Okay, so when a patient comes into Mercy Hospital gushing blood from a gnarly injury, we all know it’s fake. After all, it is TV. But the sight of all that blood still makes us jump, and we all sometimes do a double-take when we see a particularly gruesome wound. So the question is — How do we make it look so real? To answer that, we’re getting up close and personal with a key department here at Mercy — Special Effects Makeup.
Not to be confused with the Makeup Department (which handles all the essentials, from lipstick to concealer), the Special Effects Makeup Department is in charge of anything out of the ordinary, from stab wounds to molten-Snickers-bar-in-the-face burns. So what’s the secret behind the gory magic? Prosthetics.
DID YOU KNOW? A prosthetic is a specialized piece of plastic designed to conform to an actor’s skin and resemble a real-life wound. To make one, makeup artists begin by collaborating with medical technicians to research the specific type of injury they need to depict. For example, if a script calls for a character to have wounds caused by penguin bites, the artists and technicians will refer to medical books with photos and descriptions of actual penguin bites. The makeup artists then create a mold to resemble the injury — in this case, swollen bumps and skin lacerations. Then they pour silicone into the mold and wait for it to dry. Ta-da! A penguin bite prosthetic is born. Next, it’s applied to the actor’s skin (using a medical-grade adhesive), carefully painted to match the actor’s skin, and then painted a second time to resemble the specific injury.
FUN FACT: The blood used to paint on wounds goes by many different names, including “reel blood,” “theatrical blood,” “movie blood,” and plain ol’ “artificial blood.”
But the Special Effects Makeup Department isn’t limited to blood and gore. In fact, they handle details you might not even realize are fake. Take tattoos, for example…
SNEAK PEEK: In an upcoming episode of Mercy, a storyline requires certain characters to don specialized tattoos. To create this effect, our makeup artists created individual designs and printed them on special, sticker-like paper — similar to, but more resilient than, those fun fake tattoos from childhood. The different paper tattoos were then applied to each actor’s skin and pressed with water and alcohol. This technique creates realistic-looking tattoos that last for several days and even hold up against water and sweat. And when touch-ups were needed on set, our makeup artists applied a special dry paint directly onto the skin.
Do those look real or what?!
Alright, that concludes our behind-the-scenes exclusive with the Special Effects Makeup Department. Thanks for stopping by!