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How to Go Full Zombie

We had been selling zombie prosthetics for a few years before we put together our first full kit. We liked giving people the ability to mix and match their prosthetics to customise their own looks, but we also wanted to give people the worlds first movie quality ‘zombie in a box’ which would give our customers everything they needed to look like an extra from The Walking Dead in one complete pack.

Zombie Makeup Kit
Kit – prosthetics, adhesive, blender, blood & paint

Tom sculpted zombie brow and mouth prosthetics that would still look great when they overlapped, so users could have some adjustment for different facial sizes, and he also sculpted gruesome looking teeth with a ripped lip into the mouth appliance, because everyone loves that over-the-top look but most people can rarely achieve it on their own. For films and TV, ‘out of the mouth dentures’ are made for a specific actor which not only gives them gnarled teeth but also hides their lips; then prosthetics are sculpted to fit over the top of these dentures, revealing the exposed gum area and giving a terrifying skeletal look.

Walking Dead Zombie
Dentures used on The Walking Dead image © AMC

You can see how this effect would be problematic for the casual makeup artist! Sculpting the teeth right into the prosthetic meant that we could get a similar look, and providing the wearer blacked out their own teeth (easily done using tooth enamel our even just food dye) the effect was very convincing, especially for an ‘out-of-the-box’ zombie… in fact, every time we see the video (which you can watch at the bottom of this post) we forget that the teeth we are seeing is the prosthetic, not the actors teeth!

Zombie Mouth prosthetic
Yep, the teeth are gelatine too!

World War Z was due for release later that year (2013), so for the ‘movie’ portion of our makeup video we decided early on to film a running zombie. Not everyone likes the idea of fast zombies, but we wanted to go with something that felt fresh and up to date, so we decided a high octane zombie chase would be a great way to showcase the zombie kit. One of the advantages of living and working in the Scottish Highlands is that everyone knows everyone, and lots of people have access to things you would never have access to in London. So when we were chatting to a friend in the local pub on Loch Ness and he offered access to a helicopter and pilot for the day, we almost bit his hand off at the shoulder – zombie style!

World War Z Style Trailer
‘Copters & zombie chases, a typical Nimba work day

On the day of the shoot our model, Graham Hay, spent a couple of hours in the makeup chair before we headed over to PDG Helicopters to film our chase scene. Luckily it was a fairly cool day so Graham, in makeup and with a boiler suit over his clothes, and our co-pilot played by Simon Swinton in full flight kit didn’t overheat as we spent hours trying to capture the chase on film. With the shots being filmed from a car driving towards a helicopter with blades spinning while another person hangs out of the window with the camera trying to focus on the action, being part of the shoot felt like being in the movie itself. It was adrenalin pumping, exciting and sometimes scary, and we loved every second of it.

So, here’s the video, including our little movie plus application and paint instructions for the prosthetics. If you’d like to have a go yourself, you can get yours by visiting our Zombie Prosthetics Kit page – we even throw in a free copy of our Ultimate Zombie Makeup Guide DVD which includes the video in full HD – don’t forget to show us your results!

Got a makeup FX question or comment?

We love hearing from Nimba Creations customers, Cosplayers, Actors, Movie Makers and Makeup FX artists at every stage of their career. If you’ve got a question or comment about our products, Makeup FX or want to show off your lastest creation you can contact us via our Facebook Page.


A Day of Filming in the Glorious Highlands

A couple of months ago we were driving through Glen Shiel (a gorgeous spot in the Scottish Highlands not too far from our workshop) on a misty, moody day and we decided there and then that we needed to film something there to capture it. We hadn’t released a new makeup video in a while so we thought that would be an ideal excuse to start movie making.

Glen Shiel
Glen Shiel; an awe inspiring place

The first How To videos we made back in 2009 didn’t have movie sequences – or music! When we filmed the application of our Hospital Zombie Prosthetic, we realised the door our model was standing next to looked like something from a medical facility, so after the makeup was done we got him to stumble through it into the sunlight; low and behold, it looked like a shot from The Walking Dead, and we had established our own style of makeup video where we showed a movie scene (or as we call it a ‘vignette’) so our viewers can see the prosthetics in action and see how our products can look in their own productions.

Bringing Game of Thrones to the Highlands

The landscape in Glen Shiel immediately made us think of Game of Thrones. It was epic and mysterious. As luck would have it we were already in the middle of producing some prosthetics which, if applied to the right person would be reminiscent of The Mountain in his zombie state – we called them our Decayed Flesh Prosthetics (available now in our shop). We found our own man mountain in a local named Hamish Moir and decided to have him rising from a loch in ethereal surroundings. Our first choice for a loch to film at was Loch Killin, a beautiful, secluded spot not far from Loch Ness (Loch Ness itself had also been a consideration but this was the height of the tourist season and would have been far too busy from all the best angles). Our location manager Ryan Lancaster suggested we try Loch Kemp instead; it was equally secluded and beautiful but had the added bonus of being more easily accessible and there was even a small cabin on the site where our cameraman could stow his gear and Hamish could warm up between takes. It was perfect. Our location liaison Russell Bain got the permissions we needed to film there and we were ready to go.

Loch Kemp
Loch Kemp; an ideal filming location

We took a day in Glen Shiel to get shots of the misty mountains for the opening of the vignette. Luckily, the sunny morning gave way to a drizzly afternoon and we were able to get the moody opening shots we needed to set our scene.

The Day of Filming

It was an early start on a Saturday morning when we rolled into the workshop to apply and film Hamishs’ makeup application. The first thing we had to do was get him into a kilt, wrapped around him in the old style – not the type you buy off the peg these days, but a single length of fabric that is laid on the ground and pleated before the wearer lies down on it, the fabric is wrapped around them and the whole thing is held in place with nothing more than a belt… you can see why we needed to do this before applying prosthetics!

After a couple of hours in the makeup chair, Hamish was ready to go. We loaded up the truck and took him out in sunglasses and a black hoodie in an attempt to hide his face from passers-by… we didn’t want him frightening small children! It took about an hour and a half to get to the location and as we approached we saw a plume of smoke coming from the loch. That’s when we knew our crew was already there, firing up smoke machines and camera kit. Our cameraman, Steve Nelson had driven up from England two days earlier. and being the consummate pro, he was ready to shoot the moment we arrived.

The day was long but every minute was productive; Hamish spent hours dunking himself in the chilled loch never complaining once. Ryan ran back and forth on the shore like a mad man, waving a smoke machine and creating our ethereal mist. Steve lined up shot after shot, filmed on a Red Epic Dragon camera (the same kind used to film Prometheus) and even stayed calm when, during one of his chest high wades into the water for close ups, he tripped over backwards, almost submerging the eye-wateringly expensive camera in the Loch. Thankfully even though his vision was obscured by a hood, Hamish ‘safe hands’ Moir grabbed the kit and saved the day… phew!

Hamish Catches the Camera
Hero Hamish catches the camera and saves the day!

Despite a hellish midge invasion at one point that made Hamishs’ legs look like a well used dart board, everyone ploughed through the day and we got all the shots we needed, filmed at 100fps to give us crisp, hi-res slow motion shots that looked incredible. We reviewed each major take as we went, and everyone was excited about what we had captured. We were eager to get wrapped up, get Hamish out of makeup and get to a computer screen so we could see what we had filmed in all its glory.

3am, pizza and beer

Steve was leaving for England the next day and still had the job of processing, colour timing and converting every single take to prepare them for editing. So, after a full day of makeup and filming, pizza was ordered, the beers came out and the eyes were propped open with matchsticks while the process ran into the early hours. Steve left for England after an amazing amount of hard work, and now we could start the edit.

Ancient Warrior
Long days, hard work, totally worth it

Another week of pizzas, beers and 3am finishes resulted in the video below. Sometimes when we’re making our videos, we are asked “is it worth it?” We often ask ourselves that question when we are tired and angry at some technology or other that’s in the way of us finishing the project, but the answer all the way through this one was a solid YES. From the first shots we took of those mountains, we knew we were going to create something epic; we knew that we had actually managed to translate the lofty concept that we had in our heads into something real, something we could be proud of and something that would represent Nimba Creations perfectly. We couldn’t have done it without Ryan, Steve, Russell and Jade (our hard working lab tech who cast the prosthetics and held down the fort while the rest of us were getting eaten alive by midges in a loch).

Tom and Hamish
Tom and Hamish review the footage on location

So, here is our full video including the makeup application (you can buy our Decayed Flesh prosthetics here). We kind of love it.

Got a makeup FX question or comment?

We love hearing from Nimba Creations customers, Cosplayers, Actors, Movie Makers and Makeup FX artists at every stage of their career. If you’ve got a question or comment about our products, Makeup FX or want to show off your lastest creation you can contact us via our Facebook Page.


How to get into Special Effects

We are asked a question so often I thought it best to commit my thoughts to virtual paper. The question is “How do you get into makeup special effects?”

I totally understand the question. This is such a specific and exciting career even the most casual observer has got to wonder this, let alone
someone with the desire to have a go themselves.

Where I started

Let me explain my journey into this amazing art. To begin with, I’m (at the time of writing) 52 years old,

The early days...
The early days…

and I started out in the dark ages…before the internet. I used to have to ride my dinosaur into town to use the public library. That’s a lie, I never had my own dinosaur, I had to take a public transport dinosaur.


I was always interested in illusion. I first wanted to be a magician, but I was awful at it. The next thing I knew The Planet of the Apes TV show was on the air along with Star Trek and then eventually Star Wars came out. Special effects started being discussed and documented as something more than the generic term “camera tricks”. That was enough for me, I knew, in some manner, this was what I was all about.


As a teenager magazines like Starlog, Cinefantastique, Cinemagic, Fangoria and eventually Cinefx started coming out. In dribs and drabs, they divulged little hints as to how TV and film illusions were crafted. I found myself unable to decide what area of fx work I wanted to get into so I dabbled in everything. I started making my own sci-fi and horror short films on Super 8 cine film. My Dad used to collect antique cameras so trips to photography conventions with him and the occasional job lot of kit he purchased would yield a usable camera or bit of lighting kit so I was very fortunate. My films were, of course, packed with every type of effect I could think of.

Start with what you’ve got

The mask is good but the costume sells it...
The mask is good but the costume sells it…

I remember wanting some proper bright and glowing, back lit slasher film style titles for my film “The Planting”. What I needed were some lithographic negatives made from my marker pen and paper artwork. There was a local printer who did the work for me in exchange for a few afternoons of my stuffing envelopes for them. Fair deal, the barter system, I love it!

My Dad worked as a manager of a local lumber yard and hardware store. I was a regular fixture here. I used scraps of wood off cuts from the saw room, boxes of plaster of Paris, pots of enamel paint and other such “off the shelf” treasures to fuel my creative experiments. “Whatcha makin’ now Tom?” was a common question at LeFevre’s Lumber Yard. You can make props and models from an array of materials from so many sources.

It’s never too early to start your portfolio

I made sure that I filmed and photographed everything I made. I knew photographic evidence of my skills, of my unstoppable passion to “make” no matter what my knowledge or budget was critical to proving to whoever would look that I was “the man for the job”.

This remains true today. If you are as passionate as you would have someone think surely, you have a huge portfolio of things wild horses could not stop you from making?

You must have a portfolio of up to date projects. Prove your passion, creativity and determination. Don’t have 82 photos of the same thing, have at least 2 pictures each of 82 things!

Build Up Your Core Knowledge

Zombie makeups were different back in the day...
Zombie makeup was different back in the day…

I permanently had two books signed out of my school’s library. Richard Corson’s Stage Make Up and Al Taylor and Sue Roy’s, Making a Monster. Those books were mine! I just let other looks at the covers of them occasionally.

I learned everything from Stage Makeup. I made sure I not only looked at the latex and effects section, but I also made myself practice the fantastic illusions created in the book by using basic painting techniques and hair work. I knew that the flashy stuff was all well and good but when combined with a rock solid knowledge of the core principles of paint, colour, highlight and shadow one could become a powerhouse. The basics are just that, basic principles…basic, not easy. Man, there is some skill in doing stage makeup well. Learn how and why to use highlight, shadow and colour and most of all learn why it works.

Don’t be overly tempted to go for the latest and trendiest techniques and materials. They are usually ingenious but are no replacement for core skills like sculpting, painting and observation. There is no magic wand, no one material or technique that makes instant, perfect results. The quality of work is like luck, “I find the harder I work, the luckier I get”…it’s a trite saying, but it is true. Anyone can be taught a process or how to use a material in a matter of days. You can’t teach the result of endless hours of practice and discipline.

Don’t stop learning

One of the key things I see in every successful makeup special effects (Makeup FX) artists is an almost compulsive need to know how and why things work and how those things interact with other things to make another thing. You can’t fake this curiosity, and you can’t do without it. Learn to learn. Practice seeing how and why things are done and apply the principles you observe to the core processes of your craft.

I can’t think of the number of times I have thought and heard, “Ahhhhh, that’s how those are made. I wonder if that type of thing would work for making a …”

Get your work out there

I would show my work to anyone who would look at it and often to those whom I had cornered and left them no choice. Alcone Theatrical Supplies used to have an office in Midtown Manhattan. Makeup artists would put together a photo collage of their work, and Alcone would allow them to post it on their office wall. A lot of people got work this way back in the dark ages, me included.

We have the internet now. There are many forums out there for aficionados to showcase their work. I suggest you use them. They can be a great place to learn from. Like with everything online they can also be a place where a small number of people jockey for position, strive for selfish ego boosts, arguments and try to hold court but luckily these people are in the minority, just keep in mind the core reason you are there, to learn and share knowledge.

Taking Action breeds Results

Not TOO bad for my first old age makeup...
Not TOO bad for my first old age makeup…

Before (and many times after) becoming a professional makeup artist I offered my work to other peoples ambitious efforts. I did make up for local theatre groups, university filmmakers, stills photographers, shops who wanted attractive window displays and other makeup artists who had little or no money but would offer credit and experience on their project. I can’t think of the number of low budget projects I did for free or for train fare and lunch money. This is a part of the craft…slave labour…within reason.

I know some don’t think this is good, but I believe that if you are fair to yourself, you can build valuable experience, knowledge and contacts while working for little or no money. In my day it was called “paying your dues”. Don’t let people take disrespectful advantage of you but remember, you are getting something from it too, it’s a deal, an arrangement, an agreement.

It’s your portfolio that gets you work

There are a LOT of courses available to the aspiring makeup artist out there. Many are very, very good. Many are not. What they can do is introduce you to processes, materials and techniques. Some give you tutelage under the observation of a more experienced artist, and that can be very helpful indeed. What they won’t give you is a certificate that will GET you a job or guaranteed wage. They give you an opportunity to learn what is on offer, to build your experience and contacts and to fill your portfolio even more. THAT is what will get you work.

The Most Important Thing

Finally, your state of mind is essential to your success. Your portfolio and where your head is at will make your career. Humble confidence, honesty regarding your skill level (and in general) and respect for the fact you don’t know everything combined with a calm enthusiasm for learning and willingness to work hard will fling doors open. Go in ready to work, get yourself there and home again. People who are running projects need warriors who are paying attention and don’t need any babysitting or nose wiping. Be a warrior with your head on straight, self-motivate and get on with the task at hand with solid core skills and a mind keen and sharp and you will be back again and again and again.

Me as an albino hit man for a futuristic western.
Me as an albino hit man for a futuristic western

Got a makeup FX question or comment?

We love hearing from Nimba Creations customers, Cosplayers, Actors, Movie Makers and Makeup FX artists at every stage of their career. If you’ve got a question or comment about our products, Makeup FX or want to show off your lastest creation you can contact us via our Facebook Page.


Tom’s diary day 12 – Silicone fun

Tom’s diary day 12 – Silicone fun

I cast up a few of our new appliances yesterday in a “OO” silicone. It’s great stuff and I have to say that I really like the way the moulds have worked out. It is going to take a bit of time to streamline the hands on process of casting the pieces but the way they are coming out is making me smile. The rubber is nice and soft/stretchy without being sticky. The edges are quite thin without being too fragile and should do well for repeated application, removal and cleaning and the detail is fantastic.

Today I’ve been sculpting a silicone mouth appliance to go with our first silicone zombie brow. I’m working hard to get some nasty looking stuff going on with it and so far I feel like I’m winning! I simply cant wait to get these pieces applied and painted up. Ideas for the video(s) that will accompany our new line are taking shape as well. I had better get my narration voice warmed up!



Tom’s diary day 11 – No clever title…I love irony…Wait!…I have one…., nope, it’s gone.

Finished off the sculpture for the silicone zombie bite prosthetic. I really like how this one has come out. I wanted to get some undeniable teeth marks in it and I think I’ve managed that. I feel kind of sadistic when I do nasty pieces like this, I enjoy it too much.

Almost finished with the silicone zombie forehead mould. Really liking the new materials I have picked out.

What has really ****ed me off is that I can’t find one of my favourite sculpture tools! I get very near OCD when I lose something, it haunts me and I look in the most impossible places for it, the fact that I really wanted to use that tool today made it worse. If I can’t find it soon I’m going to have to stop everything I’m doing and make myself a new one or else I won’t be able to concentrate. Does that make me a bad person? Does it?




Tom’s diary day 10 – Bag open…cats everywhere!

Tom’s diary day 10 – Bag open…cats everywhere!

The secret is out.

I have been sculpting some zombie pieces for the first in a new line of silicone prosthetics!


That’s right, silicone. We have had such a big call for seriously robust, reusable prosthetics that we have gone for the most reusable material we could think of that will give most all of the same benefits of our gelatine pieces. We are also selling Snappy G adhesive to stick these “Muthas” on with. The adhesive holds very, VERY well and can be cleaned off of the appliances so they are ready for another application, and another, and another… The edges won’t be as feathered as the gelatine ones but they will be thin and strong enough to withstand many applications… so long as you aren’t Edward Scissorhands!  The silicone takes our Pro Palette and our Perfect Palette colours really well and they too can be cleaned off for the next application. If you were so inclined you could even paint these beauties with silicone paints for a permanent make up job on the appliance and all you have to do is blend your skin to match with make up… see… told you it was cool!

I am sooooo excited about this new approach and I have been putting a LOT into the new sculpts, just as much as with our gelatine appliances. I’m hoping to have the first piece ready within a couple of weeks for application.


Tom’s diary day 9 – Sculpty-sculpt!

Well, that’s the roughs finished and transferred to their final casts. I have a LOAD of detail to add now. This is another exciting stage as the skin texture and micro details make these things jump to life….such as it is with something not quite dead! I’ve got another set of appliances for this new product line underway as well…simply not enough hands to sculpt with! What’s more we had an informal meeting last night and my development list is growing day by day.

Another “Survivor ” mask turned out today. The Fusefx paints call me.

Looking forward to Lea Moore joining us, he is going to bring great things to the Nimba team!


Tom’s diary day 8 – Sir, yes SIR!!!

Tom’s diary day 8 – Sir, yes SIR!!!


What does it mean when in your dream you are removing a prosthetic from former American president Richard Nixon and, when he goes to help he dips a cotton swab into a container of remover and starts using it he looks up and says…

“I think this is sheep dip.”

Go on, imagine dreaming that! Needless to say I woke up laughing out loud!




Tom’s diary day 7 – OUCH!

Pretty much sanded through my fingernail with a high-speed sanding disk today…it hurt…a lot. Try not to do this if you can avoid it.
Sculpting the “new”, new appliance today. Really starting to get into the groove with it. I feel happy with the illusion of the anatomy, I think this is going to be a wicked piece!

Tom’s diary day 6 – Ch-ch-ch-changes

Spent a bit more time today sourcing some new materials. This is my kind of window shopping!
I have decided to change direction a bit with part of the new prosthetics. These things always go through a couple of phases once clay hits the life cast. This piece is no exception. Part of me hates tearing clay off a life cast after so much work but I’m always glad I did once the dust settles. This is part of the heavy burden I must heroically bear… (you may now roll your eyes).