Effective Prosthetics for Your YouTube Videos




About: Untidy, disorganised and a bit silly. I am a photographer, artist, body artist, sculptor, prosthetic maker, model engineer, and general idiot who likes making stuff and messing about. I give hands on worksho...

This Instructable will show you how to make effective prosthetic SFX for your pictures, Halloween or Role Play costumes, or YouTube videos.

The main material is liquid latex, so a few words of warning before we begin.
Please use all normal safety procedures when handling materials and carrying out processes.
Some people have a natural allergy to latex, if they are over 16 years old they will normally be well aware of any such allergy, but please ALWAYS carry out a simple allergy test BEFORE you go playing with this stuff, or sticking it to anyone else!

Also, liquid latex smells like cats piss when it's wet. This is a very small percentage of ammonia that is added to stop the raw latex coagulating in the container. This smell will vanish once the latex cures, but people with very sensitive skin may find it an irritant when being stuck on.
It is advisable to work in a ventilated area.

Please take all precautions necessary.

Step 1:

Latex has been used in the movie industry for well over 100 years. It can be cast, moulded and whatnot and it has amazing tensile and elastic properties.
However, in its natural state it is very heavy, and does not bulk out very easily. Therefore, most movie prosthetics are made from foamed latex and this presents loads of problems for the home movie maker. It needs foaming agents adding and then baking to cure ..... all too much hasstle for me.

In order to use it straight from the bottle, we need to embed stuff in it to bulk it up whilst keeping the weight down. We need to use theatrical grade latex which has a low ammonia content (do an ebay search there's loads of it on there). We also need to keep the final results soft and pliable (it's going on someone's skin after all).
There are many articles on the net about creating wounds and 'zombie skin' by adding oatmeal to the latex etc, these work well but I was looking foe something a little more dramatic.

Materials required:

Theatrical grade liquid latex
Greaseproof or wax paper
Cotton wool balls, pads rolls etc
Sponge rubber pipe lagging or stiff foam rubber
Water based paints (artists acrylic or acrylic ink, watercolour etc.)


Put simply we are going to encase the cotton and sponge in the latex in layers.
Lets begin with a rib cage.
Tape the wax paper down on your bench, draw the basic shape of the rib cage, then paint on three thin layers of liquid latex allowing each to dry in between. The layers are dry enough to work once they go from white liquid to transparent rubber.

Get your cotton wool balls and unroll them, it's easy to find the end and unroll them.
Pull the cotton out into the basic shape, dab a little latex down where the cotton will go then plonk the cotton down and push it into shape.
Coat the upper surface of the cotton with liquid latex, use plenty of latex and a dabbing motion so as not to pull the cotton back up. make sure you get a seal at the edges. Allow this coat to dry, add more cotton and repeat until you have three layers of latex above the cotton.

Step 2: Seal It In.

Add cotton and latex and build up the structure. Shape the cotton with the liquid latex and a brush, you need to end up with the cotton sandwiched between 6 layers of latex, 3 below and 3 above will make a very strong, soft, pliable prosthetic. Remember to feather out the edges to a very thin layer so that it will blend into the skin.

Step 3: Try a Test

Once the basic ribs are dry, you can try a test or go on to the next stages.

Keep the prosthetic on the wax paper until the very last moment. This will help keep it in good condition. You can use Spirit Gum, Pros-Aid or theatrical latex to stick the prosthetic on. I tend to use latex as I find it easier to remove after you have finished.

Use a cut up bath sponge, dip it in the latex and dab on a very thin layer to the skin slightly bigger than the area required. Let it dry.
Peel one edge of the prosthetic CAREFULLY from the wax paper. If it touches itself it will instantly stick together and be ruined.

Stick the edge carefully in place on the skin and then peel away the wax paper stick down as you go. Once it's all stuck down dust over with a large blusher brush dipped in talc.

Here's Tara with an unfinished prosthetic stuck to her chest. the black mark is a test painted area.

Step 4: Other Bulking Materials.

I wanted a tail, so I used foam rubber pipe lagging which is very cheap, reasonably pliable, but stiff enough to carve and shape. I cut the pipe lagging into sections then carved and Dremel sanded them roughly to shape. I added some 'vertebra' looking bits and glued the sections together using a tongue of sponge and regular general purpose glue.

After two days work I had a four foot long tail. That's yours truly in the image.
The tail next needs 6 coats of liquid latex which will seal it and make it incredibly strong.

Step 5: Joining Parts

The tail needs lots of support so here I have attached it to a full back bone. The tail section has already been painted but we'll come to that.

I used general purpose glue to join the tail to the back bone, followed by at least 6 coats of latex on the joint. The latex becomes VERY strong when dry and will hold the tail on without problems.

You can see exactly the same method being used to make the back bone as we did for the rib cage. I have used more of the sponge lagging to help form the vertebrae. You can also see the difference between wet, semi-dry and dry latex.

Step 6: Painting

Because the main constituent of latex is water, we can add water based paint directly to the latex. The paint will become an integral part of the prosthetic this way and will never fade.
The problem is that the latex paint does not blend well at all, so I use a dark 'shadow' colour, then a mid colour, then a highlight colour to the latex itself. Then blend by over painting the finished prosthetic with acrylic artists paints or inks.
When the latex is wet the colour will look too light, but as it dried it will darken back to it's proper colour.

Here the darkest green and the lightest yellow have been added.

Step 7: Finalising the Paint

Here I have used artists inks and acrylics to blend out the final colours including a bit of 'flesh' colour on the edges to help blending.

Once on the skin, use body or face paint, along with foundation and make-up to blend the edges out further.

Step 8: Finshing Off

Here you can see the finished back bone and tail sections joined and painted. There is also an image of another backbone of bony 'fingers' for another costume.

Step 9: A Finished Piece

From a bottle of rubber and some cotton wool and paint to this back piece

Step 10: Find a Willing Victim......

Here's the red piece with a couple of horns, stuck on and photographed for a 'Horny Devil' shoot.
Obviously this needed a load of body paint too but you get the idea.
There are lots of other shots from this shoot that can't be posted here. However, I am over on Deviantart.com under the same username if you want to take a look.

Have fun and be safe.



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    37 Discussions


    5 years ago on Step 10

    Really nice work. My best friend and I used to have a low budget SFX house back in the 1980's here in Hollywood. We used the same techniques that you have shown here. We had a blast. Eventually, we got more jobs and then moved into using foamed latex appliances. Now the norm is silicon appliances which are just absolutely awesome. I don't work in SFX make up any more...but I still appreciate the work that people such as yourself do. It's an amazing art form. Keep up the great work.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Gross but grand... I am showing this to my 16 yo who is into photography and movie making, I think he will appreciate it.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is great and useful, but I need to know... Is it okay to put the liquid latex directly on your skin? I mean, I thought that because of the ammonia content, you couldn't put it directly on the skin. Is this true? Because on my jar of it, it says that if it touches your skin, you should immediately wash it off with soap and cold water.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    It depends on 3 things, firstly if your model has an allergy to natural latex, if they have it won't matter if it's liquid or cured latex, they could go into anaphylatic shock so check first!
    Secondly the ammonia content, generally theatrical latex has a content of 0.3% or less, however I have used latex with an ammonia content of 0.6% without problems, do a patch test using a very small amount on the back of the the hand. If there's no reaction at all after say 5 minutes then you should be safe.
    Thirdly, if your model has sensitive skin, in which case they may find an itchy reaction or a reddening of the skin. My advice would again be to do a patch test first.

    Most people who have an allergy would be aware of it due to the large number of household items that contain natural latex. I personally have never had any problems with any of the theatrical brands of latex.

    This is a great instructable for indie filmmakers to see. I'm sure glad I saw it! I might have to use this...


    9 years ago on Introduction

     some amazing work here!  one word of caution though:
    this stuff can burn your skin!  it is tempting to build up one's creation right on the skin, since it might conform and adhere better (or so I thought, one unfortunate halloween eve).  If you feel a prolonged burning sensation, call it off.  Do as this instructable shows, build it up on wax paper.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    hmm, maybe you have mild allergy, or used a particularly nasty brand. What Kind did you use?

    I did a zombie once, complete with falling-off flesh bits in the same wat as korybing did, with latex and toilet paper. I used Mehron brand latex, made for stage effects and bought from a theater goods store. Built directly onto the skin, the latex caused no problems, except for the stink that Marshon mentioned before it dried. No burning, itching, rashes or anything.


    9 years ago on Step 5

    Yeah, latex is stronger than you think! It seems flimsy when you do the first, but several layers becombe pretty strong after they cure. Especially if you have some kind of fiber like cotton or cloth imbedded in it, it won't break very easily.

    I know because I once built a prothtetic alien arm thing for halloween last year. it cosisted of a papermache/drywall compound/ fiberglass monstrosity that functiones as a shell and glove that went over my arm and hand. It was attatched by means of latex-painted cloth on my shoulder and armpit. A couple of layers was enough to secure it well and I painted the joint with stage make-up that matched my skin. The joint was smooth and seamless and still could suppourt the arm's weight. It looked pretty nice, if I don't say so myself.

    Anyway, It stayed on all day long while I was moving, running around, using my alien arm, and getting poked by curious people trying to figure out where my skin ended and my costume began. It wasn't even that uncomfortable--except of course in the awkwardness inherent in other people's reactions.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 5

    Very cool, I am always amazed at the strength of this stuff.


    9 years ago on Step 10

    beautiful work!  have you thought about making an instructional book or video?


    9 years ago on Step 10

    Wow! This is AMAZING! I'm really going to have to have a go for Halloween this year! Better get cracking O_o


    9 years ago on Step 10

    Very awesome instructable, I never thought about using wax paper to build on! This makes alot of furture projects so much easier!
    Also, you might want to put up a reminder that if you plan to attach the pieces to parts of the body that has hair, you'll want to use spirit gum to attach, not latex.
    It hurts.
    So much.
    So nice to see a make-up instructable that's not about zombies!
    Keep it up!


    9 years ago on Step 10


    I entered your username in the search box at deviantart.com and found nothing of yours; could you tell me what I did wrong, or provide a direct link?

    Also, I'm wondering about hear/sweat/comfort; would this make, say, a night at a Halloween party unbearable


    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    My deviantart account is here:


    The latex prosthetics will last a very long time, we have some that are well over 2 years old and still in good condition. The problem with using one for an all night halloween party is the adhesive you use. Latex as a glue is easier to get off when you've finished but is liable to lifting if there is a lot of sweat.
    The traditional Spirit Gum will resist lifting but is much more difficult to remove.
    Pros-Aid is a much stronger bond once it is stuck, and can easily last out a party but needs a remover to get it off.

    As for comfort, all the model I have used have never complained about wearing these latex creations, they are very soft and pliable. There have been a few moans when it comes to removal. No worse than removing a sticking plaster though.

    and to think...all this time, my "creepy crawler machine" was just a wanna be.

    Adder Twist

    9 years ago on Introduction

    I'm very impressed by the skill of this, and also appreciate the amount of effort which goes into recording an 'ible.
    I'm wondering something in regards to latex costumes. I want to make a costume partially between human and feline, but I wish to have a furred face which moves with me. What I was considering was to daub loose cotton wool onto the surface of latex, but I'm not sure if that would be viable. Possibly spirit gum would work. I'm not sure.

    1 reply
    marshonAdder Twist

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    This process isn't really great for face masks. Some of the very best feline and fur masks I have come across used cold cure gelatin based material. The trouble is you need a two part mould.
    I have a simple gelatin recipe that works, especially for foamed gelatin and all the ingredients are safe and readily available. I have also made a couple of alginate head casts.
    The fur is either sculpted into the mask and then carefully painted, or embedded in the mask.


    9 years ago on Step 3

    If you liberally brush talcum powder (baby powder) or even something like flour, with a big fluffy brush, onto the back of the prosthetic as you peel it up the first time, It won't stick to itself.  So you won't have to worry about it being "ruined" by touching itself.  it also won't stick as readily to the latex patch you put on the skin though, not to a great extent, but that is something to think about.  still you won't have to worry about inadvertently ruining your prosthetic and it can still be attached quite easily using any of the products you mentioned.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Yes by all means brush the front. But if you brush the wax paper side the adhesion is much poorer to the skin. My comment was meant to show that the prosthetic needs to stay on the wax paper until the very last moment and be sure that the BACK does not curl over and touch itself or it will be almost impossible to successfully separate if it does stick to itself.