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H.S. Diploma
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What is a Make-Up Artist?

Also known as: Commercial Make-Up Artist, Commercial Makeup Artist, Makeup Designer, Make-Up Designer, Makeup Artist.

A make-up artist is a professional artist that uses mediums applied to the skin to transform or enhance the appearance of a person. Make-up artists are often referred to as cosmetologists or beauticians, but are different in that they specialize only in make-up and typically do not offer other services such as hair or nails.

The art of applying make-up goes back at least 6000 years. Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs would employ specially trained servants to apply cosmetics in order to make them appear more like the gods. Recent decades have seen an increase in the demand for skilled make-up artists to work with actors/actresses, politicians, theatre productions, and for television and movies. A make-up artist is usually a member of a team including the hairdresser and wardrobe specialist. As part of this team, the make-up artist works to transform the actor into the character.

The entertainment and fashion industry currently employs the largest margin of make-up artists today. Make-up artists may be employed by a company, an individual, or work as freelance artists paid per job. In large entertainment areas, make-up artists have unions and associations that they belong to.

What does a Make-Up Artist do?

A make-up artist must skillfully transform the human canvas into the desired character or appearance within an allotted timeframe. They will often work with their clients to enhance their physical features and create a flawless appearance. Professional and well established make-up artists can also serve as columnists and editors for beauty and style magazines. They may serve as experts on panels and write books and have their own blogs on the subject of make-up application.

A make-up artist needs to have a broad range of common skills, but can specialize in many different types of make-up and application techniques including:

  • Special Effects
  • Prosthetics
  • Theatrical
  • High Fashion
  • Airbrushing
  • Light Bending
  • High Definition

Special effects make-up artists spend hours developing a person into the desired finished product. They often work with prosthetics and can spend several hours tediously creating the perfect illusion. Theatrical make-up artists often work with directors to bring their vision for the actor to reality. All make-up artists clean and maintain their tools and carefully select their mediums. They may work with cosmetic companies to develop products and often times may create their own line of cosmetics.

What is the workplace of a Make-Up Artist like?

A make-up artist can work in a variety of places. Some artists have their own studios that they work out of, but most will travel to a site to perform their services. Make-up artists are sometimes hired by private citizens for special events such as weddings and parties. They also may be employed by politicians before televised debates and speeches. A make-up artist may be hired by just one person and travel with them exclusively to meet their needs.

Special effects make-up artists usually work behind the scenes on movie sets and photo shoots. Due to the often complex nature of their application, they often will have designated areas and rooms. Theatrical make-up artists will also be on set for movies and often will provide applications and touch-ups between takes.

High fashion make-up artists often have the opportunity to travel to photo shoots around the world. These locations can present many challenges including humidity and temperature challenges. Space may be cramped and limited and the artist will need to be flexible to meet the demand of the shoot.

How can I become a Make-Up Artist?

Make-up artists are a critical supportive part of the event or performance and therefore, must be reliable and punctual. They must be able to accept criticism as well as praise for their work. They must be organized and equipped to take their tools and mediums wherever they are needed. The art of applying medium to skin requires close contact, therefore the make-up artist must have good personal hygiene.

Artistic abilities and creativity are not necessarily a prerequisite to becoming a make-up artist but are definitely beneficial. Formal training is necessary from an accredited school of cosmetology to gain the required skills of make-up application. Additional schooling may be necessary for specialization in areas such as airbrushing and special effects. An in-depth knowledge of ingredients and light angles must be learned to be a successful cosmetic artist.

Most states and provinces require licensing or certification to conduct cosmetic services. Make-up artists just starting out in the industry often must work as assistants or apprentices before branching out on their own. Volunteer sessions performed by the artist may be necessary until a list of referrals and clients is built.



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Further Reading

  • A Day In The Life Of… A Make-Up Artist

    Here’s an insiders look into the day of Kelly Hollands, a Freelance Make-Up Artist, who runs her own successful business making people look beautiful…

  • 5 Essential Steps To Becoming A Makeup Artist

    So you want to become a professional makeup artist, but have no idea how to begin? I have compiled a comprehensive list of the steps necessary to become a professional makeup artist...

  • Wendy Rowe, Make-Up Artist

    A one-day diary from morning latte to lights out...

  • Elke... A Day In The Life Of A Makeup Artist

    You might already recognize the name Elke Von Freudenberg. She has appeared as a guest writer for in the past, but I decided that it was time to take a closer look at her world. You will soon agree that the life of a makeup artist is an exciting one.

  • Key Make-Up Artist

    Answering to the director and production designer, the key makeup artist is a department head that is responsible for planning the makeup designs for all leading and supporting cast, to include cosmetic makeup and facial/body hair applications.

  • How Much Does A Private Makeup Artist Make?

    Makeup artistry can be a lucrative career, depending on the path you take. Industry and location significantly impact your earning opportunities. While the entertainment industry can be very lucrative, you can still make a decent living as a makeup artist in your community.

  • Do You Have Any Advice For Aspiring Make-Up Artists?

    Doing make-up for film and television can be exciting, challenging and rewarding. There are, however, many points to consider if you want to pursue a career in this part of the industry. Let's look at the pros and cons, starting with the cons.

  • Ask These Questions Before Choosing A Make-Up School

    What makes a good make-up school? There are lots of important factors to consider, including coursework, instructors and student services.

  • Skills Needed To Be A Makeup Artist

    Makeup artists work in entertainment, theater, television, film, retail stores and on their own. They learn the necessary skills through courses at local colleges, universities or community colleges and on the job.

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