Air Brush Make-up Artist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

An airbrush make-up artist requires no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and licensing requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

An airbrush make-up artist is skilled in applying makeup using airbrush technology and lightweight cosmetics. This career requires knowledge of the airbrush equipment, and depending on the position, other cosmetic application techniques. Airbrush makeup artists are in demand in the entertainment industry, but are also increasingly working in salons or as independent contractors.

Essential Information

An airbrush make-up artist, in the simplest terms, applies make-up to clients using an airbrush machine and specially designed water-based cosmetics. Although at-home airbrush make-up tools are available, many people turn to professionals to ensure proper application. Make-up is dispersed over the skin on the face or body via forced air, covering one small area at a time, creating even and long-lasting coverage. Airbrush make-up is also used to create special effects for movies and television.

Airbrush make-up artists may be employed as part of a photography, television, or movie production crew. And as airbrush make-up has become more widely available and accessible to those outside the entertainment industry, artists may also work in spas or salons, or become independent contractors.

Required Education No formal education required
Other Requirements Cosmetology or esthetician licensure is voluntary
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 19% (for make-up artists, theatrical and performance)*
Average Salary (2015) $66,560 (for make-up artists, theatrical and performance)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Job Duties

When an airbrush make-up artist works with a client, he or she generally begins with a consultation to determine the image that the client (or the photographer or director) wants to convey and the best way to achieve that look. The artist will determine the best colors to use to enhance the client's skin tone, cover flaws, or meet the needs of the production. After the consultation, the artist will prime the client's skin for make-up, prepare the airbrush machine, and apply the make-up. Once the airbrush makeup is in place, the artist may continue the make-up application process using different types of cosmetics, or he or she may direct the client to another professional for finishing. Special effects airbrush make-up artists may employ advanced techniques by adding embellishments or effects to the client's face and body, either freehand or using stencils and masks.

In addition to applying the make-up, a make-up artist's duties include maintaining the make-up machine; ordering and organizing supplies; and staying abreast of current trends and developments within the cosmetics and make-up artistry fields. Airbrush make-up artists also need to practice proper hygiene and sanitation procedures and practice customer service with their clients.

Depending on the employer and the role of the airbrush make-up artist, he or she may be asked to perform other tasks. In some cases, airbrush make-up artists work as estheticians or cosmetologists within a salon environment and may provide other beauty and grooming services, such as hair styling, nail services, or hair removal.


Licensing isn't typically granted for professional make-up artists specifically, but a cosmetology or esthetician license can be obtained. Requirements for licensure vary, but generally require the successful completion of a state-approved training program, a minimum number of classroom and practice hours and exams. These training programs generally focus on general cosmetology--skincare, hair removal, etc. For specialized study, some private training providers offer make-up certificate courses covering airbrushing.

Depending on the airbrush system used, manufacturers may provide in-depth training and education and offer certification for their particular machine or make-up brand. Airbrush make-up artists may seek these certifications to improve their marketability, both to employers and customers. Most states also require regular continuing education courses to maintain licensure, which could include training and classes in airbrush make-up techniques as well as other techniques and subjects.

In addition to the education and training requirements for applying airbrush makeup, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends that personal appearance workers have a clean, neat, and stylish appearance, as well as good interpersonal and communication skills. To meet this requirement, some cosmetology schools require coursework in sales, customer service, marketing, and business in addition to practical skills training.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of make-up artists for theatre and other performances is expected to grow by 19.2% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reported the average annual salary earned by such artists as $66,560 in May 2015.

Airbrush makeup artists are makeup artists with specialized knowledge of airbrush machines and makeup. Makeup artists are not required to have licensure, but may have an esthetician or cosmetology certificate or license. Manufacturers offer specialized trainings for their airbrush products.

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