DIY to Die For: How to become a zombie

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Pittsburgh makeup and special effects artist Greg Lightner has discovered that sometimes, even the afterlife imitates art.

For example, in real life, once zombies get you on their radar, you just can't seem to escape. Mr. Lightner, who got his start creating gruesome creatures at home and later for Kennywood's Phantom Fright Nights, is currently employed at Universal Studios in California.

Although he's skilled in all sorts of makeup genres, he always manages to wind up working on a very specific type: "I can never get away from zombies, apparently."

A team of more than 25 artists nightly are carrying out the dark vision of another Pittsburgh native, Greg Nicotero, who is an executive producer and special effects creator for AMC's hit television series "The Walking Dead."

At Universal Studios, the famous back-lot ride has been transformed into "Terror Tram," and there are mazes and other creepy attractions, including a "Walking Dead" theme.

Mr. Lightner, who was a contestant on Season 2 of "Face Off," Syfy's popular reality competition program, said that transforming oneself into a zombie is not only au courant, it's a fairly cheap and easy choice for Halloween.

"You don't know where to start? Well, a lot of effective looks can be created using simple, everyday makeup items found in your house or at your local store," he said.

"First, start with your character: Do you want to be a severely decayed zombie? A freshly dead zombie, maybe one that just turned from sick to brain-eater?

"The choices are limitless, but you need to have an idea in order to know how to tackle your makeup."

So, courtesy of Mr. Lightner and his model, Carrie Seigh of West Mifflin, here is a do-it-yourself guide to what everyone will be wearing in the post-apocalypse.

As Halloween approaches, Hollywood makeup artist Greg Lightner provides a step-by-step primer on how to become a zombie (or at least look like one)


1. Wash your face and remove all makeup.

2. Base out your face and all exposed flesh with pale foundation, including lips. It needs to be paler than your natural skin tone. (Model wears ivory oil-free foundation).

3. Add dark powder blush around eye sockets, under cheekbones and on temples. Start with a concentration of blush on upper and lower eyelids, then radiate color over brow and under eyes to the bottom of the socket for a sick, hollowed-eye look.

Follow under cheekbones and along lower edge of face and pull line downward to sink in your cheek area. Use excess blush on the brush in the temples. And, voila, instant freshly dead zombie! To take it further. ...

4. Add brown eye shadow to all the blush areas (or use instead of blush). Remember to concentrate the brown on the upper and lower lids, then radiate it out through the socket and the brow bone. You can deepen the immediate eye area by outlining your eyes with brown eyeliner, then smudge it into the eye shadow or blush. I used a Kohl pencil in dark brown and a pressed eye shadow in medium brown.

5. Add black eye shadow and/or eyeliner to the affected areas. Don't worry about fallout from the eye shadow, it only adds to the effect.

6. Mottled flesh alternative: Apply the foundation as described before. Next apply black or gray (or blue and mauve if you want a marbled bruising effect) with brush all over the exposed skin in a swirling, free-form pattern. Where the lines intersect, dot that area with more eye shadow. It's best to dot or dab with the brush to get a mottled look.

7. To add wounds, simply get out your red lipstick or lipliner, drawing loose erratic wounds. Fill in with red lipstick, the darker, the better, then smudge the edges with your finger so there are no harsh lines. I used a matte lip pencil.

Next, press black eye shadow along the wound line to create depth. To make the wound more pronounced, add blue eye shadow near edges, leaving a flesh-colored line around the wound itself. Then blend the eye shadow with a little of the blush to give a bruising effect. For the exposed cheekbone, I left the wound open in the middle and added yellow, pressed eye shadow, highlighting it with white eyeliner.

Dot skin with red lip pencil, adding dots of white eyeliner on top for infected sores.

lifestyle - holidays

Maria Sciullo: or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG. First Published October 28, 2012 4:00 AM


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