Pro Makeup Artist Essentials: Part 1

My set up at the PBS station I regularly work at in Providence, RI. Ready for anything!

Starting out as a makeup artist? Welcome to the club! When I started out, I not only had no idea what I was doing but no clue what I needed in my kit. Now I’ve got a fully stocked kit (as well as an overflow bag…and two set bags) and my makeup artist luggage is so heavy I sprained both wrists one summer. So I think I’ve got a good grasp on everything you need for products, tools and supplies.

I will say that what you carry in your kit depends on what part of the industry you work in. I primarily do makeup for weddings, commercials and corporate shoots, but have done film and photoshoots as well. I can’t speak on runway or special effects makeup, so I’m afraid I’m no help there.

I’ll break it down into the two subsets I do the most work in–weddings and corporate/commercials–to help you be as prepared as possible should you want to work in those arenas. I’m not going to list every product, tool and supply you need, but will focus on some really important ones as well as some things you might not think of unless you’ve been there, done that.

WEDDINGS

I have a Zuca bag and an overflow bag filled with tons of eyeshadows, eyeliners, lipsticks, blushes, mascaras, concealers, foundations, powders, highlighters, brushes, sponges, cotton swabs, etc. Those are the basics for any non-special effects makeup job, but what I’m listing below are the things I’ve found to be extra important for wedding jobs.

Eye Primer, Foundation Primer, Lip Primer & Setting Spray. You won’t always be around for touchups after the initial makeup services are done, and you want to make sure the makeup you apply lasts. Primers and setting sprays will help lock it all in.

Small Scissors. The technical use for small scissors is to trim strip lashes and long brow hairs, but you’ll probably find they get used most often for cutting bridesmaid dress tags and those little loops that you use to hang dresses on a hanger.

Safety Pins. Another bridesmaid dress helper. Safety pins have nothing to do with makeup, but it’s nice to keep a few in your kit to help a girl out.

Hand Mirror. And make it a pretty one! Photographers loooooove to take photos of brides looking at their makeup in a hand mirror, so if the mirror has a nice design on it, it looks better in photos. That makes your client–and the photographer, who you may be requesting photos from after–happy.

See what I mean? Photo: Joe Laurin Photography Hair: Alexandra Wilson for Allison Barbera Beauty Makeup: Allison Barbera

Waterproof Mascara. Because weddings make people cry! And humidity, sweat and eye drops make mascara run, so the self proclaimed non-criers are not exempt. Why chance it?

Disposable Mascara Wands. You best not be touching anyone’s eyelashes (at a wedding or any other job) with the wand that comes in the tube unless it’s their own mascara or you’re giving it to them. That’s Makeup 101.

Plenty of False Lashes. I use individual (aka cluster aka flare) lashes on 90% of my wedding clients, so I always have several packs of varying lengths and thicknesses in my kit. It’s not unusual for me to go through a full pack of Mediums and a full pack of Shorts at one wedding. I say stock up on these if you plan on working weddings.

Two Kinds of Lash Glue. Duo is the pro fave, but it contains latex, which some folks are allergic to. So you’ll definitely need a non-latex version in your kit too.

Tweezers. You might use them to apply false lashes (I do) as well as to pluck the rogue eyebrow, upper lip or chin hairs. Just make sure to keep them sanitized.

Scotch Tape. Glitter abounds at weddings. It’s sometimes found on decor, shoes, morning-of mimosa glasses, etc. And where there is glitter on an object, you’ll find glitter on nearby faces. Scotch tape is great for lifting glitter off the skin, so I always have some in my kit.

Paper & Pen. The Maid of Honor is going to love the lipstick you put on her, right? So when she asks you what you used on her so she can buy it after the wedding, why not be a good person and write it down? Not only is that a nice thing to do, but the better a client’s overall experience is with you, the bigger chance that will come back to you in the form of repeat work, referrals and glowing reviews.

CORPORATE SHOOTS & COMMERCIALS

I bring my Zuca bag and my set bag (the bag you bring on set for touchups and makeup emergencies) to all corporate shoots and commercials. If I’m trying to make my Zuca lighter, I take out things I know I won’t need–shimmery highlighters, foundation primers, some of the false lashes (which I rarely use on commercials and never on corporate shoots). Everything else pretty much stays in. And a lot gets added.

Anti Shine. I use some anti-shine products at weddings too, but they are extra important for video and film shoots, where shine is the enemy. I’ll put some on a bald head too, as those domes can get shiny.

Pressed Powder. For the same reason, pressed powder is key. When it’s time for a touchup, powder is imperative. The person or people looking at a monitor probably won’t notice the perfect shade of blush you chose, but they will notice a shiny nose or forehead. I keep one pressed powder inside of each pouch I have in my set bag (each person on camera–called the “talent”–has a pouch with the products I might use to touch them up during a shoot).

Lip Balm. Lips can get dry during a long shoot, so keep some lip balm on you. You can either have a stick or pot of it that you apply or dip into directly then give to the person at the end of the shoot, or you can use one that you can squeeze or scrape out.

Body Lotion. As a makeup artist on set, you are expected to be able to handle issues on all of the exposed skin–not just the face. If the talent has dry hands, arms, legs, etc., they may ask you for body lotion. Be prepared for that request!

On the set of my first film job ever for the 48 Hour Film Festival in 2009. I had no idea what I was doing.

A Handheld Fan. The lights used on set can get very hot. And what do people do when they’re hot? They sweat. And what does sweat do to makeup? Wears it off. A small, handheld fan will help keep the talent cool, but if there is a hair stylist on set, he/or she will probably hate you for using it. The fan will cool the client but might move their hair as well, so if you’re not responsible for their hair (more on that below), make sure you consult with the hair stylist first.

Makeup Remover Wipes. A long day on set means several touchups, and that can be a lot of makeup. Some people want to get it all off before they leave for the day, so makeup artists are expected to have makeup remover wipes on hand. Always keep more than you think you’ll need, because you’ll go through them quicker than you expect.

Gum, Mints & Cough Drops. If there’s something someone needs that’s on the face–even it has nothing to do with makeup–people will go to the makeup artist for it. So make sure to keep some gum, mints and cough drops in your set bag, but also make sure the talent doesn’t have anything in their mouth when they start filming.

Tissues. If the talent needs a tissue, the makeup artist is expected to have that too. So keep some close to your set up in case they need one during the makeup application, as well as some in your set bag in case of a sneeze or runny nose mid-filming.

Dental Floss. You might get some requests for floss after lunch breaks. I keep the individual floss picks in my set bag. Because, yes, teeth do fall under Makeup Artist Territory on set…

Eye Drops. And eyeballs do too! I keep eye drops for redness, allergies and contact wearers in my set bag. Somewhere along the way, I acquired some single use eye drop packs that are great for that #setlife.

Nail Polish Remover. Were you under the impression that makeup artists didn’t have to worry about nails? Maybe on a big film set, but it’s all on you on most commercials and I would say all corporate shoots. Chipped nail polish or bright colors won’t fly on most commercial or corporate shoots, so I always have some nail polish remover pads on me.

Nail File & Clippers. If the nails are too long or jagged and there’s going to be a close up of the hands, it’s up to the makeup artist to get those claws camera ready.

Lint Roller. If there’s Wardrobe on set, this won’t be your responsibility, but if not, keeping a lint roller in your set bag will make you the temporary hero of the day if there’s some lint on the talent’s clothing.

I’ve done makeup in classrooms, churches, hospitals, dental offices, parking lots and many more locations. You may never know what setup you’re walking into, but you should always be prepared with a fully stocked kit.

Makeup Cape or Paper Towels. If the talent is already in wardrobe when they come to Makeup, you’ll need to be careful not to get any makeup on their outfit. You can protect their clothes with a makeup cape (think a hair stylist cape, but shorter) or paper towels tucked into the collar or neckline of their top or suit jacket.

Razor & Clippers. Sometimes male talent facial hair needs to be trimmed or shaved off (usually just trimmed for commercial or corporate), so be ready!

Hairspray, Pomade, Comb, Brush, Hair Dryer, Curling Iron, Flat Iron & Bobby Pins. Ohhhhhhhh, you thought makeup artists just did makeup? Sure, that’s the case at wedding jobs, runway, editorial and film jobs, but at most corporate shoots and on commercials with smaller budgets, the makeup artist is at least expected to do some hair grooming. That means getting rid of flyaways, pinning back pieces of hair, sometimes giving a once over with a flat iron, etc. If you’re not a licensed Cosmetologist, I recommend finding someone you can hire to teach you some hair grooming basics.

Other makeup artists may look at these two lists and think I’m missing some things (in which case, please comment away!). But I think this is a good, solid list to work off of as long as you have a fully stocked kit and brush cleaner.

If you want my full lists with every product, tool and supply I use, please email AllisonBarbera@gmail.com for details.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

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