cocktail stick
  • Eye shadow
  • Human hair
  • Teaspoon
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About the Author

British writer Martin Malcolm specializes in children's nonfiction. His books include "A Giant in Ancient Egypt" and "Poetry By Numbers." His schoolkids' campaign for the Red Cross won the 2008 Charity Award. A qualified teacher, he has written for the BBC and MTV. He holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of London.