How to Drow: Dark Elf Makeup That Lasts

EDIT: Fuckyeahdrow was kind enough to reblog this post for other Drow fans out there. If you’re interested in dark elves, go check them out.

So, I’ve talked about how use alcohol-activated paint in a previous post but I haven’t really touched on the rest of the process to getting a good dark elf look. Of course, the colouration of the skin is difficult for any costume that requires a big deviation from your usual tone. Anyone who’s done a Wicked Witch of the West, Avatar, or Hellboy costume, for example, knows the headache that ensues when trying to get paint to stay on the skin and not wander all over wigs and clothes and everything you touch. If you’re doing a Drow in particular, your makeup coming off on your lovely white wig is a particular concern.

Well, the good news is, there are solutions. I’ve found two that work particularly well. One is a water-based paint makeup job. The other is an alcohol-activated paint job. Both have pros and cons and I’ll go through both of them so sit tight y’all, this is gonna be a long one!

I should also mention, before I get started, that although these tutorials are specifically geared toward dark elf makeup, the techniques described are useful for many other kinds of costumes so feel free to browse through for anything you can use.

To begin, let’s compare the pros and cons of the water-based and alcohol-activated makeups.


Water-Based Makeup


  • Cheap and easy to find.
  • Easy to put on. (Brush or makeup sponge + water.)
  • Easy to take off. (Soap and water.)
  • Lightweight and breathable.


  • Easy to take off. (Even when you don’t want it to.)
  • Not a viable solution for colouring hands.
  • Requires a fixing spray or other sealer.


Alcohol-Activated Paint


  • Easy to put on. (99% Isopropyl alcohol + paint)
  • Will not come off. (Except in areas with a LOT of rubbing. ie: palms.)
  • Viable solution for colouring hands.
  • Does not require fixing spray or sealer.


Black Hands: Using Alcohol-Activated Paint

Woohoo! I got my alcohol-activated paint in the mail and gave it a try. While it’s more expensive than the other solution I offered with the latex gloves, I recommend this method if you can get hold of the stuff. You put it on, it dries really fast, and then it doesn’t come off for anything short of 99% isopropyl alcohol.

I initially ordered it through Reel Creations but given that I live in Montreal, the shipping was going to be almost twice what the actual colour pot was worth! So I sent them an email asking if there were any distributors closer to where I live so that I wouldn’t have to pay crazy ridiculous shipping. They were exceedingly helpful and understanding and in a few days they got back to me with a distributor in Toronto: The Face Station. If you’re in Canada looking to buy unusual makeup and theatre stuff, I highly recommend these folks. They work alongside an actual theatre and special effects school so they’re able to give you tips and such on how to use their products.

The colour pot didn’t come with any instructions but instead of pestering the Station, I just talked to my friend who recommended the stuff to me in the first place. It’s ridiculously easy to use. So let’s get down to business and show you how it’s done!


Continue reading “Black Hands: Using Alcohol-Activated Paint”

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