August 2, 2022

How do I Become a Special Effects Makeup Artist?

Become a Special Effects Makeup Artist

Do you have a passion for unique makeup effects and creating transformational looks? Did you know your interest can extend beyond hobbies and pave the way for a career in the makeup industry? There are many special effects makeup artists who work professionally in film, theatre, cinema, and more by designing the looks of different characters.  However, becoming a professional SFX makeup artist takes more than just passion and creativity — it will also take practice, education, certification requirements, and some savvy business know-how. Read on to discover how to become a special effects makeup artist in the makeup industry.

What is SFX makeup?

SFX makeup, or special effects makeup, is any makeup that creates an illusion or non-traditional look. Examples of SFX makeup are old-age makeup, non-human creatures, and injuries. This kind of makeup requires creativity, imagination, and skill.

Special effects (SFX) makeup is challenging. You need creativity and imagination to ensure the results are believable and impactful. Makeup artists draw inspiration from art and science, and many create looks of makeup inspired by nature.

Study, Research, and Practice

The first steps towards finding your passion in the makeup industry are studying, researching, and practicing! If you are still a high school student, you might choose specific classes to prepare you for beauty school. This might be art and design courses, anatomy, theatre, or speech and creative writing. Having foundational skills and knowledge can help you during your career.

Even before you start makeup artist school, you need to practice. You can begin by practicing on yourself or your friends. Youtube videos are a good source of inspiration. Try to practice different personalities and skin types.

Pursue Education and Mentorship

Pursuing a makeup artistry education can give you a better understanding of the field and give you a competitive advantage, as well as the skills, tools, and knowledge you will need to nail your audition. To choose the right makeup school, you may start by looking at their admissions and requirements. You could also look at the school curriculum, coursework, and other features of their diploma programs.

To be successful as a special effects artist, you need to be well trained in all styles of makeup artistry. Does the school teach makeup artistry that is part of another cosmetology program, or is it a stand-alone program? Ask what products are included in their makeup kit? How does the school help you find your career? What are the school’s graduation and placement rates? Is it Academy or Institute Accredited?

You should also consider attending an accredited makeup school that will provide job placement in the field you are pursuing. In fact, unlike attending a short course or workshop, an accredited makeup school must meet a certain placement percentage to maintain its accreditation. 

Going to makeup school is a significant investment, and you want to ensure the school provides the tools, resources, and skills employers look for. Schools also often offer a variety of specialized master courses and continuing education that can give you an edge while job hunting.

What should I consider when choosing a makeup school?

Remember that not all certification is the same. Being successful as a practicing makeup artist is very competitive. Completing a “Master Makeup Artist” workshop or attending 50–100 hours of training as part of an esthetics or cosmetology program is not enough.

By choosing the right training school, you are more likely to gain a much deeper understanding of the industry. You’ll also have a competitive advantage with training beyond basic beauty and bridal makeup.

Consider touring several schools, even if that means you need to relocate to another state. This decision is a big financial and time commitment. Attending the best school may be worth the inconvenience of living out of state for a few months. When selecting the right beauty school, other things to consider may include the training and hours needed to complete the program, how intense the program is, and any possible mentorship programs.

Finding a mentor in your industry can help you navigate your career path. A mentor can support you with insider knowledge of the industry and give you tips and tricks to consider. You can even ask the school you are interested in attending if you can shadow a current student. 

What kind of education should I pursue for special effects makeup?

An accredited makeup artistry school is the best education option for becoming an SFX artist. Cosmetology schools and esthetics programs sometimes offer some cosmetics workshops as part of their training. Still, they are not nearly comprehensive enough for a makeup artist and especially not an SFX makeup artist. 

Professional makeup artists, or MUAs, specialize in applying makeup and prosthetics. From horror films and haunted houses to special effects labs and Broadway theatre: No matter your makeup passion, they all require professionally trained makeup artists, not cosmetologists.

Accredited makeup artistry schools design their curriculum around those skills employers, production studios, clients, and agencies require so you are ready to work upon graduating. In addition to the curriculum, teaching makeup artistry requires specialized lighting, equipment, classroom design, and makeup stations. 

Additionally, students’ makeup kits are extensive and include top cosmetic brands. Training is hands-on and supported through a low student/teacher ratio. Attending a makeup academy is an excellent option if you want to study makeup in college. 

How long is SFX makeup school?

Since there is no state requirement, training hours at a makeup school are up to the school and you. How long and in-depth the course is and how much hands-on experience you’ll get are essential when considering where to receive your makeup artistry education. Diploma programs and makeup courses vary, but they should generally be a minimum of 800 hours. Courses may be longer if the programs include specializations in airbrushes, body painting, on-set hair styling, and special effects makeup. 

Certification and Licensure Requirements

Formal education not only provides you with high-level skills and knowledge. Receiving a diploma from an accredited school shows potential employers the training you have received and the number of hours you have completed. While many phenomenal artists are self-taught, employers in the beauty field look at certification. This is similar to how other employers would require an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. 

Always research the certification requirements of the state you intend to work in and the requirements to become certified. There may be specialized requirements for different fields of study, including makeup, cosmetology, and esthetics, or no certification requirements at all. Be open to studying out-of-state and bring those skills and competitive advantage back home. 


The U.S. Department of Education recognizes accrediting agencies. The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences are two significant organizations that accredit makeup, esthetician, and cosmetology programs. 

Accreditors establish an accreditation process that evaluates areas like hours of training, curriculum, facilities, and instructors’ qualifications. The school must demonstrate the instructional resources and support services necessary to assist its students in achieving their educational goals. The school must also demonstrate that they meet or exceed established graduation and job placement rates. 

Accredited programs can offer government-funded financial aid, student loans, and grants. L Makeup Institute is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and is approved to offer federal financial aid to students. 

LMI Alumni Spotlight:

Adrian León wrote & directed the psychological thriller “KIN DREAD,” which was released for global distribution in 2021. His next feature directorial effort will be the supernatural horror film “YOU DON’T BELONG HERE” in the late fall of 2022. He is also currently producing the found footage horror feature, “THE DEVIL’S DOOR,” and Executive Producing the cosmic horror feature, “THE BUILDOUT.” Prior to his feature film work, Adrian has worked in television since 1997 and was nominated for an Emmy® in 2015, 2016, and 2018 for his broadcast documentary “ONE” and the two half-hour current affairs programming pieces, “TRAFFICKED NO MORE” and “BELIEVE AGAIN.” His six-minute video, “BEHIND EVERY DOOR,” produced for Veterans Village about homeless veterans in Las Vegas, was screened for President Barack Obama in 2016.


“When producing film and television programming, there is so much at stake that it is absolutely crucial to surround yourself with the most talented artists and technicians you can find. So when I have to find the very best makeup artists Las Vegas has to offer, my first stop is always L Makeup Institute, where they connect me with their best and brightest alumni. I have never been disappointed and have found, through LMI, strong collaborators that I can continue to trust on my productions.” – Kyle Waugh.

How can LMI help?

At L Makeup Institute, we offer several classes to help you achieve your makeup artistry goals. Our goal is to help the makeup artists of tomorrow perfect their skills and gain hands-on experience to help them with their makeup careers.

We offer a wide variety of training, including focused special effects makeup classes, to help you explore your talents and learn impressive techniques. Our “Special Makeup Effects” course offers detailed hands-on SFX makeup skills and information on starting and managing your makeup career. If you are ready to start your career as an SFX makeup artist, reach out to L Makeup Institute today!

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