Make-Up Artist

Job Description (What the job involves)

The working life of a make-up artist can be extremely varied, sometimes challenging but rarely predictable! The different genres that you can work within range from retail, theatre, fashion, TV, film and bridal which mean you can either specialise in certain areas or work in many different roles.

Most make-up artists work freelance which has its own set of challenges! There are very few staff jobs for make-up artists in many areas of the business so be prepared to be flexible.


To try and describe a typical day for a make-up artist is almost impossible as it is so varied but briefly you will be expected to turn up for work promptly, lateness is not acceptable as it could mean delaying a whole production which is extremely costly and will probably ensure you don't get booked by that team again.

You will be expected to have your kit set up and ready for when the talent come to the make-up room. Your kit should be clean and tidy and you must adhere to the hygiene requirements you will have learnt at college. It's extremely important that you ask your client questions regarding their skin and allergies before proceeding to ensure you don't cause any skin issues which again could delay the day.

Wigs will require prep so you may need to be on set extra early to ensure these are ready in time.

Once your client is made up and hair styled as required you may be responsible for ensuring they stay looking their best on set and throughout the filming day. This can ensure lots of waiting around as filming can be notoriously slow at times. If you are working on live filming you will need to be close by set in case you are needed as any checks that you may need to carry out will have to be done in a matter of minutes, sometimes less.
At the end of the day you will be on hand to assist in your clients make up / wig / hair styling removal. If wigs are involved you will be working late to get them cleaned and prepped for the following day.

Expect days of up to 12-14 hours, sometimes longer and sometimes overnight if the production requires a night shoot.

Your work may involve a straight corrective male make -up which will only take a few minutes to an advanced prosthetic application which could take hours or working on hundreds of extras.

Timing is crucial so you also need to be able to develop your skills well to ensure you are able to deliver your best work to deadlines and live programming schedules.

Your work place can differ dramatically from plush make up rooms in a TV studio in the heart of London mingling with celebrities to working in a muddy, rainy field in the middle of nowhere surrounded by cows!

Upsides and Downsides

Once you have gained entry into work be prepared for every eventuality! Depending on the area that you are involved in, hours can be long and at times unpredictable especially filming as shoots often overrun.

There can be lots of down time between making someone up, filming and the end of the shoot so you have to be prepared for lots of sitting and waiting patiently. Likewise some work can be non-stop and so extremely tiring; you will need lots of stamina!

Work can also involve unsociable hours, extreme early starts, think 3am alarm calls, and you could be the only person you know working Bank Holidays, Christmas Days and New Year’s days too!

However in return you get to do what you love! Working in the make-up world is exciting and varied. You get to meet a wealth of interesting people, not just celebrities! You also get to visit great locations and countries, gain exclusive access to areas the public don't see and a career that never fails to keep you on your toes!

Make up never stands still. Something new is always being developed and created. New techniques and products ensure you are always at the top of your game, however this can also be expensive as your clients will expect you to have the latest products in your kit and to ensure you don't get left behind training should be on-going throughout your career and unless offered by an employer can be pricey .

Skills and Personal Qualities

As well as having training and great make-up and hair skills, personality is key to being a good make-up artist that gets booked time and time again.

You will have to deal with many different personalities, some at times difficult. Talent can get nervous before filming and this can sometimes come across as being 'difficult' so you need to learn how to remain calm in these situations and always remain professional.

You need to know when to talk, when to just listen and learn how to read people's moods. It's also important to remember that your clients’ needs take priority and you are there to assist them and ensure their time in make-up is a pleasurable, enjoyable experience not one filled with listening to your woes!

Make up is a great time for talent to rehearse their lines or to compose themselves before their performance. Your job is not only to make them look great or get them into character but ensure they feel  good too, sometimes you become their personal psychologist, it’s all part of the job !

Working long hours, early starts and few days off can put a strain on the make-up team so it’s really important to remain professional and avoid getting involved in any team 'politics '.

You may be privy to very personal conversations and information relating to well-known celebrities and it is crucially important to be discreet and ensure their confidentiality. Gossiping is never condoned and although many will get involved those that don't will be trusted by individuals and so may go on to become a personal make-up artist for a celebrity.

Entry Requirements


Most aspiring artists will be best advised to attend a professional course covering different skill sets; some also include special effects, prosthetics and hair. Most employers require some proof of training so ensure you will receive certification of this.

The more skills you learn and train in, the more jobs you will be considered for and the more varied your career will be. It is always worth doing your research into as many training schools as possible as the courses are very expensive and can range from hundreds to thousands of pounds.

It is a really good idea to at least add hair styling as part of a course. It is a skill that will ensure you are more employable as many production companies do not employ separate hairdressers and make-up artists unless you are working on very big budget productions.


Finding work once you have completed your training can be very difficult as most jobs require a certain amount of experience. You can gain experience  by assisting a professional make-up artist , working with students on film projects , work experience with production companies and researching who and where to send your CV to! This can feel like a never ending cycle of not getting anywhere so you will have to have lots of stamina to keep motivated.

Jobs for experience can also be unpaid in exchange for portfolio pictures, credits, expenses and of course gaining experience.

It can be extremely difficult to get a break in the beginning of your career so you will need to have patience and perseverance as it can take years to get a break into the genre you wish to be involved in. You may end up working in a field of make-up that is not your first choice but take every job you can as you never know who you might meet and where it might lead!

Opportunities and Progression

A make-up artist has many options to further their career within the industry. These include becoming a designer, which will involve you creating the look of the make-up and hair for all the artists based on the productions requirements, recruiting a team to assist you from senior make-up artists to assistants and responsibility for using the budget designated to you for purchasing the relevant make up kit for your team.

In some areas of the business this is also known as head of department. This role can also involve managing, coaching and directing a team of make –up artists.

Training and teaching is also something to consider once you have gained many years’ experience. This can include working in colleges or make up schools to share your knowledge and expertise in various areas of the industry and be involved in training the next generation of make-up artists.

Potential Salary and Benefits

Work is varied and therefore so can pay be!

Starting pay can be from £50-£100 a day for a newly qualified make-up artist.

An experienced make-up artist for film or TV can expect in the region of £250-£400 per day, fashion around the same, commercials are highly paid and a day rate can be in excess of £500 + a day.

© Louise Connor


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