Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Making Washable Fake Stage Blood FX

Recently I was directing a stage production of "You'll Get Used to It! The War Show" by Peter Colley (a play with music set in World War II) and I wanted to have authentic looking blood for some of the death scenes. The staff at the theatre were concerned with blood staining the stage, and the costumers were protective of the authentic wool WWII uniforms that the actors were wearing.

Fortunately, I used to be a Special Effects artist in my youth and used to make my own blood, blood capsules and other fun prosthetics for stage and film.

So just before we moved into the theatre I spent (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend making washable stage blood. My eight-year-old daughter wanted to help and was my assistant during the process.

The best part of this fake blood is that it is washable from clothes and skin, and is completely edible (which works great for blood capsules).

INGREDIENTS:

Corn Syrup  - (500ml) 2 cups, 2 tbsp (clear is better for this effect)
Chocolate Syrup - 1/2 cup
Hot Water - 1/3 cup
Cold Water - 1/8 cup
Corn Starch - 1/2 tbsp (heaping)
Coffee Mate - 1 tbsp (heaping) (Yes, CoffeeMate - This is the ingredient that makes the blood washable)
Red Food Colouring - 1 tsp
Yellow Food Colouring  - 1/3 tsp or a drop *

* Note: Make sure your actor is not allergic to corn, MSG, Red #2 or Yellow #5.

Pour the corn syrup and chocolate syrup into a pot and start to heat on medium setting.


While that's heating, use 1/8 cup of cold water to dissolve the corn starch in a small bowl.

In another bowl use the 1/3 cup hot water to dissolve the Coffee Mate. Once the Coffee Mate is dissolved add in the food colouring.

Mix the food colouring into the Coffee Mate:

Add both the dissolved corn starch and the coloured Coffee Mate mix to the pot:

Bring to a slow boil. It does not need to cook very long, but the high heat combines the ingredients far better than no heat at all:

The result is pretty remarkable. Anyone who has ever used food colouring knows how badly it stains. Here I put a drop of the newly made fake blood on my hand (on left in center of palm) as well as a drop of food colouring on its own (on right - near by fingers):

Then simply wiped both off with a paper towel. As you can see the food colouring stained my hand but there is no trace of the fake blood:

During the run of the show, any of the blood that dripped on the costume was cleaned off with a Baby Wipe.

This recipe can be doubled or reduced according to needs. 

This fake blood also tastes good on an ice cream sundae!

Blood Capsules

For the show, we also had one of the characters cough up blood after being shot. Since we had edible fake blood we made our own blood capsules for the actor to use in his mouth. 

First I purchased a small quantity of empty capsules from a local pharmacy:

Using an eye dropper we carefully put our fake blood into the larger side of the empty capsule:

Then capped it with the small side of the capsule:

The capsule is now ready to be used. It will not dissolve the capsule, but the capsule will melt within a minute of being put in the mouth, so be aware of the need to block a way of putting it in the mouth within that timeframe. It will last longer if the capsule was made recently, as opposed to a few days earlier, but not much. You can experiment to see what works best for your production. 

Tasty and won't stain. (Ice cream optional)

12 comments:

  1. Briiliant Alex. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Does the blood congeal at all? After making it, how long will it last in a large container? Should it be refrigerated?

    Thanks!

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  3. Good questions.
    The blood congeals if left exposed to the air. However, be warned, our costumer tried pre-staining a bloody shirt with this mixture and it did harden and dry but when the actor started to sweat, their body heat warmed it back to liquid form.
    The batch we made lasted for 2 months before it was gone.

    No, you shouldn't refrigerate it. It will harden to a candy.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.

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  4. Hello sir ,, first of all id like to thank you for sharing your knowledge. I have been researching on how to make washable and edible blood that wont stain our location for a film and a few rented out furnitures. considering that fake blood would stain we opted to buy doubles for bedsheets and wardrobe. I'd like to ask if we were to shoot and our seq. required the location to be bloody . will we be able to wipe of the srrains on walls .. lamps pillows etc.. as our next seq requires the location to be clean again . I dont know if you understood my dilemma we will be shooting in 2 days . and im very nervous about having to be the cause of delay for the shoot . the production design team which is us are required to supply the fake blood . and im worried our stuff will stain furniture rugs etc... please i need help since your in special fx I think you know what im talking about ..

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    Replies
    1. I do understand the concern. I've recently been an on-set dresser on films.
      When we used this 'blood' for The War Show, it accidentally got onto the uniforms - which in WWII were wool. Not something that can be thrown into a wash and no time to dry clean. Backstage crew was surprised how easily it wiped off (I believe they had baby wipes).
      For an extra measure, you could try doing a spot test any fabric you have great concerns with... If I have time later today, I may try doing a test myself.

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  5. Hi there! I'm not sure if you did anymore tests, so perhaps I'm just treading the same territory as Kushella, but I was wondering if you think this will work well for car interiors. I will be directing a no budget short film soon and, as you can guess, cannot afford to buy a car just so I can get blood on it. We will also be filming under the sun in the dead of summer. Do you think I'd be able to borrow a friend's car, splash blood all over the driver's side interior, and then wipe it away without a trace? Thanks in advance!

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    Replies
    1. Last time I used this was in a scene where the actress wore a white jacket and the fake blood beaded along the jacket and dripped onto a white leather couch. Neither were stained as it wiped off easily.

      That being said, haven't tested it on everything. If you have the time do a spot test ahead before the shoot day. Try on an area of the car seat that won't be seen like near the floor.

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    2. Much appreciated. Thanks for the response!

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  6. Hello! I have to make a washable blood mixture for a scene taking place in the water where I have to pour blood all over the water area were shooting and pouring it on the actor's clothes. I am afraid to use mixtures with detergent as it may create a lot of bubbles and foam once it's mixed with water and agitated by the actors' moves. Does your mixture work for such conditions? Waiting for your reply, Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. I can't say for sure. I agree that the blood mixtures with detergent will bubble up in those conditions. But this recipe is washable so going into water may dissolve it away. I don't know.
      I don't do Special FX anymore, so I don't have a batch to test with.

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  7. Hey! This recipe seems to be just what I need, but I have a fleece jacket that is pristine white. Do you know whether or not the jacket will stain with this recipe?

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    Replies
    1. It didn't stain the wool WWII uniforms, nor did it stain a white satin top. That being said, I've never tried fleece. You could make a very small batch and do a tiny spot test.

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