For Halloween this year I wanted to go as a snake girl from a 1920's freak show and a key part of the costume was creating a realistic scale effect. After experimenting with several products I found that liquid latex created the most realistic look, was the easiest to apply, and held up the best throughout the night. While this instructable will show how I created my snake girl effect, I encourage you to think of how to use this technique to create your own mermaid, dragon, alien, or whatever.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
The materials I ended up using were:
-Cream Based Face and Body Paints
-Loose Powder Foundation
Based on your own needs or aesthetics you may choose not to use some of these materials or experiment with some of your own. Some things to consider are the look you are trying to create, how much area you are trying to cover, colors you want to use, and cost of these materials. When I decided what worked best for me, I knew I did not want to cover my entire body in bright green scales. Instead wanted the scales to be more subdued, but still noticeable from a distance and cover different parts at different consistences. I also knew I wanted to wear this costume on other occasions.
I choose Maximum Impact Green Liquid Latex (available online at http://www.liquidlatex.com/liquidlatex.html ) which is sold for large applications since the smallest size is 16oz. There are a variety of other types and brands on the market that might suit your needs better. Unless you are covering yourself head to toe, you will probably not need much, after the one full application and several small applications I still have well over half.
If you do choose to experiment with other materials, please try to use products made for use on skin and test them on a small area before applying heavily to make sure you don't have an allergic reaction. While people with latex allergies probably know not to mess with liquid latex, you might still react poorly to certain products, even those made for that purpose, and might break out or get a rash.
The tools I ended up using were:
-A Small Cheap Paintbrush or pencil
-Foam Make-up Applicators
-Bobby Pins and Hair Ties
-An Extra Set of Hands
Again, based on your own needs you may need less or more tools as you see fit.
Step 2: Base Coat
Before I got started, I knew where I wanted the scales to be heaviest and where I wanted them to fade to back to plain skin. It may help to draw out a map, especially if some of these heavy areas are out of your reach and someone else has to apply the latex there. On these areas I wanted the scales the heaviest, around the eyes and on my back, I applied a base coat of liquid latex. I just finger painted these areas on, though you can just as easily use a foam brush or sponge. Since the look I was going for was less crisp and more of a blended effect I did not worry about how clean my edges were or how even the latex was applied, but if your vision calls for clean lines and even application apply the latex in that fashion instead.
Before you apply liquid latex read through all the directions for your particular product.
As a general rule the instruction will be along the lines as:
-Avoid eyes, mouth, and hair
-Shave area before applying product (If you are putting the latex on your face and have bangs or long hair pin and pull it back away from your face, it will stick in your hair and take forever to get out)
-Test product on a small area of skin before continuing application
In my case the directions also advise to use a glycerin or lanolin type product to make removal easier, but as I was not completely covering myself I skipped this step. I do advise doing this though if you plan on covering a very large area.
The latex also has a strong ammonia smell when wet, but it does disappear as it drys. The fumes caused my eyes to water a bit so I applied that area slowly, allowing it to dry in a series of thin coats.
Step 3: Appling the Scales
This is a very simple process, though the results are quite nice. To apply the scales I used the back of a paint brush and doted the liquid latex thick onto my skin.
I applied the scales as shown on my body map from the previous step, sort of radiating out from the heaviest areas (make sure you dot over the base coat as well). Personally I found that making the scales look nice was less about how the individual scales looked but how they looked together. The size, shape, directionality of each scale really doesn't need to be worried over. If you think they look off add a few more in between them. If on scale bleeds into another one don't worry, it is just one out of hundreds and will not be noticed. Since I had a few other people helping me, was only covering a part of my body, and never had to wait for one area to dry this only took about an hour and a half.
Other interesting ways to apply the dots:
-You can place them in rows, allowing each row to dry partway and overlapping the next row. This takes much longer, but if you have the time and commitment has a very lovely and realistic effect.
-By changing the size of your tool you can change the size of your scales. You may want to play varying the sizes in different areas such as small scales near the edges and larger ones in the middle.
-Change the shape of your scales, either by painting them on or using a tool that is a different shape such as a clothespin. You can even make your own scale shape using a bit of molding clay.
I suggest playing around with your own preferences of dotting on the back of your hand beforehand so you know what you are doing and how you want your scales to look.
Step 4: Blending Into the Skin
Personally, I found the look of the latex to be too stark a contrast with my skin so I experimented with ways to blend the scales more fluidly. The look I liked the best used cream based face and body paints of various greens over the latex and surrounding skin, then applying loose powder foundation to tone down all the green and give the latex a dusty sheen. On my face I also accented a little iridescent powders around my eyes. Again, it is best to experiment with products to find what you think looks best for your own look.
Step 5: Final Touches and Enjoy!
After all the time and energy you invested into making yourself all scaly, finish getting ready. Despite all the layers, the scales don't really make a mess onto everything and while you might lose a scale here or there, it pretty much holds up until you want to take it off. Go out and enjoy the vast amount of compliments your scaly skin is going to get.
As for removing the scales, liquid latex does not really remove as erotically as advertised. While not painful it is slightly uncomfortable and very difficult to remove if it is in your hair. Remove as directed
with soap and water. Try to get the majority off before taking a shower so you don't clog your drain.