How to Become a Makeup Artist: Tips From a Former Makeup Artist

I spent the years 2009-2014 as a working makeup artist and loved (almost) every minute of it. From working for brands like MAC and BareMinerals to freelancing, the whole experience was a wild ride. Being a makeup artist is a ton of hard work, but it’s incredibly creative and rewarding. I still remember the first time a client ever told me I had helped her finally feel beautiful again. But I also remember the aching foot pain from being on my feet all day, the extra picky clients, and the commute.

If you’re thinking about becoming a makeup artist – this blog post is for YOU! We’ll cover all the different types of makeup artists, the pros and cons of being an artist, and how exactly to make makeup artistry your career.

Learn about the different makeup artist careers and how to become a makeup artist in this blog post: written by a former artist!

Reasons not to become a makeup artist.

Okay don’t @ me. I know this blog post is all about how to become a makeup artist, but I think it’s super important we talk about all the frustrating parts of the job as well. Makeup artistry isn’t all glitz and glamour – it’s a ton of hard work and can often be very challenging.

You get flustered or frustrated easily.

Working in a client facing industry can be loads of fun – and it can also be a total nightmare. I’ve had clients in my chair that totally made my day. I’ve also had clients that were unclear or unrealistic on their expectations, found fault with everything, were unfriendly, or sometimes just plain rude. I once was working a makeup counter by myself on Black Friday and attempting to service multiple clients at one time – one got so mad she had to wait for me to ring up her $11 eyebrow powder she went to management to complain. Makeup artistry, particularly in the retail space, can be pretty difficult sometimes.

Makeup artistry is also often a busy, fast faced industry and setting. If you’re working retail, big holidays like New Years Eve can mean packed stores and filled chairs – often back to back. If you’re someone that can’t keep calm under pressure, you may struggle being booked with back to back appointments. Celebrity or event makeup artists are also often working in fast paced environments, needing to get their client out the door quickly often while also sharing them with the hair and wardrobe departments. If these environments sound stressful, you may want to reconsider how you go about building out your artistry career.

You don’t enjoy being on your feet all day.

Makeup artistry will certainly get you to your step goals! As a makeup artist I was on my feet almost all day. From racing from client site to client site to working on the floor in stores – my feet were aching. They say beauty is pain. Apparently it is.

You aren’t a people person.

You don’t have to be an extrovert to be a makeup artist, but you do have to be a people person. Makeup artistry is a highly sociable career path. Maintaining good client relationships can make or break your business. People will to want to work with you not just because you’re good, but also because you’re great with people.

Decide what kind of makeup artist you want to be.
Wedding makeup artist.

Wedding makeup artists have to be amazing with people and amazing with time management. Weddings run on very tight schedules, so keeping on schedule is crucial. Brides can also be very emotional clients (as is their right), so it’s important to be able to get clear feedback as to what style the bride is looking for and how she’s feeling on the day of. Doing a bride’s makeup on potentially the biggest day of her life is a huge honor!

Work behind the makeup counters in retail.

Working as a makeup artist behind the makeup counters is a grind. Retail makeup artists are not only pushed to keep up with the latest in makeup trends, but also have daily, weekly, monthly, and annual sales goals to hit. Sales performance pressure is totally real and unfortunately some clients aren’t exactly polite when it comes to retail. I personally loved my time working with both MAC and BareMinerals because I felt the most plugged in with the fashion and makeup world, was very on top of trends, met loads of different people, and felt constantly challenged each day.

Freelance artist.

Freelance makeup artists can work in a whole host of settings. From working behind the scenes on theater productions to graduation photos to headshots for large corporations, freelance artists truly get a variety of experiences. As a freelance artist, travel is absolutely part of the equation. Be prepared for each day to look and feel different and to have a very on the go lifestyle.

Celebrity makeup artist.

I feel like to be a famous makeup artist in the past was rare – we’re talking only the Bobbi Brown’s of the world really had any name recognition. Now a days celebrity makeup artists are often celebrities in their own rights! If you’re looking to do celebrity makeup artistry, be prepared to spend a ton of time in LA and grind for many years on smaller jobs before becoming connected with bigger names. You should also be prepared for some, ahem, potentially diva behavior.

Makeup artist for TV and film.

Another potential career avenue is a professional makeup artist is to work on set for TV or film. If you’re a fan of special effects makeup, this career path could be a really fun thing to explore! Movies and TV programs need talented artists to help make scenes truly come to life. Travel and long hours are a possibility with film makeup artistry, but at the experience is priceless.

Makeup artist content creator.

We’re in the year 2021 and yes a makeup artist YouTube career is an actual career now. From channels like James Charles makeup to other big names – plenty of at home artists have now made it big creating content. You don’t have to be a James Charles to make good money creating beauty content – but you do have to know how to create content. If you’re just as interested in content creation and marketing as you are in makeup artistry, beauty content creation is an awesome career path to consider.

What is the average makeup artist salary?

Makeup artists can make a wide range when it comes to salary. Top celebrity makeup artists can be making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year (and so can top beauty content creators). The majority of makeup artists, though, are making far less. As a freelance or wedding makeup artist, you’ll get to choose your own rates, and your salary will fluctuate depending on how many clients you book. When I worked behind the counters as a retail makeup artist, I started by making minimum wage and was given regular salary increases based on my performance or title change.

Learn about the different makeup artist careers and how to become a makeup artist in this blog post: written by a former artist!

Study up.

Each individual career path will require its own artistry techniques.

Bridal makeup is very different from makeup for television. For example brides may want a natural, dewy foundation look while television may require more matte finishes to not reflect under the numerous lights. Every single type of makeup artistry requires unique, special skills that will require years of practice to perfect. I’d recommend locking in what type of artist you’re hoping to be and focusing your studies on the techniques best suited for your industry.

Research top brands and top products.

To be a successful makeup artist you’ll need to have a clear grasp of the top products, tools, and brands at your fingertips. The best way to learn what brands are on the market and at what price point is to go out and shop (even window shop!). Watching YouTube videos about “best of” specific brands will help clue you in to what products or brands may be best for what instances.

Learn about different skin undertones and shade inclusivity.

Learning how to be a good makeup artist means learning how to be inclusive. Imagine how it must feel to walk into a store and not be able to find your exact shade of foundation. It’s 2021 and brands and artists alike need to learn to be more inclusive in our products, our makeup kits, and our artistry. A successful makeup artist knows how to appropriately create looks for any and every skin tone. Everyone deserves to feel beautiful.

Educate yourself on ingredients.

It’s not enough to just apply makeup beautifully – you really need to know what exactly is in each product. Clients are unlikely to become regulars if every time they work with you they break out in zits or rashes. Find products to add to your kit that are high quality (doesn’t mean expensive!) and made with good ingredients that lead to a good experience for your clients.

Practice makes perfect.

Practice on different age ranges.

While no makeup artistry is easy per say, it’s definitely easier to apply makeup on super young zit and wrinkle free skin. To be a good makeup artist you’ll need to know how to properly and beautifully apply makeup to different skin textures, eye and lip shapes, facial structures, and more. People of all ages will be sitting in your chair and you’ll need to be armed with the right experience to get the job done.

Practice on different genders.

Makeup isn’t just for girls. Plenty of boys love wearing makeup and getting their makeup done just for fun. If you’re working on film sets or freelancing for various gigs you may also need to apply makeup on men for photos or other occasions. Practice on different genders, because you really never know what scenario you’ll be in.

Practice on different skin tones.

Do we even really need to say this one? It should be obvious. It’s imperative to learn how to create looks for all skin tones. Ask all your friends to sit in your chair and get their makeup done for free. Research online different skin undertones and jump at the chance to practice whenever the opportunity presents itself. If you’re a freelance artist, create a makeup kit that is inclusive and ensures you’ll always have the shades on hand that you need. Beauty is for everyone!

Learn about the different makeup artist careers and how to become a makeup artist in this blog post: written by a former artist!

Do I need to take a makeup artist course?

Honestly? No. Sort of like health coaching, anyone can call themselves a makeup artist with no formal training. In person classes can give you an amazing space to learn and practice, but I personally think you’ll get more experience working behind the makeup counters and you’ll be paid for it.
I’m not a huge advocate of makeup schools because I think we live in a world where the self taught artist has a fair chance to build a career.

DO learn the basics of running your own business.

Since most makeup artistry (with the exception of retail work) requires some form of entrepreneurship, I really advise learning the bare bones basics of running your own business. Make sure you are paying your quarterly taxes and keeping track of your expenses. Research ways to market yourself both on social media and in real life to book clients. Manage your social media and review pages like a machine, keeping current and future clients up to date. Running your own business or brand can be tough! But fewer things are more rewarding.

Are you looking to start a makeup artist career? Let’s chat in the comments below!

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