Makeup Artist Programs

Makeup artists transform the human body by applying cosmetics to the skin using special techniques. Some enhance a person’s natural beauty while others make them appear a specific way for the stage or screen. They may help customers select products or prepare actor or models for events.

Being a makeup artist requires imagination and a passion for learning. Keeping up on the latest trends and methods helps these tradespeople use their skills to create new looks or characters. Technicians work in a variety of places, from neighborhood salons to Broadway. Some positions involve traveling, which can be an exciting fringe benefit.

Education & Training


Area Name Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage(2)
California $49.09 $102,110.00
District of Columbia $38.81 $80,730.00
Florida $21.05 $43,770.00
Illinois $20.31 $42,240.00
Nevada $24.56 $51,090.00
New York $64.78 $134,740.00
Puerto Rico $24.22 $50,380.00

Occupation:Makeup Artists, Theatrical and Performance (SOC Code395091)

Salary will depend upon factors like the industry, geographic location, and whether a person is a freelancer or regular employee. One quarter of artists are self-employed and work short term jobs such as events, which can make their income less predictable.

Career Overview

What Do They Do?

Those with careers in makeup art use cosmetics to alter someone’s appearance. Though they work in many industries, there are two main types of these professionals: those who highlight beauty for cosmetic purposes and ones who change an actor’s appearance for a role they are playing.

Fashion or cosmetic artists do many things, from getting models ready for events or photo shoots to helping consumers choose makeup in retail stores. They know how different lighting affects each look and how to highlight certain features on a person.

Fashion Industry

Team members in fashion partner with photographers, hairdressers, and stylists to prepare models for photo shoots and runway shows. They use their training to create a particular style for each client or designer while maintaining consistency between many models.

Cosmetics Industry

Employees focused on cosmetics empower consumers to look their best by selling or developing beauty products. Positions range from clerks at makeup counters to business managers and sales directors with product manufacturers. Some individuals pursue roles in research and development, designing new shades or kinds of makeup.


Professionals in salons and the bridal industry work with customers directly. A wedding makeup artist, for example, helps brides achieve a certain look for their important day. Others use these services to get ready for events like proms. These associates may perform their work in a salon, studio, or even travel to the client or venue to assist.

Theater & Film

Theatrical and film makeup artists transform actors and actresses for parts they have in a performance piece. They can help make someone appear younger or older if necessary. Laborers adapt their work to various parts of each story, changing each character as the plot develops.

For theater, these tradespeople create looks visible from long distances. Many are in charge of making wigs and facial hair appear realistic. Television and movies, however, use close camera angles that require precision and attention to small details. Both industries often employ a special effects makeup artist to change people into fantasy creatures or use prosthetics to construct the illusion of blood or injuries.

Job Duties

While every professional makeup artist applies products to a person’s skin, the tasks they perform can shift depending on their role and the industry they work in.

For those that do special effects and movie makeup, this may mean applying plaster casts or prosthetics prior to filming and making changes between scenes.

Some technicians work backstage in theaters helping actors and actresses become their characters prior to a performance. They use specialized techniques to ensure that the audience can see the effects they create from far away and that everything looks correct in specific lighting.

Associates with a cosmetic focus may staff a makeup counter in a high-end store selling and demonstrating products to customers. They can consult clients on how to deal with allergies or what their style preferences are. Others travel to events to prepare fashion models for photo shoots.

Some of the types of makeup that an artist may use include:

  • Concealer
  • Foundation
  • Blush or highlighter
  • Eyeshadows and eyeliner
  • Mascara
  • Face or body paints
  • Lipsticks

Are There Special Requirements for Makeup Artist Jobs?

While formal education is not strictly necessary, many states require that hopefuls attend makeup school to meet licensing guidelines. Some states expect prospects to pass a test specific to this skill, while for others a certification in cosmetology is the standard. It’s best to learn the rules in each location when researching how to become a makeup artist.

Attending makeup artist school can be helpful in advancing a career or learning different kinds of makeup for a particular industry. While cosmetology programs teach about many different topics including hair and skincare, they also include makeup classes. These can provide information on basic procedures, information about state regulations, sanitary measures, and general business skills.

Potentials who wish to work in film or stage productions should consider pursuing training through a bachelor’s degree in theater. In these programs, students explore basic application, corrective techniques, and special effects. They may also learn about airbrushing and how to use waxes, gels, and prosthetics.

Getting a Job

Developing a professional portfolio that showcases a person’s best work is key when building a makeup artist resume. Using high quality photos shows both professionalism and the attention to detail necessary for success.

Job seekers should take the time to get to know others in this discipline through school, their current employer, or professional organizations. Technicians often find additional opportunities through referrals. Asking for recommendations can be a useful way to find openings on other projects.

What Skills Should Makeup Artists Possess?

A passion for beauty and a creative streak are important traits for job hopefuls. Perfectionist tendencies are also helpful. This craft demands a steady hand and an eye for detail to apply makeup precisely and fix blemishes and wrinkles.

Successful workers possess an understanding of different skin types and colors. Knowing which hues will look best on which person and how to blend and shade them will assist them in making adjustments based on location, lighting, and the event.

Candidates should have some knowledge of makeup ingredients and their application. Building a familiarity with the different kinds of brushes, what the purpose of each is, and how to hold them are excellent places to begin learning. Additional training will help applicants understand how to achieve the unique effects needed in each industry.

People Skills

Interpersonal skills are vital in this job. Technicians need to recommend products or explain certain techniques to others so they must communicate their ideas well. They may have to deal with demanding clients. This takes patience and the willingness to ask questions to clarify requests.

Makeup artists collaborate with other specialists on many levels. Being comfortable around people with varying levels of experience will prove helpful for networking, career growth, and in completing everyday tasks.

Personal Skills

  • Self-motivation
  • Creativity
  • Ability to see details up close
  • Arm-hand steadiness
  • Customer service focus
  • Comfort with making recommendations and giving feedback
  • Active listening
  • Understanding of art and design concepts
  • Good time management
  • Ability to remain calm under pressure

Where Do They Work?

A makeup artist’s job location depends largely on their industry. Some are routinely in the same place. In theater, associates will spend most of their time backstage in dressing rooms.

Those that staff cosmetic counters work in department stores and other retail outlets, while makeup artists at salons and spas will likely use the same station each day.

Those with careers in television, movies, and fashion, however, can see a greater variety in where they work. Television and film professionals are often in studios, but occasionally must be on location during particular scenes.

Similarly, those that help models or brides, might have to travel to complete an assignment. This can create opportunities to visit unique and exotic areas.

Hopefuls may be able to search for jobs in places like:

  • Production companies
  • Bridal boutiques
  • News stations
  • Fashion magazines
  • Festivals and events

Work Environment

Newcomers to this field can expect to constantly be learning. To stay competitive, makeup professionals must keep up to date on the latest trends and techniques.

Some helpful resources for this include trade and consumer magazines, blogs, and video sites like YouTube.

Employees should prepare to deal with the demands of their clients and for conditions that are frequently less than ideal. Directors, brides, and other patrons often have very specific requirements for an event or role.

When working on location, makeup artists may need to cope with cramped spaces or bad weather. Patience and flexibility are great assets in these situations.


Cleanliness is important when working as a makeup artist. Keeping materials tidy and organized makes them easier to locate and indicates a level of professionalism. Preparing properly makes a good impression and can build trust with a client, making it easier to communicate with them about their needs.

State regulations require proper and regular sanitation of makeup tools for patrons’ safety. Disposable cotton swabs, pads, and single-use mascara wands help reduce the risk of spreading infections. Professionals also clean their brushes and beauty sponges to help them last longer and to remove bacteria.

Other Career Options

Individuals with makeup artist certification have several other areas they can choose as a specialty.

Some pursue jobs in mortuary makeup. In these roles, employees prepare the deceased for funerals where friends and family pay their respects. This involves using materials like wax, clay, or plaster to correct any major trauma or wounds.


Other recruits might consider becoming an esthetician. People in this position often work in salons and spas where they focus on caring for skin.

Staff members pamper their customers by cleansing pores, exfoliating with scrubs, or applying peels or wraps. They may also assist with the removal of any unwanted hair.

Product Marketing

Helping with the development and marketing of new products is another option for people with a beauty background. Those willing to complete additional training can apply to a cosmetics company and create and promote their product line.

Business Ownership

Candidates might also consider opening their own business, either solely as a makeup artist or as a cosmetologist. This provides a great deal of flexibility in scheduling and when deciding which services to offer. These professionals get to decide whether to work in a traditional salon or on location for events like weddings.

Job Outlook

The demand for these positions is expected to grow faster than other occupations. The majority of opportunities will be in television, film, salons, and the bridal industry. Higher paying jobs are more plentiful in states like California, New York, Nevada, and Texas, although the wide range of roles mean prospects should be able to find work in many other places.