When cosplaying, many characters have scars that you want to replicate for your costume. Unless you have experience in the world of special effects makeup, you probably have no clue where to start. I know I didn’t! The good news is, creating basic cuts and scars is not all that difficult.
For basic scars, the best product to use is rigid collodion. This creates an indented look in your skin and requires minimal makeup application. To create large or complex scars, liquid latex is the best solution since it offers the most versatility.
As you learn the techniques and experiment with new looks, you’ll get better and better at creating realistic scars for your cosplay by combining these products with makeup application. These three methods will give you the basics to get started, but you’ll want to learn from them to make the basic materials work for you.
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Method 1: Indented cuts and scars
The easiest way to create realistic scars is to use a product called rigid collodion. This is a liquid that you can brush onto areas of your skin. As it dries, it puckers your skin together to create the appearance of an indented cut or scar without damaging your skin in any way. Combined with a little bit of makeup, for color effect, you can make realistic scars very quickly.
In general, this is a safe product to use. You can feel comfortable creating cuts and scars on your arms, chest, face, or wherever. However, for safety, you do want to avoid putting rigid collodion directly over your eyelids.
How to use rigid collodion to create cuts and scars
All you need to get started is some rigid collodion, some red-colored makeup, and a translucent setting powder. You can use cream, powder, pencil, or whatever kind of makeup you have available. Brighter red colors are good to use for fresh cuts and scars. Slightly older scars will be a more red-purple color, and very old scars will have a pink or white appearance. So, choose the colors you use based on the type of scar you are trying to create.
- Using makeup, put a line on where you want your scar to go. Use a brighter red for fresher cuts and scars, purple for older scars, and pink or white for matured scars.
- Layer rigid collodion over the line. Usually, it comes with a brush like nail polish. Simply wipe a thin layer of the liquid over the line you created.
- Let it dry. After it dries, you can add another layer of color makeup if you want a fresher wound look.
- Add more rigid collodion to the area where you want the scar to be deeper. The more layers of rigid collodion you add, the deeper the indent will look. For a small scar, I will usually add three layers, but you can continue to make the scar deeper or more intricate.
- Use a setting powder over top to remove the shininess. The rigid collodion will leave a shiny look on the surface of your skin. Using matte translucent powder should reduce this to make it look a lot more like skin.
- Use foundation for a slightly more healed look. If you want the scar to look a little older, you can also use your regular foundation to cover it and blend it into your face. It will still have the indented look but will appear more healed.
To remove the scar from your face, all you have to do is peel it off. There is no special remover product that you need to purchase. There isn’t even a significant amount of that ripping off a bandaid feeling, so removing the rigid collodion is pretty pain-free. If you added a lot of makeup to the area, you may want to also wipe it off with makeup remover.
Method 2: Simple makeup scars
You can also create scars by simply drawing them on with makeup. This method is ideal for scars that are very close to or on top of an eye. It can also be used to draw on old scars that would not have a raised or indented appearance on the skin. It works great for simple anime scars as well.
Since this method only uses makeup, there aren’t any limits to where you can place the scar. Wherever you would normally use makeup is fair game for creating these scars.
How to create simple scars with makeup
All you need for creating these simple scars is three or four different shades of foundation or concealer and some setting powder (or setting spray). You’ll want one shade that is lighter than your skin tone, one that is darker, and one that matches. You can also include another shade with some pink undertones. I find it easier to use cream-based makeup for this, however, you can use multiple shades of powder eyeshadow if that’s what you have available. I got this palette with different skin tones in cream colors so that I had many different shades available.
- Make a line (or shape) for your scar with makeup that is lighter than your skin tone. When doing this, I will make a line that is thicker in the middle and tapers at the end.
- Use makeup that is darker than your skin tone to surround the light scar. Make a thin border around the light color with the darker colored makeup. You don’t want this to be too thick or it will be difficult to blend.
- Use foundation in your normal skin tone around the light and dark scar. Then surround the dark layer with a neutral layer that is about the same shade as your skin.
- Lightly squiggle the three colors to blur the edges. You don’t want to completely blend the colors together, but make the borders between them wavy and blurred for a more natural-looking, healed scar. At this point, you can also add in some pink tone into the middle, lighter layer if you want to.
- Blend the outer color into your skin tone. Now you just have to gently blend the outer layer to create a seamless transition between the scar and your face.
- Use a translucent powder to reduce the shine and set the makeup. Once you’re happy with the look, go over it with a matte setting powder. This will help to prevent any shine from the cream makeup, and it will work to keep the makeup from smudging too much.
If you plan on wearing this for a long period of time at an anime convention, you might want to bring supplies to touch it up occasionally. The setting powder helps it stay in place a lot, but it’s not a perfect solution. To remove the scar at the end of the day, simply wipe it off with any makeup remover that you would normally use.
Method 3: Large burn scars
Liquid latex is the most versatile method for creating scars, cuts, and any kind of special effects makeup. You can use it to create large burn scars, like for Zuko or Todoroki, but you can also use it for realistic zombie makeup or any number of other effects on your skin.
Of the three methods, liquid latex is the most inconvenient product to use. Be very careful using the product around your eyes. Avoid the eyelid and at least half an inch around the vicinity of your eye to prevent any accidents. You can use makeup to cover these areas after the latex is applied.
If you don’t prep the skin, liquid latex will stick to your hairs making it painful to remove. Some people will shave the skin in the area where the liquid latex will be applied. I find it’s just as effective to add a thin layer of vaseline (petroleum jelly) to the skin. If you will be adding liquid latex around your eyebrow, use a glue stick to seal the hairs on your brow.
You’ll also need to use separate disposable sponges to apply the liquid latex. It starts to dry fairly quickly, and will completely ruin any brushes that you use with the product.
Some people also have latex allergies and don’t realize it. This can be a pretty severe allergy, so always do a test on a small area of your arm before applying a large amount of latex to your skin or anywhere near your face. Wait at least thirty minutes after the latex dries on your skin to ensure you don’t start developing a rash.
How to make a large scar with liquid latex
To make a burn scar with liquid latex you’ll need a bottle of the latex, a tissue, cream makeup (in the red to brown spectrum), and translucent setting powder. You can also use powdered makeup to layer on top of the cream, but the powdered colors won’t adhere well to the latex prosthetic.
- Apply a thin layer of vaseline to the skin. This will make it a lot less painful to peel the latex off after you’re finished wearing it. Other options are to use a thick moisturizer or shave the area where the latex will be applied. Avoid using too much, because that can prevent the liquid latex from adhering to your skin at all.
- Rip up a tissue into small pieces. This will be used to give texture to the surface of your scar.
- Apply a layer of liquid latex. Liquid latex can be layered on top of itself for a more textured effect. Spread this first, thin layer over the entire area of your desired scar so that you can build off of it. Make sure you’re using disposable sponges so that you don’t ruin your regular makeup brushes.
- Using more latex, paste pieces of tissue over the first layer of latex. Use the pieces of tissue you tore up and layer them one-by-one onto the scar shape. Paste them down with more liquid latex, and make sure there is some overlap from the pieces. Continue doing this until you’ve created a large, textured scar shape that you’re happy with.
- Let the latex dry before applying makeup. Liquid latex will dry relatively quickly into a rubbery material. However, if you used many layers, it might take half an hour or so before it’s ready to move on to the next step.
- Add cream makeup. Powder makeup does not adhere well to the latex layer, so you want to use a cream formula. If you’re going for a burn scar, use a variety of burnt red, brown, and purple colors to create the desired effect.
- Blend the edges with foundation. Make sure to blend the edges of the latex prosthetic using foundation, so it seamlessly transitions into your skin.
- Use a translucent setting powder. Once your scar looks as desired, set it with translucent powder. This takes away any shine, and it will ensure the makeup stays in place.
To remove the liquid latex scar, simply peel it off your skin. If you’ve taken steps to protect the skin underneath, this is a simple process. If you haven’t the latex will still peel off without a problem. However, it will be like peeling a large bandaid off, and you will probably be left with a red, irritated mark on your skin that can take a few hours to fade away.