Making Scary Halloween Costumes

Tips to Make Your Scary Halloween Costumes

(Or click here for cheap Halloween makeup tips)

Many people want scary Halloween costumes so they can fully enjoy the season by scaring the living bejeezus out of their friends. (heh heh) The fascination is understandable because Halloween is one of the few times a year when creating mischief is not only acceptable, it’s pretty much expected. Halloween is the time to show off your strange side, have fun and be scary. Live, people, live!

Looking for scary Halloween costume ideas? Check out our examples below. But first, here are some tips to help you move your typical costumes from goofy to scary.

Tips for being Scary at Halloween

As we mentioned on the scary Halloween makeup page, the key to being scary is authenticity. In fact, the more realistic, the better. So watch for obvious signs of fabrication and eliminate them. This could include things like exposed clothing tags, locks of hair showing from under masks, well-groomed fingernails, white socks that show under pants, etc.  Sometimes to pull off a scary Halloween costume you must immerse yourself in your character, kind of like an actor does with his craft.

Another crucial element to making a scary Halloween costume is to think of why your character is scary. Doing this is fairly easy. Mentally put yourself into your character’s shoes then think, what does he/she do? What makes him scary to us? Identify those factors and you can zero in what will make your costume truly frightening.

Also, keep in mind that the character you are portraying has to be recognizable to be effective. It’s incredibly embarrassing to waltz into a party and be asked repeatedly, “What are you supposed to be?” especially after you’ve spent hours preparing.  Don’t be afraid to rehearse your costume by preparing ahead of time and ask your family and friends what they think. If you practice ahead of time, you’ll have time to correct things that might potentially ruin the effect you’re attempting to create. If you can’t seem to pull it off, decide if you’re happy with what you have or if you should change costumes. Halloween happens only once a year, so do what it takes to be happy with the results.

Here’s something you may not think about when doing your own makeup. For the most part, to be a scary Halloween costume, the facial expression should not look friendly. This is so obvious it may seem absurd. However, when you’re trying to think of ways to look scary, this point can be overlooked. Think about it, if you were being chased by something that wished you harm, would it have a warm friendly smile on its face? Of course not! It might be smiling, but with a gleam in its eye that says, “I’m gonna get you, sucka!” Scowls, frowns, and looks of disgust can turn the nicest costume into a fearfest.

Below is a list of scary Halloween costumes ideas. Use this information to design and make your own costume or pull together the look you want to achieve with another.


Face it, zombies scare us and for good reason. Already dead and rotting, they are resurrected to a stumbling, groping existence, eagerly devouring the living. Not a pretty picture. The thought of being eaten alive is horrific to humans, and all those nasty teeth clamping down and grabbing hands ripping the flesh from our bones is quite a scary thought.

A zombie costume is fairly easy to make. All you need are some old clothes that you can rip in strategic places and make them look tattered and torn. After all, a zombie’s life is not pristine. They have usually crawled out of a grave, or have come back to life after being killed. If you can capture the spirit of how death occurred, it can make this costume very convincing.  Be sure to smear a bit of red makeup under the eyes as this makes the face appear tired, worn out and sickly.

Black nail polish is easy to find. Apply it, then chip it or scrape it to give your hands that fresh out of the grave look. You can also pop on some gashes like these to make your zombiness look very realistic.


Frankenstein is a monster from the old horror movie classics. Back then, human regeneration was a very scary thought. Nowadays, with scientific advances like cloning, the concept isn’t nearly as scary as it used to be. Despite that though, the brute strength of this monster is still a frightening aspect because being overcome by a massive hulk, hell-bent on destruction can make most of us quite afraid. The key to a convincing Frankenstein is bulk and a large frame. Try using football pads under your clothes to make your shoulders wide and brawny.


Scary werewolves aren’t as easily created as the creatures above. While a real-life wolf is a beautiful creature, it’s the cunning, predatory eyes and instinct to kill that makes them frightening. For this creature, it’s imperative to ensure that whatever body hair you add is very realistic looking. The facial expression must be one of hostility, never friendly or even benign.

Grim Reaper

It’s easy to be the Grim Reaper. Costumes are available for this everywhere. All you need is a skeleton mask, a black cape or cloak (need a hood for the head) and a scary-looking scythe. However, if you’re an enthusiast, you can be even more convincing by creating the skeleton face yourself.

The most difficult part of using makeup to create a skeleton face is the teeth. It can be a very hokey look to paint lines on a white face. You end up looking like a grinning goon – if you’ve ever tried it, you know what I mean. Instead, you must work at blending the lines to create dimension between shadow and highlight so that the bones of the face look real and you achieve that caved-in look native to skeletons.

A makeup tip for skeleton faces:

Make the teeth uneven. The more uniform the teeth, the more fake it looks. (Hence the grinning goon above.) It can take time to get a skeleton face just right and putting the hood over one’s head and leaving a decent amount of fabric “overhang” is key. That way, the face is in the shadows, not showing predominantly in the light. The gleaming whiteness of a skull lurking in shadow is very spooky.


The typical vampire costume has become a Halloween cliché. Most people dress up looking like Count Dracula or his bride and it’s just not scary anymore. In fact, vampires have grown to become more romantic or sexy than scary. But try to think along the lines of Blade where those creatures had row upon row of razor-sharp teeth.


Nobody likes a victim . . . unless it’s a scary Halloween costume! Try wearing some beat up clothes and create effects like gashes, head wounds, a slit throat, etc. Make yourself look a bit grey and you are really scary! The key to this costume is to look convincing and dead!

Demon or Demon Possessed

Aside from being one of Hell’s residents, the scariest thing about demons is their eyes. Take a look at Reagan in The Exorcist. That bright, young, beautiful girl turned into a nasty terror and it wasn’t just the split lips and blistered skin that made her scary. It was the eyes. Those eyes were NOT human. It is not easy to achieve an effect like that, but that’s what theatrical contact lenses are for. Achieving more elaborate demon effects without a costume may be difficult, but try to focus on facial features and things you can do with your hair to look really harassed and disturbed.

Psychotic Clown

If you can create a clown effect using makeup, you’re almost there. All you need to do is to give your crazy clown get up a demented look. Try smearing the lipstick or painting the eyebrows closer together. Pointed, close-knit brows give the look an angry, devilish appearance. A smattering of blood can then be the finishing touch to make you scary as hell!

The Unexpected

Characters with unexpected traits can make very scary Halloween costumes. For example, try being a demonic priest, a psychotic nurse, or an evil schoolgirl. It’s easy to invent these types of characters if you think in opposites.

Witch or Evil Gyspy

This one is definitely not hard to put together. Simply find a long skirt and shawl. Put a scarf over your head, and tease your hair out. Look into the mirror and scowl. Use a fine brush to make the wrinkles you see more theatrical. (Use the shadow and highlight rule here.) Glue a wart to your nose and get a set of rotten teeth. Paint your fingernails black, but mar the polish before they dry to make them imperfect. If you use makeup on your face, make sure you put it on your hands, or the gap in costume will make you look less authentic.

For Best Results

As stated above, once you’ve created your costume, you have to act the part. If you’re a hunchback, you need to walk like a hunchback. If you’re a zombie, you need to shuffle slowly, grope aimlessly and drool. A witch cackles and wolves howl. Practice incorporating these theatrics into your costume so you can do them easily throughout the night.

With enough realism and a little bit of acting, your scary Halloween costume will make your night one of the best ever.

Are you a do-it-yourselfer in need of inexpensive Halloween costume ideas both scary and non-scary? Visit this page for tips on putting together your Halloween identity on the cheap.

Running out of time? Check out this page for quick and easy Halloween costumes.

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