Blood, sweat and tears


This is not a reference to all the hard work that goes into putting on a play [although we recognise this is pretty much what it feels like we’re spilling when we’re in the midst of it!] It is in fact a recognition that there may well come a time when you’re doing a play that requires a bit of gore. So, here are some handy hints on how to make your fight scene or other bloody event look realistic without spending a fortune on snazzy stage props bought from a special effects shop.

The lovely SFX chaps over at Raindance have put together the following which we hope you’ll find useful, should the need arise.

“Syrup Blood

This is the recipe that pretty much everyone uses, and there’s a lot of variations so feel free to experiment.

475ml golden syrup
30ml red food colouring
30ml washing-up liquid
30ml water

Add a drop of blue food colouring to create a more realistic colour. Remove the washing up liquid if you want to make edible blood. Adding condensed milk makes it less transparent and more like real blood.

The blood is extremely sticky and can stain skin and clothes so make sure it’s washed off quickly and have stain remover handy for clothes!

Cardiff Red

Because of the food colouring used in a lot of blood recipes they tend to stain easily and can sometime look more purple than red. Here’s a more natural alternative that’s closer to a Spaghetti Western style arterial red. It also washes out of clothes easily and can be eaten reasonably safely if you need blood to come from the actor’s mouth.

Take a teaspoon or two of Arrowroot (a white powder used in baking that you can easily find in supermarkets) and add to water heated on the hob. Stir continuously until the mixture becomes gloopy. Add a small amount of red children’s non-toxic powder paint and stir in. The mixture should now be bright red. Add a tiny amount of brown powder paint or coffee concentrate (make this by adding a small amount of water to coffee granules) to darken the blood as required. Store in a bottle or jam jar and thin by adding water to make the blood the required consistency as and when you need it.

Cheap Blood

Add a few drops of red food colouring to the cheapest washing up liquid you can find. Add a drop of blue colouring or some coffee concentrate to create a more realistic colour. Produces a runny blood that has a slight tendency to foam. Great for those buckets of blood effects on the cheap. Washes off reasonably well but tastes foul if you accidentally get it in your mouth.”

So, now you have your blood, how can you use it to its best effect?  Brainiac over at eHow shows us how to make those little bags better known as ‘squibs’.


“Blood Squibs 

Buy the cheapest sandwich bags of the poorest quality. You want the thinnest plastic sandwich bags you can find, something you can easily poke a finger through. Spoon a ladle full of the fake blood into the bottom corner of a sandwich bag. Don’t spoon in too much. A squib should be about the size of a ping-pong ball.

Tightly tie off the corner of the sandwich bag where the blood has pooled. Tie it off so tightly, the blood bulges the plastic.

Alternatively, line an egg cup with a square of cling film, spoon in the fake blood, gather up the edges of the cling film and twist together to seal the blood inside in a tight ball. Tie off with fine thread for maximum blood-holding security.

Cut off the unused portion of the sandwich bag or cling film, and your squib is ready for action.

The actor can either hold the squib and smash it against his body to spurt blood through his hand at the point of impact. The squib also can be taped to the actor’s body underneath his clothes, and the actor can smash his hand against it for a less gruesome effect.”


 Photo credits:

Sweat, tears and…er…other yukky stuff

Under the heat of the lights, most actors will be sweating away all by themselves so extra measures may not be necessary. But, just in case your actor isn’t sweating on cue, an easy way to make him look like he’s perspiring profusely is to simply have a plastic spray bottle full of water [the type you find in garden centres] and spray him liberally. Keep a bottle handy in the wings for top-ups but do remember to add fresh water daily to keep things, well fresh!

We often hear about actors’ eyes being daubed with glycerine to make them look like they’re crying. But we reckon that if your actor is worth his or her salt, [see what we did there?] they will be emoting enough in their scene to squeeze out some real tears. If not, you could try the glycerine but be careful when adding any foreign substance to the eye area. Plus glycerine is really sticky so be prepared for removing it safely afterwards with a little water and some clean cotton wool or tissue.

Actors are not often required to urinate on stage [thank goodness!] but it has been known. We are reliably informed that the RSC used a small pouch of apple juice hidden in a pocket with a small tube to connect it to the outside world, as it were, in a recent production of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.

Vomit can be simulated quite realistically with a mouthful of vegetable soup or rice pudding and strange food-stuffs can be mocked-up with things like yoghurt, spaghetti, tinned chopped tomatoes or fruit [lychees make very realistic eyeballs] mixed up with some food colouring of your choice.

The list of possibilities is as wide ranging as your imagination. But please remember the comfort and safety of your actors, your crew who have to clean up and your audiences who may be in the firing line of your home made concoctions!


If you have any tips of your own for home-made special effects, let us know in the comment section below.

* * * * * * * * * *

COUNTDOWN: 23 days until our entry cut-off date, 1st February.


NEXT UP: Multi-award winners Whole Hog are looking for actors!


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Posted in 2015, Stagecraft, Technical

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