How to Become a Makeup Artist

With all the great online tools and resources available to you today, becoming a makeup artist is easier than ever. If you seek aesthetic perfection, love working with other people, and have always had a knack for applying makeup, then a career as a makeup artist might be for you.

However, making it as a makeup artist isn’t easy. While it’s easy to call yourself a makeup artist, that ease of access means not as many people succeed and “make it big.” We’ll go over considerations like this and others in the sections below.

What Is a Makeup Artist?

With how popular online beauty tutorials have become in this age of technology, it’s unlikely that you’ve never seen a makeup artist before. However, you might not be completely clear on what a makeup artist does, where they work, or how they make money.

More recently, makeup artists have started to have the additional avenue of online videos and tutorials to help them make money, but before beauty influencers became popular, makeup artists mainly worked in film and TV, in salons, and in beauty parlors, just like hair stylists. Some makeup artists for hire will even bring their tools to your home to make your life easier. 

You might have even seen hit TV shows like Face Off, where contestants compete in makeup-based competitions for fame, experience, and prize money. 

Regardless of whether you decide to go a more dramatic route and pursue costume makeup or work for ordinary people as an everyday makeup artist, an artistic eye and a steady hand will help you immensely. While you can attend school to become a makeup artist, experience and a good portfolio are significantly more critical if you hope to succeed in this career.

What Does a Typical Workday for a Makeup Artist Look Like?

The typical day for a makeup artist depends on what type of job you want to pursue. For example, if you decide to work in makeup artistry for film and television, your work will follow those movies and TV shows that you’re hired for. 

For example, if you’re the makeup artist for a news anchor for your local daily news, it will be your job to show up every day before the show starts and prepare your clients. You may also be required to stay and reapply makeup as necessary.

If you’re looking for something a bit more theatrical, such as stage makeup or movie makeup, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with things like prosthetics, wigs, and more. While many movies in this day and age have moved to special effects for specific prosthetics, there is still no way to beat a skilled makeup artist’s quality physical work. 

As a costume or stage makeup artist, your day involves applying your clients’ makeup before filming starts. However, this kind of makeup can sometimes take hours to apply. Imagine the time and effort required for characters like the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

However, if you’re aiming for something more accessible, such as freelance makeup artist work, your day could even follow a standard nine-to-five schedule. If you work at a salon, your workday would likely start when the salon opened and go until it closed for the day. However, as a freelancer, the flow of your day depends on how many clients you booked for that day.

As you can see, there’s not really a “typical day” as a makeup artist. Your work can change drastically from day to day and throughout your career. However, the nice thing about makeup artistry is that the fullness of your schedule is mostly determined by how much work you want to take on. This is because many makeup artists work as independent contractors on some level.

Will I Like Being a Makeup Artist?

While the life of a makeup artist suits those born with an artistic streak, that doesn’t mean makeup artistry is the right job for you. To be a successful makeup artist, you need a lot more than just the ability to apply good makeup. After all, the physical skills responsible for good makeup artistry can be trained; however, some of the other requirements cannot.

Characteristics and Skills of a Good Makeup Artist

Besides the required skill with makeup, what are some of the key characteristics you must have as a good makeup artist? Here’s a quick overview:

  • You’re a people person with endless patience, even in stressful situations
  • You work well under pressure
  • You don’t get sloppy during a time crunch
  • You’re punctual and prepared for anything
  • You can combine what the client wants and needs with your existing skill and vision
  • You’re a perfectionist, but you also know how to stick to a tight schedule
  • You have good time management skills, and you know your own weaknesses
  • You’re willing to study new mediums and techniques to keep your skills top-notch
  • You work well with and around other people
  • You have the tact and patience to deal with potentially picky and demanding clients

As you can see, the best makeup artists have a lot of positive characteristics. However, when you boil everything down, a lot of the above factors are similar. The main features you need to be a makeup artist are people skills, self-management skills, and, of course, makeup skills. 

Why You Might Not Like Being a Makeup Artist

Think about those three necessary skills we boiled everything down to above. If there are any of those things that you can’t do (or you’re unwilling to learn how to do), then makeup artistry may not be the career for you.

Consider people skills, for example. While many extroverts are born with excellent people skills, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to work better with others. As long as you have the patience and drive to learn people skills and the other two skills, you can eventually make it work!

However, if you’re an independent person who doesn’t do well in a team setting or with troublesome clients, then you may want to stay away from makeup artistry. While there’s still the online beauty tutorials niche to consider if you want to do makeup on yourself exclusively, the rest of the traditional makeup artist jobs won’t suit you as well. 

Similarly, if you’re looking for a job without continuing education requirements, then makeup artistry is not for you. Many jobs grow and change from year to year, and art-related jobs definitely fit that description. As a makeup artist, if you want to be competitive, you’ll need to always be on top of current trends. 

Self-management skills are the final thing you’ll need to consider. While some people are self-starters who do well as freelancers, others require a workplace environment to stay on top of things. If you don’t have the self-discipline skills necessary to manage your own career, you may want to consider another path.         

Surprisingly, though, the innate “talent” to be good or bad at makeup doesn’t matter all that much in this industry. As long as you educate yourself and get plenty of practice, you will eventually develop the skills and foundation you need to produce good results. If you’re starting from zero, you might find it helpful to work or apprentice under a senior makeup artist to develop your skills.     

Types of Schooling for a Successful Makeup Artist

Another great place to start if you don’t have any existing makeup skills is by going to school. While many states don’t require you to have a license to become a makeup artist, some do, so make sure to research this before you decide where to begin your career! If your state requires you to have a license to practice makeup artistry, then you’ll need to go to school first. 

However, what type of license you need can vary from state to state, too. While some states only require you to have a makeup artistry license, some require you to have an esthetician’s license or a full cosmetology license. These programs all differ in cost, length of time needed, and the supplies you need to purchase to succeed in the program.

Makeup Artistry License

If your state only requires you to have a makeup artistry license, you’ll only need to go to a standalone makeup school. Not many states license makeup artists separately; most either consider them a subdivision of cosmetology or don’t license them. However, a standalone makeup school is ideal because it’s the least expensive school program you can complete as a makeup artist. 

The cost to go through a makeup artistry program can vary greatly, but it also depends on where you go to school. According to the Beauty Schools Directory, standalone makeup school programs usually cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 for the program plus supplies. Currently, only Nevada and Louisiana license makeup artists separately from cosmetologists and estheticians, so you only need to complete this program if you plan to work in one of these two states (or you want to go to makeup school of your own free will). 

Because there are only two states that license makeup artists separately, makeup-only schools can vary in requirements, classes, length of the program, and the final certification results you can achieve. You’ll have to investigate your state’s requirements beforehand for how many training hours you need to qualify for a license.

Esthetician’s License

An esthetician’s license is the next step up from a makeup artistry license. Since estheticians are licensed and regulated in many states, estheticians’ programs are much more regulated than makeup artistry programs. There are also many more to choose from. 

An esthetician, if you didn’t know already, is someone who studies and specializes in skincare. While makeup and skincare are a bit different, they tend to work together well since makeup is applied directly to the skin. For example, some of your duties as a makeup artist are to know how to remove makeup from the skin safely, promote skin health, and which products to use on different skin types. 

If you’re looking to acquire your certification on a budget, then esthetics is definitely the program for you. Many esthetics programs fall into the same price range as makeup artistry programs – anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 for the entire program – and may last the same amount of time, too. As you might expect, though, in an esthetics program, you’ll also take some classes focused exclusively on skincare and skin health. 

Cosmetology License

Cosmetology, which is the longest and most expensive of the three certifications, is required for makeup artists in some states. Cosmetology covers all aspects of beauty, including things like hair, nails, skin, makeup, and more. If you’re looking to get into costume makeup and film makeup, for example, which often involves things like wigs, nails, and prosthetics, it might be smart to pursue a cosmetology license from day one.

As you might expect, you’ll go through all sorts of different classes on cosmetology subjects for this certification. While this is great if you’re looking for well-rounded skills, it might be overkill if you’re just looking to do everyday makeup.

Cosmetology school is also, unsurprisingly, the most expensive of the three licensing programs. You’ll have more classes to take in a cosmetology program, more training hours to complete, and more supplies to purchase, too. A full cosmetology program can cost between $10,000 and $20,000.

Before you select a cosmetology program, keep in mind that different states can require vastly different amounts of training hours for you to qualify for a cosmetology or esthetics license. According to the AACS, the national average of training hours required to earn your cosmetology license is around 1,500.

Best Makeup Artist Colleges

Fortunately, cosmetology is one of the most accessible programs as far as a physical location. Depending on your licensing requirements, you may even be able to qualify for your license by taking online classes. You would still need to find a place to work for your training hours, but you could satisfy the educational aspect at home. This would make it possible to take your classes at night, after an existing job, or any other time you need to work around your schedule.

However, if you would rather (or you’re required to) take classes in person, cosmetology schools exist plentifully across the nation, too. While you could, in theory, go to cosmetology school in any state, it’s probably best to find a school in whatever state you plan to live and work in. This is because of the different licensing requirements between states. 

If you need help finding a cosmetology college or school near you, the AACS has an online tool that will let you filter by state, city, or degree. If there’s no school close enough to your desired location, you may have to find another nearby that satisfies your requirements. 

While there are a lot of good makeup artistry colleges across the USA and the world, we’ve looked at some of the ones that are considered the “best of the best” below.

CMC Makeup School

The CMC Makeup School holds classes in several big cities across Texas, including Austin, Dallas, and Houston. However, the school also offers “destination” classes in Yucatan, Mexico as well. CMC advertises shorter courses that allow you to earn your certification in less time, and you’ll receive a full beauty kit upon enrollment that you get to keep. 

After graduation, you’ll receive a certificate of completion to add to your portfolio, as well. While the CMC Makeup School isn’t designed to fulfill all of your licensing requirements, they’re a great place to get your footing and get started, especially for those who don’t need a license to practice. CMC Makeup School’s classes come in 1-day, 3-day, 5-day, and 10-day periods, and they range across subjects such as airbrushing, film makeup, bridal makeup, and more. 

EI School of Professional Makeup

The EI School of Professional Makeup in Hollywood, California, is one of the premier makeup schools in the USA, as you might expect from a school headquartered in Hollywood. They offer classes across every aspect of professional makeup. Courses typically last a year or longer. 

One of EI School’s most important advantages is the treatment they give to graduates. Alumni can return and take single courses and seminars entirely for free. If you’re looking for the best possible makeup experience, this may be the place for you.

The Make-Up Designory 

The Make-Up Designory is located in Los Angeles, California, and New York, New York, two of the USA’s biggest cities. That’s excellent news for makeup artists, as these cities are some of the best places to go for makeup artistry work! They offer large, certification-fulfilling programs as well as single courses across several categories.

The Make-Up Designory offers four programs that range in time from 12 to 24 weeks. As one of the best makeup schools in the USA that draws students from across the globe, the MUD is expensive. Tuition costs range from $12,000 for its shortest programs to $24,000 for its longest.

Vizio Makeup Academy

Vizio Makeup Academy is a fully online academy that offers six different courses for you to study. These courses range in price from $299 to $799. Four of them are overview courses that teach all aspects of makeup artistry, and the final two are specialty courses in bridal makeup and eyelash extensions. 

Vizio Makeup Academy’s courses are a great budget option if you don’t have the money or the means to attend in-person makeup artistry school. At the end of the program, you’ll receive a certificate of completion from Vizio, and each program comes with a small makeup set included to get you started.

Online Makeup Academy

While the name “Online Makeup Academy” might seem inconspicuous, the Online Makeup Academy has a lot to offer. The academy provides five different training courses for you to choose from, and they offer makeup kits for sale on the site as well. You may be able to receive a makeup kit as part of your registration, depending on what specials they have going on. 

OMA’s courses range from $750 to $1499, and you can pay for the lessons in installments as well. All courses last for four months.

QC Makeup Academy

If you’re looking for an online makeup course that feels like an in-person course, then you should check out QC Makeup Academy. You’ll receive a certificate upon completion of any term, and the shortest courses last for just one month. 

QC offers several makeup courses for you to choose from, and while they’re more expensive overall, you can also pay for them in one-month installments. Their courses range in cost from $498 to $1549.

Can I Skip Cosmetology School and Teach Myself How to Be a Makeup Artist?

You can absolutely skip going to school if you want to become a makeup artist! While you’ll need to keep your state’s licensing requirements in mind if you live somewhere that requires it, there are several ways to skip the traditional “grind” and become a makeup artist without schooling. 

Community College

While this doesn’t necessarily involve skipping college altogether, keep in mind that you don’t have to go to an expensive cosmetology school to become certified for makeup art. Lots of local community colleges offer cosmetology programs and degrees, and while these programs might not be as ambitious as those from beauty schools, they’ll get you the certification you need. As a bonus, you’ll be able to attend classes in person, and they’ll be much cheaper, too.

Apprenticeship 

When school isn’t an option, your best secondary option, without a doubt, is to apprentice under a more senior makeup artist. While you may not be able to work at every salon without a license if your state requires them, you may be able to find another artist who will take you under their wing if you’re lucky. In some cases, an apprenticeship under a skilled individual can teach you more in even less time than you’d spend at a makeup school.

Self-Teaching

While self-teaching is undoubtedly the most challenging path to becoming a makeup artist, it’s certainly possible if you have the drive to do it. Self-teaching is all about practice and doing your research – you’ll be watching a lot of YouTube videos and studying a lot of beauty trends! The hardest part of becoming a makeup artist through self-teaching, though, is building your portfolio and attracting people to your business since you’ll be starting from nothing. 

Which Software Programs Do Makeup Artists Use?

While not all makeup artists use software programs, some of them do! While the bulk of your work will be done in-person on your client or model, you might use any number of software programs to edit your final photos (if you take them) or practice on a virtual model.

Photoshop

The program that the most makeup artists should be familiar with, of course, is Photoshop! Adobe Photoshop is one of the most popular photo editing programs, and you’ll use it for portfolio or artistic pictures that you take. 

Vagaro

Vagaro isn’t an art program like you might expect, but rather a customer management program that allows you to make and track appointments, schedule live streams, book customers, and more. If you’re a freelancer with a growing business, apps like Vagaro will help you a lot!

MakeupDirector 2

As the name suggests, MakeupDirector 2 is a digital retouching app that can be used to apply makeup to any photo digitally. Not only is this a great way to test new looks quickly and easily, but it can double as a tool to touch-up other images, too. 

AutoDesk Sketchbook

Any creative makeup artist needs a good sketching program to draw and record their ideas. AutoDesk Sketchbook is an excellent program for this purpose, and it’s very beginner-friendly, too. You might use AutoDesk Sketchbook to test or record quick ideas instead of going through the trouble of opening a complicated program like Photoshop.

Krita

If you need image editing and drawing software for free, then Kitra is an excellent place to start. If you’re just starting as a makeup artist and don’t have much money left over to spend on software programs, take a look at this app – it’s robust enough to fill the void for both amateur makeup artists and experts, despite being free. 

What Are the Best Blogs and Influencer Accounts to Follow?

There are hundreds of makeup blogs, YouTube artists, influencers, and celebrities for you to follow in this age of technology. While we highly recommend finding your own favorites and following them to help develop your unique style, the following are great places to start.

  • Kylie Jenner
  • The Makeup Addiction subreddit
  • James Charles
  • Lauren Conrad Makeup
  • Nigel Beauty Emporium
  • The Makeup Tutorials Blog

5 Ways to Break Into the Makeup Artistry Industry

Breaking into the makeup artistry isn’t easy. There’s a lot of competition out there, and only the most determined artists end up rising above the rest and succeeding. If you’re looking for some tips to help you get started, consider the following.

  • Get Online: If you don’t have a portfolio, no one’s going to take the risk of hiring you. Even if you need to do makeup on yourself to get started, create a showcase of your best work. In today’s world, you’ll want an online portfolio to show people at will, and you can do this through sites like WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix.
  • Get Social: Join social media sites like Instagram, Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter to further build your online presence and network with clients and other industry professionals.
  • Become an Apprentice: Find someone who will teach you what you need to know, even if you need to be an unpaid intern. You’ll learn valuable knowledge and build a strong portfolio at the same time.
  • Continue Learning: If your skills are getting rusty, discover new trends through Youtube videos or consider taking a class or two at a beauty school.
  • Keep Grinding: Don’t let your failures set you back! Like any freelance job, a job in makeup artistry can be slow to get started, and you’ll see many more rejections than you will failures. What will set you apart from every other failed makeup artist is the drive to succeed!

FAQ

Still have unanswered questions? If so, we may be able to answer them below.

How Much Money Do Makeup Artists Typically Make?

As a makeup artist, you’re totally in control of how much you make, especially since many makeup artists do a lot of freelance work. The amount you make also heavily depends on where you live and work! According to Indeed.com, the national average is about $30 per hour, but it can range anywhere from around seven dollars to $100 per hour.

What Do You Study to Be a Makeup Artist?

The two major areas of study for makeup artists are business and cosmetology. Of course, cosmetology is the makeup aspect, but it’s essential to learn how to run a small business if you intend to work as a freelancer, too.

Is Makeup Artistry a Good Career Choice?

Makeup artistry can be a fulfilling career choice, but it’s a lot of work! You have to be willing to practice, never give up, and set yourself apart from the pack. Many makeup artists give up before ever truly “making it.”

Are There a Lot of Job Openings for Makeup Artists?

Unfortunately, the world of makeup artistry tends to be a saturated market, but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. The important thing is to hone your craft, build a strong portfolio, and set yourself apart from the masses – this way, clients that appreciate your work will come to you!

What’s the Best Website to Find Makeup Artist Job Listings?

If you’re looking for makeup artist jobs, the best places to look today are sites like Indeed and Freelancer. Both sites are great for finding the jobs you need as a makeup artist. 

What Are Some Big Companies That Hire Makeup Artists?

If you’re looking to be a beauty influencer, you may want to consider looking for sponsors, not a company to hire you. However, if you want to work directly for a company, you may wish to apply to salons and other places, such as news and film companies, that employ artists directly. You can also consider working for a freelance collaborative, such as Warpaint International.

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