This is how Priscilla Varelas looked as The Nun after makeup artist Erin Armsey finished their 20-minute session.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in October 2018.

Erin Armsey can transform faces.

Not with a scalpel but with a makeup brush.

Trained in special-effects makeup, the Tucson woman has made ghouls and monsters out of normal-looking folks for television and the movies.

Who better to give a tutorial on Halloween makeup?

We gathered a trio of Halloween celebrants: Lily Llamas, Armsey’s 10-year-old daughter, who was aiming for a mermaid look; Rose Chiasson, a 14-year-old freshman at Tucson High Magnet School, who sought a stitched-mouth-monster look; and 33-year-old Priscilla Varelas, who will spend Halloween creeping people out dressed as the terrifying character from the movie, “The Nun.”

On a recent afternoon, they all gathered in the kitchen of Armsey’s home and took their turns sitting on a high stool as their faces were transformed.

TIPS
  • Much of the makeup used, such as powder and foundation, can be found in your, your mom’s, brother’s, sister’s or dad’s makeup kit. Armsey says the special makeup you’ll need can be bought cheaply at places such as Walmart. Most have a “Halloween makeup” label on them. One of the essential items she had in her kit was a $6.98 Monster Makeup set that included different shades of eyeshadow, a cream makeup and fake blood.
  • Eyeshadow does not have to be confined to the eye. It’s safe to use on the face when you want to create a special effect.
  • Always start with a clean face; otherwise, the makeup won’t hold.
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THE NUN

Time: 20 minutes.

What you need:

  • An image of the character pulled up from the internet; you’ll use it as a guide.
  • Translucent powder.
  • From that cheap Halloween makeup kit, black and green eyeshadow, and white cream makeup.
  • Eyeshadow brush.
  • Thin makeup brush.
  • Makeup sponge.

Remember this: “The Nun doesn’t have to be perfect because the skin is very blotched,” says Armsey.

With your sponge, dot a thin layer of the white cream makeup on the face, leaving no skin — not even the eyelids — visible.

Press on the translucent powder, except for the eye area. The black will need a sticky base: “That (powder) will give the rest of the makeup something to stick to,” says Armsey.

Take your makeup sponge and tear the edges — you want the makeup to look jagged. With the sponge, dot the purple, in a crosshatch pattern, around the contours on the face — it will start to resemble veins under the skin.

Time for the black. “Take your eyeshadow brush and cover the eyelids, as well as under the eyes,” says Armsey. Blend the eyeshadow at the edges.

Stretch and wrinkle your face so that the makeup cracks some. Use those cracks to guide where you apply black lines with a thin brush; do the forehead, jaw, crows feet, cheekbones. Then blend with your fingers to soften the lines, and add shadows to the brows. Note: You can use an Elmer’s glue stick to flatten and smooth your eyebrows to the skin, before the white makeup, to give the effect of not having eyebrows.

Finally, put black on your lips and around the mouth. Draw veins around the mouth with a thin brush.

For the final textural touch: Mix a clump of the white cream makeup with water, dip a brush in the mixture and splatter the face with it. Follow that step with black and olive green mixed with water and splatter it on. That will add another creepy dimension to the look.

Varelas paid less than $5 on the internet for a pair of white contact lenses and she got some charcoal toothpaste to blacken her teeth. But you can do the teeth with black tooth wax, as well.

Rose Chiasson, 14, got this stitched-mouth monster look in a session that included toilet paper, a hairdryer, liquid latex, embroidery floss and a plastic yarn needle.

THE STITCHED-MOUTH MONSTER

Time: 30-45 minutes.

What you need:

  • Toilet paper.
  • Hairdryer.
  • Liquid latex.
  • Embroidery floss.
  • Plastic yarn needle.
  • Foundation matching your skin type.
  • Makeup sponge.
  • Makeup brush.
  • Translucent face powder.
  • Manicure scissors.
  • Red, deep blue and black/blue cream makeup (look to the Halloween makeup kit for these).
  • Fake blood.

The idea here is to build a skin on Chiasson’s face and then mess that skin up.

“Use tissue paper and liquid latex and you can build stuff that looks like skin,” says Armsey. But, she cautions, “Be sure it’s latex, not spirit gum, which has a Super Glue effect and it’ll rip your skin off if you don’t have the correct remover.”

Armsey begins by dabbing the liquid latex around Chiasson’s mouth and chin. Then she takes a swatch of toilet paper — enough to cover the skin from the nose to a bit past the chin, and about 2 inches beyond the mouth on both sides.

Don’t worry. By the time you’re done, you’ll have a mouth again.

That toilet paper is covered with more latex, then layered with more toilet paper. You want about four layers.

And, “Be sure not to get the latex in your mouth.”

Tear off the excess toilet paper hanging over your chin. It can look ragged — that adds to a banged-up look, Armsey says.

Then take the blow dryer and dry the new skin completely.

Next, “Blend in the fake skin with a normal foundation so that where the latex ends and skin begins is not detectable,” she says.

This is important, says Armsey: Dot, rather than wipe, the foundation on with a makeup sponge. It’ll give you the texture of skin. Resist the temptation to smear it on with a tissue.

When done, press on — “don’t wipe,” says Armsey — a translucent powder.

Now you’re ready to make it look as though you are all bruised and sore.

Use the red from the Halloween makeup kit (or you can use a face paint, but Armsey says not to use a greasy face paint) and dot it on (with the sponge) in a crosshatch pattern to the new skin and the area around it. “You can use red, mauve, even purple,” says Armsey about this stage. Whichever color you use, the idea is to make your skin look irritated.

The next step requires caution.

Take hold of the fake skin at one corner of the lip and pull slightly to create a pocket. Once done, starting with that pocket, carefully cut through the layers of latex/toilet paper with manicure scissors to create a slit across the mouth.

“It doesn’t have to be perfect,” says Armsey. “This is a stitched-mouth monster, after all. They are rarely perfect. You want to look really gruesome.”

Along the cut, on the lips and inside the latex skin, add black, deep blue or purple makeup. Put red on the edge of the latex around the mouth.

“We’ll be adding blood and we don’t want any white showing along the mouth,” says Armsey.

Paint the blood along the inside of the cut latex. “Make sure it’s blood that’s OK for the mouth, it will usually say on the packaging,” she says, adding that the blood “will also help to camouflage the latex.”

That done, add more blood around the mouth, on the chin; let it drip wherever it seems most gross/scary/realistic.

The final touch: Take your plastic yarn needle and embroidery floss and sew the latex over the lips.

“Do it loosely enough that you can eat a snack, drink through a straw and talk,” she says.

If you want to extend that tired-out-and-beat-up look — “as though you’ve been in a torture chamber too long,” says Armsey — dot a darker color, such as maroon, brown, or red around the eyes and in the natural contours of the face. Then make your hair oily and bloody, and head out for your Halloween celebration.

Lily Llamas wanted to be a mermaid, “more of a beauty makeup for people who don’t want to look scary or nasty,” says Erin Armsey. “I feel like a princess,” Lily says after her session.

MERMAID

Time: 20 minutes.

What you need:

  • Foundation.
  • Translucent powder.
  • Fishnet stocking.
  • Glitter, large and small.
  • From a Halloween makeup kit: Purple and blue eyeshadows.
  • Makeup sponge.

“This is more of a beauty makeup for people who don’t want to look scary or nasty,” says Armsey. That put a smile on daughter Lily’s face.

First, put a foundation on the face, and then press the powder on.

Cut up the fishnet stocking and cover the face with a section of it.

With the net on, “Go to the normal contours of the face and (with your sponge) dab with deep purple,” says Armsey, “along the forehead, sides of the forehead, under the cheeks, chin and the jaw line.”

Add purple from the hairline to the brows to give more of a fish look.

Next, apply the blue around the hairline and temples and repeat at the contour areas. “You are just getting the glow of the different colors,” she says.

Take the glue that comes with the glitter and apply it along the forehead for a crown effect, on top of the cheekbones, the chin — “Anywhere you want to accentuate the scales.”

Use a brush that will pick up the glitter and apply it on the parts where you have put the glue. Then carefully remove the fishnet stocking.

Next, glam up the eyes. More purple around the eyes will add to the scaly look. Use the glitter glue and add glitter to the lids. Do the same to the lips. Dab glue around the eyes and add larger glitter.

This is important: Don’t rub your eyes or lick your lips. When you’re finished with the look, you may remove the glue and glitter with an oil-based makeup remover or warm soapy water, and lightly wipe with a washcloth.

An outrageous wig will complete the look.

All made up, Lily got off the chair, stood up straight and said, “I feel like a princess.”

A before shot of Priscilla Varelas as makeup artist Erin Armsey makes up her face to mimic “The Nun” on Oct. 10, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz.

A layer of powder is the second step in turning Varelas into her Halloween character.

“The Nun doesn’t have to be perfect because the skin is very blotched,” says Erin Armsey.

The eyeshadow is applied heavily to the eyelids and to the area under the eyes as well.

An in-progress shot of Priscilla Varelas as makeup artist Erin Armsey makes up her face to mimic “The Nun” on Oct. 10, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz.

A “before” shot of Rose Chiasson, 14, before makeup artist Erin Armsey gives her a stitched-mouth Halloween look on Oct. 10, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz.

An in-progress shot of Rose Chiasson, 14, as makeup artist Erin Armsey gives her a stitched-mouth Halloween look on Oct. 10, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz.

Liquid latex is applied over layers of toilet paper to form “skin” for the monster.

A layer of powder is an early step in the transformation from high school girl to monster.

An in-progress shot of Rose Chiasson, 14, as makeup artist Erin Armsey gives her a ghoulish stitched-mouth Halloween look.

Fake skin made from latex and toilet paper covers the mouth and is then cut. Later, a plastic yarn needle and embroidery floss are used to sew the latex over the lips.

Makeup artist Erin Armsey applies stage blood to the ripped skin made by liquid latex and toilet paper on Rose Chiasson’s, 14, face as Armsey gives her a stitched-mouth Halloween look on Oct. 10, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz.

Makeup artist Erin Armsey stitches up the “skin” made by liquid latex and toilet paper on 14-year-old Rose Chiasson’s face as Armsey gives her a stitched-mouth Halloween look on Oct. 10, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz.

A before shot of 10-year-old Lily Llamas after makeup artist Erin Armsey gave her a mermaid look on Oct. 10, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz.

Makeup artist Erin Armsey brushes eye shadow over fishnet on 10-year-old Lily Llamas’s face for a mermaid look on Oct. 10, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz.

Glitter applied through a fishnet stocking helps give Lily a set of mermaid scales.

The stocking is pulled away, leaving a pattern of purple scales across Lily’s face.

Glitter, large and small, is applied with a brush to simulate scales.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@tucson.com or 573-4128. On Twitter: @kallenStar

Reporter

Kathleen has covered the arts for the Star for 20 years. Previously, she covered business, news and features for the Tucson Citizen. A near-native of Tucson, she is continually amazed about the Old Pueblo's arts scene and feels lucky to be covering it.