Makeup Artist (Theatrical and Performance)

Career information

Makeup Artist
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Did you ever wonder how your favorite actor aged 30 years during that movie you saw or how they made all those people look like zombies for that tv show? Those effects may have been created by CGI (computer graphics imagery), but it is also likely that a makeup artist may be responsible for them. He or she uses cosmetics to enhance or alter the appearances of actors who are in movies or television shows. Makeup artists also work with live performers such as stage actors, singers, and dancers. While some use special effects and prosthetics to change someone's appearance significantly, others just help people, for example, newscasters and talk show hosts, become camera-ready. Makeup artists are sometimes expected also to style hair and wigs.

Employment Facts

There were 3,000 makeup artists employed in 2012. Most were employed by the motion picture and television broadcasting industries. Over a quarter of the people who worked in this occupation were​ self-employed. Many jobs are short-term, sometimes lasting only a day or two, and makeup artists may experience long periods of unemployment between productions.

In the past, many jobs were centered around Hollywood, but that is no longer the case as productions move to places where costs are lower. According to a 2013 New York Times article the ​​​​Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Guild (Local 706), a union, actively encourages its members to find other work to do on the side (In Hollywood, Powderpuff Blues).

Educational Requirements

If you want to become a makeup artist, you will have to attend a school of cosmetology. Training will take between several months and a year. Most schools require a high school or equivalency diploma for admission.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements

Makeup artists must have an aptitude for visual arts. In addition to that and the technical skills, you will learn by attending cosmetology school, certain soft skills, or personal qualities, will help you succeed in this occupation. For example, you need good speaking and listening skills. You must also have good decision making, critical thinking and time management skills.

Job Outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of makeup artists to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2022. One cause of this decline could be that many movies now take advantage of CGI (computer-generated imagery) instead of using makeup artists to create special effects. There are experts in the field though who believe there is room for both in movie making.


Makeup artists earned median hourly wages of $21.30 or a median annual salary of $44,310 in 2014. A Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Guild business executive quoted in the New York Times article said that many low budget productions paid hourly rates in the teens.

Use the Salary Wizard at to find out how much a Makeup Artist currently earns in your city.

A Day in a Makeup Artist's Life

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads published in a variety of sources:

Makeup Artist For:

  • Cable Television News: Understand the needs of each presenter/ guest
  • Cable Television News: Responsible for airbrush and manual application of makeup to enhance the features of anchors and guests in a manner that provides outstanding customer service
  • Movie: Create waterproof work
  • Short Film: Apply bruising detail, blood FX, and aging makeup/wrinkle highlights
  • Short Film Series: Create scars, burns, tattoos, and gunshot wounds with ease and speed

Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

Description Hourly Salary (2014) Educational Requirements
Costume Attendant Select and fit costumes for performances, as well help performers change into them $20.03 High school or equivalency diploma
Cosmetologist or Hairdresser Care for clients' hair, skin or nails $11.12 Completion of a training program at a state-licensed barber or cosmetology school
Embalmer Prepare bodies for viewing and burial $20.06 Associate degree in mortuary science


Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Data for Occupations Not Covered in Detail: Makeup Artist, Theatrical, and Performance.
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, ​O*NET Online, Makeup Artist Theatrical, and Performance.