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Make-up Artist jobs

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What's it really like?

Jessica Bell, who is twenty-eight years of age, is a make-up artist who has been involved in the industry for six years.

Jessica Bell


Prior to becoming a make-up artist, Jessica studied graphic design, which included body-painting as part of its core syllabus. She also worked at a nightclub which routinely hosted fashion shows. Jessica studied for one year on an intensive course which covered prosthetics, theatre make-up, wig-making, photography, airbrushing, bridal features, and face-painting.

The tasks undertaken during a typical day depend upon the project she is involved in. Jessica often performs makeovers for individuals and, during these projects, she will work an eight-hour day. Each makeover takes around one hour, during which the customer receives a lesson, a full face-chart, and a list of all the products used, complete with illustrations of how to apply them at home. These lessons are very comprehensive but the advice is relatively easy to understand.

Jessica also applies make-up for brides. Wedding projects include bridal trials and travel to and from the job, which can be arduous. Usually, bridal makeovers are organised beforehand with styles decided on by the bride, although the process itself may involve the entire bridal party. These assignments pay the best, but are largely seasonal. Photo-shoots are Jessica’s favourite projects since they encourage creativity and originality. A brief is usually discussed between the make-up artist, photographer, and wardrobe staff. These individuals bounce ideas off each other and Jessica always enjoys these projects.

If a client requires a particularly unusual look, Jessica will usually start by applying a natural style before incorporating the more avant-garde elements. This takes a fair amount of planning but, to Jessica, it is the most satisfying part of the job. The beautiful images which result from all the hard work make it all worthwhile. Since Jessica studied graphic design, she often adds the finishing touches to the photos herself. Jessica loves the creative side of the role but dislikes difficult clients.

Jessica Bell


In the future, Jessica would love to market her own brand, preferably starting with eyelash manufacturing and progressing to make-up. She also wants to open her own photo studio. She had some words of wisdom for those hoping to enter the industry. According to Jessica, individuals should be creative, patient, and able to maintain an artistic flair at all times. Those intending to work on a freelance basis will need public liability insurance in case they accidentally injure a client or are victims of theft.

Make-up Artist

Salary | Responsibilities | Qualifications | Skills | Working Conditions | Experience | Employers | Career Progression

Make-up Artist

Also known as...

  • Make-up Artist

Make-up artists physically prepare individuals for appearances in front of cameras or an audience. These individuals include models, high-profile individuals who may be making speeches, film stars, and members of the public who wish to learn more about make-up.

The flawless faces that we see on television on a daily basis are the finished products of work undertaken by talented make-up artists. Make-up artists are equipped with skills that can transform the physical appearance of an individual and provide them with the confidence to appear in front of a camera or a live audience. Other clients demand a slightly different kind of work to be performed. These individuals include those who need to be made to look as if they have landed on earth from another planet, or perhaps from another era, as well as the numerous extras who appear on hospital dramas on a weekly basis and need to be adorned with fake wounds.

Make-up artists also provide members of the public with make-up lessons, although this is a slightly less common feature of their role. During these sessions, which may be relatively expensive, individuals are taught techniques and introduced to new ranges of make-up which suit their particular needs. It may come as no surprise to reveal that most make-up artists are women. However, many men do work in this role and find the creative aspect of it particularly rewarding.

Salary

Finding accurate salaries for make-up artists is difficult since the figures vary wildly depending upon the reputation of the individual make-up artist and the sector of the industry in which they are involved. As a rough guide, make-up artists without a famous reputation and with only a few years’ worth of experience, who are working on a high-profile movie set, can expect to earn just over £180 per day. At the other end of this spectrum, individuals who have made a name for themselves in the industry and are working on television commercials can expect to earn over £500 per day. Preparing models for fashion shows can be very lucrative, with experienced individuals often offered approximately £3,000 per day for their services.


Responsibilities

Make-up Artist


The typical tasks undertaken by make-up artists include:

  • Deciding which clients to take on
  • Deciding upon the desired physical outcome with each client
  • Assessing and sticking to the budget
  • Researching relevant techniques needed to achieve a certain look
  • Ordering materials from suppliers
  • Sourcing new suppliers for specialist items
  • Making initial design sketches and drafting initial notes
  • Constructing a timetable and plan of action
  • Presenting these ideas to the client and other individuals involved in the project
  • Making sure that the make-up will prepare the individual for each situation, including lights in studios
  • Ensuring that the make-up fits with the other physical aspects of the project, including the costumes
  • Making sure that the individual is not allergic to any of the products
  • Applying the make-up to the client
  • Explaining the process step-by-step if this is desired by the client
  • Teaching the individual new techniques and showing them new ranges of make-up if desired by the client
  • Making moulds of body parts and helping with the process of making prosthetics
  • Fitting artificial items including wigs to the client

Qualifications

Make-up Artist


Many individuals wish to become make-up artists. As such, it may be useful to study for a degree in a relevant subject. These subjects include costume design, illustration, fine art, visual art, and fashion and textile. Alternatively, there are numerous diplomas which can be worked towards, including make-up artistry, fashion and textile, visual art, and costume design. Several high-profile colleges offer courses which will give individuals the edge when applying for jobs. For instance, the London College of Fashion offers a foundation degree in Specialist Make-up Design and many professional make-up artists have publicly recommended this course.

Once individuals have found a job in the industry, they often undertake courses in order to develop their skills. Make-up artists who are employed by large agencies may be offered places on courses by their employers but associations responsible for providing memberships for make-up artists also provide opportunities for skill development. These associations include the National Association of Screen Make-up Artists and Hairdressers.


Skills

Make-up Artist


Make-up artist


Make-up artists will need to possess the following skills in order to be successful:

  • Creativity
  • Knowledgeable about make-up techniques and products
  • Originality
  • Confidence in own abilities
  • Diplomacy
  • Tact
  • Flexibility
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • The ability to work well as part of a team
  • The ability to use own initiative
  • The ability to stick to tight budgets and be resourceful
  • The ability to remain calm under pressure

Working Conditions

Make-up artists work irregular hours and may go for long periods without work. Shift work is a common feature of the job and weekend and evening work is also part of the role. Make-up artists often need to work late at night and will not be able to leave until a project is completed, no matter how long this may take. They spend a lot of time in studios and sets, so working environments and conditions differ on a daily basis. Studios may be relatively comfortable but set locations may be freezing cold.

Make-up artists spend a lot of time on their feet, so physical fitness is essential. Travel throughout the country and to foreign countries is common, since many large film or television projects use sets located in various places. As a result of the long hours and importance of the role to a project, the job can be relatively stressful. However, most make-up artists very much enjoy their jobs and find their work rewarding.


Experience

Experience can often be more important than qualifications and individuals starting out in the industry will often need to perform several stints of unpaid work in order to build up an impressive portfolio. In order to find out if this career is right for you, try shadowing a make-up artist for a week or two. Even asking for the opportunity to ask them a few questions may help you decide if you will be able to cope with the rigours of this job.


Employers

Many make-up artists are self-employed and work on a freelance basis. Major employers of these individuals include independent television companies and large film studios. However, members of the public are also a major employer. For instance, individuals who wish make-up artists to apply their make-up for weddings or other important events will employ that individual for a day. Other make-up artists work for agencies who will organise work for their employees.


Career Progression

Make-up artists working for agencies can expect to work through the ranks if they perform well. For instance, they may progress from being a junior make-up artist to being a chief make-up artist. There are opportunities to specialise in a specific area of make-up artistry, such as historical make-up. Make-up artists who want a completely new challenge may decide to move into industries including costume design and beauty therapy.