Makeup artists are not created overnight but need time and opportunities to develop their skills. They are not required to go to school or be licensed to practice their trade in most states. However, enrolling in a cosmetology school with a makeup program can help the makeup artist gain basic skills and techniques. Perfecting makeup skills and building a clientele is up to the individual, and the ways to achieve that are as varied as the colors a makeup artist has at their disposal.



Learning Skills

Enroll in a cosmetology school that teaches makeup application. Look for schools with instructors working in the commercial makeup industry to obtain current knowledge about makeup technique and products. Adding a certification from a licensed cosmetology school to your resume could put you ahead of others without certification when vying for jobs.


Study the techniques of successful makeup artists. Staying informed about new trends in the world of celebrities and modeling can inform your own makeup skills. When you see an application you are inspired by, track down the makeup artist who applied it and follow their work to learn more.


Volunteer your services. Few makeup artists earn money for their services until they develop a reputation, and volunteering your services is a way to let others know you are skilled as a makeup artist. Many build a customer base by working for free or low wages for small film and television production companies, student films, budding photographers or local organizations putting on events such as fashion shows or theater performances.


Practice on friends and family. Practice new techniques and try new tools on your friends and family members before introducing new ideas to customers. Give your friends and family business cards so they can recommend you to others.

Ways to Advance

Specialize your skills. Take courses and classes about special makeup skills such as special effects, corrective or permanent makeup. Makeup artists with specialties broaden their earning potential. Look for classes from product manufacturers and professional makeup artists working in specialty fields.


Train with a makeup manufacturer. Becoming certified as a professional using a particular makeup brand can help build your clientele. Loyal customers to certain makeup brands provide a built-in customer base. Contact makeup manufacturers to learn about their training and certification programs.


Work as an assistant to a makeup designer. Makeup designers work for fashion designers, photographers and film and television production companies. Working under their direction can help you learn more about the many ways makeup is used to convey emotion, represent an era and support an actor. Makeup designers usually have assistants and senior makeup designers working for them.

What to Expect

Obtain a cosmetology license from your state cosmetology board. Although makeup artists do not need licenses, having a general cosmetology license may be necessary to work in a spa or salon as the resident makeup professional. Licenses usually require an education in a state approved cosmetology school, passing a state cosmetology exam and paying a licensing fee.


Work long hours. Because makeup is needed before a scene can be filmed, makeup artists working in television and film must show up for early calls to set and work late nights. At the beginning of your career, you may be working in cramped quarters and uncomfortable conditions for no pay. You will need to be innovative and flexible to earn a good reputation.


Provide your own makeup and follow direction. Makeup artists typically provide their own makeup and tools. They are often told what look to create and what colors they can and cannot use when working in movies or television. Owning a portable, lighted mirror may be necessary.


Work in other industries to make ends meet. Low or no pay does not mean you have to starve. Many makeup artists work other jobs while building their careers. Some in film and television also work as production or casting agent assistants. Jobs in the nightclub industry could put you in touch with people who need your makeup skills.


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