Special Effects Make-Up Artist: Career and Education Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a special effects make-up artist. Get a quick view of the educational requirements, career information, salary statistics and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

Special effects make-up artists can create visually stunning works of art with their make-up skills. Every time you've ever seen a monster, zombie, alien or otherworldly creature in a TV show or movie, they're to thank. Education requirements for special effects make-up artists can range from make-up classes to an associate's degree in cosmetology.

Essential Information

Special effects make-up artists transform performers into the characters or creatures described in film and TV scripts. Whether working independently or for a production company, these artists must interact with directors and cast members to help produce authentic performances. Training to get into this field typically includes a formal education and/or on-the-job experience.

Required Education Variable; theatrical make-up classes through an associate's degree program in cosmetology
Other Requirements On-the-job training
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 19% for makeup artists, theatrical and performance*
Median Annual Salary (2015) $53,230 for makeup artists, theatrical and performance*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Special Effects Make-Up Artist Career Information

A special effects make-up artist applies make-up on actors and performers to aid in the characters' theatrical transformations. The artist may be required to take direction from officials, such as directors or script supervisors to ensure that the performer resembles his or her character. Sometimes, make-up artists must read the script themselves, taking notes and designing make-up that fits the scriptwriter's specifications.

Inspiration for the make-up may also come from sketches, drawn by the artist or another professional. Special effects make-up can extremely alter performers' appearances, making them appear alien, supernatural or severely injured. Make-up artists often assess the performer's complexion to ensure that the make-up doesn't irritate the skin or cause breakouts. An artist might need to use rubber or plastic to create masks and image-altering prosthetics.

Make-up artists may work directly for a production company or theater, or they may be self-employed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, theatrical and performance make-up artists earned a yearly median salary of $53,230 in May, 2015 (www.bls.gov). Employment positions are predicted to rise 19% from 2014-2024, which is a slower rate than average.

Education Information for Special Effects Make-Up Artists

Training to become a make-up artist can involve enrolling in an associate degree program or obtaining on-the-job experience. According to O*NET Online, 36% of the responding theatrical and performance make-up artists have some college-level education, while 32% hold only a high school diploma or the equivalent (www.onetonline.org).

Several specialized institutes and cosmetology schools offer special effects or theatrical make-up programs. Make-up specialist educational programs can include classes on cosmetic applications, wigs, masks, hairdressing, temporary prosthetic applications and costuming. Other elements of the program might encompass make-up health and safety, make-up removal and script consultation.

As a special effects make-up artist you need a keen eye for design, a steady hand, and a passion for the theatrical. Of course you'll also need formal training, many hours of on-the-job training and years of practice.


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