Education and Training: Varies—see profile
Salary: Median—$32,630 per year
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Makeup artists are experts at giving people a desired look through the use of makeup, wigs, and other tools of the trade. Many makeup artists work in a theater or performance environment. Others apply makeup for television and film. Some makeup artists put lipstick and mascara on department store customers in order to help sell mass-market makeup products. Cosmetic companies also employ makeup artists as consultants. Makeup artists are often hired for one-time events like fashion shows or weddings.
The job of show business makeup artists is to apply makeup to performers according to the specific needs of the person or show. In some cases, they may use makeup to make an actor look much older or younger, or even to look like a monster or alien. In other situations, the job involves simply hiding blemishes and making the performer look as beautiful as possible under stage lights. Makeup artists who work in this type of setting must be knowledgeable about the effects of stage lighting on a person's appearance. These artists must also be good at analyzing a script to make sure the characters end up looking the way they are described. All of these decisions must be made in collaboration with directors and costume designers.
Makeup artists are also special effects experts in a sense. They must have the skill to give performers realistic looking scars, make them look sick, or give them other unusual physical characteristics as necessary. Sometimes this involves making rubber or plastic "prostheses," or pieces that are applied to change the performers' appearance. To design the right prostheses, a makeup artist must be able to accurately evaluate the place in which the performance will take place, taking into account the size of the venue, lighting, and distance between the audience and the stage.
In the consumer market, a makeup artist must understand color and skin tone in order to match each customer with the right makeup. They must also understand what kinds and amounts of makeup are appropriate for different people. For example, makeup that looks good on a nightclub bartender might be totally inappropriate on a business executive—even if the two are identical twins.
Makeup artists must also be skin care experts. They must be on the lookout for allergic reactions and other possible negative effects of makeup. This involves knowing how to assess performers' skin types to avoid irritation or rashes.
The most important trait in successful makeup artists is creativity. They must be able to visualize a particular look, then bring it to life with the makeup, wigs, and prosthesis they have available.
Education and Training Requirements
Education and training requirements for makeup artists varies widely from one type of job to another. While students can specialize in makeup application at some schools of cosmetology, there is no standard certification required to work in the field. Many makeup artists acquire their skills by participating in amateur community theater or other smaller performance environments and learning from others with more experience.
Getting the Job
College placement offices can often provide information about how to find a job with a commercial cosmetics company or department store. The best route to a job in a performance environment may be to volunteer with smaller organizations in order to build an impressive portfolio—a collection of photographs of work samples. Internships may be available with television stations, theater companies, or fashion designers.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
While the demand for makeup artists is expected to grow ten to twenty percent through 2014, it is difficult to earn a comfortable living in this occupation. A very small percentage of makeup artists become well known and are sought after by stars and wealthy individuals for personal service. Fewer still end up designing their own lines of makeup products. Many makeup artists must supplement their incomes with "day jobs" that pay stable wages.
Makeup artists who work for department stores, makeup manufacturers, or established film or television production companies or performance organizations can expect to work regular hours in a well-lit, comfortable setting.
Where to Go for More Information
Make-Up Artist Magazine
4018 N.E. 112th Ave., Ste. D-8
Vancouver, WA 98682
Worldwide Alliance of Makeup Artists
Makeup Artist Network
Earnings and Benefits
Makeup artists' income varies widely according to experience and the nature of the job. Median annual earnings in 2004 were $32,630. Salaries for those just beginning their career tend to be quite low. Those with established careers in network television, the Hollywood film industry, or the Broadway theater business may command substantially higher wages. Makeup artists working full time for large companies usually receive health insurance, paid vacation, and other benefits, while those on the fringes of the industry must often provide their own insurance and retirement plans.