Make-up artists apply make-up and style hair for performers on television, film or theatre. They also research and design make-up and hair styles and create special effects for dramatic productions and fashion shows.
You could be:
discussing with the producer, the director and the lighting manager what effect they want you to achieve
doing straightforward make-up and hair styling for television presenters and members of the public
applying full make-up and hair styling to actors appearing in plays and films
applying make-up for fashion models before photoshoots and shows
adding scars and bruises, preparing false beards and wigs or using plastic and latex to alter an actor's appearance
researching on the internet for styles of past periods or other cultures and applying these to actors for historical or international dramas
keeping records and taking photos to make sure that make-up is consistent between film shoots
attending the set with the performers, standing by during scenes and touching up make-up between takes
cleaning equipment and keeping the premises tidy.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual salaries may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) lays down guidelines for pay rates for make-up artists working on different kinds of productions based on a 10-12 hour day. Trainees can earn from £68 up to £125, £200 to £267 for a junior, up to £300 to £388 for an experienced chief make-up artist.
You work mostly indoors in dressing rooms, make-up departments, television studios or film sets.
You may also work outdoors on location in all weather conditions.
You do a lot of standing and bending while you work.
You have to work long and flexible hours, including evenings, weekends and public holidays.
You may work for two companies at once, leading on occasion to very long working days.
If working on location, you may have to travel a lot and perhaps spend periods living away from home.
Most make-up artists first take either a relevant full time course, or an apprenticeship or traineeship in hairdressing or make-up artistry.
There are full time courses in hairdressing and make-up artistry at various levels: National Certificates (NCs), Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs), Higher National Certificates and Diplomas (HNCs and HNDs).
Several colleges offer an HNC or HND in Make-Up Artistry or Fashion Make-Up. Entry ranges from 1-2 Highers plus 3 subjects at National 5 or relevant NC or HNC qualifications.
There are no formal requirements for entry to a hairdressing or beauty therapy apprenticeship, but employers may prefer applicants to have a group of subjects at National 5.
Experience in make-up work for amateur dramatics or even for school or college productions is useful.
You need to gather practical experience and build up a good portfolio of work to show employers. Most work is gained through contacts in the industry.
A full driving licence is very useful and sometimes essential.
People with allergies or sensitive skin may find that certain hair and make-up products cause skin irritation.
There are jobs in fashion, editorial, theatre, television and in film and video production companies. Most make-up artists working in the UK are freelance and competition for jobs is intense.
excellent knowledge of make-up and hair styles and techniques
good manual dexterity and a steady hand
a good understanding of skull anatomy and facial muscle structure
knowledge of relevant health and safety regulations and procedures
good networking skills for making contacts.
You need to be:
artistic and creative
confident, patient and diplomatic
able to work under pressure to meet deadlines
flexible and adaptable
able to communicate naturally with everyone you work with
organised and able to plan ahead
able to work as part of a team, and on your own.
You normally start a trainee level, working your way up to assistant level. It takes some years of solid work experience and learning before becoming a fully trained make-up artist.
The National Association of Screen Make-up Artists and Hairdressers (NASMAH) offers training courses for members to update their skills.
Most make-up artists work on a freelance basis and are paid by contract or project. Some work for theatre, television or film companies.
There may be promotion opportunities for those working on long term productions, such as chief make-up artist. Otherwise, artists improve their prospects by working to the highest possible standards and building up their reputation.
You are likely to specialise in a particular discipline, for example film or fashion.
You could move into lecturing at further education colleges.
There may be opportunities overseas.
Most jobs for make-up artists are in or around London. Most Scottish make-up artists are based in Glasgow or Edinburgh and travel throughout the UK, and sometimes overseas. Look for vacancies in websites Mandy and Stagejobspro as well as in trade journals such as Broadcast and Stage, Screen and Radio Magazine.