How to Become a Makeup Artist

Becoming a makeup artist seems glamorous and full of fun for many people, and it can be. However, it requires the ability to handle pressure, stringent deadlines, and the willingness to continue developing your artistry skills as your career progresses. If you’re a fan of makeup and think you may like to give it a go professionally, here’s some information about what it takes to enter the field.

Typical Earnings

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the median annual wage for makeup artists is $53,230, with the highest earners in the field bringing in about $122,100 per year and the lowest earners making $19,420. These estimates provide an average, but the earnings among makeup artists vary much more widely.

How much you’ll make after you become a makeup artist largely depends on where you live and the industry that you work in. For instance, a makeup artist in Austin, Texas who works with musicians, film productions, and theater productions will probably earn more than a makeup artist in Pennsylvania who specializes in working with bridal parties.

According to the BLS, the states with the highest level of employment and job opportunities available for makeup artists are California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Georgia.

How to Become a Makeup Artist

Required Education

There is no required formal education to become a makeup artist, and you don’t need a degree. However, if you happen to have a cosmetology license and are able to do hair in addition to makeup, you’ll stand to earn more money. Even without going to cosmetology school, taking a few makeup courses would be a great help when it comes to developing your portfolio and honing your skills.

Makeup artistry courses are offered by well-established brands, such as MAC Cosmetics, and popular beauty gurus often host offer master classes around the country. You can also learn a ton just by observing videos and presentations from established makeup artists online.

Practice, trial, and error are key in this industry, so get in as much practice as possible. Don’t only practice doing makeup on yourself, try to find people with different skin tones and ages to widen your experience and better prepare you for when you start working on clients.

Work Environment

Most makeup artists are freelancers, sole proprietors, and independent contractors rather than employees. Even those who work in the film industry or theater typically have to pay their own taxes and are responsible for providing their own tools, brushes, transportation, and makeup.

If you’re interested in working for yourself and want to do something creative, becoming a makeup artist is a good choice. The autonomy that comes with being an independent makeup artist will enable you to choose the type of clients that you work with, the times of day that you’re available, and give you control over where you work.

Getting Started

The first thing that you’ll need, aside from practice, is a portfolio. This is basically a collection of your best photos showcasing your makeup artistry skills, and it can be digital or physical. Having both a physical portfolio that you can take with you and a set of your photos online is a good idea. You’ll then need to start looking for clients or a job that will hire you as a makeup artist. If you want to be an employee rather than work for yourself, salons, spas, makeup retailers, and modeling agencies are good places to start looking.

One of the best ways to advertise your services is to regularly go out in public with your own makeup professionally done. When people stop to ask about it, offer your card and let them know you’re available to do makeup. You can also contact local photographers and photo studios and ask if you can leave a few cards with an exclusive discount for their customers — people taking photos often want professionally done makeup, so this is a good fit. In exchange, offer to give out the photo studio’s information and cards to your own customers. Networking is key to finding clients in this industry, as is simply asking around and establishing your niche.


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