Want to Become a Makeup Artist? Here's How

A career as a professional makeup artist requires one part creativity and one part business sense. Although a love of art, makeup, and beauty is certainly necessary, it's more than just that - a successful professional will also possess drive, work ethic, and the knowledge that her career is business first, passion second.

Makeup artistry is a competitive field and often difficult to break into. However, you can have better success if you arm yourself with education, whether formal or not, a license, plenty of artistic ability, and willingness to practice and improve. 

Theatrical or costume makeup is one career route a makeup artist can take.

Education and Experience
Becoming a professional makeup artist does not require an education, degree, or certificate, but that doesn't mean it can't help your career.

If you're interested in learning a full range of beauty techniques, consider attending cosmetology school, which focuses on hair styling, skincare, nail care, and makeup. Look for a school that's accredited, which means the school has met specific academic and institutional requirements established by an accrediting organization.

However, it's not a requirement to have a degree or certification, and not everyone has the funds or time commitment necessary to attending schooling. If you fall into this category, do what you can to educate yourself by reading art and makeup books and watching tutorials. More than anything else, though, an aspiring makeup artist must practice her craft constantly.

Of course, your face is a blank canvas that can be worked on over and over. However, you want to practice on faces with different shapes, skin colors, skin types, eye shapes, and ages so you get the experience you need to work successfully on any face. You can volunteer at local schools or community theatres, which often need makeup help in both basic stage makeup and in wild and crazy makeup designs. Offer to do the job in exchange for a letter of recommendation.

A makeup artist, especially at the beginning, does not need to break the bank on makeup varieties and tools. However, you should invest in high-quality brushes, as they can create a variety of different looks depending on how you use them. However, you don't want to go very cheap when purchasing makeup, either - it will contain less pigment and won't look as good on the skin. Experiment with different brands to figure out which ones you like best. 
Invest in a variety of high-quality brushes.

Creating a Portfolio
Each time you make up a face you're proud of, take photos of it. This will create the basis of your portfolio, which you can share with potential employers to show off your talents. Create two portfolios: one online and one printed. For the former, buy a domain name and use a low-cost template or blog to upload photos and basic resume information. For your printed portfolio, print photos 9x12 or 11x14 in size and place them in plastic sleeves in a professional binder or leather portfolio. It conveys a sense of investment and professionalism.

In both portfolios, you should showcase a variety of styles. They should include clean and simple makeup, editorial makeup, avant garde makeup, and beauty makeup. If you are interested in costume or theatrical makeup, include that as well.

Getting a Job
A makeup artist's success often comes from word-of-mouth recommendations, so be at the ready with business cards and samples of your work. To gain additional experience, take a job at a cosmetics store or in a department store, where you can gain hands-on experience and learn more about specific brands and tools.

If possible, apprentice with an established makeup artist. You can learn and grow from someone who has been in the industry, even if it doesn't pay much. When you're ready to strike out on your own, make sure local event coordinators and wedding planners know you're available for jobs - connections within the bridal biz can give you some well-paying jobs and help you build up a resume.

Becoming a makeup artist takes time, dedication, and passion for the craft. It might not be a career to go after if you want to strike it rich (in which case you may have to seek out help from financial institutions like Billfloat). However, it can be a rewarding way to fulfill your artistic senses, particularly if you go about it in a business-savvy way, leading to an inspired, lifelong career.

Kelsey Castle writes about education and small business topics. She has a degree in journalism from a Big 10 school.

Photos courtesy of Vancouver Film School and Steven Depolo, Flickr Creative Commons

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