A woman doing makeup on another woman

How to Become a Makeup Artist

How to Become a Makeup Artist

Do you have a passion for fashion and makeup? Did you know that passion can extend beyond your hobbies and pave the way for a career in the makeup industry? There are many professional makeup artists ranging from those who work in department or cosmetics stores to those that work as freelance makeup artists for weddings, events, or fashion shoots. There are even makeup professionals that work in film, theatre, and cinema by designing the looks of different characters. 

However, becoming a professional makeup artist will take more than just passion and creativity — it will also take practice, education, certification requirements, and some savvy business know-how. Read on to discover what it takes to become a professional artist in the makeup industry.

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 even speech and creative writing. Having basic skills and knowledge that help you understand the industry, the body, and how to communicate can help you during your career.

You will also need to research and stay up-to-date on current beauty trends, looks, products, professionals who influence the market, and industry news. What makeup artists inspire you? What styles of makeup artistry and services do you want to provide? Does the school you are interested in attending provide job assistance?

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

Education, Practice, and Mentorship

Pursuing a makeup artistry education can provide you with 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 makeup artist or special effects artist, you will 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 in order to maintain its accreditation. 

Going to makeup school is a significant investment, and you want to make sure the school provides the tools, resources, and skills that 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.

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 program 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. It may be worth the inconvenience of living out of state for a few months to attend the best school. 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. 

Professional Organizations for Makeup Artists

As you progress through your training and career, you should stay updated on trends, information, techniques, and news by joining or following the top professional and industry organizations.

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

IATSE is a labor union representing over 140,000 artisans in the entertainment industry, including live theater, motion picture and television production, and trade shows in the United States and Canada. 

International Make-Up Association

The IMA is the recognized awarding body for the worldwide makeup artistry industry.

International Association of Professional Makeup Artists

The IAPO exists to provide business development and educational services. The membership organization serves both working and student makeup artists.

National Association of Screen Makeup and Hair

NASMAH is a U.K.-based association for makeup artists specific to the fashion, TV, theater, film, and photography industries.

Certification and Licensure

Formal education not only provides you with high-level skills and knowledge. Receiving a diploma from an Accredited school shows potential employers the type of 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, similar to how other employers would require an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. 

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

Employment and Networking

As a professional makeup artist, you will also need experience working in the industry. Look to your favorite makeup stores and brands to find available opportunities to join the team. Even working as a cashier at Sephora or Ulta Beauty can provide you with valuable experience and exposure to products and clients while attending a makeup artistry academy.

You might also consider looking for employment opportunities on different job-posting websites. When using these job board websites, you can customize the search to provide results based on location, company, skill sets, and minimum salary requirements.  

While attending an Institute or Academy, or once you graduate, you can also try your hand at freelance work. Start by asking for referrals from your social and online networks and anyone you have practiced on to build your portfolio. The more experience you gain, and the larger your portfolio, the more likely employers will hire you in the future. 

You should also market and promote your services online with your own social media channels. This provides an excellent opportunity to showcase your work and portfolio while engaging members of your potential clientele. You can also network in events to gain exposure, connect with other makeup artists and industry professionals, and meet potential employers.

Tips for Aspiring Makeup Artists

Here are some additional tips for aspiring makeup artists who are building their careers:

  • Build a network and share techniques, tips, opportunities, and knowledge with your trusted peers. In turn, they will often do the same for you.
  • Be friendly, approachable, and professional at all times. Helping your client and curating the best look for them may feel stressful, especially for brides-to-be. Use your best listening skills to ensure you are meeting their expectations. Every client success story holds the opportunity for a new referral.
  • Love your job and remember your passion. Every career will have ups and downs. Working in the makeup and fashion industry will include those same highs and lows. 
  • Wear comfortable, appropriate clothing. If you work in the makeup and fashion industry, you will often have to look the part. However, it is essential to consider things like wearing flat shoes, so your feet don’t get tired after standing for long hours.
  • Act appropriately. Customer service is a significant part of makeup artistry. How quickly do you respond to questions and concerns? Do you make them feel comfortable in your chair? Are they likely to come back or recommend you to their friends? These skills are just as valuable as your technique.
  • What is said in the chair stays in the chair. Makeup artists and other industry professionals often overhear personal conversations of their clients. Be respectful of others and don’t share information you have overheard.
  • To reach a goal, you need a clear vision. Visualize yourself creating new things and making waves in the industry. What does your career look like? Are you happy? Are you successful? Visionaries aren’t afraid to tread on new ground, set trends, or forge their own path.
  • Continue studying. There will always be new trends, new products to discover, new looks to try, and new leaders or influencers in the industry. Enjoy the process of diving deeper into your passion while simultaneously building the opportunity to increase your profits. 

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 beauty makeup and special effects makeup classes, to help you explore your talents and learn impressive techniques. Our “Mastering the Art of Beauty” course offers strong foundational makeup skills for all aspiring makeup artists, including information on starting and managing your makeup career. If you are ready to start your career as a makeup artist, reach out to L Makeup Institute today!

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