how to be a makeup artist

If you the sound of having “Makeup Artist” on your business card, simply enter your zip code in the box to the right and choose Make-up Artist Training as your program to find schools near you.

Jump to Your Question:How should I find, compare and contact makeup schools?

The first step to becoming a professional makeup artist is to get the education and get licensed, if applicable in your state. We find that the average student considers 3 to 5 schools before making a final choice, but because makeup is a highly specialized program and not every state offers licensure in this field, the number of options may be smaller. Thanks to digital cameras, makeup artists are increasingly in demand for weddings, fashion shoots, fashion shows, corporate headshot photography, and other special events that will be photographed or recorded.

The other main type is theatrical and film makeup artist. Like a fashion makeup artist, the theatrical and film makeup artist learns to work with different lighting conditions, the distance between the stage and the audience, and the requirements determined by digital and high definition cameras. This field is often regarded as one of the most creative and lucrative areas of makeup, but it can also be one of the most challenging to break into.

The qualities of a good artist include, but are not limited to: great customer service, creativity, self-motivation, good time management, understanding of art and design, great listener, comfortable making recommendations and offering feedback to clients, arm-hand steadiness and manual dexterity and near vision (ability to see detail up close). Click the button below to find schools near you and start exploring your options.

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How do I become a makeup artist?

Makeup Artist Pull Quote 1A deep love of cosmetics and passion all the things makeup is capable of is one of the first tell-tale signs of a budding makeup artist. Take high-quality pictures of your work as you go from project to project throughout school and beyond, keep in touch with people you’ve work with and shamelessly ask for testimonials and referrals, and be open to working with new experts, products and techniques as opportunities arise.

What salary do makeup artists earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2012 data, a makeup artist salary can range from $22,850 to $117,720 depending on location, level of experience and quality of portfolios. This is because many makeup artists offer their services part-time or work locally in salons and retail stores, but on the other end of the scale, there are world-famous celebrity artists who work in film and television that command higher salaries. The top paying states for makeup occupations are New York, California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Michigan, commanding $52,490 to $91,640 per year mean wages (that’s $25 to $44 hourly).

BLS Makeup Artist Salary Data

What kind of careers can makeup artists have? Many makeup professionals are freelance because the work is so portable, and choose to market themselves as specialists in weddings and special events, mortuary makeup, photo shoots, runway models, film and television, live theater, and special effects, among others. The most common industries makeup artists work in, according to BLS, are motion picture and video industries, personal care services, performing arts companies, television broadcasting, and amusement parks and arcades (seriously!).

The top five states with the highest levels of employment for makeup occupations are New York, California, Florida, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Click the “Find Schools” button below to get started and look for makeup artist training programs near you.

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What is a day in the life of a cosmetics professional like?

A day in the life of the makeup artist is tough to pin down, because every day can be totally different for this dynamic and constantly changing profession! A day in the life of the makeup professional can vary wildly based on what specialty you work in and what’s on your itinerary that day, but there are a few standards that apply across the board.

Prepare Your Tools –You likely invested in high-quality makeup brushes and tools, as well as quality makeup palettes. Be sure you have everything you need to get through the day seamlessly, that your brush belt is fully stocked, and that you have your sanitation canister at the ready for used brushes.

Consult with the Client – Every client’s skin has different needs, and every makeup job is totally custom, the artist should always consult with the client about their challenges, preferences and skin allergies. This time can also be used to get to know your client on a more personal level, because building a personal relationship with your clients leads to customer retention and referrals!

Bridal Makeup ArtistDo the Makeup – This part could include cleansing the clients’ skin with products selected specifically for their skin types, so you can apply makeup to a freshly cleaned palette (their faces!). You may apply primers, foundations, concealers , powders, blushes, eyeshadows, eyeliners, lip liners, lipsticks and a number of other cosmetic products specific to the client’s requests, the event the makeup is for, and their skin types. Each appointment is completely custom to the client.

Ask for Referrals – Because makeup services aren’t quite as regular and consistent as haircuts for most people, it’s tough to get them to book the next appointment before they pay and leave, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get their gears turning on good times to come see you again! For example, “Just a heads up that I’m offering 20% off of each makeover when you book a girls’ night out party for 3 or more!” Certified makeup experts should remind their happy, loyal customers that they love referral business so you can continue to grow your clientele!

What are some continuing sources of inspiration for cosmetics artists?

Makeup Artist Pull Quote 2The number one source of constant inspiration for many makeup artists today is YouTube.

Pros & Cons of Being a Make-up Artist

I am always receiving emails from aspiring make-up artists and even professional make-up artists on how they can get into this industry – On my tips and more! Here are some of my pros and cons of becoming a professional make-up artist from my experiences…

A professional make-up artist is highly demanded and is becoming more and more popular career choice, I do think a lot of this is due to how easy the job can look! As you need to keep your make-up trends fresh and there are always new skills and techniques to learn

·         You have the most exciting thing as a make-up artist which allows you to express your creativity and to put any crazy idea into practice which I love doing the most!

·         You get to meet new people, visiting new places and what is more exciting, working with celebrities and travelling abroad. I would of never said I would be travelling with my career and the last year I have visited some amazing places whilst doing what I love

·         We get to see the results of our work immediately which in my eyes brings a satisfaction to see happy clients’ faces! This is then a chance to show of your skills to the world(which is a real important thing as a make-up artist)


·         The competition between make-up artists is so high at the moment, so my tip is to be really assertive and creative and get yourself noticed and be on top of these two areas

·         There is no working schedule, so a make-up artist may be asked to work even at night and very long hours and if you start to moan to clients about this, you maybe not been seen as professional and in some cases never be hired again.

·         There may be problems with regular work so keep on the go and always network. I have been seen to show this a lot to my followers and I ensure you it pays off.

My final thoughts and tips on how to become a successful make-up artist:

I always tell other aspiring make-up artists to assist local makeup artists & get as much work experience as you can! You see the good, bad and everything that way then.

The beauty of working with Make-up is, it’s constantly changing with trends, products, seasons and having skills like myself within teaching, fashion, photography, media & theatre you can choose any career path at any time which will keep your skills and techniques fresh with the on-going changes of makeup.

 Going to school will not bring you a better job- your skills and determination will.You need to practice on tons of different people- various face shapes, eye shapes, skin colors, eye colors, and ages.Make sure to photograph all of your looks as this will show you later on where you need to improve AND how your makeup translates to pictures.  Makeup in real life looks very different from makeup in pictures- it tends to get washed out and not be as vibrant.You do not need an expensive pile of makeup, but you do need to invest in a variety of brushes and use makeup primers.  This will be a somewhat pricey project, but worth it if you plan on taking it with you to meet with potential clients.For online portfolios, you can purchase your own domain name and use wordpress to post your pictures. Then have your photographer take various shots of each model- make sure to get some headshots also.Your portfolio needs to consist of various styles:  clean makeup (simple but flawless), editorial makeup, avant garde (experimental makeup), and beauty makeup.  Do not put bridal makeup in your portfolio- have a separate portfolio of your bridal work if you plan on going this route for your career.PublicizeYour first step in getting your name out there is to get professional business cards.  Whenever you meet them, be dressed professionally and have a great makeup look on- your face is your hugest advertisement!Hand out your business cards to all local planners, colleges and high schools (for prom season), retailers at makeup counters, and anyone else who will take your card.  It takes time to build a reputation, so don’t give up too soon.A few more tips:Makeup artists are not rolling in the dough, so if you want to become one for any fame or fortune, pick another career.Since it takes time to build a reputation and clientèle, start as a side job doing makeup for events or brides on the weekends.

Essential Information

Make up artists may work in a variety of entertainment or personal beauty service careers. Those seeking formal training in the application of make up and related cosmetics typically enroll in a cosmetology program. bachelor’s degree in theater is another optionLicensure Required for cosmetologists in all statesProjected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 3% for theatrical and performance make up artistsAverage Salary (2013)* $66,330 for theatrical and performance make up artists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for Make Up Artists

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that most beauty professionals complete formal training through programs that require at least a high school diploma or its equivalent for admission.

Cosmetology Program

Make up artists can receive professional training through a cosmetology associate’s degree program offered at a community college. Cosmetology students learn a broad range of beauty services including make up application, hair cutting and styling, skin care treatments and nail care. More concise programs, without general education stipulation, are prominently available through privately owned beauty schools. Using various cosmetic substances like powders, creams, gloss and lipstick, make up artists create the client’s preferred results. Theatrical make up artists sometimes research time periods and settings, read scripts and consult with directors to ensure the make up is appropriate for the character.


In May 2013, theatrical and performance make up artists brought home an annual mean income of $66,330, stated the BLS.

Make-up artist Mailin Haddow has worked in fashion, film and television and her former clients include Vivienne Westwood, Marie Claire and Glamour magazine.

Currently Mailin runs her own business specialising in make-up for fashion shoots and weddings. Being self-employed means no two days are the same for Mailin.

‘Often you’ll get a phone call the night before about a job and have to be at the photo-shoot first thing the following morning.

‘Being both flexible and organised is essential, but if you’re like me and enjoy not having a set routine, it’s the ideal job.’

What made you want to become a make-up artist?

‘I was interested in all things beauty from an early age. Nowadays, though, there are lots of beauty and make-up courses in Scotland.’

‘You need good communication and people skills because you’re in someone’s personal space’ Once you’ve done a course what’s the next step?

‘You have to do ‘testing’ if you want to work in the fashion industry. When I first started out I had to take a part-time job in a shop until I got paid work.’

What kind of personal strengths are important in your line of work?

‘For photographic work you need to be a perfectionist because any little mistake will show up on the camera. We were all thrown together and had to stay in one house for a few days, so you have to enjoy working as part of a team.’

Do you need any special skills?

‘You need good communication and people skills because you’re in someone’s personal space. But cosmetic companies offer permanent jobs or you can work on a beauty counter in a shop or for a college as a tutor.’

What does it take to be a successful self-employed make-up artist?

‘If you’re running your own business, you’ll need good business skills, like being able to manage your own accounts, marketing yourself and networking.

Also known as: Commercial Make-Up Artist, Commercial Makeup Artist, Makeup Designer, Make-Up Designer, Makeup Artist

A make-up artist is a professional artist that uses mediums applied to the skin to transform or enhance the appearance of a person. Make-up artists are often referred to as cosmetologists or beauticians, but are different in that they specialize only in make-up and typically do not offer other services such as hair or nails.

The art of applying make-up goes back at least 6000 years. As part of this team, the make-up artist works to transform the actor into the character.

The entertainment and fashion industry currently employs the largest margin of make-up artists today. Sokanu’s free assessment reveals your exact compatibility with this career, your strengths, and any unique areas of interest.

A make-up artist must skillfully transform the human canvas into the desired character or appearance within an allotted timeframe. They may serve as experts on panels and write books and have their own blogs on the subject of make-up application.

A make-up artist needs to have a broad range of common skills, but can specialize in many different types of make-up and application techniques including:

Special EffectsProstheticsTheatricalHigh FashionAirbrushingLight Bending High Definition

Special effects make-up artists spend hours developing a person into the desired finished product. A make-up artist may be hired by just one person and travel with them exclusively to meet their needs.

Special effects make-up artists usually work behind the scenes on movie sets and photo shoots.

If you have always wanted to work in the makeup industry, the best way to get started is to decide what area you would like to work with and what qualifications/experience  you require to achieve your goals

The industry is fairly flexible and makeup artists can work with all areas or just the areas that interest them. If you would like with cosmetic sales or as a freelance makeup artist carrying out beauty makeup (wearable makeup)

in order to get a makeup  job working for companies like MAC, you require a makeup qualification that covers the basics of make up, including day, evening makeup looks. It helps also if you are good with people and good at selling.

Qualification: The ITEC Certificate in make-up, which you can attain from our module 1 makeup course is sufficient for you to be able to attain a  job in a makeup counter and/or for you to work as a freelance makeup artist carrying out beauty makeup. A makeup artist working with media or TV has to be able to carry out any required makeup task,  including special effects makeup.

Qualification you require: You need a qualification that covers the full spectrum of make-up, including fashion, photographic, beauty, special effects, historical makeup, character makeup and so on. The course covers all the required subjects.

Another way to attain the Fashion, Theatre and Media Makeup Diploma qualification  with us is to complete module 1 (beauty makeup), module 2 (fashion and Photographic) and module 3 (media and special effects makeup), which are provided as part-time evening courses.

Other important requirements: if you want to work with TV, you also must join SIPTU. If you want to work with fashion makeup maybe carrying out makeup for fashion shows and photoshoots

You must be able to create creative looks and understand how light affect makeup, photographic makeup,  historical, era inspired looks as well as beauty make up.

Qualification you require:  fashion and photographic make up. In general strong fashion looks, gorgeous natural looks, some bridal work, good evening looks to include smokey eyes and red lips and if your career path involves working with more creative makeup you should have some looks that reflect the same.

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements for becoming a make-up artist, but some employers may prefer you to have a qualification from a polytechnic or a make-up school.

Make-up artists gain many skills on the job.

In this book you will discover how you can get started and succeed in a career as professional makeup artist.

This guide offers insider tips and expert career advice from successful professional makeup artists who have worked for numerous celebrities and done makeup for album covers, commercials, hit films, national magazines, music videos, and television.

The contributors to this guide include:

Emmy Award winning makeup artist Eva Jane Bunkley
Celebrity makeup artist Todra Payne whose work has been featured in Elle,Harper’s Bazaar, W and Martha Stewart’s LivingMake-Up Artist Magazine founder Michael KeyPlus more than a dozen other successful makeup artists and industry experts.

This makeup artist guide covers topics of vital importance to anyone who wants to learn how to apply makeup and get hired as a makeup artist, including:

Getting Ready to Become a Makeup Artist How to develop the skills you need as a makeup artist including a good eyeInformation about makeup artist schools and makeup artist training including
A list of makeup artist schools in North AmericaHow to choose a makeup artist school and what to beware ofOther makeup artist training programs including one day workshops and online coursesWays to teach yourself makeup artistryHow to apply makeup like a professional makeup artist Assessing the client (coloring, skin type, face shape, features)Preparing the faceApplying makeup (foundation, eye makeup, blush, lip color, etc.)Completing the lookDoing makeup for print photographyHow to do character makeupMakeup for film, television and theaterSpecial effects makeupWhat to have in your makeup kit (different types of makeup and makeup application tools)How to keep up with makeup trendsHow to quickly get experience as a makeup artist through volunteer work or an apprenticeshipGetting a Makeup Artist Job How to create an impressive portfolio even if you have no previous paid makeup artist experienceHow to make your resume and cover letter stand out in the crowd (includes samples)Discover who employs makeup artists and how to contact them, including: Salons and spasRetail storesCosmetics companiesOther employersWhere makeup artist job openings are advertisedDiscover what employers are looking forHow to make a great impression in an interviewStarting Your Own Freelance Makeup Artist Business How to start a freelance makeup artist business for as little money as possibleLinks to all the information you need about the “business” side of things (permits, insurance, etc.)Your options for where to set up your makeup artist business Working out of your homeWorking in a salon or spaSetting up a storefrontChoosing a name for your makeup artist businessWhere to find suppliers of makeup productsPricing your makeup artist services by the hour or serviceIdentifying potential clientsCreative ideas to market yourself effectively Preparing promotional materialsHow to get photos of your work (plus what you need to know about test shoots and time-for-print or TFP projects)How to create a professional portfolioWhat to include on your comp cardsHow to get photographers and businesses to refer clients to youHow to do a client consultationHow to get work through a makeup artist agencyWhat you need to know about unions if you want to work in the entertainment industryPLUS, you will discover: Valuable makeup artist resources (including the best professional associations, publications, etc.)Information about airbrushing and other makeup application techniquesMakeup kit checklists (also includes carry kit checklist and hair kit checklist)Information about cosmetics company internshipsSamples to help you launch your makeup artist career, including: Sample questions to ask clientsSample resume and cover letterSample model releaseSample invoiceAnd more!How to Get the Makeup Artist Guide

You can have all this and more for an incredible price.

Page Content

Make-up artist



Starting salary


As a make-up artist you would apply make-up and style hair for anyone appearing in front of a camera or a live audience. You may work in film, television, theatre, concerts, photographic sessions or fashion shows.

If you enjoy fashion, hairdressing and cosmetics, and love being creative, this could be a perfect career for you.

You would normally start by taking a specialist course in media make-up, theatrical make-up or a related subject. You may also be required to apply special effects or prosthetics such as false noses or bald caps.

You could work alone, as an assistant to a senior colleague, or as part of a larger hair and make-up design team.

Depending on the job, your tasks might include:

researching and designing make-up and hairstyles to suit the jobworking to production designers’ notes and instructionstidying and styling haircompletely changing a person’s look with special effects make-uptaking notes and photos for reference so you can keep the look throughout filmingstanding by on set to redo make-up and hairkeeping work areas and equipment clean and tidyremoving make-up and keeping wigs and hairpieces in good condition.

You would work closely with production designers, costume designers, camera and lighting crew, and performers.

See the Creative Choices website to read a theatre make-up artist’s story.


Working hours and conditions

You would often work long and irregular hours, depending on the needs of the job. Location work could be anywhere in the UK or overseas, so you may need to travel and stay away from home regularly, sometimes for long periods.

You would be expected to build up your own make-up kit and take it to each job.



Make-up artists usually work on a freelance basis and are paid a fee for each contract. It will also allow you to start getting to know people in the industry and build a network of contacts.

You could get useful experience in various ways, such as:

amateur theatrestudent film, theatre and photography projectscharity or student fashion showsworking with established make-up artists and photographers.

Your first paid work in film or TV may be as a trainee or assistant to the make-up team. Short courses in specialist and prosthetic make-up are available at private make-up academies, film schools and some universities.

For information on relevant make-up courses and possible funding, see the following websites:

You could also join the National Association of Screen Make-up Artists and Hairdressers (NASMAH) for networking and training opportunities.


Skills, interests and qualities

To become a make-up artist, you will need:

creativity and imaginationgood communication and people skillsa tactful mannerstamina, patience and concentrationthe ability to work well under pressureexcellent attention to detailgood punctuality and reliabilitya willingness to work long hours when necessarygood teamwork skillsan interest in current and historical fashions.




You could work on freelance contracts for a range of employers including TV broadcasters, TV and film production companies, theatre companies, magazines and fashion show producers. You could also advertise in crew directories or with diary services which are similar to booking agents.

You can find more information about marketing yourself as a freelancer on the Creative Skillset website.

With experience or specialist skills, you could progress to chief make-up artist or make-up designer.

You may wish to use your make-up skills by volunteering to help others.