How to Become a Makeup Artist (Duties, Salary and Steps)

Do you love a good makeover? Turn your love into a career with these tips on becoming a makeup artist.

Illustration showing makeup artist applying makeup to a client.

Becoming a makeup artist is a glamorous job that many young girls dream of! If you love makeup and sit there for hours practising your own looks, then it sounds like a dream come true. 

That said, becoming a successful makeup artist in an overcrowded market can often be challenging. You will need to sacrifice a lot and do a lot of promotion to ensure your name gets out there. 

So, if you have dreamed of becoming a makeup artist your entire life, then you’ve come to the right place. Here, we will guide you through all the steps you need to take to become a successful makeup artist. 

What makeup artists do

Makeup artists are trained professionals who can naturally enhance their client’s beauty by using specific techniques for their features. They are able to make hooded eyes appear larger or noses smaller with the effective use of contouring. 

Depending on their interests, makeup artists can follow a variation of career paths. Here are the different industries they can fall into: 

  • Beauty: The most traditional makeup artist can be found at a beauty counter in a branded makeup store or in the mall. Besides retail work, they can also be found working for a particular brand on campaign shoots and on social media. 
  • Fashion: Fashion makeup artists can be found working on fashion shows or branded shoots. They typically create more unique looks that people wouldn’t generally wear on an everyday basis. Instead, these looks are created to go with the theme of the campaign or to highlight a specific look. 
  • Wedding: Bridal makeup artists focus on soft yet glamorous looks that enhance the beauty of a bride and her bridal party. They tend to perform the same style on all their clients since most brides like soft and subtle makeup. 
  • Cinematic: Makeup for films and special effects is a whole different ball game. This kind of makeup artist works with prosthetics and can spend hours on a single look. 
  • Face and body painting: Face and body painting artists have risen in popularity over the last few years, with celebrities opting for this style for fancy dress or campaign events. This style of makeup is usually created with airbrushing, as well as free-hand painting. 

 

Although day-to-day activities can vary, general responsibilities and duties will typically include:

  • Consulting with clients and discussing their ideal look before applying makeup 
  • Enhancing facial aesthetics by using specific techniques based on the client’s features 
  • Taking lighting and setting into account when applying makeup 
  • Working on different sets to provide looks that match the overall style of the shoot 
  • Maintaining an awareness of the latest beauty trends 
  • Building a diverse cosmetic tool kit 
  • Creating an online brand to showcase previous work 
  • Understanding what a client or film director has in mind and being able to execute it 
  • Having knowledge of different styles, color palettes and trends 
  • Liaising with cosmetic suppliers to get makeup at a cheaper price 

What the job is like

Where do makeup artists typically work? What hazards do they face and what does a day in the life of a makeup artist look like? Here, we uncover all. 

Work environment

Makeup artists work in varied workplace settings. Depending on their type of makeup, they could be working in a retail store, from their own salon, or at various shoot locations. Work can also be a great distance from their house or even abroad, so makeup artists spend a lot of their time traveling to different locations with their extensive makeup kit.

Most makeup artists spend a lot of time on their feet, bending over clients who are seated, and therefore, the job can occasionally be physically demanding. They also need to carry all of their tools, which can be heavy if they have a handful of different clients throughout the day. 

Work hours

Schedules and hours can vary significantly from day-to-day for freelance makeup artists. They could have busy periods of early mornings and late evenings, particularly during a busy wedding season, whereas some weeks could have little to no work. 

That said, contracted makeup artists who are working on a movie or theater set, or even a high street store, will tend to have fixed hours and a more structured working schedule. However, those working on set could be forced to work overtime if scenes are taking longer than planned. 

Job satisfaction

Working as a makeup artist can be an extremely rewarding career, and according PayScale, the profession is rated 3.9 out of 5, with the respondents being highly satisfied with their work. The majority found their job meaningful and were happy with their day-to-day routine. Having the ability to create your own schedule is also a big plus for most makeup artists who may have other responsibilities. 

Job market

The demand for makeup artists is growing rapidly. Indeed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employed cosmetologists is projected to grow by 19% between 2020 and 2030. 

As we come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s projected that consumers will be looking for ways to improve their appearance, causing an increase in demand for available makeup artists across the US. And with films and TV shows back on track, the need for theatrical makeup artists will also grow.

Salary

Working as a makeup artist has the potential to earn good money, depending on what type of makeup artist you want to be. If you gain enough experience, you could end up working with celebrities or on the set of a popular show. 

Below is an overview of potential earnings for makeup artists by level of experience and geographic location. 

Mean wage

The overall mean wage for makeup artists in the US is referenced below: 

Mean annual wage

Mean hourly wage

$32,740

$15.74

Median wage by experience

Makeup artists’ earnings can vary greatly depending on the level of experience, as mentioned in the table below:

Experience

Median annual wage

Entry-level

$18,840

Junior level

$21,520

Mid-level

$27,380

Senior level

$37,970

Top-level

$53,410

Mean wage by state

The following table shows the top states with the highest annual mean wage in the US:

State

Mean annual wage

New Jersey

$39,160

Colorado

$40,420

District of Columbia

$42,270

Washington

$45,620

Massachusetts

$46,310

Median wage around the world

If you’re wondering what makeup artists can earn outside the US, then look no further. The table below describes the average salary for makeup artists in the five largest English-speaking markets across the globe:

Country

Median annual wage

UK

£21,480 ($29,290)

Australia

AU$52,400 ($37,780)

Canada

C$40,000 ($31,880)

Ireland

€25,000 ($28,410)

New Zealand

NZ$48,000 ($32,530)

 

 

Steps to become a makeup artist

After viewing the technical side, if you’re still convinced that becoming a makeup artist is the right choice for you, then here are all you need to know to start your career. 

1. Determine if it’s the right job for you

The first step to determining if this is the right career path for you is to discover whether you have all the suitable skills needed to become a makeup artist. While the role isn’t limited to these traits, here is a handful of professional skills you will need to have: 

An online career assessment, like our very own over at CareerHunter, can be immensely valuable in determining your suitability for a career as a makeup artist. For just $29.99, you’ll get:

  • lifetime access to the complete six-part test
  • accurate career matches based on your interests, personality, motivations, and abstract, numerical and verbal reasoning aptitudes
  • detailed career profiles on hundreds of popular and emerging professions
  • relevant job and course recommendations
  • a personalized downloadable report highlighting your top results

2. Practise

As the saying goes, ‘practise makes perfect’ and this can’t be any truer if you’re wanting to become a makeup artist. To really hone your craft, you need to practise your signature looks on different skin types and face shapes to ensure you can cater to all of your clients. 

If you can’t find any models, practise with your friends and family to develop the essential skills that you need to become a makeup artist. Be sure to document this by taking lots of pictures for your portfolio and social accounts to attract custom and demand for your work. 

3. Keep up to date with trends

When working in such a creative and fast-paced role, it’s essential to keep up with current makeup trends. For example, heavy makeup and contouring were popular in 2018, but in recent years, people are opting for a more natural look, with fluffy brows and a pop of highlighter being more dominant. 

4. Complete training

While you don’t need a university degree or any formal training to become a makeup artist, it’s advisable to complete a makeup artistry course to obtain the skills needed to succeed in this role. If you want to work in theatrical makeup, you’ll need precise training to learn the ins and outs of the trade. 

5. Build an online presence 

Being in such a creative role requires an extensive portfolio and online presence. So, having an active Instagram account and website is essential. You need to post your new looks regularly to showcase what you can do. By doing so, you’ll be more likely to obtain new clients via various social channels. 

Final thoughts

If you love meeting new people and making them feel beautiful, then becoming a makeup artist is ideal for you! Enhancing people’s looks to make them feel special is an extremely rewarding career. That said, you need to be determined to work hard, and, on occasion, long hours. 

Join the discussion! Do you enjoy doing makeup on other people? Do you think being a makeup artist would be a good career path for you? Let us know in the comments section below!