Fake blood isn't just for people who make movies. Anyone who takes part in amateur theater, gets kids ready for trick or treating or just plain likes a good party is a candidate for the occasional batch of faux gore. While fake blood itself is fairly easy to make, making fake blood that doesn't stain is a bit more troublesome.
The Basic Makeup of Fake Blood
Being red isn't enough to make a good fake blood. Real blood ranges from bright red to a dark purple-brown color depending on how fresh and how oxygenated it is. It's also thicker, or more viscous, than water. That means your recipe for fake blood should include another pigment or two to darken it and some method of thickening as well.
You can thicken your fake blood with gums, gels or starches, but it's simplest to just use a base that's already somewhat gloppy.
The Staining Issue
The other issue with fake blood is how you color it. Any red pigment will do, but red colorings are unfortunately among the colors that stain the most. Stains on your clothes are inconvenient, but at least you can change (and wash) them. Going back to work or school the next day with red hands or a red face is not ideal.
The trick is to find a nonstaining coloring agent that's also nontoxic so it can be used around your face or mouth.
Simple, Water-Soluble Fake Blood
You can make a simple, highly effective fake blood that's water-soluble and nonstaining with just three ingredients: clear corn syrup, washable red poster paint and cocoa powder. The corn syrup provides the viscosity you need, the poster paint provides the primary pigment and the cocoa darkens the blood to a realistic hue.
To make a batch, simply stir your paint into the corn syrup until it's bright red. Then, add cocoa powder in small increments until you're happy with the color. If you wish, you can divide the batch, making some of it darker to represent older or nonoxygenated blood.
Choosing a Paint
For blood that won't stain clothing, any water-soluble, washable paint will do. When you're applying it to skin and especially to faces, you'll need to be a bit choosier. Not all paints are safe for use on skin, and not all will wash away cleanly. More importantly, some contain nonedible ingredients and can't be used around the mouth.
For skin-safe paint, look for brands that are intended for face or body painting. Another excellent option is kids' finger paints. These are usually acrylic or tempera, so they'll wash off easily, and because they're intended for kids, they're made with mouth-friendly ingredients. Some go a step beyond and use formulas that are free of common allergens like soy, eggs and peanuts.
If you're making just a small quantity of blood or want to avoid the use of sticky corn syrup, there are alternatives. The baking aisle of most supermarkets contains red piping gel for cake decorating, and the pharmacy aisle contains a popular brand of cinnamon-flavored toothpaste in red gel form. Either of those can be reddened with a drop or two of red food coloring and then darkened with cocoa or a tiny drop of green food coloring. Both are safe for use around the mouth, of course.
The red food coloring may cause light staining, but you can minimize the risk by applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly (Vaseline or equivalent) to the skin before you apply the blood. This also provides a measure of protection against unexpected allergies, so it's a sensible precaution.
- Inside Science: The Science of Fake Blood
- Wired: Water, Flour, Syrup, Dye - Mastering the Elements of Fake Blood
- Gregory Crafts: My Secret Family No-Stain Stage Blood Recipe
- Worldsafety2018.org: What Paint is Safe for Skin – Best Paint for Skin, Body, Face
- Don't Waste Your Money: The Best Paint for Kids