DIY: How to Turn Any Halloween Costume into a Zombie Costume

by |October 6, 2018

DIY: How to Turn Any Halloween Costume into a Zombie Costume

How do you take any Halloween costume or clothing and turn it into a scary zombie costume? If this particular thought has crossed your mind, you're in luck, because we're going to show you how! Zombies have been a part of pop culture for quite some time, and as a result there are a number of zombie events such as zombie runs, zombie pub crawls and even zombie-themed parties. Whatever the reason, it's much more fun to create your own unique zombie costume! Anyone can simply buy a zombie costume, but if you want to stand out from the crowd of undead walkers, follow this zombie costume tutorial to see how to distress a costume and do some gory zombie makeup.


See How We "Zombified" a Costume!

You're going to look drop-dead gore-geous!


We took a Halloween costume and dirtied it up, distressed and tore it, and made it look like a bloody mess. (Zombies never have been known for their cleanliness, but they're a lot of fun!) If you need any clarification on individual steps for making zombie clothing from the video, check out our zombie Q&A below.


DIY Zombie Costume Tutorial Video Transcription

Today we're going to show you how to take any costume and make it into a gory zombie. We're going to make the costume look worn and weathered before we do the fun stuff. We sprayed it down with some coffee to make it a little dingy. We also used brown spray paint from a distance to give the dirt some depth. We also used some grazzy green spray paint to make it look like our zombie had some mold or grass stains.

Once you have achieved your desired amount of filth, start cutting! We picked up a dress costume because, frankly, loose-hanging fabric is a lot of fun to play with when you're distressing a costume for a zombie look. The more raggedy bits, the better! We chopped off the hem and added some rips. If your fabric doesn't rip by hand easily, you may need to start a rip with the scissors first. Or, you might want to do the rips entirely with your scissors. Use sandpaper to make the ripped fabric look weathered, and it will give the edges some nicely-frayed ends.

Make sure to go all the way around, and remember to distress the sides as well. Your project may be lying flat on its front or back, but when you're wearing your zombie costume, you don't want the fact that you missed the sides of your costume to stand out.

We cut a hole directly into the side of our zombie costume because we wanted to make it look like she had a large, nasty gash in her side. We also decided to cut off most of one of the sleeves as well.

Once your zombie costume reaches a satisfactory level of ripped and worn, we get to make it look bloody. We used a spray bottle and a small squirt bottle to spray fake blood liquid all over the costume. Because we had a large, gaping hole in the side of the costume where our zombie is going to have a big gash, we made sure to get the edges of that hole nice and bloody as well, and added some drips down from the hole. Once it was thoroughly bloodied, we hung up the costume to dry. As you can already see, the liquid bloodproduct is soaking into the fabric and drying to a lighter color, which is fine. We're going to add some more blood on top with another technique later.

After all of the previous blood has dried, we mized some acrylic paints in a squirt bottle and watered it down a little with some of the leftover fake blood. We use a combination of red, brown and black paint because we wanted the dried blood to look a little rustier and darker, which is somewhat more realistic than a bright, true red. Know that, when the acrylic paint dries, it will dry slightly darker than the wet paint. Feel free to use your fingers to smear some of the paint around to fill in any of the odd-looking gaps, or if you want some smeared finger prints or hand prints. Maybe your zombie was grabbed by someone with bloody hands. Keep in mind that your zombie has a story and stick with it!

As our squirt bottle ran dry, we squeezed it to make some areas with a finer mist of blood before refilling it. Make sure to layer this new blood technique over the rest of your costume accessories, and hang them all up to dry. Once all the blood on your zombie costume pieces have dried, you'll be able to put your costume on and do some nice, gory zombie makeup.


How Do I Make a Zombie Costume Look Dirty?

How Do I Make a Zombie Costume Look Dirty?

Let's face it: zombies are clumsy. They walk into things, they fall over and they get stuck in odd places. They also don't bathe, wash their clothes or take cover from the weather. After a while, their clothing is going to be dirty, grass-stained and possibly moldy. In order to make the zombie costume sufficiently dirty-looking, fill a spray bottle with coffee and spray it all over the costume and any accessories. Make sure to do it in a way that it's fairly blotchy and uneven with some areas more dirty-looking than others. (Zombies never do anything perfectly, after all, including the soiled nature of their clothing.) You can also use some brown, dirt-colored spray paint to make even darker, dirtier areas of color. Spray from random distances, but don't spray too close that you make any suspicious-looking spray stains. You can also spray with a grassy green color in random patches to make it look like your zombie has some grass stains and moldy spots. Once your zombie costume has been dirtied to your satisfaction, you will want to give it some time to dry before distressing it.


How Do I Make a Zombie Costume Look Ripped and Torn?

How Do I Make a Zombie Costume Look Ripped and Torn?

Now comes the fun part! (As if making it look dirty wasn't fun enough already.) Take a good look at your costume and decide where you want to make big rips or cut something off completely. Keep in mind that your zombie costume is going to tell a a story, and you're going to want to remember it throughout the rest of the process. For example, if a zombie hunter cut or shot you (in zombie form, of course), you'll want to put holes into those parts of your costume. When the time comes to add blood and later makeup, continue to add to those places on the costume. A good place to start for other distressed areas will be the hems of your costume, whether it's the bottom of a shirt, dress or pants. Once you have your main cuts in place, make other smaller holes and rips nearby. Finish off all of your freshly cut edges with some sandpaper so they look distressed.


How Do I Make a Costume Look Bloody?

How Do I Make a Costume Look Bloody?

To give the blood on our costume more depth, we actually did a two-part blood technique. Our zombie has been out in the elements for a while so some of the blood has washed into her clothing. Zombies seem to have a problem with clotting, so we chose to have the large wounds on her neck and side still dripping. (Perhaps she even ran afoul of a zombie hunter and got some fresh wounds!) In either case, we started off with a base of some red spray paint and fake blood in a spray bottle and a small squeeze bottle. If you have any accessories that layer over the main articles of clothing, take care to keep major blood spots consistent. We put a large patch of dripping blood down the front of the apron as if it had run down her dress and apron while it was being worn. Allow this first layer of blood to dry. Afterwards, mix red, brown and a little black acrylic paint together in a squeeze bottle. We used some of the extra fake blood to water it down, but you can use a little water instead if you wish. Go back over the costume and add the "newer" blood spots on top, making extra sure to put blood around rips for fresh wounds. Once your garment is as bloody as you desire, allow it to hang dry once again.


What Do I Need for a DIY Zombie Costume?

What Do I Need for a DIY Zombie Costume?

Be ready to make a mess!

You're going to need a few supplies before you tackle your DIY zombie costume project. Many of these items you might even have at home, especially if you're crafty. Make sure you have sufficient time before the event to allow your costume to dry properly! Two or three days should suffice.

  • costume (that's kind of important)
  • scissors
  • cardboard or a shirt board
  • plastic drop cloth for the floor (or more cardboard)
  • fake blood
  • spray bottle
  • small squirt bottle or sauce bottle
  • coffee (dark brew or double-brewed so the color is stronger)
  • spray paint
    • dirt brown
    • grass green
    • blood red
  • sandpaper
  • paint clothes or an apron (optional, as you can see we didn't use these)
  • acrylic paint
    • red
    • brown
    • black
  • somewhere to let it hang-dry
  • creativity!


Learn How to Do SFX Makeup!

No guts, no gore-y.


Because our zombie is wearing a vintage car hop costume, we went for a mixed glam and gore makeup look. While we didn't make all of her skin green, we did put a little green and purple into some heavy eyeshadow and eye makeup to give her eyes a sunken, undead appearance. We also put some faded veining around her eyes like she was a zombie starving for her next serving of brains! You can use these techniques elsewhere on your zombie clothes, too. Remember that gravity will have an affect on your bloodiest areas as well: with so much blood dripping down her front, we also added a few spots of blood onto her legs and shins as if it had dripped off her clothing. (If you're willing to go that extra mile, you can even add some blood spots on your shoes!)


SFX Zombie Makeup Tutorial Video Transcript

Creating flesh wounds is really easy using just toilet paper, liquid latex and some inexpensive Halloween makeup. I start by spongeing a thin layer of liquid latex onto the area that I want to create a wound. For this DIY zombie look, we wanted it to appear as though our model had a big old bite taken right out of her side, so we started there.

Once I've applied the first thin layer of liquid latex, I lay a piece of toilet paper over top of it and press it into the liquid latex. The liquid latex acts like an adhesive for the toilet paper to stick to. Once I've got the toilet paper pressed in place, I sponge a layer of liquid latex over top of it, which will allow me to apply makeup to it like it was skin.

While our model's side was drying, I went ahead and eyeballed the size and shape of toilet paper pieces I would use to treat a torn sheet later in the tutorial. Once it had dried completely, I brushed over it with a translucent setting powder to remove any tackiness. That's your basic starting point for creating any simple DIY flesh wounds: liquid latex, toilet paper, liquid latex, air dry and powder to set.

Depending on how gory you want to go, you can add as many or as few wounds as you like. For the rest of this look, I gave our model a neck wound, and a torn-open mouth. I simple repeated the same steps I used in starting out the model's side wound: liquid latex, toilet paper, liquid latex, air dry and powder to set.

After getting all the toilet paper skin set in place, it's time to start the fun stuff: actually creating the wound. al you need to do here is tear open the toilet paper skin. I do this by carefully starting with a set of tweezers. And, once I've got a bit of the fake skin pulled up, I just tear it open in the direction I want the wound to appear open. It's really that simple!

After creating the wound, I apply foundation over the toilet paper skin to blend it into our model's real skin, and I apply a translucent powder to set it. Next, I use a stipple sponge and various shades of gray, purple, green and yellow to give the skin around the wound an infected appearance. Then, I paint the interior portion of the wound with a deep red color. I also paint a couple ribs into our model's open side wound, but those mostly get covered up with blood later.

To add to the overall infected look, i use a fine-tipped brush and some blue and green cream makeup to create a veined effect on our model's skin.

The final step is evryone's favorite: fake blood! Here, I use a combination of stage blood and blood gel. Each has a purpose, and they work great together. I start by using my stipple sponge to apply the bright red stage blood all around and inside the model's flesh wounds. Next, I use a paintbrush and a thicker, deep red blood gel to add dimension to the open wounds and torn skin.

Final touches on the look were all about the blood! I gave our model dirty, bloody fingertips because zombies are opposed to using silverware, and they definitely don't wash their hands. I added some blood drips on her arms and legs, and my personal favorite touch. I painted my hand with blood gel and then I grabbed the model's arm and dragged my hand downward. There's nothing like a bloody handprint to finish a look.

So, it's really that simple. Just grab some liquid latex and a roll of toilet paper, and you're well on your way to being the best-dressed at this year's Halloween party!

To create this look we used liquid latex and toilet paper, various shades of cream-based and water-activated makeup, assorted makeup brushes and sponges, translucent setting powder, gel blood and stage blood.


What Makeup Should I Use as a Zombie?

What Makeup Should I Use as a Zombie?

Light Skin Tone Makeup WheelMehron Makeup Sponge 6-PackDark Skin Tone Makeup Wheel
Pint of BloodGraftobian Blood GelLiquid Latex Pint Bottle

First, you will want to determine what type of zombie you are portraying. Are you a pin-up zombie? Are you looking to be really gory? Were you looking to be more of the traditional green-skinned zombie variety? Many times, the costume will help you decide what type of zombie you are. We used this women's vintage car hop costume, so we decided to mix vintage pin-up glam and gore makeup. As a reminder, before doing your own zombie makeup, make sure that you or the person you are applying makeup to aren't allergic to latex or any of your special effects makeup products. To test the makeup items, apply a small portion to the back of the wrist of your zombie-to-be and wait for a few minutes to make sure there isn't any itching, burning or rashes. Once it has been determined that the products will not irritate your zombie, you may proceed with the makeup!


Check Out the Final Look!

Check Out the Final Look!

You're next!

Zombie Final Look

Who ordered the severed hand?

Zombie DIY

Rule #1: Cardio

We hope that you found this DIY zombie costume and makeup guide informative! Have you ever made a zombie costume before? Have you wondered how to do your own zombie makeup? We would like to see the results of your undead endeavors! Feel free to share your DIY zombie costumes with us in the comments. Get ready to scare up some fun!

Angela Poch
Angela Poch

Angela Poch is an Inbound Marketing Specialist and Resident Crazy Cat Lady at, where she is an assistant editor and covers tutorials, crafting and pop culture. Angela has created costumes and props for Halloween events, conventions and Renaissance festivals.

Some of her favorite costumes include 90s Rogue, a custom Jedi, warrior elf, and some nameless Renaissance pirate. (She’s still figuring out how to make a Jedi light-chakram.) You can find her on Twitter @AngelaPoch1 or her cats on Instagram @stardustnebulanova.

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