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Hey guys, so this isn't technically a step-by-step DIY, but I thought I'd share some secrets from my times on set for quick ways to make your costumes look dirty without really getting them dirty. This is perfect for costumes where things are supposed to be dirty, old, distressed, worn down, and or just generally nasty (zombies are the perfect example!)

First thing first. When I go onto a set where I know I'm going to be getting people "dirty" I always pack my dirt kit. You can buy professional grade "dirt" (Called Schmere) but it's not only hella expensive (deluxe kits can be purchased for upwards of $75), but it actually carries warnings right on the items that it's made with nuts and should not be used by anyone with nut allergies.
I've worked with enough actors who are deathly allergic to peanuts that this makes me nervous...which is why I've made my own "dirt kit." For a whopping $20 (and most of that was for the cooler bag I carry it around in) I made my own kit.


SUPPLIES FOR YOUR KIT:

INSTANT UNSWEETENED TEA
INSTANT COFFEE
BABY OIL
FLOUR
CINNAMON
CURRY
SHOE POLISH IN DIFFERENT SHADES AND COLORS IN THE LITTLE TINS
SANDPAPER
LIGHTER OR SMALL BUTANE TORCH
OLD NYLONS
KY JELLY
CLEAR DISH SOAP
GLOVES
OLD RAGS AND OR SOCKS
"BAD CAT" LEATHER SCRAPER (MORE ON THIS IN A MINUTE.)
SMALL POWER SANDER (TOTALLY OPTIONAL)
SPRAY BOTTLES (AS MANY AS YOU NEED)
COFFEE GRINDER (AGAIN, OPTIONAL, BUT NICE)

I've had people ask me about spray paint which is fine in a pinch, but has a tendency to make fabric stiff and crack. You can also use specific fabric spray paints, but they sometimes splatter and can also be expensive. I prefer using this stuff over anything else...plus, it smells much better!

Now, just a heads up, this can get messy, so if you can...do the initial ageing somewhere you don't mind getting a little grubby. I prefer my bathtub...but outdoors works well also.

SWEAT AND GRIME:
31560_10101698381082503_2030824629_n.jpg
This was for a western we shot last year. The director wanted it to look like my cowboys had been on the trail for weeks without a shower...but of course, nobody really wants to wear clothes that dirty and or stinky...so what I did was fake it with a little kitchen magic.
IMAG1047.jpg

SWEAT:
For the dried on sweat look I filled a spray bottle with water and some instant iced tea. You can make this as light or as dark (weak or strong) as you want. It will leave a nice yellowish tint to anything you spray it on. Make sure you use UNSWEETENED tea. If you use sweet tea, the sugar will gum up the spray bottle and you'll end up with a clogged nozzle. THIS WILL STAIN CLOTHES so make sure whatever you're spraying is okay with being a permanent tan color. Soaking fabric in tea is often used to make whites more "vintage" as well...it's also called "teching" and helps to ensure that the bright white won't 'blow out' on camera.

For wet/fresh sweat I like to use baby oil. It will remain "dark" like real sweat for hours. Like the tea it will stain. You can also use clear dish soap which WILL wash out...just make sure you don't add in extra detergent when you wash it in the washer or you'll end up with a foamy mess. There is also the ever popular KY Jelly which also works well but will get you some strange looks when you walk into the drug store and buy thirty bottles at once. I suggest spreading it out over a few stores.

Here's another shot using the tea/baby oil sweat from another film we did...
on set.jpg

DIRT/DUST:
I like to use a mixture depending on what type of dirt I'm recreating. I use what I call "dirt puffs" which is just whatever dirt I need mixed up and poured into an old nylon doubled up. Tie the top of the nylon and it becomes an easy way to "pouf" dirt onto whatever you need. You can bop it against just about anything and get a nice dirt look or even shake it over for a light dusting.
To get your dirt fine enough to sift through a nylon and to ensure it's well blended, I like to pulse my dirt ingredients in an old coffee grinder before nylon bagging it.

MAKE SURE YOU'RE BEING SMART WITH THIS STUFF...even though it's all kitchen items, it's still not healthy to breathe it in, so make sure as you're "pouffing," that you're not inhaling a ton of it either.

DUST: Baking flour
DIRT: Instant coffee and or tea
RUSTY DIRT: Instant coffee and cinnamon
SANDY DIRT: Instant coffee and curry
MUD: flour, instant coffee and any of the above ingredients mixed to a nice slurry and then spattered or slapped onto whatever you want.
GREASE: Shoe polish. You can either break off pieces and use them like a crayon and just scrub the clothes with it or you can actually light it on fire (in the tin), let it melt a bit, blow it out, then scoop up melted polish on an old rag or sock and rub that onto the clothes as well. Just remember to blow it out before you scoop it up.

RIPS, TEARS AND SHREDS

Need to put holes in something? I prefer using a combination of methods but for a fast shred, nothing works faster or better than the "Bad Cat."
bad cat.jpg
Technically referred to as a "leather rougher," this thing is MEAN! When you use it, I STRONGLY suggest using it on a surface that either A) you don't care about, or B) won't easily get scratched. Whatever you do, do NOT use it on something you are wearing...it will TEAR YOU UP! I call it the bad cat because it's like being licked by Satan's feline... I got mine at Tandy's but they can also be ordered online.

Just a few passes with this thing will shred just about ANYTHING...

Not feeling brave enough to use the cat or just can't find one? A power sander (I like the Black and Decker Mouse) or just plain old sand paper works as well.
And then again, there's always the cinder block method...which I've used sometimes, but don't always recommend. Basically you drive out to a dirt lot, take a cinder block and put it on whatever clothes you want to quickly destroy, tie the block to your bumper, and drag the clothes all over the lot while they're under the cinder block. Super fast but you never know what you might be driving over so LAST RESORT...

Of course, nothing works better than a quick pass with a lighter (or small butane torch) but make sure you've got water nearby just in case...

So, in a quick little nutshell, that's my crash course on ageing and dying. I hope this helps anyone looking for a fast way to make things look grubby...

I love helping people out, so if you have any questions or need a specific look, just ask...if I can't figure it out, I'll find someone who can and together we'll both learn something new!

Happy haunting!
 

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Just what I needed. My pirate costumes look way too clean. I have been debating how to make it look more like a grungy pirate. I used my old pirate costumes on my pirate props and they look new. Thanks for this. Bookmarking.
 

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Thanks for sharing your kit! Definitely a must-have for all of us DIYers out there on both film sets and home haunting. It's interesting because I was a human extra in a couple episodes of Z Nation and they did a lot of work to make us look dirty - like we'd been out there surviving the apocalypse for a few years. After observing the makeup and costumers working their magic I can definitely see how these options are not only much cheaper but would be incredibly effective.

I'm definitely going to put one of these kits together as our next major film project is going to be something apocalyptic and this will be a huge help in making our talent look believable on screen, but also keep costs down.
 

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Love these tips!
I also use a pumice stone on fabrics to create 'wear' holes and tattered edges especially on the cuff of shirts or pants.
J/grey lady
 

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Hello! These tips are awesome and so much less expensive. I know I am very late in joining this thread, but I have a question about making my costume look dirty. Does the pouffing dust/dirt stain the clothes or just stick to them? I need it to look dirty but not come off on furniture or anything. If it does not stain on its own, would it stain if I wet the material first and keep it from falling off later? Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Hey Springtrap! Thanks for the PM...I haven't checked this thread for a while and apparently my notifications were off so I would have never seen your question if you hadn't sent me a message!
The pouffing dust/dirt does come off of your clothes if you put it on dry. Getting it wet before will definitely help it adhere. You can also try thinning clear Elmer's glue way down with water and adding that to whatever dirt and soil you want to stick to your clothes and use that to help "seal" it to the fabric. Unfortunately with all ageing and distressing, you will run the risk of it coming off onto furniture so choosing what you're using to make your stuff look old is really important, especially when you take into consideration what you might be doing.
If you're looking to age and distress stuff and have it not come off, I'd consider going with wet applications rather than dry. Anything dusty like the cocoa/dirt/powders will rub off naturally as you wear it and will require reapplication. Tea staining works great because after it dries, it's pretty well locked into the fabric...until you get it wet again...so keep that in mind if you plan on partying in a rain storm.
Oiling your clothes to create sweat looks really good, but oil doesn't really ever really dry so be careful when putting too much of it on your clothes if you plan on doing a lot of hugging or rolling around on light colored furniture (hey, you never know!)
For more permanent staining, I would suggest using acrylic and cotton dyes which are available at Michael's and Joann's fabrics.
I hope this helps?!?
Oh, and to answer your question from your PM about the forest green clothing...yellow is going to have a hard time showing up on it. What are you going to be exactly? Can you send me photos? I might be able to better help you out if I know exactly what you're doing and going for.

:)
 

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Thank you so much for your answer! I bought some black shoe polish, instant tea, a spray bottle, and sandpaper while I was out. We have some of the other stuff here already. I am making a Springtrap costume. It's one of the animatronics from Five Nights at Freddy's. I don't know if you know the game, but I hope you don't take my explanation as condescending if you do know the game. I don't even know the full story of the game, but I will explain a popular theory (and might even get it wrong lol). This is kind of what I understand from the theory: the murderer of the children gets trapped in the suit which also has the mechanical capabilities to function on its own. It was a dangerous idea and was scrapped, but I think he hid in the Golden Bonnie suit because the ghosts of the children were chasing him and the spring snapped and he was crushed inside the suit. So the outside is mostly just tattered and cracked, but he is a bit dirty too, so I would like to add some stains if possible. There are wires sticking out and you can see the mechanical properties in addition to his bones and guts. I might be totally wrong about the back story and I know the main fanbase gets very agitated if you get it wrong, but I wanted to give you an idea. lol

He's not my favorite character from the series, but I love the way he looks and I am excited for the challenge. I am using forest green hoodie/sweatpants (so I can cut it up and age it, etc. and piece it together) because any of the other colors that were closer were very expensive and I was afraid of trying to buy different brands online in case they didn't match up when I get them. I think he is actually a yellowish-green, olive drab, or military green color, but in the light from the game, he looks green. I think the lighting of the game plays a huge role on what color he looks like, but I think forest green can work for alright. I checked into dyes but I was afraid of buying the stuff and then ruining it, so I just went with this color to be safe. It doesn't have to be perfect (and it won't be) but I'd still like it to look good.

Here are some pictures. I think the third picture is fan-made, but still very accurate. I was going to link them because these look pretty small here, but it says I don't have enough posts to do that. Thank you again!

springtrapfull.jpg
closeup01.jpg
allangles.jpg
 

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Awesome information!

I wanted to ask you : How to create clothing that "looks" wet and how to achieve the "wet look" on skin?

I was want to cosplay Samara Morgan and want to make the clothes look "wet", I have a good grasp on how to make clothes dirty, dingy and tattered because of my love of zombies. It's just the wet look I can't find any information on. Any and all information would be greatly appreciated!
 
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