A passion for fashion and makeup can extend beyond your hobbies and pave the way for a career in the makeup industry. There are many types of professional makeup artists ranging from those that work in department or cosmetics stores, to those that work as freelance makeup artists for weddings, events, or fashion shoots, as well as professionals that work in film, theatre, and cinema by designing the looks of different characters.
However, choosing to become a professional makeup artist will take more than just passion and creativity — it will 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
One of the first steps towards finding your passion in the industry is to study, research, and practice. If you are still a high school student, you may choose specific classes that will prepare you for beauty school. This may include knowledge of art and design, anatomy, theatre, or even speech and creative writing. Having basic skills and knowledge that help you to understand the industry, the body, and how to communicate can help you during your career.
You will need to research and stay up-to-date on current fashion trends, looks, products, professionals who are influencing the market, and industry news. What makeup artists inspire you? What styles of makeup artistry and services do you want to provide? What skills are employers looking for? Does the school you are interested in attending provide job assistance? Most importantly, however, even before you start makeup artistry school, is the need to practice. You can start out by practicing on yourself or on your friends. Youtube videos are also a good source for inspiration. Try and practice on different personalities, skin types, complections, and ages.
Education, Practicum, and Mentorship
Pursuing a formal education in makeup artistry can provide you with a deeper understanding of the industry and 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 as well as 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? It is important the program includes airbrush makeup, body painting, and special makeup effects, not just beauty makeup. Ask what products are included in your makeup kit? What equipment do they have to support the curriculum? What career and student services are offered? What are the school’s graduation and placement rates? Is the makeup Academy or Institute Accredited?
This is a big investment and you want to make sure the school provides the tools and resources and teaches employable skills that employers look for. Schools often offer a variety of specialized master courses and continuing education that can give you an edge while job hunting. Tour several schools even if that means you need to relocate to another state. This decision is a big financial and time commitment and it may be worth the inconvenience of living out of state for a few months to attend the best school. Additional things to consider when selecting the right beauty school for you may include the practicum and hours needed to complete the program, the intensity of the program, as well as any possible mentorship programs. Common areas of study include:
- Sanitation and hygiene practices for cleaning and applying makeup.
- Makeup principles and tools.
- Color theory.
- Makeup techniques including blending, corrective makeup, contouring highlighting, and understanding face shape, skin type, hair and eye color.
- Application techniques.
- Special event makeup.
- Theater and stage makeup.
- Makeup for photography, broadcasting, or cinema.
- Special effects makeup and prosthetics.
- Character Creation.
- Body Painting.
- Hair Styling for production and photo shoots)
- Fashion and runway makeup.
Finding a mentor in your industry can greatly help you navigate your career path. A mentor can provide you support, insider knowledge of the industry, and give you tips and tricks to consider as you pursue your dream in makeup artistry. Or, ask the school you are interested in attending if you can shadow a current student.
Certification and Licensure
Formal education may not only provide you with high-level skills and knowledge, but also 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 there are many phenomenal artists who are self-taught, employers in the beauty field look at certification similar to other types of employers would require an associates, bachelor, or master degree. Always do your research and check the certification or requirements of the state you live in or intend to work in, as well as what the requirements are 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, Marketing, and Promotion
As a professional makeup artist, you will not only need practice and education, but will also need experience working in the industry. Look to your favorite makeup stores and brands to see if there are any available opportunities to join the team even as a cashier at Sephora or Ulta Beauty while attending a makeup artistry academy. You might also consider looking for employment opportunities on different job-posting websites such as:
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 freelancing work. Start out by asking for referrals from your social and online networks, as well as any people you have practiced on or provided services for to build your portfolio. The more experience you gain, and the larger portfolio you build, the more likely you will be to get hired in the future.
Other important things to note when considering your employment opportunities is to market and promote your services online with your own social media channels. This provides a great opportunity to showcase your work and portfolio while engaging members of your potential clientele. You can also network in industry-related events to gain exposure, connect with other makeup artists and industry professionals, and meet potential employers.
Portfolio and Pricing
Your portfolio is a collection of images of your best work. You can use yourself as a model or (with permission) use pictures of your clients to showcase your skills. You can also offer to collaborate with professional photographers and offer your makeup artistry skills in return for portfolio images.
If you are working independently as a freelancer, or are renting a shared space, oftentimes you will need to consider how you price your services. This may include checking to see how much makeup artists make in your area, and setting your prices competitively.
Tips for Aspiring Makeup Artists
Additional tips for aspiring makeup artists who are building their career include:
- 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. Be kind and considerate, and 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 but appropriate clothing. If you work in the makeup and fashion industry, you will often have to look the part. However, it is important to consider things like wearing flat shoes so your feet don’t get tired after standing for long hours.
- Act appropriately. If you get the chance to work with a celebrity, be sure to treat them respectfully without overwhelming them.
- 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.
- Keep on studying. There are always going to 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.