Day of the Dead Makeup

Rebecca Wiseman
Spider-Inspired Sugar Skull

Día de Muertos is the Mexican holiday honoring deceased relatives and friends. The brightly colored face paintings have become a popular Halloween costume in recent years. The makeup is a work of art when done correctly, and it isn't necessarily difficult to to.

What You Will Need

You don't need an entire special effects makeup kit to achieve a Day of the Dead painted face. A few colors of face paint and pencils are all you need to create your look. You can use any brand you prefer. If you purchase a makeup kit, make sure basic colors are available in it. To create your makeup look, you will need:

  • White cream face paint
  • Black cream face paint
  • Black liner or pencil
  • Colored liners or pencils, such as red, blue, green, yellow, orange, silver
  • Cream eyeshadows in colors that match the colored liners or pencils
  • Bright red lipstick
  • Makeup brushes
  • Makeup sponges

Day of the Dead Looks

While there are similarities among the Day of the Dead makeup looks, they all have differences that make them unique. Colorful sugar skulls and calaveras makeup are the most recognizable makeup designs pertaining to the Day of the Dead. You can take ideas from the looks in this article and mix them up to make your own design.

Spider-Inspired Sugar Skull

At first glance, this makeup (pictured above) does not resemble a spider. The chin and the forehead are the telltale design aspects that make this look unique. To get this makeup style:

  1. Start by painting the entire face white.
  2. Use a dark olive green shade of cream eyeshadow to make a circle around the eyes from the brows to the top of the cheekbone.
  3. Use a lighter green eyeshadow or eye pencil to make a scalloped edge around the green of the eyes.
  4. Detail the scalloped edge with a black liner or pencil.
  5. Use the black liner or pencil to draw a web design across the forehead.
  6. Use black face paint to make a wide shadow under the cheekbone.
  7. Paint the nose with black face paint.
  8. Draw a spider on the center of the chin with a vine design from each side with the black pencil.
  9. Use the silver face paint or pencil to color in the body of the spider.
  10. Paint the lips with a bright red lipstick.

Elegant Peach Sugar Skull

Dead face make-up

This makeup is between glamour and sugar skull. Not all Day of the Dead designs are completed on a stark white face, so if you prefer a more sophisticated look, this might be right for you.

  1. Start with a pale skin tone makeup to cover face including the lips.
  2. Use black face paint around the eyes covering the eyebrow.
  3. Use a white pencil or a brush with white face paint to make a thin line around the black on the eyes.
  4. Make a scalloped edge around the white with a dark pink or red-orange pencil.
  5. Detail the scallop design with a black pencil.
  6. Use the black pencil to draw a simple web design on the forehead meeting at a heart between the eyebrows. Use a red-orange liner to make the heart.
  7. Brush on a dark peach or orange toned blush under the cheekbones.
  8. Use a red-orange liner and a white liner to make a swirl design over the cheekbones.
  9. Use the same red-orange liner to make an upside down heart on the chin.
  10. Paint the tip of the nose black using the face paint.
  11. Draw extension lines from the corners of the mouth with a black pencil and make vertical lines across extension lines and lips to resemble stitches.

Monochromatic Sugar Skull

Halloween sugar skull make-up

Another example of a look that doesn't begin with a white face is a monochromatic makeup look. It is stunning and eerie at the same time.

  1. Begin with a lighter shade of your natural foundation makeup and cover the entire face, including the lips.
  2. Use black face paint around the eyes and on the nose, continuing down the center of the upper lip under the nose.
  3. Use a black liner or pencil to make the scalloped edge around the eyes and the other designs on the face.
  4. Extend the corners of the mouth by drawing lines from the corners to the jaw bone using the black pencil.
  5. Detail the lips with vertical black lines that look like stitches.

Brightly Colored Sugar Skull

Day of the dead girl

This is a more recognizable exmple of what we know as sugar skull makeup with the bright colors. The design does not have bright lips, but that could be changed. Red lipstick would stand out with these colors.

  1. Cover the face including the lips with white face paint.
  2. Use blue cream eyeshadow or paint around the eyes covering the brows.
  3. Use a black pencil or liner to outline the blue around the eyes.
  4. Use a red liner to make the scalloped edge around the eyes.
  5. Use green eyeshadow or face paint to make the arrowhead shape in the center of the forehead. Outline it with the black pencil and make two swirls on each side with the black pencil.
  6. Make extension lines from the corners of the mouth with the black pencil and stitch lines along the lips.
  7. Use either black or blue to make a crescent design just above the mouth extension lines under the cheekbones.
  8. Use the same blue paint as on the eyes and a small detail brush to make a spiderweb design on the chin and detail it with the black pencil.

Calaveras Masculine Skull

Man with calaveras makeup

Calaveras is the Spanish term for sugar skulls or an artistic representation of a human skull. While most are brightly decorated, some men choose a more subdued color scheme such as black and white.

  1. Cover the entire face including lips with white face paint.
  2. Use black face paint around the eyes and on the nose.
  3. Use a black liner or pencil to make the scalloped edges around the eyes and the detail of the mouth.

Floral Sugar Skull

Halloween make-up

This floral-inspired sugar skull makeup is a feminine look full of Mexican flair. This makeup can be accomplished with the smallest makeup kit sold at most department stores.

  1. Begin with a pale foundation but not quite white. If you can find an off-white paint, that would work. If not, a pale natural foundation will work. Cover the entire face and lips.
  2. Use black face paint around the eyes and on the nose.
  3. Make the scalloped edge around the eyes with a red liner or pencil as well as the heart and dots between the eyebrows.
  4. Use red face paint to make a red flower on the forehead and chin.
  5. Detail the flowers with a black pencil.
  6. Use the black pencil to make the dots above the eyes as well as the tears and whisker details beside the nose.
  7. Detail the mouth with the black pencil.
  8. Use a dark green face paint or pencil to draw a leaf beside the rose on the chin and detail it with the black pencil.

Half-Face Sugar Skull

Half face sugar skull

This popular look is half glamour makeup and half sugar skull makeup. Your sugar skull can be bright or black and white.

  1. Bump up you regular makeup look with a smoky eye and bright lips on the glamour makeup side.
  2. Use a stark white face paint on the sugar skull side.
  3. Paint the eye and half the nose with black face paint.
  4. Use the black face paint on the lips.
  5. Use a black pencil or liner to draw the details on the face including the scalloped edge of the eye.

Completing Your Look

Add your own touches to any of these makeup looks by adding glitter, jewels, or false eyelashes. Your makeup should be just as elaborate as your Day of the Dead costume. Women and girls should add brightly colored flowers in their hair for that extra flair. For children who are not into princesses and pirates, the colorful designs of sugar skulls are attractive and fun costumes for them, too.

Day of the Dead Makeup