Day of the Dead Costume Makeup

Mexican Day of the Dead

If you enjoy the colorful costumes and artful Day of the Dead costume makeup, it is not difficult to do your own version. Common themes are skeletons and skulls, garlands of roses, spider webs, black lace, and old wedding dresses, to name a few. These Day of the Dead costumes really have a unique beauty to them. Day of the Dead costume makeup techniques are easy to do if you have the right materials and some good ideas to get started with.

The Day of the Dead – Dia de Los Muertos

Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos in Spanish) is one of my favorite celebrations. I enjoy seeing how different people have interpreted the makeup and costumes of this traditional Mexican holiday, which is rapidly gaining in popularity both in and out of the Latino community.  I snapped the photo below of a girl in Day of the Dead costume makeup in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Girl in Day of the Dead Costume Makeup, Mission District Wicked Costume Ideas
Girl in Day of the Dead Costume Makeup, Mission District

Day of the Dead History and Traditions

day of the dead procession wicked costume ideas
Traditional Day of the Dead Procession








In many areas with a large Latin American population, Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos in Spanish) is a holiday that is observed a day or two after Halloween. Latinos do not pay as much attention to Halloween, but Day of the Dead is a solemn celebration for many communities, though more and more “gringos” are beginning to participate in this ancient festival. It would be helpful for those of us outside the Latino community to learn about and respect the customs of this important holiday.

DOTD Altar Mission District
Ofrenda (altar) with sugar skulls and marigolds

Day of the Dead is the equivalent of All Saints Day, on or around November 1st. It follows All Hallows Eve, which we know as Halloween.

Day of the Dead festivals originated in Mexico but is observed in many other Latin American countries as well. The custom of assigning significance to one day to honor the dead is believed to have come from the Aztecs over 3000 years ago. This occasion provided an opportunity for townsfolk to revere and offer prayers for family and friends who have passed on. Instead of emphasizing the fear of death as we do in European culture, death in Latin America is celebrated as a natural transition from life. Windows are decorated with ofrendas, or altars, containing sugar skulls and marigolds, and participants join a processional leading to the graveyard to pay homage to their loved ones.

Day of the Dead Makeup Themes

One of the most popular of the themes for Day of the Dead makeup is the skull, or calavera. The inspiration for Day of the Dead costume makeup is taken from the little sugar skulls that have been prepared ahead of time and painted with colorful frosting designs and prepared as a treat for the departed.

Learn how to make your own sugar skulls with this easy kit.

A calavera, or sugar skull
A calavera, or sugar skull (Photo by Nathaniel C. Sheetz)

Day of the Dead costume makeup usually begins with a white foundation base and intricate designs are applied with a brush, using black around the eyes and tip of the nose and for accents. Often, red is used to create the impression of roses around the eye socket, though there are many variations of color and style.

Day of the Dead Sugar Skull Art on Zazzle

day of the dead sugar skull art wicked costume ideasSugar Skull Black and White Laurel Leaf Decal For iPad 3Dia De Los Muertos Sugar Skull Cross Roses Throw Pillows


 Ideas for Day of the Dead Costume Makeup

wicked costume ideas day of the dead, child makeup

1.  An easy makeup look for a child

The above design is simple and an adorable choice for a child’s makeup. All you need is just some white foundation makeup with a few black accents. Clown white is a creamy base you can use that lasts a long time, and is easy to remove with soap and water or makeup remover. You can buy clown white base here. Black accents are applied around the eye sockets as well as the cute triangle on her nose and shadow effects under her cheekbones and on her chin. A suggestion of large flower petals between the brows provides a nice balance. I usually purchase my black accent makeup from the Halloween costume section at Walgreen’s. Red and blue paper flowers are added to her hair for some fun color and contrast.

Red rose costume makeup for Day of the Dead, wicked costume ideasspan>

2.  Day of the Dead Makeup: Red Roses

The red rose is a common theme in Day of the Dead makeup. The symbolism may come from the image of the skull with a rose garland, also known as a “carpe diem,” which translates to “seize the day.” This is from the quote by the poet Homer: “Remember that you are mortal, so seize the day.”

In addition to (or instead of) wearing the rose garland on your hair, you can utilize the red rose design to highlight the eyes. Red makeup is applied below the eye sockets and above the brows, often with a black center close to the eyes. Notice the spider web embellishment on the forehead along with the black line with cross hatches on the mouth and extending up the cheeks to represent a grinning skull.

You can find a variety of colors and designs in this Day of the Dead skeleton compact and makeup kit.

Black and white sugar skull makeup wicked costume ideas

3.  Day of the Dead Makeup: Black and White

The black and white makeup theme is more of a literal interpretation of the sugar skull, more dark and severe looking. Men who apply Day of the Dead  costume makeup often use the black and white theme because it is easier and not as ornate. The model above demonstrates how beautiful the black and white makeup theme can be, even with very little ornamentation.

Photo of girl in Day of the Dead makeup by Armando Aguayo Rivera

4.  Day of the Dead Makeup – Original Color Schemes

The model in this photo is incorporating a color scheme that is unusual and quite lovely: she uses shades of purple and yellow, along with a garland of dried flowers, such as chrysanthemums.

Day of the Dead Folk Art Symbols

The Marigold Flower, “Cempasúchil”

Day of the Dead folk art marigolds, wicked costume ideas
Day of the Dead marigolds

In addition to the red rose, the marigold flower, or cempasúchil, is considered the flower of the dead, and is used widely in Day of the Dead festivities. The marigold is used to decorate the ofrendas, or altars, and is often incorporated into costumes. The flower is believed to guide the spirits of the dead to receive the gifts placed by loved ones. Interestingly, the marigold flower is used in Indian culture as well. Great garlands of marigolds are prepared for Indian festivals and weddings but a display of marigolds is also used as a gateway to the home.

La Calavera Catrina

The most well-known figure of Mexican Day of the Dead festivities is “La Calavera Catrina”, or the Elegant Skull. She is the female figure dressed in wedding garments and often holding a bouquet of flowers. Older depictions show her in native garb of the Pueblo Indians.

Day of the Dead Catrinas
Day of the Dead Catrinas Photo Credit: Wikipedia


Day of the Dead Costumes & Accessories

 Dead Damask – Chic Sugar Skull Desk Organizer

Leg Avenue Women’s Day Of The Dead Flower Headband with Lace Veil Costume Accessory, Multicolor, One SizeForum Novelties Women’s Day Of Dead Spanish Lady Costume, Multi, StandardSugar Skull Makeup Temporary Tattoo

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