How to Become a Makeup Artist: 8 Tips to Help You Begin Your Career
Are you spending your days wondering how to become a makeup artist? If so, you probably agree with the following statements: You are passionate about makeup and see every face like an artist views a canvas waiting to be painted. You know how to create perfect smoky eyes, you know how to match colors to complexions, and you are ready to transform these talents into a rewarding career. You have no doubt that this is the career path for you; you're just not sure how to get started.
You can gain a clearer sense of direction by discovering the eight tips below that could lead you to becoming a makeup artist. You can also uncover common questions and answers about makeup artist training and jobs. Before you know it, you could be equipped to pursue a position that pays you to stay on top of beauty trends, experiment with new looks and styles, and work with all kinds of interesting people to enhance or transform their appearances.
So take a moment right now to find out how you can develop the confidence and skills needed to turn your makeup career dreams into an uplifting reality!
1. Choose a Makeup Artist School
One of the best first steps that you can take in your quest of becoming a makeup artist is to obtain an education. Although post-secondary training is not required in all work settings, many makeup professionals will tell you that a formal education can help you develop essential knowledge and abilities. Some schools offer makeup-specific programs while others offer broader cosmetology or esthetics programs that include makeup training.
The instruction within a cosmetology program typically extends well beyond makeup application and can cover a variety of cosmetic topics related to hair, skin, and nail services. The content of an esthetics program tends to be more focused than that of cosmetology and is usually limited to skincare services, including makeup application. When determining the type of program that you want to take, it is important to consider your career goals as well as the licensing requirements within your state of practice.
2. Obtain Your License (If Needed)
As a professional makeup artist, you may choose to provide additional skincare services, which will require a cosmetologist or esthetician license in most circumstances. In addition, some states will require you to obtain one of these licenses even if makeup application is the only service that you intend to offer. Licensing requirements can also vary depending on the type of setting in which you work.
For example, in California, a makeup artist working in a salon is required to be licensed, but a makeup artist working in a theatrical setting is not. Therefore, since the licensing rules are quite different between states, it is important to check with your state's licensing board in order to ensure that you are going to meet the requirements.
3. Practice, Practice, and Practice Some More
Practice makes perfect is certainly a good expression to use in the field of makeup artistry. Practice is what can help you perfect your skills. You might want to start out by offering free or discounted services to family or friends. You will also want to make sure that you have a good makeup kit that includes a variety of brushes and other application tools. But it is recommended that you begin with a good base kit and then add more products on an as-needed basis rather than buying everything upfront. This helps you keep your costs down while reducing the risk of having to throw away products that expire before you have even had a chance to use them.
As you practice your skills, you will want to get as much experience as you can with people of different ages, skin colors, eye colors, and face shapes. This can help you develop an understanding of how makeup applies and looks on different people. And with every makeup application you complete, ask your client if you can take pictures of him or her so that you can add photos to your portfolio. This also gives you an opportunity to see how your makeup translates in a photo.
Finally, you may want to gain professional experience by finding a makeup assistant position or working at a cosmetics counter in a department store. This can give you solid exposure to various styles of application as well as different types of people.
4. Build an Impressive Portfolio
Many professionals will tell you that one of the most important things that you can do as a makeup artist is build an online portfolio. You can do so by using a website that offers templates to work with, such as WordPress, or you could hire a web designer to create a custom site for you. Whichever option you choose, you will want to make sure that your site is easy to navigate and looks clean and professional. You will also want to keep your web address simple and short so that it can be neatly printed on business cards and easily remembered.
You may also want to consider creating a print portfolio that you can take with you to job interviews or client meetings. When creating a print portfolio, you will want to make sure that you put time and care into it so that it looks attractive and polished. And for both an online and in-print portfolio, it is important to have professional-looking, high-quality photos of a variety of different makeup styles that highlight your best work. You don't necessarily need to hire a professional photographer; most of the time, a good-quality camera and basic photography skills will give you good results.
5. Get Your Name Out There
Some of the most successful makeup artists were able to build their careers quickly by dedicating time to making themselves known. You can create business cards that include your contact details as well the web address to your online portfolio. Once you have cards or other marketing materials made up—like pamphlets or brochures—you can start promoting yourself to everyone you can think of, from your local makeup counter salespeople and beauty salon owners to event coordinators and wedding planners.
You may even want to start a Facebook page, Instagram account, and/or blog that you can use to promote yourself online. You could reach out to soon-to-be high school and post-secondary graduates who may want makeup services for prom and grad events. Get creative in your approaches to getting your name out there. It is a good step to take whether you want to become a freelance makeup artist or an employee within a business or organization.
6. Consider Beginning Your Makeup Artist Career as a Side Job
Building up a full-time clientele is a process that can take several months or, in some cases, even a year or two. So, many experts will recommend that you begin working as a makeup artist on the side. This can help you keep a steady income stream coming in while you establish yourself in the makeup business and develop regular clients or secure a full-time position.
7. Stay Up-to-Date on the Latest Looks and Trends
Just like anything pertaining to fashion, it is important to stay current on the latest makeup looks and trends. You can do this by regularly reading fashion magazines and blogs and watching award shows, TV shows, and movies in order to keep tabs on the latest styles. You can also attend acclaimed theatrical events and follow the work of well-known professional makeup artists through online platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. It is definitely important for makeup artists to stay relevant and on-trend. And as you succeed in the field, your creative abilities could even lead you to becoming a trendsetter.
8. Focus on Your Calling
Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, determine the areas that you are strongest in and make that your focus. Do you offer the most beautiful bridal makeup application in your area? Are you an expert in applying high-fashion runway makeup? Take a look at the areas in which your skills are the strongest and home in on those in order to become the best at what you do. And once you have established your area of expertise, start networking with other professionals that work within your targeted industry. Many makeup artists say that a large percentage of their new business comes from referrals, so networking is an important part of becoming successful.
Frequently Asked Questions & Answers About Makeup Artist Training & Careers
You have discovered a lot of tips about how to be a makeup artist, but what about your other questions? (Questions like, "What could I learn in school?" or "How much does a makeup artist make?") Well, don't worry, because we have you covered. Keep reading to discover the answers to these FAQs and more.
What Does a Makeup Artist Do?
Makeup artists specialize in makeup application that boosts or transforms people's appearances. This can be completed for special events, such as a wedding, or for production or fashion purposes. Although many makeup artists focus solely on makeup application, others offer additional cosmetic or skincare services.
A makeup artist job description often includes the following items:
- Meet with clients to determine their needs
- Prepare sketches or have trial sessions to pitch ideas
- Ensure that makeup is consistent with other elements like hairstyle and clothing choice
- Demonstrate knowledge of current products and trends
- Prepare budgets
- Order and stock supplies
- Manage time appropriately in order to ensure that appointments are kept on schedule
- Take pictures and maintain a portfolio
- Uphold health and safety protocols
- Create and apply prosthetics
What Can I Expect to Learn During Makeup Artist Training?
What you might learn depends on the type and length of program that you choose. A program that focuses primarily on makeup application can often be completed in six months or less and may cover the following areas:
- Application techniques
- Types of makeup (e.g., cream, liquid, powder, etc.)
- Facial analysis
- Base matching and application
- Corrective techniques
- Airbrushing techniques
- Professional vs. drugstore makeup
- Wedding makeup
- Studio/production makeup
- High-fashion makeup
- Avant-garde makeup
- Makeup removal
If you opt for an esthetics program, then, in addition to the above areas, you might learn about facials, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and other specialized skincare services. And if you enroll in a cosmetology program, you could learn about areas related to hair cutting, coloring, styling, and nail care, in addition to skincare and makeup services.
Ultimately, no matter your program choice, you will likely want to complete your training knowing how to personalize makeup based on each of your client's unique features and needs.
What Kinds of Makeup Artist Jobs Could I Find?
Makeup artists are employed in a number of different settings. They can work as employees of a business or organization, or they can work on a contract or freelance basis. Some of the most common makeup artist jobs include the following:
- Celebrity makeup artist—Also known as a film, production, studio, or TV makeup artist, this position involves working on sets and in studios and applying makeup that is designed to match those sets and meet the producers' goals. The makeup has to hold up under various lighting setups and high-definition recordings. Some makeup artists also secure positions that involve working for specific celebrities; however, these are the hardest-to-achieve jobs in the industry.
- Cosmetic or bridal makeup artist—Most of these types of jobs are based out of salons where multiple services can be offered at one time. Makeup is often applied for weddings and more formal events such as graduation ceremonies, anniversaries, and other special parties. You need to make sure that the makeup you apply will photograph well and can hold up over the course of several hours.
- Fashion or editorial makeup artist—In this kind of position, you would be applying makeup for advertising, editorial, and fashion photography or for fashion runway purposes. It usually involves using bold, creative, and sometimes wild techniques that not only make a model stand out, but also photograph well.
- Special effects makeup artist—This type of position involves much more than applying makeup; it requires you to completely transform appearances. You often spend a lot of time researching and working with directors and producers in order to determine what is required. After completing sketches, you will apply makeup, and even prosthetics, in order to alter an actor's appearance in a way that resembles the character that he or she is portraying.
- Theatrical makeup artist—This position can have some crossover with both special effects and studio makeup artists, but theater makeup artists are typically applying makeup for live performances. You will creatively apply makeup in order to enhance, alter, or transform the appearances of actors while demonstrating knowledge of how stage lighting affects the look of makeup.
How Much Do Makeup Artists Make?
An established makeup artist can enjoy good earnings. In fact, the average annual makeup artist salary is $72,030, according to 2018 data. That is equivalent to $34.63 per hour. And the top-earning makeup artists can bring in an annual salary of $130,710 (which is equivalent to $62.84 per hour).* Along with your level of skill and expertise, there are other factors that can lead to higher earnings, such as the state or region where you live and the industry in which you work.
Makeup artists working in the motion picture and video industries enjoy a much higher average salary of $78,720 annually. That's over $6,600 higher than the national average. So, although these jobs can be harder to find, the payoff can be substantial. You could also find higher-paying jobs in certain states and regions. For example, Tennessee, the District of Columbia, California, New York, and Florida offer the best-paying jobs; the average annual salaries in those regions can range from $63,950 to $88,090.*
Start Exploring the Depths of Your Creative Abilities
If you are ready to establish a sense of purpose and want to go after your biggest career dreams, then make a move today that could lead you to new and exciting opportunities. Locate a makeup artist school that is offering programs near you by entering your zip code into the search tool below. This is your chance to create a better future!
* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on July 25, 2019.