Media make-up artist, theatrical make-up artist, make-up designer
Make-up artists apply make-up and style hair for people appearing on camera or in front of a live audience.
Salary range: Variable
How to become a make-up artist
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- a college course
- an apprenticeship
- working towards this role
- specialist courses run by private training providers
You can do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or a degree in specialist make-up techniques like:
- make-up for media and performance
- media make-up artistry
- theatrical, media and special effects make-up
Subjects that show that you have creative flair and good communication skills can be useful for getting on to university make-up artistry courses. These could include:
- art and design
- performing arts
- drama or theatre studies
You’ll also need creative talent and a print or online portfolio to demonstrate your skills.
You’ll usually need:
- 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
- student finance for fees and living costs
- equivalent entry requirements
- university courses and entry requirements
You could study for a qualification in media make-up, like:
- Level 2 Certificate in Make-up
- Level 3 Diploma in Theatrical and Media Make-up
- Level 3 Diploma in Beauty Make-up Techniques
You’ll usually need:
- 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
You could get into this job through a beauty therapy intermediate apprenticeship.
You’ll usually need:
- some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
You could start out as a trainee or assistant to a make-up team, or find casual work doing make-up and hair for extras in crowd scenes.
You could also get experience in salon, wedding and events make-up, or through working in cosmetics sales, and build a professional portfolio to demonstrate your skills.
Volunteering and experience
You could volunteer behind the scenes in theatres or amateur dramatic societies.
You can do specialist make-up and beauty courses through private beauty schools.
It’s a good idea to get practical experience to put together a portfolio of work to show employers. You can get this through:
- amateur theatre
- student film, theatre and photography projects
- charity or student fashion shows
- working with established make-up artists and photographers
- working in related areas such as department store cosmetics counters, wedding and events make-up
Professional and industry bodies
You can join the National Association of Screen Make-up and Hair for professional development.
You can find out more about careers in make-up on stage and screen from Creative Choices and ScreenSkills.
You can get more information on working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- design skills and knowledge
- the ability to work well with your hands
- the ability to work well with others
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- to be flexible and open to change
- excellent verbal communication skills
- the ability to use your initiative
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
What you’ll do
In this role you could be:
- researching and designing make-up and hairstyles
- working to production designers’ notes and instructions
- tidying and styling hair
- using special effects make-up
- taking notes and photos for reference
- being on set to redo make-up and hair
- removing make-up and keeping wigs and hairpieces in good condition
You could work at a TV studio, in a theatre, on a film set or at a film studio.
Career path and progression
Many make-up artists work freelance and develop their career by building a network of contacts and getting recommendations from their clients.
With experience, you could progress to chief make-up artist or make-up designer. You could also develop specialist skills, for example applying body art or making facial or body moulds for creating and fitting prosthetics.
You could move into areas like fashion and photography, print and digital media or special effects.
You might also specialise in medical aesthetics, using make-up techniques to hide scars and skin conditions to improve a client’s psychological wellbeing and confidence.