Frequently Asked Questions about Makeup Artist Programs and Careers

You might think the question ‘What is a makeup artist?’ is a simple one to answer. Not so fast. This career path has many options for professionals. On this page, you can find out how students become makeup artists, as well as career options and salary expectations.

About Makeup Arists

What is a makeup artist?

A makeup artist is someone who uses cosmetic techniques and processes to create beauty upon the human body. In its simplest form, it enhances a person's appearance, bringing out color and features and hiding or smoothing out flaws, using cosmetic products. At its most extreme, makeup artistry creates imaginative characters and special effects for films, television, photography and theatre.

There are two main categories of makeup artist. Cosmetic or fashion artists range from the clerk at the store makeup counter to the artist who prepares fashion models for photo shoots. All sorts understand not only how to make their subjects look their best, but they also usually understand how makeup works in relation to lighting and photography, as they are increasingly in demand for weddings, fashion shoots, corporate headshot photography, and other special events that will be photographed or recorded.

The other main type is theatrical and film makeup artist. This person enhances an actor's features to emphasize the character they play.. In many cases, especially in theatre, makeup artists also have the opportunity to teach actors to apply their own makeup so the artists can focus on the more challenging characters or move on to a new production.

At its most creative, special effects artists create fantasy creatures, the illusion of blood and gore, imaginative sci-fi creatures, characters from eras gone by, and so much more. 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: being great at customer service, using their creativity, excelling at time management, possessing an understanding of art and design, and having solid fine motor and vision abilities


A 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. If you like to experiment with different cosmetic looks, you may discover a real knack for applying makeup professionally.

If you are unsure about whether to attend makeup artist school, there are ways to practice before putting in the time and expense. Some people choose to work at a makeup counter or store, where they receive on-the-job training. Others join theatre groups at school or in their communities, learning to work with theatrical makeup and how it is affected by lighting—and how to be creative while being directed by someone else's vision.

If this is your passion, there are many makeup artist schools you could attend.Each state’s requirements to become a certified makeup artist differ. Some states have a license wherein an individual can specialize only in this field. Other states include the makeup requirements in a full cosmetology certification. Still other states don’t regulate makeup artistry at all (but even in those states, getting advanced training in makeup artistry is highly recommended to be successful). Makeup training programs typically run 300 to 600 hours depending on your state and take less than six months to complete. Full cosmetology programs, on the other hand, tend to be 1500 to 2000 hours depending on your state. Those usually take 12 to 24 months to finish. Check our list of 2015

While this applies to traditional careers in makeup, the rules and regulations may be different if you hope to work in theatre or filmYou can learn this art on the job, and you can also take classes at colleges with theatre programs. Some makeup artist schools provide professional-level expertise for the beginner, which saves the trouble and time of learning everything by trial and error. Training covers a wide range of specialties. The schools often provide job referrals to help get you started on your career, as well.

A makeup artist certification is not always required depending on your state, but a portfolio is essential. Take high-quality pictures of your work, keep in touch with people you've worked with and ask for testimonials and referrals, and be open to working with new experts, products, and techniques as opportunities arise. People skills are essential, as they help to maintain a reputation of working well with potentially-demanding actors, directors, photographers and brides.

Even the best makeup artists are always looking for new ideas. The number one source of constant inspiration for many makeup artists today is YouTube. There are many talented artists who have skyrocketed to celebrity status by doing makeup tutorial videos and bringing cosmetic skills and advice to the people. Instagram and Pinterest are also great sources of fresh inspiration.

You may also want to look into subscriptions to some of the top periodicals for cosmetic artists. Look for titles like Make-up Artist Magazine and Beauty Etc. , but also consumer-level beauty publications like Allure .

These are some of the hottest professional makeup artists in the business right now. Their talent, skill, hard work and dedication has made them some of the most famous makeup professionals on the scene. This is just a small selection of the best names to follow in makeup right now:

These are some (but nowhere near all!) of our favorite YouTube makeup artists that we highly recommend checking out:

Be sure to check out some of the most popular Instagram makeup artists, too. Just a few that come to mind:

Work Day

A day in the life of the makeup professional can vary wildly based on what specialty you work in, but there are a few standards that apply across the board.

Prepare Your Tools

You must invest in high-quality tools and cosmetic products. You need to take care of those materials and keep them organized. Think about the cosmetics jobs you have lined up for the day and organize your tool kit for the gig or your work station accordingly. Be sure that your brushes and supplies have been properly cleaned and sanitized for the safety of your clients—something that is legally required in most places to begin with.

Consult with the Client

Every client has different needs, and every makeup job is totally customized. The artist should always consult with the client about their challenges, preferences and, of course, skin allergies. Whether working in traditional makeup or in the arts, your work generally begins with the client consultation. If you do wedding makeup, the client is the bride; but if you do theatrical makeup, the director may be your client. When you reach a full understanding of what the client wants, the services can then begin. 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!

Apply the Makeup

Before putting a drop of makeup on a client's face, you need to ensure the skin is fully cleansed. After this,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 goal is for every client to leave feeling beautiful, comfortable, and confident in their makeup look.

Ask for Referrals

If you are working in a salon setting, remember that makeup services aren’t usually quite as frequent as haircuts for most people, so it’s tough to get them to book the next appointment before they pay and leave. When the appointment is complete, every makeup artist should tell the client about the various services they offer and offer suggestions for other events that could use great makeup that the client may not have thought of. Also let them know about any upcoming and inform them of any referral discounts you offer if they send friends and family to you for makeovers. Certified makeup experts should remind their happy, loyal customers that they love referral business so you can continue to grow your clientele!

If you are working in performing arts or in fashion, make sure you have maintained positive relationships with everyone involved, from those in charge to those whose positions may seem largely unrelated to your job. You never know who might be moving onto a new gig that needs an excellent makeup artist, and making a good impression could result in any team member bringing up your name.


While there isn't salary data available for traditional makeup artists in particular, as of May 2018, cosmetologists earn a median pay of $24,830 per year, or $11.94 per hour. Growth in this field is higher than the national average at 8% expected between 2018 and 2028.

If you break into theatre and performance makeup, however, the mean pay is much higher: $72,030 per year, or $34.63 per hour. However, this covers a wide range, beginning at $32,520 and topping out at $104,040. 7% job growth is expected between 2018 and 2028.

Don't let the job growth numbers fool you, though. While cosmetologists have 94,600 projected job openings each year, the theatre and performance industry only expects 600 new positions yearly, as the field itself is much smaller.

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