Bruises can add a sense of realism when a character is injured during your play. Obviously, you don’t want to go around actually injuring your actors… so learning how to create realistic bruises with make up is a must.
To do bruise make up properly, first you need to understand a little about what bruises are. Bruises are caused when a blunt trauma causes the tiny blood vessels called capillaries to break or burst under the skin leaving a bluish purple patch on the skin. As bruises heal they fade to shades of yellow or green before going light brown and fading back into the skin.
To create a realistic bruise, you now need to ask yourself a few questions about the bruise:
What caused the bruise?
Bruises will mimic the shape of the object that caused them to some extent, for example, a bruise from a cricket bat would be somewhat long and rectangular, whereas a bruise from being punched would be smaller and rounder. The impact causing the bruise is also something to take into consideration. The harder the impact, the angrier and more purple the bruise will appear on the skin.How old is the actor, what is their skin tone and does the character have any medical conditions that
How old is the actor, what is their skin tone and does the character have any medical conditions that affect how easily they bruise?
These are all things that can affect the appearance of the bruise. The older a person the more easily they bruise and bruises will appear darker and angrier. Some medical conditions can also cause this so bear this in mind if your play has a character with a medical condition that would cause them to bruise easily. The darker a person’s skin tone the darker their initial bruise and in some cases the harder it would be to see it.
How old is the bruise?
As bruises fade and go through different colours as they age, how old the bruise is will affect how you do your bruise make up.
Tip: You can search the internet for images of bruises from different situations and on different skin tones to help you creating the bruise you need for your play.
To create your bruise you will need a stippling brush or sponge, a blending brush, coloured powders and setting powder. You can buy specific bruise wheels with all the colours you will need but any matte coloured powders will do the job.
Tip: Make sure your bruise make up is matte as bruises are not shimmery or glittery and a sparkly black eye may raise a few eyebrows!
1. Create a base with by stippling red powder in the area you want your bruise to be.
Tip: Try not to make the bruise too circular or any other perfect shape as this will look unnatural.
2. Stipple purple into the red blending the two colours together.
3. Apply a small amount of black powder anywhere the bruise seems too bright or unnatural and blend.
4. Set your bruise with setting powder.
1. Create a base with by stippling yellow powder in the area you want your bruise to be.
2. Stipple yellow-green into the yellow blending the two colours together.
3. Stipple in reddish brown, purple and blue, and blend.
4. Set your bruise with setting powder.
Everything in between and beyond
These two simple bruise make up methods are a good place to start in creating your own bruises in theatre. To create different types of bruises, experiment with placement and shape and work with actors of different skin tones.
Remember that the newer a bruise and the more violently it was created the more red, purple and blue tones you will need and the older a bruise the more yellow, yellow-green and reddish brown tones you will need. Experiment with different amounts of the colours to create bruises of various ages and causes.
If you’re interested in how to use make up to give the illusion your actors have aged, click here to read our article on ageing make up.
D M Day is a writer and actor who lives in Liverpool, England. She writes flash, science and fantasy fiction, and poetry. She is currently working on a war poetry collection and a parallel universe trilogy. She runs acting and writing workshops and performed in the first Liverpool Fringe Festival in June 2017.