How to Become a Theatrical Makeup Artist

How to Become a Theatrical Makeup Artist

by Dee Dee Smith

Theatrical makeup artists work closely with costume and wig designers.

A quality makeup artist is crucial to the success of a theatrical production. You will help transform the cast and bring the vision of the script writer to life with the use of stage and special effects makeup. With makeup tools and tricks, you can age an actor, create wounds, and turn someone into an alien or monster.


1. Graduate from high school. A high school diploma or its equivalent is needed to pursue professional training in makeup artistry. Some classes to take in preparation for the field include art, drama/theater, math, communication, and the sciences.

2. Pursue training in cosmetology. In many states, a license in cosmetology is required to apply makeup. Additionally, this education will teach you all about skin care, color selection, and proper makeup application.

3. Enroll in theater or drama classes at your local community college. These classes will help you better understand theater and the performing arts. Further, you may consider getting a degree in a related field such as theater design or acting.

On-the-Job Experience and Practice

1. Get involved in your school or local theater production. In addition to gaining valuable experience, this is an opportunity to meet actors, costume designers, prop managers and others who may be able to help you in finding future work.

2. Practice on family and friends. Find pictures of characters in movie or theater publications. Transform your family and friends into these characters using your makeup skills. Be sure to take pictures of the good ones for your portfolio. Remember, practice makes perfect.

3. Pursue employment as a makeup artist. Gain transferrable makeup skills by doing bridal, fashion, or photography makeup. In addition to helping you perfect your skills, this work will give you professional references and build your portfolio.

The Yearly Salary for a Makeup Artist

The Yearly Salary for a Makeup Artist

by Forest Time

Makeup artists get actors and performers ready for the camera or the stage.

While the occupation of makeup artist is only practiced by a handful of people, it can certainly lead to one of the most lucrative careers for candidates with training in cosmetology. As of 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that only 2,040 makeup artists were working in the United States.

Average Annual Salary

According to the BLS, makeup artists working in the United States earned an average annual salary of nearly $64,000 and average hourly wages of about $30.50 as of 2011. However, BLS statistics indicate a wide pay scale for this occupation. While half of all makeup artists reported yearly incomes of between $27,000 and $89,000, the lowest paid 10 percent of makeup artists earned less than $20,500 per year, while the highest 10 percent of makeup artists earned more than $120,000 per year.

Salary by Industry

As of 2011, nearly half of all makeup artists found employment in the motion picture and video industries. Those working in movies also tended to earn the most, averaging more than $88,000 per year. Makeup artists working in theater and other performing arts earned annual salaries very close to the national average for this occupation, about $61,000 per year. Nearly 100 makeup artists worked for amusement parks and averaged nearly $41,000 per year.

Geographical Pay Variations

Jobs for makeup artists tend to be concentrated in urban areas, and those working in the area surrounding New York City and White Plains, New York, and Wayne, New Jersey, earned the highest average salary in the nation — close to $100,000. Unsurprisingly, New York also reported the highest salary for makeup artists by state, an average of $93,500 per year. Driven by the motion picture industry, the second highest average salary for makeup artists as of 2011, $73,000 per year, was reported in California.

Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of makeup artists to grow at a very slow rate of just 3 percent over the coming decade and expects around 100 additional jobs to be available by 2020. Accounting for retirement or turnover among existing makeup artists, the BLS predicts a total of only 800 job openings in this profession between 2010 and 2020. Given this slow growth rate and the popularity of the movie industry, competition for makeup artist positions is expected to be extremely fierce.

Skills Needed to Be a Makeup Artist

Skills Needed to Be a Makeup Artist

by Barbara Bean-Mellinger

Makeup artists learn to use tools and techniques for creating many looks and conditions.

A career as a makeup artist can be exciting and different every day. The satisfaction comes from using makeup to help people look their best or become characters far different from their usual selves. 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.

Before the Makeup

Makeup artists must learn important skills even before picking up a sponge or brush. They learn to assess a client’s skin type, including coloring, condition and sensitivity. These factors determine the type and colors of makeup to use. Learning color principles is an intricate skill that takes into account race, ethnicity, obvious skin color and undertones of color. Makeup artists must also study a client’s bone structure to decide where and how to apply types and colors of makeup to achieve the desired results.

Applying Makeup

Makeup artists learn to properly prepare the skin before applying makeup, using cleaning, toning and moisturizing techniques for different skin types. They practice applying foundation, blush, eye and brow liner, shadow and lip color. They also learn how to alter makeup application for work, evening and other looks. They may go beyond the basics to learn how to apply makeup for high fashion runway looks, theatrical productions, bright and low light, and indoor and outdoor events. They learn how to apply and touch up makeup for on-camera talent, for photo shoots under varied lighting conditions, and for indoor and outdoor stage performers.

Tools of the Trade

The makeup professional uses many tools, from sponges, brushes and high-tech airbrushes to a wide range of makeup types. Aspiring artists learn the uses for the many types of brushes and the pros and cons of makeup types. They may specialize in covering imperfections with makeup or covering tattoos with airbrushing. Makeup artists who work in the theater may use more than makeup to achieve a character’s look, bringing in wigs, beards, false eyelashes and prosthetic body parts.

Attributes and Traits

To be a successful makeup artist, you should be creative and artistic, enjoy experimenting with ideas and materials, and have a good eye for color. Makeup artists may work long hours, mostly on their feet, requiring both stamina and fitness. The job can be stressful at times, too, with early mornings and travel for photo shoots and late evenings for theater work. Preparing for performances can put added pressure on everyone. Good communication skills will enable you to talk effectively with producers, writers, actors and your bosses so everyone agrees on the goal.

Qualifications and Licensing

Makeup artists must have at least a high school diploma or GED, and most have also taken college courses or earned a certificate in cosmetology. It is also possible to learn makeup skills on the job. Some jobs require you to be licensed, however, and licensing requirements vary from state to state. Most states require that you pass a written exam and spend about 1,000 hours in education, either in school or on the job.

The Education Required to Pursue Becoming a Makeup Artist

The Education Required to Pursue Becoming a Makeup Artist

by Forest Time

An aspiring makeup artist needs a basic knowledge of cosmetology techniques.

Makeup artists generally find employment with theater and production companies, television stations or movie studios. To be successful in this occupation, you will need to be a skilled and licensed cosmetologist. Basic knowledge of the dramatic arts, film technique, stagecraft, and anatomy and physiology can increase your skill set as a makeup artist and can be obtained in high school or on the job. You can enroll in few types of post-secondary programs to obtain the education required of a makeup artist.

Cosmetology Program

General cosmetology programs are commonly available throughout the United States and are an excellent preparation for a career as a makeup artist. General cosmetology programs give students the aesthetic skills to manipulate makeup based on a subject’s skin tone and appearance and also teach students other basic salon skills such as hairstyling, haircutting, manicure, pedicure and facial treatments. One advantage of a basic cosmetology degree is that it will allow you to find work in a salon or barber shop while you pursue a job in the visual arts.

Permanent Cosmetology

Some makeup artists combine knowledge of basic cosmetology skills with knowledge of permanent cosmetic techniques. According to the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals, permanent cosmetology skills are most commonly obtained by taking a workshop or by attending sessions with an SPCP-approved trainer. Permanent cosmetology skills are also applicable to a wide variety of occupations other than the visual arts, including tattoo artistry and medicine. A list of approved trainers is available on the SPCP website at

Makeup Artist

Some courses of study prepare you specifically for work as a makeup artist. While you’ll gain experience and training in basic cosmetology techniques, you’ll concentrate on specialty techniques applicable to the visual arts, such as synthetic mask-making, wig application and period hairstyling. You’ll also gain training in other aspects of working in theater, such as safety on set and typical relations between cast and crew. Training specifically as a makeup artist might give you an advantage over other job candidates.


To work in a field related to cosmetology, including within the visual arts, most states require that you be licensed and that you keep your license current. Although specific requirements vary by state, most require that you graduate from an accredited school of cosmetology and pass an examination before you can be licensed. Some also require that you be of a certain age before you can be licensed. For full regulations and requirements, contact the office responsible for professional and occupational regulation for the state in which you plan to practice.

How to Become a Makeup Artist

How to Become a Makeup Artist

makeup artistMakeup artists apply cosmetics for their clients, who may be models, actors and actresses, television reporters and personalities, or individuals who want a special look for an occasion like a wedding. Makeup artists must know how to communicate with their clients to determine what kind of look they want, and they must have the skincare and cosmetics knowledge plus the physical and artistic skill required to create that look.

Makeup artists may work independently, or they may be employed in the motion picture industry, in television, by photographers, or by salons and spas.

What kind of training is required to become a makeup artist?

Many makeup artists complete a training program offered by a makeup artist school. Students in these programs learn about different types of cosmetics and cosmetics tools. They also study facial features and how to emphasize or de-emphasize them with makeup. Makeup artist programs also introduce students to the various kinds of looks they can create with cosmetics, including daytime, evening, and special event looks.

Makeup artists who want to create looks for photography, the stage, television, and movies can take courses in the different techniques and products used in each field. Students may learn how to design looks that will hold up to the scrutiny of a high definition camera, while others may study the use of prosthetics to create special effects for film or theatre.

Are there any certification or licensure requirements?

Makeup artists may be required to obtain a makeup artist or cosmetology license to provide services to clients in their state. The practice of cosmetology includes hair styling and other services, so earning a cosmetology license typically requires the completion of more than just a makeup artist program. A state-approved cosmetology program can take a year or more to complete. Cosmetologists may also be required to complete a certain number of training hours and pass a licensing exam.

How long does it take to become a makeup artist?

Makeup artist training programs vary in length. One course may take several weeks to complete, and a whole program can take several months. If your state requires you to obtain a full cosmetologist license, it could take a year or more to complete the required training program.

What does a makeup artist earn?

The wage a makeup artist earns can depend on his or her experience and place of employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for makeup artists in entertainment and performance was $32.49 in 2012, and the median hourly wage was $30.99.

Makeup artists who worked in the motion picture and video industry made the highest average wage, at $40.04. Those who worked in personal care services earned the least: $14.35. These figures did not take into account makeup artists who work independently.

What are the job prospects?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of makeup artists will increase at a slower rate of growth than most other occupations in the United States. Jobs will be available, but competition will be strong. Makeup artists may have the best chances of employment if they seek work in certain states with good job markets for the profession, including California and New York.

What are the long term career prospects for makeup artists?

As makeup artists gain experience and training, they can build a body of work that will allow them to charge higher rates for their services and give them better chances of landing higher-profile work in the fashion and entertainment industries if that is their goal.

How can I find a job as a makeup artist?

Like with any other profession, finding a job as a makeup artist depends on one’s experience and connections. Makeup artists put together a portfolio of professional photos of the work they’ve done in school and for past clients. An impressive portfolio and positive referrals from clients can help you start and expand your business if you’re working as a freelance makeup artist.

Some makeup artists build experience by starting out in retail, working at the makeup counter of a drug or department store. Others may start by providing services for community theatre groups.

How can I learn more about becoming a makeup artist?

Many professional makeup artists have blogs and you can learn more about technique, current trends, and the profession by following some of them. You can also check with your state’s licensing board to determine the specific requirements for becoming a makeup artist in your state.