Hey guys, so this isn't technically a step-by-step DIY, but I thought I'd share some secrets from my times on set for quick ways to make your costumes look dirty without really getting them dirty. This is perfect for costumes where things are supposed to be dirty, old, distressed, worn down, and or just generally nasty (zombies are the perfect example!)
The photos above are from four different shows I worked on. One was a western, the second and third were two different post apocalyptic disaster shorts (very popular right now) and if you can't guess, the third is a zombie feature. All the clothes you see were purchased new and were aged down using these techniques...
First thing first. When I go onto a set where I know I'm going to be getting people "dirty" I always pack my dirt kit. You can buy professional grade "dirt" (Called Schmere) but it's not only hella expensive (deluxe kits can be purchased for upwards of $75), but it actually carries warnings right on the items that it's made with nuts and should not be used by anyone with nut allergies. I've worked with enough actors who are deathly allergic to peanuts that this makes me nervous...which is why I've made my own "dirt kit." For a whopping $20 (and most of that was for the cooler bag I carry it around in) I made my own kit.
SUPPLIES FOR YOUR KIT:
INSTANT UNSWEETENED TEA
SHOE POLISH IN DIFFERENT SHADES AND COLORS IN THE LITTLE TINS
LIGHTER OR SMALL BUTANE TORCH
CLEAR DISH SOAP
OLD RAGS AND OR SOCKS
"BAD CAT" LEATHER SCRAPER (MORE ON THIS IN A MINUTE.)
SMALL POWER SANDER (TOTALLY OPTIONAL)
SPRAY BOTTLES (AS MANY AS YOU NEED)
COFFEE GRINDER (AGAIN, OPTIONAL, BUT NICE)
I've had people ask me about spray paint which is fine in a pinch, but has a tendency to make fabric stiff and crack. You can also use specific fabric spray paints, but they sometimes splatter and can also be expensive. I prefer using this stuff over anything else...plus, it smells much better!