Make-up artist

Make-up artists apply make-up and style hair for people appearing on camera or in front of a live audience. 

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set requirements, but you’ll usually be expected to have a qualification in media make-up. You can do these courses at colleges and private training providers. 

Practical experience can help build a portfolio of work to show employers. You could gain this through:

  • amateur theatre
  • student film, theatre and photography projects
  • charity or student fashion shows
  • working with established make-up artists and photographers

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 get into this job through an apprenticeship.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • creativity and imagination
  • good communication and people skills
  • a tactful manner
  • stamina, patience and concentration
  • the ability to work well under pressure
  • excellent attention to detail

3. What you'll do

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • 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’ll work closely with production designers, costume designers, camera and lighting crew, and performers.

4. Salary

You’ll usually work on a freelance basis and be paid a fee for each contract. 

Rates will depend on the type of production you’re working on and what you can negotiate. 

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Long and irregular hours are common. You may start in the early morning before filming begins, or work in the evenings for live TV, theatre or concerts.

You’ll work in TV or film studios, theatres, or in temporary buildings and vehicles on location. 

You may need to travel and stay away from home regularly, sometimes for long periods.

You’ll need to build up your own make-up kit and take it to each job.

6. Career path and progression

With experience or specialist skills, you could progress to chief make-up artist or make-up designer.

Last updated: 28 September 2016