Introduction: Washable, Non-staining Stage Blood by the Gallon

Picture of Washable, Non-staining Stage Blood by the Gallon

For our recent stage production of The Revenger's Tragedy, I needed to come up with an economical and effective way to make several gallons of realistic stage blood. Normally, I would have used one of the many corn syrup based recipes that have been popular for decades, but the Technical Director wanted to avoid sugary recipes due to the risk of attracting ants and other nasty creatures into the theatre.
In addition, the costume designer needed to be able to wash the blood completely out of the costumes between performances, the set designer wanted to prevent staining the set, and (since there was a possibility of splashing the audience) we needed to be able to assure audience members that their clothes would not be ruined. This pretty much meant no red food coloring could be in the recipe either.
Furthermore, the blood would have to be visible on both light and dark surfaces and work in several different delivery devices, including air cannons, pneumatic squibs, squeeze bulbs, blood bags and a trick knife. (For a truly excellent pneumatic squib, see Crosius' phenomenal Instructible here: https://www.instructables.com/id/Pneumatic-Squib-Tutorial/)
After experimenting with several formulas I came up with this one, which met all of the needs listed above very well, and only costs about $13.00 a gallon. Compared to some commercial blood at $60.00 a gallon or more, this is quite a bargain. If you need buckets of blood for any reason, give this a try.

Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients and Tools

Picture of Gather Your Ingredients and Tools

For this recipe, you will need:

Ingredients:
Four 28 oz. bottles of orange or red ultra-concentrated dish detergent (the red frequently contains bleach - do not use any detergent with bleach)
One small bottle of ultra-concentrated Dawn dish detergent (blue)
1.5 cups of creamy sugar-free peanut butter (regular will also work)
One 16 oz. bottle of washable red poster paint
Blue washable poster paint
Black washable poster paint
Sugar-free chocolate syrup

Tools:
Large pot or mixing bowl
Gallon-sized jug or pitcher
Spoon
Strainer or cheesecloth
Funnel
Microwave oven

Step 2: Make the Detergent Base

Picture of Make the Detergent Base

Pour all four bottles of orange detergent into a large bowl or pot. Add 8 oz. of blue Dawn. Mix well. The blue detergent helps to tone down the orange color. When done mixing, you should have a big bowl of caramel colored goo.

Step 3: Nuke the Peanut Butter

Picture of Nuke the Peanut Butter

Put 1.5 cups of peanut butter into a microwave-safe container and heat for 45 seconds at 30% power. You may need to adjust this based upon your microwave's power. You want to warm the peanut butter up, not melt it. This makes the peanut butter easier to mix in the next step.

Step 4: Add the Peanut Butter to the Detergent Base

Picture of Add the Peanut Butter to the Detergent Base

Stir the peanut butter into the detergent mixture. This will take a while. To avoid whipping air into the detergent and making a big bowl of foam, use a spoon, not a whisk or an electric mixer. Keep mixing until you have a semi-smooth beige-ish glop. Some of the peanut butter will not combine, which is OK. We'll be straining out the undissolved peanut butter in a later step. Just try to get it as smooth as possible. The peanut butter adds opacity to the mixture and gives the red paint in the next step something to bind to.

Step 5: Make It Red

Picture of Make It Red

Dump in approximately 13 oz. of the red poster paint and stir until the color is evenly distributed. Make sure this is well-mixed, as the next step is to adjust the color to look more like real blood than the bright red paint.

Step 6: Make It Bloody

Picture of Make It Bloody

Add blue and black poster paint and sugar-free chocolate syrup to adjust the color of the mixture. The exact amounts will depend on the look you want, but 2 oz. of each is a good place to start. Mix well, then add more as needed.
If the blood is too red, add a little more blue, or a little more Dawn, if you prefer. If it needs to be darker, add more black. If it lacks a certain undefinable "richness", add more chocolate syrup.
When adjusting the color, go in small increments to avoid overcorrecting, mixing well at each increment. If you do overcorrect, try adding some of the remaining red paint left over from the previous step. If you have seriously overcorrected, you may be able to salvage the mixture by adding another bottle or two of orange detergent and more red paint. Otherwise, you'll have to scrap the whole thing and start over.

Step 7: Feeling the Strain

Picture of Feeling the Strain

When you have gotten to a blood color you like, strain the blood into a gallon-sized container for storage, using a wide-mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove the chunks of undissolved peanut butter. The mixture is very thick, so strain small amounts at a time. You will probably need to stop about halfway through to clean the strainer or replace the cheesecloth.

Step 8: Let It Bleed

Picture of Let It Bleed

The blood is now ready to use.
As I mentioned in the intro, this formula has been successfully used in a large variety of effect devices, including air cannons, pneumatic squibs, squeeze bulbs w/ tubing, blood bags and a trick blood-squirting knife. I had some initial reservations about foaming, especially in the air cannons, but testing showed that my reservations were unfounded.
For all these applications, we used the formula without diluting it. If you need a higher flow, the blood can be cut with water, but be careful not to use too much. Excessive dilution will cause the blood to tend to bubble and foam when ejected through the delivery device, and will probably require additional paint to maintain the correct color.

Step 9: Precautions

Just a few caveats regarding the formula:

1) Dish detergent is very unpleasant to have in your eye. Take care to avoid getting this blood in anyone's eyes. If the blood does get in someone's eye, flush immediately with water.

2) Likewise, do not use this blood in anyone's mouth.  That would just be nasty. For our recent production we needed several mouth packs, which we filled with corn syrup blood. The actors were grateful.

3) This formula, unlike the corn syrup stage blood, is very slippery. Walk with caution when blood is on a smooth floor. Do not use this blood on the floor in any area where an audience member may walk. A non-skid floor treatment is highly recommended, especially on raised platforms and angled floor surfaces. If sugar content is not a major concern, corn syrup may be substituted for up to half of the detergent, which helps to reduce the slipping hazard without a major impact on the washability.

4) Although this stage blood has been designed specifically for washability and stain-resistance, clean all costumes as soon as possible after exposure to the blood. If costumes cannot go immediately into the wash, rinse immediately under running water and leave to soak in a bucket of water to prevent the blood drying on the costumes. Dried blood is much more difficult to remove, and may stain permanently on certain fabrics.

5) This formula contains peanut butter, so inform all cast members and crew, and verify that no one who may come into contact with it has peanut allergies. If audience exposure is likely, a warning to the audience is also in order.

6) If left to sit too long, the blood will coagulate and potentially clog delivery devices. Clean all delivery devices after use.

Comments

Max M.G (author)2017-02-24

I might be participating in design for a production of "CARRIE: THE MUSICAL" so this was very helpful. However, we have some cast members who have allergies to peanut butter. Do you have a requested substitute? Thanks!

Emmaa39 (author)Max M.G2017-09-20

Use a peanut free peanut butter. It's sold in every grocery store I've been to. The label says "School safe" and it's made with roasted soy. My deathly allergic sister loves it.

reelzfx made it! (author)2016-12-30

I did try to make this, i am stuck midway.

I used

2 28 ounce bottles of orange detergent (non bleach)

1 bottle of blue dish detergent

approximately 20 ounces of poster paint red

1 jar of peanut butter

4 tablespoons of chocolate syrup

Any suggestions, I would hate to waste this goop as I feel I am close, if you look at the photos you will see that one bucket is redder and that is because I poured some into a smaller bucket and mixed more red in, but how much red has to be mixed in! I have already gone through 2 containers of red poster paint, maybe some food coloring?

Thanks for any responses, our production is sunday night!

NONE of the photos are altered, thats how it looks in real life right now

eruger (author)reelzfx2017-04-06

If adding a lot more barely changes the color then I'd guess it's already hyper-saturated. I'm guessing there was already too much pigment in the orange soap? Add water?

JakeB110 made it! (author)2016-10-15

Came out purple using double the red. Waste of money.

gehawes made it! (author)2016-09-24

I too made the first batch way too brownish purple. The second batch was MUCH better. I think the starting point of using 2 ounces each of the dark colors and syrup is way too much. I went very slow the second time, adding them drop wise. A poster paint bottle drop is still quite large and sometimes comes out in globs. I love the texture of this recipe! It really feels and flows like blood! This photo included actually looks a little redder than in real life.

Septs_Shadow (author)2016-05-31

Tried two batches, both purple trying to problem solve.

First batch used two orange soaps and two red soaps. I followed the instructions to the letter, using the suggested starting amounts of syrup, blue, and black paint of 2oz each. It came out very dark purple.

The dawn I have is of a darker blue than pictured and the red dish soap (great value brand) had a bit of magenta in it.
So, in the second batch I used four orange soaps and only used 4 oz. of Dawn. I also used no blue paint. Still came out purple.

Not sure what is going wrong.

HalliS1 (author)2016-04-17

Will this wash out of a white wig? Looking at using it for a staged production where a white wig will be used on the person with a head injury

GenaiH (author)2016-04-05

Has anyone tried this on carpet?
I have my own blood recipe that did wash out, but took a lot of water and elbow grease. Looking for something a little easier. It won't be a lot or be on for long.

CassidyT2 (author)2016-01-21

will this wash out of white linnen clothes?

KelliM9 (author)2015-10-27

Can anyone please tell me if this still looks good once its dry? I plan on covering myself with it for halloween but dont want it flaking off and such throughout the night

AJB13 (author)2015-10-20

Will this stain a bath tub? I have a play that is based on Elizabeth Bathory and need the actress to soak in a blood full of tub. But the tub needs to not hold any stains as it needs to be used for other productions. Thanks

ShelleyG3 (author)AJB132015-10-21

I'd love to know too. I want to do some Bodyparts swimming in blood in my tub

RoneDiesel (author)2015-09-29

Has anyone used this on a car? For an extended period of time? Does it stain or have an effect on paint?

AlisonA3 (author)RoneDiesel2015-10-18

Wondering about this as well I have a white car and I would like to try this out ?

Mittensmotel (author)2015-10-09

Will this last in your hair for a couple of hours? Will it drip? I'm going for the movie look of Carrie.

IsabellaO (author)2015-08-19

I have an extreme peanut allergy to the point where I can die from anyone else eating nuts around me
What would you suggest as a suitable replacement for the peanut butter?

Master_Squid (author)IsabellaO2015-09-20

I would try a roux or "rue" sauce in it's place; It is used to thicken sauces.

A simple mix of butter/oil, flour and little water. (instructable for Roux) But I Don't know if this would make it stain. Sotesting would be needed.

JamieB27 (author)2015-09-16

I read your tips about spreading on the floor. I'm planning a haunted walk for Halloween and am looking for a cheap way to make large amounts of blood to splatter all over the brick walls (possibly covered with vinyl shower curtains) and also the cement floor on the back porch. Do you think this should be okay as long as I avoid the main walkway? Also, could I just hose it off the porch after or would that cause a lot of suds and make the porch very slippery?

bethany.j.rowell (author)2015-01-18

Will this dry on skin okay? I'd need it to last about 5-6 hours.

maxwell.wooldridge made it! (author)2014-11-08

Incredible! Thank you so much for sharing this! 1000 kudos to you!

I made this for when I went on a Halloween cruise recently and splashed this over my car - The reactions it got from the other people spoke volumes for how realistic it looked (Many jaws were dropped) and it washed off without much effort later in the evening. Perfect!

The dish washing detergent does wash off car wax, so I had to wax the car in the morning - but this was a small price to pay.

Will make again!

0reoC00kie (author)2014-10-15

This is so cool! Does it irritate sensitive skin though? And it is ok near eyes? If not, would a corn syrup base work as well?

bobdog (author)2012-10-26

Out of curiosity, has anyone tried almond butter or almond flour and say mineral oil to avoid peanut and rancidity issues? Walnut oil also keeps well IIRC. I wonder about bean flours too, whichever is lowest starch or highest protein/starh ratio. Any ideas?

ohiers1 (author)2012-07-31

This stuff is great! Works really well, and I got it out of a white shirt! Looks very VERY real!

gravityandmomentum (author)2012-01-14

That's a good recipe. There a lot of good free ones out there like that depending on your needs (washable vs. safe in the mouth).

Our company (founded in 2011) has a formula that is both washable AND safe on the skin/mouth. We have washed it out of white shirts, couches, wallpaper, floors, ceilings, suits, skin, etc. with just warm/hot water without any staining. It doesn't contain detergent, so it is non-toxic and safe in/around the mouth and skin. There's no chocolate or peanut butter, so no chocolate or oil stains. Stage managers love using our product.

Our Blood Jam product comes super thick. As is, it can be used as a stage make-up. It also has an indefinitely life span.

You can cut our Blood Jam down to whatever thickness you like with water, and it won't lose its color or washability. But, as soon as you cut it with water, bacteria could begin to grow so you have about a week lifespan at that point. Another good trick is to heat it up, which thins it out. As it cools, it will go back to its original thickness. This is great when we want a good oozing or splatter effect, but then as the scene goes on you don't want it dripping all over the stage.

We ship anywhere in the U.S. and are glad to provide any other tips or consulting to suit your needs.

Check it out at: http://www.gravityandmomentum.org/stage-blood/

-Gravity and Momentum, LLC
"Behind Everything You Do"

imbearly1 (author)2012-01-07

Many, many years ago there was a special effects company that made a completely non staining stage blood. However, they are no longer in business. The ingredients were microscopic beads of dark red plastic suspended in a clear liquid gel. The color never stained because the color was contained in the plastic. Would be great for some enterprising young person to recreate it. They would be rich. Just puting the word out there as there seems to be a great need for it in the theatrical community.

I actually used that stuff for a show back in the mid-90's. The concept was great, and the blood looked pretty good, if a bit tempera-esque.
The issue I had with it was that the red microbeads got trapped in the weave of the fabric and wouldn't let go no matter how many times you washed it. The end result was not technically a stain, as the fabric was not actually colored by the blood, but functionally it was indistinguishable from a stain. I was a bit disappointed.
If somebody came up with a way to release the beads from the fabric effectively, it would be epic.

kturland (author)2011-10-22

hi my name is kylie and me and my friend were going to yuse your idea for fake blood for halloween cause ummm we were going to be vampire-wiches!
and i was just wondering if the blood mixture EVER expired!!!
THANKS!!!!

rheinze1 (author)2011-09-27

Someone shops at Walmart! <3

CODKING (author)2011-09-24

oh so tasty lookin lol jk

ozawatest (author)2011-03-15

Any thoughts on having lots of blood in a swimming pool (someone falls into a pool after being shot like crazy) without damaging the pool? The blood doesn't need to last long. Thanks!

blodefood (author)2011-03-03

Obviously because of the detergent content you would not be able to use this blood coming from the mouth. For that I suppose you would have to go back to the corn syrup recipe.

By the way, peanut butter is an ant attractant for some species of ants. I take it there would be enough detergent content to keep them away.

Eviil~~PikmiN__{7} (author)2010-10-30

why is the blood light coloured?

The color balance of my camera is a bit off. It was darker in real life.

oh ok... then this is a pretty great recipe

yespotato (author)2010-10-18

what if someone in the audience is allergic to peanuts??????? might want to think about befor u use it next. lawsuits could ensue.

Yup. That's listed in the warning section of the Instructable, and lobby signs were posted.

ok good cuz i have a couple of friends that cant even smell peanuts. let alone touch it

featherwurm (author)2010-10-14

Oh where oh where was this tutorial when I had to produce so very much washable blood for Seven Crimes? I managed with a couple different mixtures (mostly detergent based), but this is by far superior (though so far as color went for us, the director had a thing for using red light on all bloody scenes which meant the blood usually needed to be deeply purple to show up, but that's not really an ordinary concern). This is great though, it seems like it really would create a nice visual mess without being a mess to clean up.

In other words, thank you. You are fantastic for posting this and I know I'll be using it in the future.

Is there any chance you could add a photo or photos from the production so we can see your handiwork in action?

Thanks for the kind comments. Always nice to hear from a fellow wetworker. ;-)

Red light for all the blood scenes? That's a new one on me, although I have been known to strongarm a lighting designer or two in the name of good blood visibility. Usually for me, the lighting was more green than I'd like, which made the blood look like chocolate syrup. In this production, the lighting was never an issue, for which I am grateful.

Oddly enough, I was unable to be at the photo call for Revenger's, and so they didn't take any shots with blood, probably because of the cleanup issue. If I had known, I would have taken my own photos at final dress, but it didn't even cross my mind until it was too late. That is a mistake that I won't be making again....

To be fair the red light did look cool in that context, but it nearly 100% washed out blood-colored blood. This was about as light a color as it could go, http://www.featherwurmgraphics.com/Theater%20%28Costume,%20Puppets,%20etc%29/Seven%20Crimes%20%28Add%20More%29/Razor.html as you can see in the more regular light in the last couple photos it's really pretty purple.

Aw dang that sucks, and I know the feeling, but there's always the next one... there's always a need for blood!

M4industries (author)2010-07-22

To make the thumbnail more interesting, make the blood arterial and dark. This is to be more anatomically correct.

We chose to go with a more "cinematic" look for this production, as opposed to purely realistic. The blood wasn't as ketchupy as the photo makes it look, though.

At least make a latex wound, it just looks like a spill. But I still like your method.

Valeil (author)M4industries2010-10-07

Maybe it was vomited?

romanceblood (author)2010-08-18

didnt know i'd find this on here, but btw i still have blood splatters (yes stained) into my khaki cargo pants from when I saw RT at GSU.

Sorry about your pants. I haven't heard of any other cases where this blood left a stain behind, including the wedding dresses we used in the show. Very odd. Swing by the Theatre cookout this Friday afternoon, and I'll buy you a cheeseburger by way of apology.

keithwarburg (author)2010-07-23

OH, very much enjoyed it. See you around.

keithwarburg (author)2010-07-22

Our campus did a production of tRT in october, and it was incredible bloody. I left with small amounts of this stuff on my face, hands, and everywhere else in range of a headshot. :)

Hey, that's when ours was. You don't live in Georgia, do you?

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Bio: Jack of all trades, master of a couple. Eclectic interests combined with a short attention span make me just knowledgeable enough to be really dangerous.
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