How to Become a Make-Up Artist

Learn the steps to become a make-up artist. Find out about education requirements, training information and experience required for beginning a career in the field of make-up artistry.

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Do I Want to Be a Make-Up Artist?

Theatrical and performance make-up artists create make-up and hairstyles for actors, singers, musicians, models and other entertainers. Make-up artists, cosmetologists and estheticians, or skincare specialists, might create looks for weddings, special events and private clients. Make-up artists might spend many hours standing, and they sometimes have to use tact and patience when dealing with demanding or difficult customers.

Job Requirements

A postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree in make-up artistry, skincare or cosmetology from a 9-month to 1-year beauty school program or 2-year community college can help aspiring professionals become make-up artists. The following steps can serve as a guide for beginning a career as a make-up artist.

Five Steps to Becoming a Make-Up Artist

Step One: Earning a High-School Diploma

Completing a high-school diploma or GED provides the basic skills to understand the field of make-up and prepare for college. In some states, a high school diploma or equivalent is also needed to get a cosmetologist's license. Helpful classes include drama, art, design and English.

Step Two: Getting Postsecondary Training and a License

One way to prepare for this career is with a 9-month to 1-year diploma or certificate from a cosmetology school. Some offer concentrations in special effects make-up for film, including courses in life casting, body-parts casting, mold sculpturing, using foam-rubber silicone, design and drawing. Other concentrations may focus on bridal make-up or techniques geared specifically to theater, television, film and fashion photography. Make-up schools can also prepare students for cosmetology licensure.

Prospective make-up artists may also want to consider an associate's degree in drama or theater from a 2-year community college. Such a program may offer courses not only in stage make-up, but also in lighting, stagecraft and production. An associate's degree can provide a solid foundation for future education, training and advancement.

Step Three : Gaining Experience and Contacts

Students in cosmetology programs gain hands-on experience working in school salons. Make-up artists can also earn early experience by volunteering services for independent films, student films or local theater performances. This provides both credited work and the chance to meet other artists in the film and theater fields, which can lead to further job opportunities.

Step Four: Creating a Portfolio

Keeping photographs of your work can help build a portfolio, which demonstrates your abilities to future employers and clients. Make-up artists can collaborate with photographers to create work that can contribute to portfolios for both. Ideally, a portfolio should highlight the variety of styles and looks the artist can create.

Step Five: Finding Work

Theatrical and performance make-up artists may work for theaters, television stations or production companies. They make work as employees or contract as freelancers. Employment opportunities are typically strongest in areas with numerous film production companies, theater groups and other media and performance companies.

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