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How to Become a Make-Up Artist

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What You Need to Know

  1. Make-up artists are required in a wide range of settings from theatre and film to fashion shows and photo shoots.
  2. As well as a high level of technical skill, make-up artists need to be able to use their creativity in interpreting a clients brief.
  3. As the industry is very competitive, many make-up artists multiple skills. For example, many are accomplished hair dressers.
  4. Whilst academic qualifications aren’t essential, many highly respected institutions offer courses you can take to learn the necessary skills. The University of Make UP offer a Professional Makeup Course that comes with a Makeup Kit.
  5. You may have to take a good deal of unpaid work and build up a strong portfolio before you can find paid work.
  6. The majority of make-up artists work freelance and pay varies greatly according to the work you are able to find.
  7. For established make up artists, agents play a big role in bringing in new work.

A make-up artist ensures that models, performers, presenters and others have suitable make-up and sometimes hairstyles, before they appear in front of cameras or an audience.


Many people assume that this means make-up artists slap foundation on television personalities’ cheeks and if they’re lucky, get to paint faces on modelling photo shoots. But there are many other sides to what can be a demanding and competitive trade.

Varied work

Make-up artists are used on films, television, in the theatre, at fashion shows and other live performances, and on photographic shoots. Their role is to interpret the make-up requirements of clients and to produce both a creative and technically accurate visual representation. They may also organise the make-up for period dramas and help create complex special effects on films.

Many make-up artists are also accomplished and experienced hairdressers; their job can include sourcing, styling and maintaining wigs for TV dramas and films. Competition in the industry is tough, and you need to possess as many skills as possible to have the best chance of being hired.


Academic qualifications are not as important as creative and practical skills. It is still possible to become a make-up artist without a degree or Higher National Diploma (HND). However, many make-up artists do take qualifications before going freelance. The London College of Fashion offers a two-year Foundation Degree in Specialist Make-up Design, as well as a range of short courses.

This is a competitive business and you need to be keen and hard working to do well. Equipping yourself with the necessary make-up and brushes is expensive, as is getting photographs of your best work to make up a portfolio,

Many budding make-up artists are expected to do unpaid work experience to build up contacts and a portfolio before they can find paid work.

Working as a make-up artist can involve very early mornings and long days, so test your commitment by finding as much experience as you can. Work backstage at amateur dramatic productions, or assist a more experienced make-up artist or photographer. This will give you an insight into how the industry works and help to build a network of contacts.

Getting paid

Word of mouth and showing your portfolio to prospective clients is important if you want to get paid. Always take your portfolio round in person. This is an industry in which it is vital to get on with people and where self-promotion can get you a long way.

Any contacts you’ve made during your studies are worth pursuing once you’re looking for work. Online media directories such as Skillset will help identify companies to target with a personal call. Professional journals like The Creative Handbook, published by Reed, are also useful.

The BBC also provides support for a small number of make-up artists through its Design Trainee Scheme.

Pay rates

Most make-up artists work freelance, and pay rates vary widely. The minimum pay as recommended by the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (Pact) and the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematographic and Theatre Union (Bectu) is £184 per day for junior a make-up/hair assistant going up to £279 for make-up designer prosthetics.

These rates are for peak-time drama television production and high budget feature films. Low budget productions will pay less, while commercials can pay around £500 a day. Fashion and editorial work ranges from £250 to £2,000 per day, while top make-up artists designing for fashion shows regularly earn more than £3,000 per day.

Artists with published editorial work, known as “tear sheets”, can negotiate additional fees for their published work with companies that use them to endorse a product range.

Once make-up artists are established, they often have agents who find them work and take a cut of earnings.

Most work is based in London and other major cities, where TV companies have their studios and the fashion industry thrives.

We hoped you have found this article useful, if so please take a look at UK Net Guide’s site job centre, we aim to have lots of employment opportunities that via job advertisers online for you. It’s easy to perform a search, and then simply click on any jobs advertiser’s details or logos; you will be taken to more information about the employment opportunity.

Further Reading

18 comments - Want to comment on this article? Click here
Debs Debs

Hi I was in the same problem changing career and finding a course which gave me some value and real time as such not just theory class time .. also value for money Im not tight but pennies matter, qualification from IMA really hard in Birmingham West Mids as its mainly colleges but found one Central School of Make Up Birmingham.

Special effects make up Special effects make up

Hello, I want to tell one thing that Expand your make-up artistry within five popular make-up genres including: Bridal, Fashion, Photographic, Film & TV and Special Effects makeup.

Lilly Lilly

Hi, im 16 years old from Australia and I want to become a makeup artist. My family and I are moving to Italy and while i have to learn the language and go to school, I also want to persue a carreer in makeup. Any advice would be appreciated.

Sonia Sonia

I am currently working in Marketing and looking to change career. I have always wanted to become a make-up Artist. Can you advise on what courses and qualifications I would need? Once qualified, I want to start my own business. Please help?

Tori Tori

I love being make up artist

ana ana

i want to be a makeup artist

Jessica Jessica

I am about to start college and I wanted to know if there are any particular courses I would need to take to help me get into this industry? Thank you.

sheila sheila

Hi, I am a self taught makeup artist and have been workung as a freelance in the wedding industry but I would like to find an agent ti find me more work in fashion and commercials how nodo I find an agent?

UK Net Guide UK Net Guide

Hi Flavia,

How about a BTEC?

Hi Ruby,

Try contacting local beauticians in your area and seeing if they’d take you on for work experience.

Ruby Sadler Ruby Sadler

I want to be a make up artist when I leave school/ college.
Next year we have to find work experience placements ( I will be in year 10).
I need to start reseaching now but am not sure where to start any ideas?

Flavia Flavia

Hi,I'm 21 years old and I would like to become a makeup artist!!I'm from Italy but I live in london from 2 years. I already check in ucas to find a proper makeup course but they are very expensive for me! can I know if I can find a good course with a good certification?!?! maybe cheaper?!? thanks

Katie P Katie P

Hi Claudia,
Did you have any other qualifications/experience in make-up/beauty ? I am thinking of a career change in to make up artist but not sure how to go about it.

Claudia S Claudia S

If you are thinking about training to become a make up artist i would recommend the Glauca Rossi school of make up. I did their 8 week course and although i could have done with a bit longer, as there was so much to take in, i have actually managed to find work with a few fashion magazines which is wonderful!

Rosie Rosie

Hi. I was concidering running my own make up business. Doing normal peoples make up but in a creative and unusual ways. What type of course should I do?

UK Net Guide UK Net Guide

Hi KC,

You aren't legally required to have a qualification, but it makes you more employable. As you run the business anyway, employability isn't an issue.

Your insurance needs depend on the exact nature of the business.

All the Best,

UK Net Guide


Hi, I'm wanting to give tutorials on how to achive a certain look as part of an extention to another business I have. I don't have a make up or beauty qualification (yet)will this stop me? I will need to get insurance.

UK Net Guide UK Net Guide

Hi Dem, why not try obtaining a Higher National Diploma in Make Up Artistry. Many collages offer such courses, here's a link to one Make Up Artistry course we found online, but there's loads out there to choose from depending on where you're based.

All The Best,

UK Net Guide

Dem Dem

Hi I'm thinking what I want to do when I finish school and I want to become a Make up artist in films. But don't know where to start can u help me ???


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