How to Become a Makeup Artist, According to 6 Makeup Artists

Are you thinking of becoming a makeup artist?

We asked experts to give us their insights on how to become successful in this career.

Maria Licari

Maria Licari

Makeup Artist, Warren Tricomi Salons

  • Self-proclaimed artists – Self-taught and typically perform makeup artistry on themselves for video views and/or product reviews in exchange for free products. This is still a great way to earn income especially if you’re able to receive over 100K views per video.
  • Licensed freelance artists – Attended a makeup academy and paid top dollar to purchase a full kit accommodating all skin tones, ages and/or skin conditions. Typically have a set rate per every face they paint and/or have a day rate for any commercial/TV/theatrical projects they book.

Collect and establish content

Let’s talk about the freelance world of Makeup. It can take up to six months to make it big. Be sure to stick with a single business name, one Instagram account and post your work! The more content and variety you offer your fans, the more likely you are to get booked.

Be sure to have a fully equipped/hygienic makeup kit

All of your products and tools should be on-trend and offer a variety of colors to accommodate any complexion. When starting off you may have to paint a few complimentary faces for the sake of building a portfolio.

Don’t be too eager to overcharge as that may hinder your chances of booking up quickly

Remember, if you’re new and still learning your clients are taking a chance on you for a bargain. Sounds cheap but once you have proven your meticulous work and have requests flowing through the roof then you can begin to raise your rates and you have earned the title of an established and experienced Artist.

Be open to other ways to market your talent

Instagram is not the only way to get your name out there, most artists will start their first job at a makeup counter however some will shoot straight for the stars and apply to assist at agencies in which cater only to the entertainment industry.

Most hair salons now offer makeup as a service as well. The beauty of our industry is that there are so many avenues we can take and it’s up to us with how much money we want to make.

Be professional at all times

In the course of your career, you will encounter a few difficult clients and the best advice I can offer is to always remain calm and professional, give them what they want even if you do not agree with it. The end result will still be a Happy Client and more referrals.

Educate yourself or join agencies

How did I do it? I attended cosmetology school and have an NYS License to do both hair and makeup. I began working in salons where I practiced both skills and later took the route of becoming a freelancer.

I joined an Agency, made tons of cool connections in the entertainment industry leading me to land a part-time job at a news studio as well as freelance for tons of commercials, photoshoots and heck I even do weddings on the weekends.

I am also a Local 798 Union Artist in which allows me to work at pretty much any TV network, feature film or theatrical show. I have been blessed enough to explore pretty much every department of makeup artistry from News, Fashion, Red Carpets, Editorial, Theatre, Commercials, Documentaries, TV Pilots and Weddings.

Never lose your passion for makeup

It took years for me to one day realize how high in demand I had become. I sometimes reminisce on all the hard work, early mornings, long days, traveling long distances and even taking pay cuts just to land the job. I ask myself ‘How the heck did I survive this?”

Passion is the answer and if it still meant for me being where I am today, I would do it all over again and again and again. With any job, there’s a huge reward at the end of all your hard work!

Related: Why Is Passion Important for Success in Life?

Mandie Brice

Mandie Brice

Professional Makeup Artist

The answer to this depends largely on what type of makeup artistry you wish to do.

Esthetician or Cosmetology Certification

If I could go back and re-start my career, I would have gotten an esthetician or cosmetology certification, and I still might.

I think the rise of YouTube and Instagram makeup enthusiasts is going to eventually cause states who don’t require licensure to do makeup to crack down on legislation – both for safety reasons (those without proper training can cause health issues if not following proper sanitization procedures) and for financial reasons (states can make a lot of money on licensure fees).

However, where I’d recommend going from there depends on your end goal.

Get as much experience as you can

If you don’t mind the sales part of it, working at a makeup counter in a department store, or at a Sephora or Ulta, or freelancing for a makeup brand (meaning you work for them for specific events in stores, putting makeup on customers and selling it) is a great way to get practice daily, get paid for education (the brand will train you on their products and techniques), help you build your makeup kit (you’ll get a great discount on the makeup, and will have opportunities to earn “gratis,” or free makeup).

Additionally, if you excel at this and love what you do, you can be promoted into education positions, or even become the lead global artist for a brand, which gives you opportunities to travel, give input on product creation, and work in fashion and beauty campaigns.

Build a portfolio

If you are interested in other areas, like tv/film production, print ads, event makeup, etc. The best thing to do is to build a portfolio. You can find models, photographers, hairstylists, wardrobe stylists online and begin by exchanging your services as an artist for images.

Continue striving to build a better and better portfolio by increasing the caliber of people you are working with – better photographers, prettier models with better skin, etc. Also, make sure that any shoots you do are bringing you closer to your goal.

For example, if you are trying to be a bridal makeup artist, do styled wedding shoots – a fitness model shoot won’t help you. If you’re looking to do a film, volunteer to help student films, and continue to improve.

Do your best to market yourself

Reach out to people that you can help, and add value to their lives and businesses, and they will return the favor.

Always be a team player on set, and behave with professionalism. Keep yourself up-to-date on trends and industry knowledge, as well as information on the business, to make sure that you’re successful!

Liz Fuller

Liz Fuller

Professional Makeup Artist

I have been a makeup artist for almost 10 years. Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved makeup. The colors and textures fascinated me and I would play with my mother’s makeup as often as I could.

After having been laid off from my public relations job, I found it very challenging to find another position in PR. It was at a time when layoffs were abundant and every available position was receiving a tremendous amount of applicants. I was wondering what I could do in the meantime for work.

I was a substitute teacher for about a year and then got a full-time teaching job. It was only a one-year appointment. So while I was teaching, a friend asked me if I would be interested in doing her makeup for her wedding. She knew I was passionate about makeup and thought maybe I would be interested.

I didn’t have a professional makeup kit; I only had my own makeup. So I told her what I thought she should buy and literally went on the day of the wedding and applied it. I didn’t even do a trial! But everything worked out great! She looked fabulous! She had a bridesmaid that was getting married and she asked me to do her makeup for her wedding. I said yes, and again, told her what I thought she should buy.

And then things just snowballed from there. I had so many people asking for makeup for different events and occasions. I invested in some makeup, bought a toolbox from Home Depot, and started on this new career path.

Create a portfolio

At first, I didn’t charge anyone a dime! I practiced on friends, family, neighbors. I took lots of photos of all the work I had done, so I could create a portfolio to share. Photos are so important in this business.

I donated my services to every fundraising event I could, just to get my name out there. I advertised makeup parties for little girls and makeup lessons for individuals and groups. I did makeup for all ages, senior photos, proms, and finally, I got a lot more weddings. Weddings were my bread and butter in the beginning.

Related: 16 Best Makeup Tips for Older Women

Take advantage of the web and social media

I built my own website, got business cards, and just kept practicing. I already subscribed to all of the beauty and fashion magazines, so I used those as inspiration and education. I watched a lot of YouTube videos about makeup application, back when YouTube was still sort of young.

Do a lot of practice

The best advice I can give someone who wants to be a makeup artist is to practice, practice, practice. On yourself, on friends, on anyone who is willing to model for you. This is the way to make mistakes, learn from them, and improve.

Educate yourself

Read everything you can about all aspects of makeup and skincare. Skincare is even more important than makeup. Without a good skin care regimen, the best makeup artist in the world can’t make a person look their best.

Sue Perez

Sue Perez

CEO, Beautyphonics

Becoming a makeup artist has never been easier. When I started doing makeup it was behind the cosmetics counter like many of us did. We learned skincare basics and makeup application to sell makeup. I did that for many years at all the upscale luxury brand stores in New York City, eventually working my way up to business manager.

Work on your portfolio

I also worked on my portfolio and made connections with modeling agencies and photographers, so I could do the makeup in exchange for test shoots and build my book with amazing editorial images.

Attend makeup school

Today you can sign up for a makeup school and learn a lot and still not be very good because the experience of actually doing makeup application is minimal in these places. You just need to be in that studio setting behind the camera to really get it. That is how you learn the best. Lighting, angles, how talent looks on the monitor, you cannot learn this in a classroom.

Get certifications and join agencies

When I went to AVEDA for my esthetics license we covered makeup theory, skin sciences, etc. and we have to pass a written and practical examination. Truthfully once I received that certification the world opened up. For one thing, I could work in beauty salons, which often has a celebrity client base depending on where you are located.

The best way to do it is to practice

Doing a makeup on all ranges of skin tones, actually applying strip lashes and dealing with mistakes is how to get better. I work in television now at NBC news and I do four people in less than 45 minutes, so the speed is very important if you want to work in TV, Film or Theatrical. And you won’t get those jobs unless you join the IATSE UNION 798.

But working toward that goal is the best thing to do, as you will be guaranteed the rates, overtime, and benefits like health insurance and 401K.

I think that if you are artistic and ambitious you should learn the ropes from a real professional who has the credentials to back it up. Not everyone making videos in their bedroom on YouTube knows what they are talking about.

Chris Lanston

Chris Lanston

Celebrity Makeup Artist | Beauty Segments, UBCTV Network 

Be active on social media

Today, I think social media is the best way to promote yourself as an artist. You can literally reach so many people to get your work seen. Back then we had a book, today IG works perfectly. Contact local TV stations and ask if they are looking for MUAs.

Build your portfolio

Reach out to any Photographers in your area to do some test photoshoots, apply to any casting that is looking for makeup artists, work in a makeup store so that you can actually do makeup.

There is really no one way, mine was pure luck but today is a lot more competition out there, have tough skin because you will need it. And lastly… blend in!

Margina Dennis


Multimedia Makeup Artist

Here are some important elements needed to become a working artist:

Understand color theory

It is important for not only matching foundation but also covering tattoos, dark circles, and other skin corporations. It is also crucial to create realistic skin imperfections.

Understanding lighting

As a makeup artist, it is important to understand how the work is being seen so that you can create the work that will be right in that lighting.

Be a problem solver

Many times we have solved problems and do it quickly. Having the ability to do this will make you a very valuable team member.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can One Find Job Opportunities as a Makeup Artist?

Finding a job as a makeup artist can be challenging, but with the right strategy, you can increase your chances of landing your dream job.

Here are some factors you should consider when searching for job opportunities:

Networking: One of the most important things you can do as a makeup artist. Attend workshops and events and connect with other makeup artists and professionals to learn about job opportunities.

You never know when a fellow artist may be looking for someone to collaborate with or when they might hear about a job offer that would be a perfect fit for you.

Online job boards: Websites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and Monster often have listings for makeup artists. Take advantage of these resources by searching for jobs in your area and applying to the listings that interest you.

Industry Organizations: Membership in organizations like the Professional Beauty Association or the Makeup Artists & Hair Stylists Guild will give you access to job opportunities and the chance to network with other professionals in the industry.

These organizations can also provide valuable resources and support as you build your career.

Social media: Use social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn to showcase your work and connect with potential clients and employers.

Make sure your profiles are professional and up to date. Ask other artists and companies in your network if they know of a job opportunity.

Direct Contact: Approach salons, spas, photography studios, and other businesses in your area that need a makeup artist and offer your services.

This is a great way to get your foot in the door and build relationships with potential clients and employers.

What Are the Career Paths for a Makeup Artist?

Career paths for a makeup artist are diverse and offer many opportunities for creative expression and professional growth. The most common career paths include:

Freelance Makeup Artist: As a freelance makeup artist, you have the freedom to work on a project basis, offering your services to clients in fashion, film, television, and other industries.

You’ll have the opportunity to work with various clients and projects, allowing you to constantly challenge yourself and build your portfolio.

Salon or Spa Makeup Artist: If you prefer a more structured work environment, a career as a makeup artist in a salon or spa might be right for you.

You’d be responsible for offering makeup applications and consulting with clients in a salon or spa, allowing you to build lasting relationships with clients.

Instructor or Trainer: If you are passionate about sharing your knowledge and skills, a career as an instructor or trainer could be right for you.

As an instructor, you’ll work for makeup schools or cosmetics companies, teaching students the latest techniques and trends in makeup artistry.

Special Effects Makeup Artist: If you’re interested in pushing the boundaries of creativity, a career as a special effects makeup artist might be for you.

As a special effects makeup artist, you’ll use prosthetics, paint, and other materials to create unique and often fantastical looks for film, television, and theater.

What Are the Most Common Challenges for Makeup Artists?

As a makeup artist, you’ll face several challenges that can impact your work and career. These challenges include:

Competition: With the growth of the beauty and makeup industry, competition has become fierce, making it difficult to attract clients and stand out from other artists.

Self-doubt: Like any other creative endeavor, working as a makeup artist can be accompanied by self-doubt and imposter syndrome. You may question your skills, creativity, and ability to deliver the desired results.

Time management: Freelance makeup artists have to manage multiple clients, schedules, and deadlines, which can be challenging, especially when balancing work and personal life.

Staying up to date: The world of makeup is constantly changing, with new products, techniques, and styles emerging every day. Keeping up with the latest trends and innovations is crucial to staying relevant and providing clients with the best results.

Physical demands: Working as a makeup artist can be physically demanding, as you’ll have to stand and work with your hands for long periods, putting a lot of strain on your body. You may also have to work in adverse conditions, such as dimly lit rooms, and be under pressure to meet tight deadlines.

These challenges can make being a makeup artist challenging. Still, with passion, dedication, and continuous learning, you can overcome these obstacles and build a successful career in the makeup industry.

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