Make-up artists are usually employed by the entertainment and media industries. They are tasked with providing make-up and hair styling services to performers and other media personalities.
Many choose to work independently, but only once they have gained sufficient experience and their skills and abilities have been recognised.
The many activities and responsibilities undertaken by make-up artists vary massively – from the subtle and simple to the complex and avant-garde – depending on their place of employment and the environment in which they specialise.
Media production companies, concerts, plays and musicals, fashion shows and photographic assignments are some of the areas in which make-up artists are crucial.
These guys aren’t just putting mascara on very thin people – they have a huge amount to consider. When faced with a brief, they need to tailor their art according to the story, setting and characterisation they may have as a stimulus. They must also have a technical understanding of lighting and photography in order to gauge how these can affect, or be affected by, their make-up choices. All the while, they need to be presenting their own individual style in order to gain a proper reputation and generate interest.
Salary & benefits
Make-up artists are paid at hourly or daily rates, with minimum rates set by different media industry bodies and workers’ guilds. The level of compensation is also dependent on the visual medium and setting where services are required.
Minimum daily rates in the film and television industry are set by the Broadcasting Entertainment, Cinematographic & Theatre Union (BECTU) and the Producers Alliance for Cinema & Television (PACT). Current rates for a ten hour day are £200 for junior or assistant make-up artists and £300 for special effects/senior personnel.
Rates in the fashion and advertising industries are higher, ranging between £250 and upwards of £3,000 per day, depending on experience, industry reputation and demand for a specific, solo make-up artist or team.
Work hours are irregular and erratic, and make-up artists need to work throughout the week and holiday periods.
Their schedules often overshoot the minimum of ten hours, but this also means that the artists earn extra money for every extra hour on the job. Travel across the country and overseas is frequent, especially for experienced artists.
There are no fixed academic requirements to become a make-up artist. A majority start out as assistants or unpaid interns and build their portfolios over a period of time.
However, the current trend is to employ personnel who have an academic or technical background in make-up, styling and prosthetics.
It could be a degree, diploma, HND (Higher National Diploma) or NVQ certificate in hairdressing, make-up artistry, creative/performing arts, graphic design/illustration, media studies, drama/theatre studies and other related subjects.
Training & progression
Make-up artists mainly get ‘on-the-job’ training through paid or unpaid work experience, which is considered to be of higher value than just academic qualifications.
Career progression is purely based on individual talent, experience and professional skills. Updating one’s knowledge of the latest trends, techniques and products provides a necessary competitive advantage. It is also important to keep adding to your work portfolio and build a significant and varied body of work.