Verge: Painted Horror tutorial

Sophomore Gabrielle O’Donnell takes us behind the scenes of SFX art

Ayah Ali-Ahmad

Special effects art, also known as SFX art or visual effects, is an art medium used in films, costuming and performing arts. SFX artists use makeup to transform people into different characters, make realistic gashes or create new body parts. SFX is used across all genres of entertainment — but especially in the horror department. 

Sophomore Gabrielle O’Donnell started with pen ink on her hands and arms to recreate cuts she obtained from her cats, then graduated to using scar wax and liquid latex to make her fingers fall off, expose her thigh muscles or make other parts of her body appear bruised. In these two videos, she uses scar wax and liquid latex, the most common materials used in SFX makeup, to demonstrate how she makes her looks. 

This first look resembles a leg gash. In under 15 minutes, O’Donnell uses makeup to make a realistic skinned knee. 

This second look resembles a cut on her hand. O’Donnell says using scar wax for cuts, as opposed to liquid latex, adds textures to make it look more realistic.