Becoming a Professional Makeup Artist

A makeup artist truly is an artist who uses a person’s skin as a canvas for design. The creativity one must have to be a makeup artist is enormous, but, in like manner, so is the skill.

While it is not a career that generally requires a four-year university degree, it does require some education along with licensure to practice legally in many states.

If this career interests you, check out the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about it below and find out how you can impact the world with color and beauty today.

What Does a Makeup Artist Do?

makeup artist working in a beauty salonAt its most basic, makeup artistry includes the application of makeup to the face and occasionally the body as well as the application of paints and prosthetics to the face and body for films and theater. The makeup artist will enhance the client’s face to downplay imperfections while highlighting the best features.

Some makeup artists specialize in theater application, which could also include the application of prosthetics. This career path could include high-pressure situations with fast turnaround times and increased spot fixes. It could also include special effects makeup to change a person’s appearance completely.

Another option is permanent makeup application in which the artist applies permanent color, much like a tattoo, to the face. Some clients like this for eyebrows, lips or eyes. This, however, requires additional education in color theory and cosmetic tattooing technique.

If you choose makeup artistry for your career, your opportunities and work could be as varied as you would like them to be. You could sell cosmetics, provide makeovers, work in a salon, help with makeup for photo shoots, focus on bridal makeup or work in the film industry. You might work with other cosmetologists, such as nail technicians, for full beauty looks or work by yourself in the homes of the rich and famous.

What Education Does a Professional Makeup Artist Need?

Some kind of education is typically necessary to get your foot in the door of the makeup artistry world. Depending on where you are hoping to work, you could start as an assistant or intern. This path is best if you want to work at department store cosmetics counters, for example, but it will not provide the educational background you would need to work in a spa, salon or dermatologist’s office.

To get your foot in the door of this career, consider how much training you would like to have and what type of specialty area interests you. If you want to get into makeup artistry for films and theater, consider a drama, performing arts or theater degree from a two or four year college. For most applications, however, you can consider a degree that takes a few months to a year. Check with your state’s Board of Cosmetology or Department of Health for specific requirements where you live.

Your education should be geared toward your desired career trajectory. However, typical courses and skills that you should learn in school include color, design, anatomy and skin processes and diseases. You should also have hands-on training with makeup application and other skills that you will use in your line of work.

Can You Become a Makeup Artist with Online Classes?

Vector image of a laptopAn online education is perfectly acceptable in many scenarios as long as you are sure that it meets your state’s requirements for licensure. Online classes will allow you to work at your own pace and complete your studies when you are able. This is perfect if you are a busy parent or are already holding down another job.

To succeed with online studies, you must be a self-starter and have plenty of motivation to study and research on your own. You will typically view classes online in your own time and turn in assignments on the school’s Website.

To get the hands-on training, you typically will apply for an internship with a local makeup artist, or you will need to provide pictures or proof of your work and techniques via photographs or videos.

What Is a Makeup Artist Certification and License?

Upon completing the educational program, you should receive a degree, diploma or certification that you will be able to present to your state’s Department of Health or Board of Cosmetology. They will then issue you a license allowing you to practice legally in that state.

Should you move to a new state, you will need to apply for a license there. Keep in mind that a license is only required in some states, but for states that require it, you will need to show that you have had between 300 to 600 educational hours depending on state requirements.

What Equipment Does a Makeup Artist Need?

A makeup artist using their equipmentIf you work for an employer, such as a salon or spa, you may have your equipment provided for you. However, if you are a freelance artist, you will have to purchase and care for your own equipment, including the following:

  • Numerous sizes and styles of makeup brushes, such as foundation brushes, contour brushes, lip brushes and blending brushes
  • Makeup case
  • Brush cleaner
  • Makeup remover
  • Makeup capes
  • Beauty tools, such as eyelash curlers and tweezers
  • Palettes and spatulas for mixing makeup
  • Mirrors
  • Disposable applicators
  • A wide array of makeup colors, textures and styles for the face, eyes, lips and more

Because these supplies will come out of your own money, you must take care of them correctly. Store your makeup carefully so that it does not spill or crack. Keep your mirrors clean for clients to see themselves clearly.

Clean brushes after every use to keep microbes, dirt and grease at bay. Use a quality brush cleaner, such as a spray, to clean and disinfect the brushes before rinsing them with warm water.

What Is the Job Outlook for Makeup Artists?

Career options for makeup artists are expected to rise significantly over the next several years. The top states offering job opportunities in this field are New York, California, Florida, Texas, Georgia and Nevada. Many of these states are popular vacationing areas, pack a host of large cities or are prime spots for film production and theater.

How Much Are Makeup Artists Paid?

The pay for a makeup artist can vary widely depending on who you are working for, whether you freelance and what career path you choose. For example, if you freelance for a variety of photo shoots, you could get paid anywhere from $500 to $2,000 for a day of work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a makeup artist working in the film or theater sector is $71,590 with the highest options for those in motion pictures.

Those who work in personal care, such as in spas, can expect to earn much less at around $30,360 annually plus possible tips. Of course, some of the highest paid artists are those who are personal makeup artists for celebrities. These individuals, such as Charlotte Tilbury and Patrick Ta, may make well over $100,000 per year.

What Are the Career Opportunities for Makeup Artists?

Photograph of a Hollywood sign in LAYou will have plenty of options for career specialization with a degree or certificate in makeup artistry. As a freelance artist, you will work for yourself, make your own hours and find your own jobs. You could consider working on photo shoots or on advertising shoots. On the other hand, you could work in the service industry at a local salon or spa or at a makeup counter, such as MAC Cosmetics.

Here, you could provide makeup consultations, answer customer questions and do makeup applications. If you choose to work in the fashion industry, you might work for a magazine, high fashion brand or modeling agency. If you would like to try your luck in Hollywood, you could work for a production company, work on special effects films or become a celebrity makeup artist.

Is There a Union for Makeup Artists?

Makeup artists can choose to join a union, which is typically used by artists working in film production. Unions vary whether you work in the eastern or western United States. You will be required to pay your dues, but will be protected in future jobs from poor wages and incomplete benefits. It can be difficult, however, to get into a union before you have a large work portfolio.

These answers should give you guidance as you consider a career in this rewarding field. With makeup artistry, you have unlimited potential for growth as you follow industry standards or freelance. Whether you prefer a small-town practice or a place on the Hollywood stage, makeup artistry can be the ticket to your dream job.

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