So, you want to be a Makeup Artist? Read this first.

I love makeup. I love it so much that I have built not one, but two careers around playing with the stuff, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

I am also lucky to be surrounded in my virtual life by people with similar interests – people who love makeup so much that they obsessively read, or more commonly, write blogs dedicated to the fine art of painting your face.

One of the situations I most commonly find myself facing is the makeup enthusiast who would like to take the step into makeup artistry. I have spent hours giving advice to many people, and one of them suggested that I write an article with some advice, and some hard truths.

Before I begin, let me just say that it is not my intent to discourage anyone from pursuing Makeup Artistry as a career, if they are truly passionate about it. But you need that passion. It is what will see you through the difficult times.


Makeup Artistry is a notoriously difficult field to succeed in. Before you consider Makeup Artistry as a career, there’s a few things you should know.

  • It’s expensive to get started. If you’re looking at studying at a Cert IV or Diploma level, you will be looking at a cost of between $10,000 and $26,000 just for the school fees. On top of this you need a kit. Don’t be fooled by the Student Kits that you purchase for around $3,000 when you enrol, this is just the tip of the iceberg. You will find yourself wanting more products and a broader selection, not to mention the consumables that you go through. Disposable Makeup wands, brush cleaner, tissues and cotton buds, false lashes and more, it all adds up. I would suggest that $5,000-$10,000 is a reasonable budget for a well edited kit.
  • The market is saturated. There’s a lot of aspiring makeup artists out there, people who have done a course and want to work in the industry. These people will all be your direct competition. To succeed as a makeup artist you really do need to excel at networking, and be prepared to fight for work.
  • You’ll operate at a loss for a few years. If your aspiration is to make a name for yourself in the industry, there’s a lot of work to get there. You’ll need to build your portfolio, which could mean paying for photographers and models, or finding aspiring photographers and models to work with. You’ll need to assist, because graduating with a certificate or a diploma is only the start of your makeup education, and assisting is either unpaid, or crappy pay. Many if not most makeup artists need to work a second job for the first few years, just to make ends meet.
  • The hours suck. Call times are often ridiculously early (think 4am) and weddings can be just as bad. You need to be prepared to be working at your best at stupid times of the day.
  • It’s physically demanding. As a makeup artist, you’ll be on your feet for hours at a time, and depending on the type of work, you could be bent down, or putting your body into awkward and uncomfortable positions for extended periods of time. If I’m working on a big job, there’s a good chance I’ll find it difficult to walk the next day.

If you’ve read all that, and you still want to be a Makeup Artist, congratulations! This is probably a job that you’ll succeed at and enjoy. What do you do next?

​Figure out your area of interest

Makeup Artistry has many, many specialities. Depending on your interest, your skill level, the area that you live and your experience there are a number of specialisations that Makeup Artists can make.

  • Cosmetics Counter
  • Glamour Photography
  • Weddings and Formals
  • Fashion and Editorial
  • Television
  • Music Videos
  • Film
  • SPFX / Injury Simulation

Although there is usually quite a bit of crossover, knowing the area you are most interested in can be very useful.

​Research schools

Makeup Artist 2

Not all makeup schools are created equal. This is the one area that I feel very passionately about, because I know so many people who have been ripped off.

There are any number of makeup schools out there, that offer official sounding qualifications, like “Qualified International Makeup Professional” or “International Makeup Artist Association”. In my humble opinion, these certifications are worse than useless – I believe they are a scam.

If you are in Australia and you are looking to become a makeup artist, I would suggest choosing one of three courses:

  • SIB20110 Certificate II in Retail Make-up and Skin Care;
  • CUF40407 Certificate IV in Make-up; and/or
  • CUF50407 Diploma of Specialist Make-up Services

All three of these courses are part of the Australian Qualifications Framework.

Once you have located all the schools in your area that offer these qualifications, you need to decide on the best school for you. Please don’t buy into slick marketing. Look at the teachers each school has, research their qualifications and experience. Look at the school facilities, and find out how much practical work experience is offered to students. If you can, find out where the work experience is typicall offered. This should give you a feel for the standard of the school.

Practice

Once you have decided on a school and booked in, you need to practice. Round up your friends and family and give them makeovers at every opportunity. Part of being a good makeup artist is being able to understand and bring out the best (or worst) in everyone’s faces. The only way to develop that skill is to practice, practice, practice.


These tips should help you to make the right choices when starting your Makeup Artistry career. I hope this information has been helpful in some way. Makeup Artistry is a wonderful and rewarding job, but it is my belief that too many people pursue it with rose-coloured glasses.

​Have you considered Makeup Artistry as a career choice? Did this article help you? Please let me know you’ve been here by leaving a comment or asking a question below.

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