HOWTO be desaturated

From BrodyQat, whose infamous desaturated Santa outfit made her the toast of the Internet, advice on how to make yourself a monochrome costume:

You have to think in shades of gray, not black & white. And all your grays need to complement each other, which is freaking HARD. There’s blue-grays, red-grays, etc. Find neutral ones, use mainly those and accent with black & white. (Wearing all black & white is not the same as looking desaturated).

Once you’ve matched all your grays for your outfit, you then need to match a skin-tone gray body paint. By ‘skin tone’ I mean it looks like your particular shade of skin tone, but gray. I recommend only Kryolan brand aquacolor body paint, they have lots of shades and coverage is amazing. Match colors in person if you’re lucky enough to have a vendor near you. I wouldn’t chance it looking at shades online, honestly.

Line your eyes top and bottom with dark gray eyeliner BEFORE you paint your face & exposed skinparts. Then shade back in your eyebrows so you don’t look like Amanda Palmer before she breaks out the eyebrow Sharpie.

(via Super Punch)

(Image: Ben Zero)


  1. (At least in the quote..) she makes it sound really hard, why not just create the full-color costume, take a photo of that, and desaturate it to your liking in photoshop/gimp? Then use a color picker to get the colors you need, and carry those around with you while you’re redoing the costume in gray.

    1. Based on my own experience with fiber arts, I’d guess the problem is not just identifying what the appropriate shades of gray would be, the problem is actually finding fabric/clothing/accessories in exactly the right shade(s) of gray.

      Matching blacks is difficult enough, as anyone who’s tried to combine two or more different black fabrics in one garment can tell you. Gray… yow.

      1. Thankfully, I just had to deal with one shade of gray fabric to construct the Santa suit. To grab the right colour, I spent well over an hour wandering around a giant fabric store with a printed-out photo of a Santa suit that I’d desaturated in Photoshop, matching the desaturated-red to an appropriate gray fabric that was also believably “Santa Suit”-ish (no nap, patterns, etc). PAIN IN THE ASS. 

  2. There’s still some issue though. The environment lighting of you (courtesy by the sky and all the red guys standing around you) throw colored light onto you, which reflects off your monochrome outfit into the camera. That’s a tricky problem to solve, as you need to rely on the environment light to illuminate you (otherwise the camera would see nothing).

    I believe that you could solve that problem in either of the following ways:
    – make a test photo and tune your grey to be counter-opposed to the environmental illumination at that spot (note this might be a little difficult with people moving around and it’s not easy to apply makeup and new shades fast).
    – fashion your cloths (and makeup) from color e-ink displays that adapt to the environmental illumination in a quicker way.
    – try some metamaterial that doesn’t reflect light of certain wavelengths (like red) and only reacts to other wavelengths (like blue) by emitting it as white (note this would have the added benefit that you not only look desaturated, but also pasted in with photoshop due to missing near environmental illumination)
    – if you have one around, you might try hacking the firmware of a klingon cloaking device to help you achieve proper desaturation .

  3. Now how do you sepiafy yourself? I want to dress in a sepia Victorian outfit and go to the Dickens Christmas Fair.

  4. I have been working with Photoshop since forever, having graduated the Art Institute of Seattle in 1988.  This is actually quite easy and I am asked to do something similar at least three times a month.  Not HARD.  But Photoshop is all about making selections.  Everything else is imagination and knowledge of the program.

    1. I think somebody missed a major point in the article. Either that or this is a very unfunny sarcastic post.

  5. With my incredible internet skillz, I answered my own question. those contacts must have cost. Awesome performance, BrodyQat.

  6. I think they did something like this for certain scenes in 1998’s “Pleasantville.” Makeup vs. actual desaturation of the footage. It was in one of the bonus features on the DVD. Could be wrong though… I haven’t watched that DVD in 10+ years. Gonna have to go back and watch that now!

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