How to go grayscale for Halloween.
After our photos made it to the front page of Reddit and were featured on The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, there were a lot of questions about how we pulled off our grayscale costume. The answer, in great detail, is below. We had a blast and hope others will go black and white too! If you do follow this tutorial, we'd love to see; tweet photos to @whitneyavalon.
grayscale costume
Our inspiration was black and white photos of Clara Bow and Gary Cooper, like the one above, though of course we'd be placing our similar-but-not-look-a-like characters into a color world. The most important thing to notice in the photo is that black and white images are entirely shades of gray; it sounds obvious, but many who attempt this look mistakenly use solely white/black make-up and clothes for their "black and white costume". They tend to look like vampires or ghosts (which is marvelous, just not when you're trying to look like a grayscale image of a silent era star). Instead, you want as many shades of gray as possible throughout your grayscale costume.

BASE: You need a water-activated make-up, not a creme. We used Aquacolor Wet Makeup in color 32B. Spray a little water on it, use a make-up sponge to apply everywhere that could be visible, repeat a lot. Let it dry before you put your costume on. You may want to use a Q-tip for application to ears and other intricate areas. We got a 30 ml container of the Aquacolor and barely even made a dent in it, but get more than you think you'll need just in case!

SHADOW: For blush and contouring, we used Ben Nye MagiCake Aqua Paint in CF-23. It's a shade darker than the base.

HIGHLIGHTS: Maybelline Color Tattoo by Eyestudio in 05 Too Cool, but any sturdy white eye shadow will do. Wait until base is dry to apply. I used this under my brows and along my nose.

LIPS: Dark gray eyeliner. We used Maybelline Unstoppable Eyeliner in pewter. Apply all over dry lips. Can gently top with a clear gloss if you want some shine. Men may want to use this as their eyeliner (do top lash line and lower water line to hide as much flesh tone as possible) as well.

WOMEN'S EYES: A thick line of black liquid liner for the top, black powder eye shadow lining the lower water line with an angle brush, and lots of black mascara. I also covered my eyebrows with the gray Aquacolor base, then used the same black powder eye shadow to draw a thin brow with a small angle brush.

IRISES: Your only options are to purchase and wear gray contact lenses (prescription, if you require it) or just let your natural eye color shine through.

HAIR: Either dye your hair pure black (as he did) and use a black powder eye shadow along the hairline to really define it, or go with a wig (as I did).

grayscale costume WARDROBE: The more pattern to your wardrobe -- shades of gray where you'd expect color -- the more it pops. Though the make-up base is pretty stable, do expect a bit of its powdered color to rub off on things, including your clothes. Gloves minimize the area of skin to be covered up, but look better with womenís outfits of the time than menís. Ladies: the simplest way to cover your bare legs is thick black tights, plain or patterned, but you can also do black stockings over gray tights if you're feeling fiesty. Plan your wardrobe ahead so you'll know what portions of yourself you're going to need to cover (in our case, I did upper arms, face, neck, and chest and he did face, neck, and hands) and therefore how much base you'll need; more exposed gray skin is more hassle and more mess but also more visually impressive!

REMOVAL: Though it mostly won't come off while you're wearing it, all the make-up will wash out relatively easily with a good scrub in the shower and the gentle eye make-up remover of your choice. No need for anything more harsh than a washcloth, your usual shower soap, and perhaps a mirror to make sure you haven't missed any spots!

CHARACTER & PHOTOS: We opted to be ourselves and speak during the parties, but we've heard from others who carried around a chalkboard (to use as dialogue cards a la silent film) and/or played era-appropriate music from a phone tucked in a pocket. This could work great for a film or performance. Since we were just at Halloween parties, though, we went for fun instead. We did enough research into the look and poses of the time to feel confident we would be able to strike era-appropriate tableaux for photos. Overdramatic, big facial expressions are good in this case! But remember to keep your mouth closed in pictures unless you've somehow creepily dyed your gums and tongue too.

- Whitney Avalon (and Steve Gossett) grayscale costume

Whitney Avalon SAG-AFTRA AEA | Los Angeles stage, film, commercial, television & voice over actor | résumé & headshots | image gallery | media files | press quotes | contact | © 2014