How to Apply Corpsepaint

Corpsepaint, not to be confused with zombie makeup, dead makeup, or Goth makeup, is a makeup style favored by black metal bands. It was originated by the vocalist of Mayhem, Per "Dead" Ohlin, who wanted to look like a corpse on stage. To apply corpsepaint, follow these directions.


  1. Image titled Apply Corpsepaint Step 1
    Apply a thin layer of white base on your face. Make sure you use enough to make your face at least several shades lighter, but not enough so that you look like a geisha or a clown. Generally, it's a good idea to include your jaw line and neck unless you want a "mask" or "floating face" effect.
  2. Image titled Apply Corpsepaint Step 2
    Apply white or translucent powder over the white base (optional). Though this step can be skipped, it will help keep the white base from smudging/melting off your face or into the rest of the color.
    • For extra hold, repeat Steps 1 and 2 until a mask-like effect is achieved.
      Image titled Apply Corpsepaint Step 2Bullet1
  3. Image titled Apply Corpsepaint Step 3
    Liberally apply either dark blue/purple/black eyeshadow around your eyes. There should be enough to cover the entire space between your eyebrow and eyelash. Apply a reasonable amount beneath your eye.
    • Instead of simply applying it so that it contours to your eye socket, try going for a spider-webbed, stitched, shattered, dripping, or vine-y effect.
      Image titled Apply Corpsepaint Step 3Bullet1
  4. Image titled Apply Corpsepaint Step 4
    Apply a wide layer of black eyeliner around your eyes. This helps to bring out the eye shadow and your natural eyebrows.
  5. Image titled Apply Corpsepaint Step 5
    Apply dark lipstick if desired. Match the colour to what’s around your eyes for a more cohesive effect. Again, consider creating a secondary effect such as stitching or dripping instead of simply drawing perfect lines.


  • Whether on stage or in the pit, it gets very hot; either use waterproof makeup or avoid complicated designs, as they will fade with sweat and look bad if you don't have time to keep fixing them up every few hours.
  • A sponge is very useful in applying large swaths of paint. For the rest, use your fingers (don't forget to wash!) or a soft makeup pencil.
  • Avoid pimples. Get rid of the greasepaint when you're done. Rub Pond's cold cream (cosmetic turpentine; cheaper and more efficient than any fancy makeup remover) all over the makeup, give it a minute, then wipe. Use a cotton swab or cotton ball for your eyes; it's more thorough. Wash the remaining grease out with mild soap. Do not scrub: that is what causes pimples. Be sure to use moisturizer after you rinse to maintain your skin's natural oil levels. Moisturizer works to remove the paint as well, but you might have to go over it twice.
  • Painting your whole body isn't necessary unless you are trve kvlt, in which case you would paint the whole body, but also wear long sleeves. Most black metal fans just paint their faces, because who wants to spend three hours putting the stuff on when you could be out there having fun already? If you're wearing something that shows a lot of skin, just taper out the white edges to blend into your natural skin tone.
  • Observe or research the styles of musicians such as King Diamond, Behemoth, Immortal, Dimmu Borgir, etc. for inspiration. If you're having trouble getting your lines straight, pencil the edges in first.


  • Read the label! Some makeup may cause irritation, especially when used around the eyes. As with all makeup, check with the manufacturer to make sure that what you are using is safe. Watch out for parabens, lead, and things you are allergic to.
  • When you wipe, don't smear; just slap a tissue onto the moisture and let it do the soaking for you.
  • Don't confuse gothic makeup with corpsepaint! Gothic make-up is applied just like normal makeup and usually blended. Corpsepaint is generally for performances and is almost a form of face paint. It is usually more opaque instead of blended, like a mask, with large, well-defined shapes.

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