Karen Gillan must have had an absolute blast chewing the scenery as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, seeing as how Nebula is a ball of pure, seething fury pretty much 24/7. Combine that larger-than-life personality with her iconic blue and silver cyborg look, and you have a guaranteed hit for cosplay or Halloween.
The best part? Becoming Nebula doesn't require much in the way of props or materials beyond a bald cap and some paint! As long as you have some confidence with your brushwork — and the ability to fake some deep-seated rage — you can give Karen Gillan and Marvel Studios' makeup team a real run for their money.
To help you along that mission, we've broken down a Nebula makeup video from VFX Makeup's Vikki Axel Jones into a step-by-step tutorial. We're going to cover every step in detail, but be sure to check out the original video at the end of this Halloween how-to.
What you'll need to transform into a bellicose, bald, blue alien:
First, put on your bald cap (follow the instructions on the packaging). Soak one ply of tissue paper in liquid latex and apply it to where the seam of the bald cap meets your forehead. Repeat until the bald cap blends in with your forehead convincingly. For a more extensive guide on how to do this, check out this video tutorial from special effects artist Freakmo.
Use your white makeup pencil to sketch some quick guide lines for proportion. These will separate your head into three "panels".
Cover the left side of your face with a thick, even coat of your light blue face paint.
Then use your black face paint to draw and color in Nebula's headpiece.
Using your white makeup pencil, add some more guide lines around your right eye. This will form the outline for Nebula's cybernetic eye.
Further, subdivide the right side of your face using the white makeup pencil. Your cheek should accommodate a total of three sections when you are done.
Apply a thick coat of the dark blue face paint to the middle section, including around the headpiece.
Switching to your light blue paint, fill in the strip above your right eye, as well as the front section of your cheek. Next, paint the rear section of your cheek (and your ear) dark blue.
Fill in the entire section around your eye in silver face paint — except an inch below your eye, and between your eye and eyebrow. You will probably need several thick coats to cover your eyebrow completely.
Fill in the remaining space around your eye, nose, and the top of your cheek with dark blue face paint.
Outline all your hard lines in black. To achieve a clean look, ensure that your brush is loaded generously with paint, and try to use long, confident, and continuous strokes rather than multiple short ones.
Then add more random lines around the cybernetic eye, and throughout the silver section so that it looks more high-tech. You can refer to Vikki's below, or just make up your own tech design.
Then add more decorative black lines on the other side of your face.
With that, your base is done — all that's left is to give it texture and shine.
Apply a mix of light blue and green shimmer dust on all the light and dark blue portions of your makeup. Nebula has a very shiny face, so be generous!
Next, dab randomly around your head with your black eyeshadow. This will give your makeup a textured look that's more like skin, rather than the flatter tone that you get from an even coat of makeup.
Then add highlights using your black and white eyeshadow. You want to use them to exaggerate the existing contours of your face, so work the black and white in tandem. Use the white to make it seem as though part of your face is catching a lot of light, and use the black right next to it to give the illusion that part of your face is especially recessed, and isn't catching much light.
For example, Vikki hits the point where her chin begins to jut out from her face with white but gets the portion just above it (right under her lip) with her black eyeshadow. Do this for your eye sockets, chin, and the sides of your mouth.
Using your black eyeshadow, add shading to the silver portion of your makeup so it looks three-dimensional. Again, follow this up with some contrasting white eyeshadow to give your "metal prosthetic" even more depth.
Nebula has a very chiseled facial structure, almost to the point of looking gaunt. Using your black eyeshadow, give the illusion of harshly-defined bones in your cheeks and skull. You want to suggest a ridge running along the side of your skull, as well as high cheekbones.
Making sure your brush is loaded heavily with white face paint, add flecks of white to the tops of your ears, the edges of your headpiece, and your cybernetic eye for some extra-harsh highlights.
Lay it on thick and then go over the lines in black. Depending on what you will be wearing, feel free to skip the shoulders — you just want to make sure that all exposed skin is some shade of blue.
Using your eyeshadow or black paint (depending on how defined you want your brow), paint your lonely, non-cyborg brow black.
For the final step, pop in your black Sclera lenses. You're done!
To complete Nebula's look, throw on a red or purple tee shirt, leather jacket, and pants (also leather, or otherwise shiny, preferably). Or you could just pick up a finished costume. You'll probably also want a pair of swords because let's be real — Nebula is pretty much always trying to kill someone.
With all that under your belt, all you really need to do is practice your most sadistic, "I'm going to enjoy hurting you" smile, and you'll be a dead ringer for Nebula, even if you're just chilling by the DIY fog machine ... or peacefully nibbling on some Halloween-themed snacks.
Killed it with the makeup? Scared someone half to death with your smile? Let us know in the comments below after you check out Vikki's video!
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