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How to become a makeup artist — a step-by-step guide

4-minute read

How to become a makeup artist — a step-by-step guide
Sarah Westbrook

Sarah Westbrook

28 May 2019

If you’re a wizard with a blusher brush and a pro with a lip liner, becoming a makeup artist could be a great career choice.

Our step-by-step guide will help you start out as a makeup artist, from getting qualified to finding clients.

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The role of a makeup artist

A makeup artist is a specialist in cosmetics, who uses artistic skill and makeup products to enhance someone’s natural features or to change how they look.

Makeup artists are often employed to do makeup for weddings and other special events, and for modelling shoots, theatre productions, film and TV shows.

Makeup artists who work on films and other productions may use special makeup techniques to radically change an actor’s appearance, for example to make them look much older than they are, or to make them look like they’ve been in a fight.

Although you may be able to find a job as a makeup artist, the vast majority of makeup artists work on a self-employed basis.

Is it hard to become a makeup artist?

If you love cosmetics and you have an artistic flair, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to complete a makeup artist course and build a portfolio.

However, actually becoming a successful makeup artist is much harder. Because there isn’t a set career path and most makeup artists are self-employed, it tends to take skill, dedication and time to build up a client base and get regular work as a makeup artist.

Makeup artist courses

Although you don’t need a degree to be a makeup artist, a recognised makeup qualification is a good place to start. There are lots of makeup artist courses available all over the country, so compare the options and choose a course carefully.

Some of the popular makeup artist qualifications available include a BTEC Level 3 Diploma, a VTCT Level 3 Diploma, an ITEC Level 3 Diploma, a City and Guilds Diploma and a Makeup Standards Authority (MASA) diploma. These courses are offered by colleges, creative arts schools and beauty academies.

You can also do a more specific makeup course, for example a special effects makeup course or a media makeup course. To hone your skills further, consider masterclasses in particular techniques like bridal makeup or contouring. These are offered by local salons, beauty schools and makeup brands.

If you want to go down the degree route, there are a few options, including the Hair and Make-up for Fashion BA at the London College of Fashion and the Makeup for Media and Performance BA at the Arts University Bournemouth.

How to get into makeup school

The process for getting accepted onto a makeup artist course depends on the type of course and qualification you want to do. If you just want to do a masterclass or an evening course, you’re unlikely to need any kind of portfolio or qualifications. In this case, you just need to apply on time and be able to pay the fees.

To do a diploma or a BTEC, you may need certain GCSE grades and/or a portfolio of work that meets certain standards.

If you want to do an undergraduate makeup degree you’ll usually need a strong portfolio of work and certain academic qualifications such as A-levels or a foundation diploma. Check on the university website for specific entry requirements.

The UK’s best makeup schools

There are so many makeup schools in the UK that it’s hard to pinpoint the best ones. When you’re comparing makeup schools, look carefully at the courses they offer, any accreditations they have, and the facilities available.

Also ask about the success of previous graduates. If you know anyone who already works in the industry, ask for their recommendations.

London offers the UK's biggest selection of makeup schools and beauty academies. Some of the best makeup schools in London include the Academy of Freelance Makeup (AOFM), the Delamar Academy, the London School of Beauty and Makeup (LSBM) and the Glauca Rossi School of Makeup.

Makeup apprenticeships

An apprenticeship gives you the chance to study for a qualification while gaining on-the-job experience with an employer. You’ll be paid a wage for your work, and you’ll be given time off to study.

Apprenticeships are aimed at school leavers, so you’re usually not expected to have industry experience or relevant qualifications when you start.

Since being a makeup artist involves practising techniques, an apprenticeship is a good way to learn. You can find out more about makeup artistry apprenticeships and search for an apprenticeship on the government’s website.

Self-employed makeup artist

Once you’ve developed your skills and you’ve built up a good portfolio, you can set yourself up as a self-employed makeup artist. This will involve registering as self-employed with HMRC or setting up a limited company.

Ensuring that you get enough work is probably the biggest challenge for a makeup artist who is just starting out. You could try becoming a resident makeup artist at a hair and beauty salon, advertising your bridal makeup skills at wedding shows, or working as an assistant to a more experienced makeup artist to build up your network.

Once you’ve got a few client jobs under your belt, things should get easier as more people find you via word-of-mouth recommendations and you get repeat business.

Do you have any tips for budding makeup artists? Tell us in the comments!

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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