Makeup Artist Dreaming: Narrow It Down

Makeup artistry career
Is this your dream or nightmare type of makeup job?

There are many directions you can go in as a makeup artist. You can specialize in the fashion industry/runway makeup, film and/or television, red carpet/celebrity events, theatre, bridal/events, special effects, editorial, or corporate work. You will most likely work in a few fields, especially at the beginning of your career. Doing so will give you experience with different types of makeup applications, and will allow you to build your income while you are starting out.

At the same time, having some focus will give you direction and allow you to plan your next career steps more easily. Many of the fields overlap (for example, most special effects makeup is for film, and red carpet/celebrity events and bridal makeup have similarities), so even if you have a general idea of what you want to do, that will help you.

If you are interested in the fashion industry/runway, you will need to live in or near one of the major fashion centers of the world. New York, London, Milan and Paris are the four biggest cities for runway, but you will find runway on a smaller scale in any large city. But if you want to make runway your main focus, choosing one of the major fashion centers will be most beneficial to you.

To get started in the fashion industry/runway, you must first assist an artist who creates the looks for the shows. This is matter of networking, perseverance and patience! Do your research to find out which makeup artists you would like to assist, and learn as much about their style, past work and clients as you can. Keep in mind that runway shows are very fast paced, so you must learn to work quickly and, while you are assisting, be able to duplicate the look that has been created by the lead makeup artist. The fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris are one week long each, and are held twice a year. While there is prep work that goes into the shows, doing runway only will probably not provide you with enough income for the year, so you will most likely need to supplement your income with other jobs (perhaps working some of the smaller fashion weeks for other cities, or doing editorial work).

Film and/or television makeup is a popular career choice for makeup artists. While Los Angeles and New York tend to host films and television shows regularly, they are not the only areas where you can work. Because of tax breaks for the film industry, places like New Orleans, Louisiana, Atalanta, Georgia and Boston, Massachusetts have become popular places for film work.

To get in to the film/television industry, most artists start out working on small (usually unpaid) student films and independent films. This is how you learn set etiquette, script breakdowns, look continuity, how to interact with directors and different departments and how to network. After you gain experience and make the right connections—which is how you will get new jobs at first—you might want to consider joining the union for makeup artists in the area you work in. Most big films and television shows are union production, so this is something you’ll likely need to do.

If you work in film/television, be prepared for long days. It’s not unusual to work a 14 hour day on set. If you work in television, depending on which show you work on, you may work at one location every day. Working in the film industry typically requires more travel, both in the sense of traveling for different films and during the actual filming (it is unlikely that every single scene will be filmed at one location).

If you form a relationship with a celebrity, you may be able to break into the world of red carpet/celebrity events. It is important to really understand how to do makeup for photography and film in this industry, as your client could potentially be photographed and filmed at the same event. You have to learn to collaborate with their hair stylist and wardrobe stylist, and be ready to change direction if a hair style or outfit changes after you have planned out a look.

Doing makeup for red carpet/celebrity events requires that you are up to date on the current makeup trends. It also requires a degree of creativity, as celebrities will often debut a new look at an event. It is important that you know your client’s likes and dislikes well, but you also want to present new ideas to them.

Theatre makeup definitely requires specific training, as the type of makeup that is often used is not traditional makeup. Doing makeup for theatre requires that you understand lighting, costumes, characters and scripts. Because theatre productions often include large numbers of actors appearing onstage at the same time, usually the lead artist creates the looks for the entire cast, but they only work with one or two of the lead actors. It would be difficult (and probably not cost effective for production) to hire one makeup artist for every single actor, which is why the actors in smaller productions usually learn to do the makeup themselves.

Working in theatre is lively and fast-paced, but keep in mind that it may not be something you can do full-time at the beginning of your career. If you want to focus on theatre, you should definitely assist a makeup artist who is experienced in that field. Living in a city with a prominent theatre scene, like New York or London, is probably the best choice for you.

Weddings are a huge industry in the U.S., and the majority of brides get their makeup professionally done. You can do bridal makeup anywhere, but there are certain cities that have a lot of weddings. This changes each year, but the U.S. cities that usually make the “The Popular Wedding Destination” lists are Boston, MA, New York, NY, Las Vegas, NV, Miami, FL, Charleston, SC and Napa Valley, CA. Doing bridal makeup in these areas gives you access to more work, but also more competition.

Bridal and other event makeup requires you to work closely with the client to create a customized look for them. Along with the normal factors in any makeup application—skin type, skin tone, eye color and hair color–you have to take their dress, hair style and any cultural factors into consideration. Unless you are working for a salon or beauty services company and someone else does the administrative work, bridal makeup in particular is not just about showing up that day. You have to keep contracts, invoices, schedules and other details organized and you must be good with consistent communication and followup.

Breaking into the bridal industry is easier than breaking into runway or film, as you don’t necessarily have to assist anyone first and you don’t have to start with unpaid jobs or join a union. If you have the technical skills and business sense, you can start building your contacts from people you know. Think of how many women you know who get engaged each year—they could potentially all be clients! It takes a while to build a clientele and reputation, but it is generally a quicker process than building your career in other areas of makeup artistry.

Special effects makeup is most frequently done for films and television, but there is also some need for it in other areas. Special effects makeup is much different than beauty makeup, so you will need some training from a school, course or mentor. If you are interested in this kind of makeup, you will probably find the most work and resources—at least when you are starting out—in California. Because special effects makeup is primarily a subcategory of film and television, your way in will be the same as explained for that industry.

Editorial makeup—makeup for print work—is what many people think of when they think of makeup artists. The makeup you see in magazine spreads is typically done by experienced makeup artists who often work for an agency. The bulk of editorial work is based out of New York, but it is a job that allows for a lot of travel, as magazine shoots are done in different locations.

As with anything that is being photographed, with editorial makeup, you must understand lighting, wardrobe, hair styles and locations. For these types of shoots, it is vital that you understand the vision of the client, art director and photographer. You must be ready to make adjustments as you go, as sometimes the visions will change. If you are working with actress instead or a model, you must take their preferences into consideration as well (as long as they line up with everyone else’s).

To get started in editorial (really in any area, but especially editorial) you will need a portfolio. You can build your portfolio by doing test shoots, aka trade shoots, with a team of photographers, hair stylists and models. In these shoots, you will learn how to collaborate with your team, how to do makeup for photography and how to work with different personalities. After the shoot, you will receive images for your portfolio. Test/trades shoots are unpaid, but building a portfolio is essential and therefore valuable.

There are opportunities for corporate work in any area that has businesses. Real estate companies, insurance companies, universities, hospitals and other organizations sometimes hire makeup artists to work on company commercials, promotional photoshoots, business card photos and events. Corporate work can  consist of doing makeup for 50 employees being filmed for short segments, or for the owners of a company being photographed for their website, or for instructional videos to be seen by company employees. As a makeup artist doing corporate work, you will usually be responsible for hair grooming too. This doesn’t mean cutting, coloring or even full hair styling, but just making sure that the person’s hair looks presentable on camera.

Doing corporate work sometimes means that you have to work quickly to get through large numbers of people. It also means that you have to style and dress yourself in a way that is business-appropriate. Makeup artists are creative people, and this is often also reflected in hair styles and clothing choices. At a runway show or editorial shoot, you can let your individuality show through, but when you are with corporate clients, it is to go with more of a conservative look.

Corporate jobs are usually 8 hours or less, and tend to happen more on weekdays than weekends. It can take 30-60 days to get paid for corporate work, which is something you will want to take into account when doing your budgeting. Once they find a makeup artist they like, corporate clients will often use the same person every time, so it is important to form and maintain good relationships.

You don’t have to decide right away what you want to do, but hopefully this overview has helped you narrow down your interests a bit. You will have to do research, make connections and build a portfolio for any of these fields, but focusing on two or three areas that interest you will help you while you are starting out in your career.

Have a beautiful day 🙂






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