This Old "Witch" Makes Horror Flicks - Making Bruises on the Fly, Without Getting Hurt

"credit" PJ WoodsideHOPKINS COUNTY, KY (9/4/13) - "This Old 'Witch' Makes Horror Flicks" is a completely uncensored look at independent horror film making. PJ Woodside is one of the masterminds behind Big Biting Pig Productions, an internationally recognized, but locally-based independent movie company that films entirely in Hopkins County, KY. For a sneak peak behind the scenes, read on. (Note: some content may not be suitable for a younger audience)

Some time ago I promised to write a blog about makeup effects. So . . . now that we’re in the middle of some serious effects in the shooting of The Caretakers, I happened to remember that promise! The thing about effects is that they don’t have to be extravagant. Granted, some elements of a movie look better, more realistic, with more elaborate effects. The cut off head. The blown apart body. These are money shots if you can afford the effects for them.

But you can get away with much less in most scenes.

The best way to get at least marginally decent at effects is to watch what other people have done and to test things. For the bruised face you see above, the most important thing is not the type of makeup used. It’s the application. It’s important to not go overboard and to think logically. In this case the character would be wearing a band-aid over the cut anyhow, so that eliminates the need to show an open cut on his face. We would do the open cut if necessary, but why add it when doing something simpler makes more sense?

You might ask, how did I learn how to do this?

I watched youtube tutorials. I listened to other people talk about making people up for their own sets. I bought some decent basic makeup (I recommend Ben Nye). And I experimented.

Two important things to remember when working on wound effects:

1. You must follow the anatomy.

2. Symmetrical doesn’t look natural.

To make people look sick, you want to darken the hollows of the anatomy, which means the temples, the eye sockets, the hollows of the cheeks. Lighten bony elements such as the bridge of the nose, the cheekbones, the brow ridge. For a bruise, however, you have to keep in mind how the damage occured, and work dark to light.

Understanding that basic structure, this is how I created the above bruise.

I applied base color in a skin tone darker than the actor’s skin. I put this base color all over the side of the face that got bashed. I kept to the contours of the cheek, the brow bone, and the eye area. I typically use my hands (because I know they’re clean) or a fresh sponge.

I covered over most of that general area next with a gray color, paying particular attention to the eye sockets and the hollows around the eyes. Dark colors create caverns, absorbing light (in constart, light colors reflect light, creating mounds.).

I added bruise blue coloring in the areas that would have been created by the punches — the bony cheek, the brow above the eyebrow, the eye socket.

I added in some green, some yellow, some red, but always being careful not to apply everything everywhere. There’s nothing that looks less natural than a bruise that is exactly the same all over.

With illness or a beating, I think it looks more natural to have slightly darker eye sockets on both sides. Also, a slight red rim around the eyes adds to the “ill” effect. Lips can be lightened or made blueish for a pale look. In the above scenario, the scene takes place a couple of days after the fight, so I opted for regular color on the rest of the face and lips.

Nothing goes on exactly right the first time. I like to add more dark colors to the center of the bruising, then spread outward toward a greyish bruised tone or a red blood vessels broken sort of tone, but sometimes I have to redo sections or adjust, again varying the look over the area. I use a combination of stipple sponge, finger, and cotton swap on the final layers. It’s important to powder occasionally to keep the color from moving around, and then to powder at the end to set everything.

Finally, we used a bandage to hide what would have been a cut acquired in the fight. And there you have it — PJ’s quick bruise effect. Try it yourself!

Lucid is now on DVD and can be found at

PJ Woodside is the writer and director of Lucid, which features Bill Johnson and will be released in 2013. She is co-producer of Spirit Stalkers and six other movies with Steve Hudgins of Big Biting Pig Productions, and owner of PJ’s Productions. More from PJ's official blog can be found here.

Sugg Street Post
Written by PJ Woodside
Photos provided by PJ Woodside

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