Makeup Artist

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. Take a look at these FAQ’s to learn the basics of this cosmetology career. You can also find out how students become makeup artists, as well as career option descriptions to help you understand your potential. Let us walk you through a day-in-the-life of a makeup artist, and tell you what salary expectations you should have. So, don’t dig any deeper, or waste your time researching makeup artistry careers until you browse these top questions…


Makeup Artist

01. About
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 theater.

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. The artist knows how to make the subject look her or his best, and understands the different effects required by lighting and digital photography. The fashion artist also works with designers to create a certain look for the model, such as emphasizing lip shape or cheekbones. 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. This person enhances an actor's features to emphasize the character he or she plays in performance art. Young actors can be made to look old, older actors to look younger, creative characters can be created from nothing, and the makeup can change as the character changes in the course of the story.

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. 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: 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). Does that sound like you? If so, perhaps becoming a certified makeup artist is the right path for you. 

Considering becoming a makeup artist?

Dreaming of all the fun and creative things you could do with cosmetics if you were a professional makeup artist? How about what a makeup artist has the potential to earn? Beauty Schools Directory has assembled the answers to many of the most common questions about the salary, job outlook, career options and other information about makeup artists to help you decide if this is the right career path for you. If you love the sound of having “Makeup Artist” on your business card, simply enter your zip code in the box and choose Make-up Artist Training as your program to find schools near you.

There are a number different potential job options for people who pursue education in the cosmetic arts. Many choose to work at salons and spas, especially those who may be licensed as cosmetologists and estheticians. Some choose to do makeup looks and sell cosmetics in department stores and other retail sites. Bridal and wedding party, graduation or family photo shoot makeup is a popular choice for many makeup artists as well. Many makeup artists choose to mobilize their careers and freelance on-site wherever they may be needed. Other fields that hire makeup artists include news and broadcast, stage and theater, film and television, festivals and events, and more.

02. Training
How do I become a makeup artist?

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 and to try them out on yourself and your friends, you may discover a real knack for applying makeup professionally. If this is your passion, there are makeup artist schools which offer classes in all the different kinds of fashion makeup.

Each state’s requirements to become a certified makeup artist differ. Some states have a separate license where an individual can specialize only in this field. Other states lump the makeup requirements into a full cosmetology certification instead. 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 in this field). Makeup training programs typically run 300 to 600 hours depending on your state, and take less than 6 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 state makeup artist license requirements to find out your state's regulations.

Some people choose to work at a local makeup counter in department stores or pharmacies to get their start in makeup. You can also join theater groups at school or in the community and learn to work with greasepaint and theatrical lighting. This type of makeup artistry is very creative, and the artist learns to concoct a character's appearance as part of the director's vision. You can learn this art on the job, and you can also take classes at colleges with theatrical programs. 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 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. People skills are essential, and it helps to maintain a reputation of working well with demanding actors, directors, photographers and brides.

What are some continuing sources of inspiration for cosmetic artists?

The number one source of constant inspiration for many makeup artists today is YouTube. There are many very talented artists that have skyrocketed to celebrity status by doing up-close and personal makeup tutorial videos and bringing cosmetic skills and advice to the people. Instagram and Pinterest are also highly visual, and great sources of fresh inspiration for professional cosmeticians.

Next you should subscribe to the blogs of your favorite makeup artists that consistently inspire you. Keep your finger on the pulse of the latest trends in makeup. (You might want to check out an RSS reader like Feedly so you can subscribe to all this stuff in one place!)

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.

Who are some famous makeup artists I should follow?

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:

Career Spotlight: Wedding Makeup Video

03. Career Options
What are career options for professional makeup artists, and what is the job outlook?

Makeup artists can work at salons, spas, retail and department stores, bridal boutiques and so many more types of businesses. 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 are the 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, Texas and Georgia. The top three metro areas with the highest levels of employment are Los Angeles metro, New York City metro, and Las Vegas metro (BLS, 2015). The makeup field is not the easiest to break into for the higher-salary jobs, though. 

Ready to take on the challenge of becoming a makeup artist? Click the “Find Schools” button below to get started and look for makeup artist training programs near you.

04. Work Day
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! One day you may be doing makeup backstage at a runway fashion show, and the next day you could be doing makeup for a bride and her bridal, party. Not to mention, every single face needs something unique no matter what the setting. 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. You need to take care of those tools, and keep them organized. A messy station does not say “professionalism.” 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. 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. The appointment generally begins with the client consultation, where you will ask a number of questions to learn what the client wants you to do with their makeup. Iif you do wedding makeup, the client is the bride, but if you do theatrical makeup, the director may be your client, or a fashion show client may be the designer. 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!

Do 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. The goal is for every client to leave feeling beautiful, comfortable and confident in their makeup look. 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! 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.

For example, if you are doing bridal makeup, let the bride and bridesmaids know that you also do makeup for family photos, girls’ nights out, or that you’re available for other special events besides weddings. Also let them know about any upcoming specials or promotions, and inform them of any referral discounts you offer if they send friends and family to you for makeovers. 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!

05. Salary
What salaries do makeup artists typically earn? What salary can a professional makeup artist earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2016, a makeup artist salary can range from $22,630 to $124,960 depending on location, level of experience, specialization, industry and quality of portfolios. This is a huge and highly unusual variance in the makeup artist salary range. This is because many cosmetics makeup artists offer their services part-time or work locally in salons and retail stores that pay by the hour or have a minimum wage that allows tips. Some salon or retail stores have a makeup artist specialize in a brand of makeup like Sephora Cosmetics, MAC Cosmetics, Chanel, Laura Mercier, Dior, Urban Decay or Ulta cosmetic products. These different lines of makeup can create a different make up artist pay average due to the varied cost of the brand of makeup, clientele and proprietary training involved.

On the other end of the scale, there are world-famous celebrity artists who work in movies, television and special effects that command higher salaries. You don't have to be world famous to specialize and be in one of the more lucrative industries. While many assume you have to be a Hollywood makeup artist to do things like SFX (Special Effects Makeup) you don't as filming locations are becoming more diversified across the US. You can earn a higher wage if you focus on becoming a professional freelance makeup artist, affording you the freedom to choose jobs and pick projects that better fit your makeup design skills or rate of pay desired


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