Career Guide

Make-Up Artist

Ben Maples  · Sep 16th 2020

Perhaps you’re a makeup fanatic who loves pushing the boundaries and exploring creative masterpieces on your face and body?

Make-up artist applying make-up to model

If you’re someone who loves playing, creating and painting with makeup, whether that be day-to-day or for innovative costumes for events, the makeup artist career is probably the best-suited job you can choose. Can’t wait to discover more? Read our guide below!

Make Up Artist Career Guide

What is a makeup artist?

Under the makeup artist job description, we can see anyone with a creative flair, insight into the beauty and fashion trends and a passion for conveying emotion, feeling or a story is perfect for this role. Makeup artists transform performers, models and presenters by applying products and makeup items which are visible to an audience or in front of a camera. A media makeup artist can work in film, photoshoots, television and live music.

A theatre makeup artist would specialise in preparing actors and extras who perform on stage. This career revolves around producing characters, images or stories through makeup, prosthetics, special effects and hairstyles. A beauty artist will follow a brief to create accurate and creative representations of a person, era or scenario. Briefs can be in the form of flattering daily makeup for a news presenter or special effects for a zombie film.

What does a makeup artist do?

A makeup artist’s responsibilities include a wide range of things, and some tasks may vary depending on the specialism, but there are specific duties that crossover. Makeup artistry requires experts to sketch design ideas, casting facial and body moulds, create prosthetics, fitting and maintaining wigs, and keeping up to date with the latest trends. A beauty artist will discuss the brief with clients, read scripts and director notes to understand characters and ensure the hair and makeup team understand the overall look.

Those skilled at makeup art should look for work in film, TV, video, network, commercial and advertising companies.

They’ll understand lighting, colours, the filming or photographic process and the effects they have on the skin and makeup. A makeup artist will work to minimise the side effects of wearing special effect products or prosthetics, which can be uncomfortable or unpleasant. Also, budgeting, ordering materials, researching and styling hair may be part of the role. Someone in this position will need to be able to manage their time, more than one actor or presenter at a time in a fast-paced environment.

How to become a makeup artist?

What qualifications do you need to be a makeup artist? If being a makeup designer is your dream, then you will need some makeup qualifications to make it a reality. In most cases, academic qualifications, like a makeup artist degree, are not essential compared to creative skills and ability.

Individuals can succeed in this profession without an HND or degree. If you don’t have qualifications, you’d need to work harder to showcase your talent, promote yourself online and have an excellent portfolio of work. That said, it’s typical for careers in makeup to begin with specialist HNDs in professional makeup artist courses before either working as a freelancer or in a traineeship.

Many universities and colleges provide two-year foundation degrees and undergraduate courses in related subjects like fashion, theatrical and media hair and makeup, media makeup and character design, special effects and prosthetics for performance. If you want to join the strand of theatrical makeup artists, then you’d study a theatrical makeup course over special effects one. Furthermore, there are NVQs individuals can undertake to train to be makeup artists, including hairdressing, beauty therapy and media and theatrical makeup.

Make Up Artist Career

Where to find makeup work experience?

It can be a competitive and fierce career, so completing makeup work experience can make your application or portfolio stand out from the crowd. If you have a chance to work backstage at university productions, amateur theatre events or work in a beauty or hair salon - they are all beneficial. Any relevant work placements, including unpaid, will show you have a genuine interest in the field, allow you to learn valuable skills and insight and build up a network of contacts you can tap into later. If you’re searching for work experience placements in makeup, you can contact your teachers, the performance and drama department, and people you’ve met through workshops and throughout your training.

What skills are useful for a professional makeup artist?

A makeup designer should understand how colours act together, period and current fashion as well as the latest beauty trends and techniques. They need excellent communication, interpersonal and self-promotional skills in the form of online presence and a portfolio. Makeup artistry requires theoretical interest, practical and technical skills and be talented in both hairstyling and makeup. Knowledge of film, TV and video production is crucial, alongside the process of camera, lighting, performance and genre styles.

What is it like working as a makeup artist?

The day job will vary depending on the brief, client and scale of the performance. You may work in dressing rooms, outside, and for long hours. It’s a physically demanding career, and individuals need excellent concentration while working in a fast-paced environment, under pressure and to a deadline. Most makeup artists have their equipment unless they’re ordering specialist items for particular jobs.

A media makeup artist can work in film, photoshoots, television and live music.

You can expect to travel to various studios, sites and places for jobs, but most opportunities are in cities like London. There may even be options to work overseas for film and TV work on location. Start collecting images for a photo portfolio, both online and in physical format, to take with you as word of mouth and networking is a common way to secure work.

How much does a makeup artist make?

The big question, how much do makeup artists make? When considering a suitable career understanding the potential earnings is just as significant as anything else. The makeup artist salary for trainees is usually at national minimum wage, the London living wage or higher. A head makeup artist can take home between £170 and £320 for a full day’s work in editorial, e.g. magazines, campaigns and catalogues.

A junior artist can earn £44 and £150. Regarding fashion shows, a lead makeup artist can see a wage of £450 per day for prestigious events like London Fashion week compared to £274 for others. For feature films with large budgets of more than £30 million, a trainee artist can receive £140 per day, a senior beauty artist or the special effects makeup artist salary can be up to £390.

How much do makeup artists get paid on a freelance basis? Most people in the industry are self-employed and can set their rates either directly or through an agent. The more experience and successful jobs you complete, the higher the pay you can expect. The industry is full of short and temporary jobs and contracts, so expect to move between clients, and if work is drying up, you can try low-budget productions or editorial shoots. Most beauty artists will start on these types of projects for lower fees while they gain experience and hone their skills.

Make Up Artist

Where to find makeup jobs?

Those skilled at makeup art should look for work in film, TV, video, network, commercial and advertising companies. Fashion photographers, fashion shows, the wedding industry, and cosmetic companies are also a source of potential work. An artist in makeup may find contracts in theatres, education institutions for teaching positions and course providers who run workshops.

Most artists are freelance and bid for a contract on an individual basis. Having an up to date portfolio and makeup artist CV is essential. What is a freelance makeup artist? They’re an individual who does not have a permanent position in a theatre, production or fashion company. They’ll choose what jobs to bid on, where and when they want to work and within limitations, set their pay rates. Also, they may have an agent or manage themselves.

You need excellent communication, interpersonal and self-promotional skills in the form of online presence and a portfolio.

What are the prospects after becoming a makeup artist?

Career progression is usually from securing more bids, being paid more or becoming a specialist in a particular field, like a theatrical makeup artist. It comes with popularity, networking and your experience. There are few permanent makeup artist jobs available as most work on a self-employed basis. There is no structured career progression path, but after starting as a trainee, you can move up from assistant positions to lead makeup artist and designer roles following experience on various projects.

After a time, you may charge different rates on jobs, and if you’re demanding higher pay, having confidence, expertise, and substantial experience is crucial.

Some individuals choose to work towards being a makeup director, whereas freelance makeup artists who do not reach this point still have a rewarding and sustainable career. There are numerous areas to specialise in, from prosthetics, body painting and wigs.

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