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How to Become a Make-Up Artist

Learn the steps to become a make-up artist. Find out about education requirements, training information, and experience required for beginning a career in the field of make-up artistry. View article »

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  • 0:04 Career Info
  • 1:03 Step 1: Get High…
  • 1:29 Step 2: Complete Training
  • 2:41 Step 3: Gain Experience
  • 3:06 Step 4: Create a Portfolio
  • 3:29 Step 5: Find Work

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Video Transcript

Career Info

Theatrical and performance make-up artists apply make-up and create hairstyles for actors, singers, musicians, models, and other entertainers. Make-up artists, cosmetologists, and estheticians, or skincare specialists, create looks for weddings, special events, and private clients. Make-up artists spend many hours standing and must maintain tact and patience when dealing with demanding or difficult customers.

Training Required Certificate, diploma, or associate's degree in make-up artistry, skincare, or cosmetology; drama or theater degrees are also an option
Certification/Licensure Cosmetology and/or esthetician licensure required by all states
Key Skills Creative, able to manage their time, organized, customer service oriented, able to respond to different personalities, and able to stand for long periods of time
Salary (2015) $23,710 per year (median wage for cosmetologists in general); $53,230 (median wage for theatrical and performance make-up artists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Get High School Diploma

Now let's check out the career steps for make-up artists. Completing a high school diploma or GED provides the basic skills needed to understand the field of make-up and prepare for college. In some states, a high school diploma or equivalent is also needed to get a cosmetologist's license. Helpful classes include drama, art, design, and English.

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  • Permanent Cosmetics and Tattooing

Step 2: Complete Training

After high school, one training option for this career path is to earn a diploma or certificate from a cosmetology school. These programs can last anywhere from nine months to one year. Some offer concentrations in special effects make-up for film with courses in life casting, body-parts casting, mold sculpturing, using foam-rubber silicone, design, and drawing. Other concentrations may focus on bridal make-up or techniques geared specifically to theater, television, film, and fashion photography. These programs provide preparation for cosmetology licensure.

Prospective make-up artists may also obtain associate's degrees in drama or theater from a community college. Such programs typically offer courses in stage make-up, lighting, stagecraft, and production. An associate's degree can provide a solid foundation for future education, training, and advancement.

Upon completion of either program, individuals are eligible to take state cosmetology licensing exams that typically include a written exam and practical portion.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Students in cosmetology programs can gain hands-on experience working in school salons. Make-up artists can also earn early experience by volunteering services for independent films, student films, or local theater performances. This provides both credited work and the chance to meet other artists in the film and theater fields, which can lead to further job opportunities.

Step 4: Create a Portfolio

Taking photographs of completed work can help build a portfolio that demonstrates skills and techniques for future employers and clients to review. Ideally, a portfolio should highlight the variety of styles and looks the artist can create. Make-up artists can collaborate with photographers to create pieces that can be used in both artists' portfolios.

Step 5: Find Work

Theatrical and performance make-up artists may work for theaters, television stations, or production companies. They may work as employees or contract as freelancers. Employment opportunities are typically strongest in areas with numerous film production companies, theater groups, and other media and performance companies.

Aspiring makeup artists, whether they want to work in theater, film, or on a freelance basis, should complete a training program in makeup arts and skincare before gaining licensure, building a portfolio, and seeking work.

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