Better Off Dead: Halloween Makeup Tutorial

The bewitching hour is officially here: your last opportunity to pull together a Halloween costume. Conconcting an entire concept from scratch may be difficult at this point, but I may have a solution to create a spooky look with virtually any outfit.

When in doubt, be dead. This is my advice for a super last-minute look. Do you have a business suit in your closet? Pair that with this makeup look, and you can be a dead lawyer or any other professional who might require a suit. Have an old prom or bridesmaid dress? You can be a dead prom queen or bridesmaid. There’s no limit to what you can do.

To help you produce this skeletal look for yourself, I roped my best friend, Suzanne Metzel, into helping me create a step-by-step tutorial. As an artist and makeup enthusiast, she’s been creating fun looks for years and recently worked on a short film, Better Off Dead, doing a makeup look for a corpse – fake bullet wounds included.

Below are Metzel’s directions for becoming an eerily convincing skeleton.


These are all items you can find at a drugstore, or you can tailor the look to what you have available. The color is the most important thing.

  • Pale foundation 
  • Blending sponge (teardrop shaped)
  • Black and white makeup (Use any oil-based Halloween pigment that comes in larger sizes – enough for your whole face.)
  • Black eyeliner
  • Two small concealer brushes: one for black and one for white (These are typically labeled on the box, but you want a flat brush like what’s pictured in step 7.)
  • Eyeshadow blending brush for black eye shadow (typically a medium-sized, fluffy brush)
  • Black eye shadow 
  • Translucent powder

It’s also helpful to have an image of a real human skull handy to serve as a guide for the lines you’ll need to create to produce an accurate representation. Having said that, though, this is Halloween, so creativity is more important than accuracy! Feel free to improvise.

Before you do anything, scratch your nose! Get all the face scratches out of your system before you apply any makeup to your face.

1. Use a sponge to evenly apply either pale foundation or white makeup all over your face.

2. When mapping out the lines to create the skull structure, look straight at the mirror with a rested face to keep it symmetrical. Starting with the eyes, place the pencil or brush on the spot where your eye sockets protrude the most. Then, following that line, create a circle around each eye.

Round out the top of the skull by blocking out your hairline. That area will be filled in with black later. Place marks on the frown lines between your eyes. (You’ll have to get expressive here.)

When drawing on the nose, draw a slightly rounded, almost teardrop-shaped triangle on both sides of the nose. Leave a little space between them for the cartilage.

Finally, draw a sweeping line from the corners of the mouth to the top of the ears.

3. Now feel your cheek bones, and draw a faded line, starting from the top of the ear and following the natural curve of the cheekbone, stopping where the lips/teeth end. For the teeth, start in the center, drawing lines to block out the teeth. As you draw each line, fade it out by lightening your brush stroke.

4. Darken the jawline. If you’re feelin’ a little extra, pencil in a cleft chin to add a little dimension and personality!

5. Next, darken the inner lips, round out the teeth and darken the part of the lower jawline closest to the ear.

Step 5-6

6. Now it all starts coming together! Fill in the eyes, nose and hairline using the black makeup. Using the blending brush and black eyeshadow, you’re going to start softening the lines. 

Blend the harsh line around the eye sockets, the frown lines between the eyes, the cheekbone lines (use a downward motion) and temples. Lightly shade the area around the teeth, avoiding them and the center of the chin because you want those to stay pale.

7. With the concealer brush and white makeup, highlight the cheekbones, forehead, teeth, chin and the area between the eyes. This will help brighten the white and make those areas really pop. Lastly, darken the neck, ears and any last touches in the hairline.

If you see any greasy spots that may crease over time, set them using translucent powder for the white areas and black eyeshadow for the black areas.

Now open your eyes wide and scare even yourself! 

Happy Halloween!

If you decide to use this as your guide, make sure to share your results with us! Just tag the Peninsula Pulse and Metzel’s art page, @handmadeby_suzie.