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Make-Up Artist

The role

Make-Up Artists create make-up looks for people who will be standing in front of a camera or live audience. The fields that make-up artists commonly work in include fashion - covering both shoots and shows - other photographic shoots, film, TV, theatre and concerts.

The kind of make-up created depends on the job that an artist is working on – a hospital TV programme could require cuts and scars, a fashion shoot a cutting-edge concept to show the latest make-up trends, or a news programme a natural look for their anchor person.

A Make-Up Artist must often research suitable looks for their job, and liaise closely with others in the production team to establish a design brief to follow.

They may apply prosthetics such as a different shaped nose or ears to change someone’s appearance, or just apply make-up to give someone a clear and bright complexion.

When it comes to a performance, or the shooting of the production, they will stand by to make corrections and re-do make-up between shooting.

 A Make-Up Artist’s responsibilities occasionally cover hairdressing as well. This could involve hair styling, and the fitting of wigs or hairpieces.

This is a physically demanding career, as they will be on their feet for long stretches of the day.

How to become a Make-Up Artist

Most Make-Up Artists start by taking a specialist course such as the following:

  • BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Production Arts (Make-up)
  • VTCT Diploma in Hair and Media Make-up at levels 2 and 3, and Level 3 Diploma in Theatrical, Special Effects and Media Make-up
  • ITEC Level 3 Diploma in Fashion and Specialised Make-up
  • City & Guilds Diploma in Hair and Media Make-up at levels 2 and 3
  • foundation degrees, BTEC HNCs/HNDs and degrees in media make-up
  • intensive courses at private make-up schools.


Some of these courses have entry requirements of general beauty therapy qualifications; this should be checked beforehand.

Experience is essential in building up a portfolio of work and a contacts book for an artist. This could be achieved through working on amateur and student theatre, film and photography projects.

One of the best ways of developing skills while working is by assisting an established Make-Up Artist.

Some organisations such as broadcasters occasionally run training similar to apprenticeships in make-up.

Skills and knowledge required

  • Strong creativity
  • Good communication skills and the ability to be personable, putting people at ease
  • Good colour appreciation
  • Stamina and patience
  • Ability to work to tight deadlines
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Strong research skills
  • Attention to detail



There is no average income for a Make-Up Artist, as rates vary widely. When working freelance, a Make-Up Artist is paid a fee per contract. Naturally, a more experienced and acclaimed artist can command higher fees.

The Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) can give information on rate guidelines.

The hours

Working hours are irregular, and can be long. Depending on the job, it could involve a very early morning start ahead of an early shoot call time, or hours in the late evening to do make up for a theatre production or live concert.

Working as a Make-Up Artist can often involve travel, to locations further afield, and places of work vary between TV or filming studios, theatre dressing rooms, concert halls or outside locations. 

Useful websites - Vocational Training Charitable Trust - International Therapy Examination Council (ITEC) - National Association of Screen Make-up and Hair Artists (NASMAH) - Hairdressing and Beauty Industry Authority (HABIA) - Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) - Get Into Theatre

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