Blood Science: How to Choose A Fake Blood Product

There’s a lot of fake blood being splashed around these days. For example, American Horror Story has been having a field day, and let’s not forget the epic bloodshed in Game of Thrones. These are just some of the references that come up when our customers ask for help when shopping for fake blood. While it’s true that it can seem daunting with so many choices, you’ve come to the right place because we’re here to shed some light. and help guide you with choosing the best fake blood product for your desired effect. So, if you’re planning your next horror shoot, haunted house, or prize-winning Halloween costume and are wondering what the kind of fake blood you need, we’re here to help you choose the best fake blood product for your desired effect.

When designing a makeup effect, it’s important to understand some science behind what happens to make it look as authentic as possible. And who doesn’t love science more than makeup artists? Probably scientists. But they’re not reading this blog, you are. So let’s get nerdy about blood flow!

Dropping (or dripping?) some science.

What is blood? Blood is a mix of cells, cell fragments, and plasma that form a liquid. This liquid is responsible for, among other things, transporting oxygen from the lungs to tissues in the body and carbon dioxide from body tissue to the lungs.

How exactly does it work? Basically, blood flows clockwise from the right ventricle of the heart via the pulmonary vessels, to the lungs, then on back to the left ventricle. Then, there are systemic vessels that carry blood from the left ventricle to the tissues of the body, which then are delivered back up to the right atrium. This is a very, very oversimplified version of the truth but serves the purpose.

The three blood vessels to know are the arteries, capillaries, and veins.

What’s the difference between arteries and veins?

Pulmonary arteries carry deoxygenated blood away from the right ventricle heart to the lungs. Systemic arteries transport oxygenated blood to the left ventricle of the heart to be dispersed into body tissues. Typically, you won’t be creating effects relating to the blood content of pulmonary arteries since it’s such a deep-seated system. But because the systemic arteries carry oxygenated blood to the tissues, this is most often the kind of special effects makeup you will make—think nose bleeds, paper cuts, scrapes and the like.

When to choose a bright red blood.

Wherever there is surface tissue damage, arterial blood is likely to be on the scene. It’s oxygenated so bright red in color even when it’s in the body, meaning it is much more vibrant than most people expect.  Some of my favorite bloods to use for arterial effects are European Body Art Transfusion Blood in Bright and Prosthetic Transfer Material Red Drum Blood in Orange Red. Both of these bloods are transfer-resistant and their toning is gory and gorgeous!

When to choose a darker red blood.

The venous network carries deoxygenated blood from the body’s tissues back to the heart for processing. You can see veins in your arms by looking for the bluish network. Since this blood is deoxygenated it appears much darker, making veins easier to identify.

Veins have a thinner and less rigid wall and are less pressurized than the arteries. They can hold up to 70% of your body’s blood at any given moment. This lower pressure also contributes to the way veins bleed. Arteries are getting direct pressure from the heart so arterial wounds spurt, and veins do not.

Some of my favorite bloods for venous effects are Maekup Bloody Real Dark Blood and Alcone Company Stage Blood. I love them both for their low viscosity, flowing abilities and the color. Alcone blood is popular because it washes out of most fabrics (a big plus for the wardrobe department and your Halloween costumes), and its super cost-effective, so an excellent choice if you are on a tight budget..

What about the capillaries?

The capillaries are the smallest and most delicate network which exchange blood between the other two systems. However, unlike veins and arteries, this blood does not have a distinctive style or color. Ben Nye Stage Blood is a great choice for making capillary effects. It has a nice mid-range tone and a minty flavor—a must for vampires. Another is Fleet Street Bloodworks Drying Blood in Fresh. In addition to its great color, it sets to stay in place and is transfer-resistant.

The key takeaways to remember are:

  • Oxygenated blood goes to the tissues in the body. The closer to the surface of the skin, the brighter the blood should be.
  • If the effect should affect an artery, remember to spurt.
  • If you’re getting down in the vein, it should leak something a little darker.

In summary, the closer to the surface the brighter the blood, the further in, the darker it goes. (Unless it’s for a zombie. Then all bets are off and even science can’t save you now!)

We hope this guide to buying fake blood was helpful! These are just a few of the options available. To see more, visit Alcone Company.

For more information about professional special effects makeup products , read SFX Makeup 101: The Basic Kit.

Information referenced from the National Cancer Institute SEER Training Modules.

Post contributed by J.D. Kraemer

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