As a Make-up artist you will make sure that people who appear on television, in film or the theatre have suitable make-up and hairstyles. Creative make-up is required for dramas and light entertainment. News and current affairs and chat shows require 'corrective' make-up and general tidying up.
Also known as
- Theatre Make-up Artist
Video: - Lesley: Make-Up Artist
Video: - Stephanie: Make-up Artist
As a Make-up Artist, you will be responsible for doing people's make-up and hair before they appear in front of cameras and/or an audience. You'll apply corrective or creative character make-up, depending on the type of production.
Corrective make-up is used mainly on people appearing in news and current affairs programmes and chat shows. You'll apply powder to prevent reflection from studio lights, make sure hair is neat and generally tidy up appearances.
'Character' make-up is required for dramas and light entertainment. You'll create make-up and hairstyles that suit the period and style of the production. This requires careful preparation and research.
For really dramatic effects, materials such as latex foam are used to change the shape of a face, add age features or simulate injuries and wounds. This part of the work is referred to as prosthetics. When using these materials, You'll need to be aware of any harmful effects they could have on human skin.
If the same scene is filmed on different days, you must keep photographs and notes of a character's appearance, so you can recreate exactly the same make-up at a later date.
Hairdressing forms a major part of a your work. Special effects hairdressing can involve the use of wigs, hairpieces, false moustaches and facial hair.
Make-up Artists also do the make-up and hair of models before photo sessions for fashion magazines, and before they appear in catwalk shows.
There are routine tasks to be completed, such as cleaning equipment and wigs.
You'll usually work irregular hours, which could include early starts, late finishes and work on weekends and public holidays. Travel to local, national and international locations may be necessary.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Make-up Artist, you need:
- creative, artistic and design skills
- the ability to do very close and detailed work
- good people skills, including tact, diplomacy and patience
- confidence and the ability to work well under pressure
- to be able to work as part of a team
- knowledge of different make-up techniques
Pay and Opportunities
Pay rates for Make-up artists depend on the type of production they work on, duration of the project and whether they are employed or self-employed.
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £14,500 - £15,500
- With experience: £16,500 - £18,500
- Senior Make-up Artists: £19,000 - £21,000
Where are vacancies advertised?
- Get into Theatre
- Arts Jobs
- National Theatre
- The Guardian - Theatre Jobs
Entry Routes and Training
Make-up Artists usually begin their careers as Make-up Assistants, working under the supervision of a Senior Make-up Artist. Assistants start by doing most of the routine tasks, such as cleaning equipment and preparing cosmetics.
During this time, Assistants learn the 'tricks of the trade' by observing and helping experienced Make-up Artists. It can take a number of years to gain enough experience to take on sole responsibility for a whole production.
A small number of relevant foundation degrees, HNDs and degrees are available, with titles such as:
- media make-up
- make-up and special effects
- specialist make-up design
An Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship is also a great place to start.
A BTEC level 3 qualification is also a great place to start.
Some specialist private colleges also run courses for potential Make-up Artists.
Experience working in a hair and beauty salon will help you to stand out from the crowd. You could also get some experience doing the make-up for a community theatre or local amateur dramatic performance.
With experience, Make-up Artists can specialise in an specific area, such as prosthetics. Progression to high profile television or film work is possible.
Entry qualifications vary. The usual requirement is a good general education, preferably A levels or equivalent, together with qualifications in hair and beauty and relevant work experience.
As entry is competitive, it is best to get as many qualifications as possible. English language or literature, art and applied art and design are useful GCSEs.
To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.
The BTEC level 3 qualification 'professional hair and make-up' will help you to stand out from the crowd. See if a college close to you offers this qualification.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Formal qualifications in hairdressing and/or beauty therapy, including make-up, are usually required.
Some colleges, and schools of beauty therapy/hairdressing, relax entry requirements for applicants with relevant experience.
Part-time courses in media make-up and beauty therapy are available in local colleges of further education.
Intermediate and Advanced Level Apprenticeships may be available in your area.
- 52% of people in occupations such as make-up artist are self-employed.
- 46% work part-time.
- 5% have flexible hours.
Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far
National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Tel: 0800 015 0400
Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 9178000
City & Guilds
Address: 1 Giltspur Street, London EC1A 9DD
Tel: 020 7294 2468
British Film Institute (BFI)
Skills for the creative industries
Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills
The British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology (BABTAC)
Address: Unit 1, Ambrose House, Meteor Court, Barnett Way, Gloucester GL4 3GG
Tel: 01452 623114
Hairdressing and Beauty Industry Authority (Habia)
Address: Oxford House, Sixth Avenue, Sky Business Park, Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster DN9 3GG
Tel: 0845 6123555
Creative & Cultural Skills
Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts
Get into Theatre
London College of Fashion
Address: 20 John Princes' Street, London W1G 0BJ
Tel: 020 7514 7400
Tel: 020 7452 3400
Entertainment and performing arts news
Northern Ireland Screen
Northern Ireland Enquiries
National Association of Screen Make-up Artists and Hairdressers (NASMAH)
Tel: 020 8998 7494
Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 028 4844