Makeup Artist Salary

What is a Makeup Artist?

makeup artist salaryThis person is an artist but does not work with paint on canvas. Instead, they use the human body as their canvas. In addition to applying makeup, they also apply prosthetics. A makeup artist likes to experiment with different cosmetic looks by trying them on themselves, their friends, and family. They are someone who can skillfully transform a person into their desired appearance or character or make even their bad side look beautiful.

Job Description of a Makeup Artist

This is someone who uses cosmetic processes and techniques to create not only beauty on the human body. Simply put, it is the makeup artist’s job to enhance someone’s appearance to smooth or hide their flaws, bring out their features, and color by using cosmetic products. Some makeup artists work in the film and theater industry to create special effects and imaginative characters.

There are two main makeup artist categories, which are:

Fashion or cosmetic makeup artists

In this category it can be the clerk at the makeup counter at your local department store to one who works preparing a fashion model for the runway and photo shoots. These makeup artists know how to make their subject look his or her best. They understand the different effects that are required for digital photography and lighting. When you are a fashion makeup artist, you will work with different designers to create a certain look for their models. This can cover emphasizing the models cheekbones or lip shape.

Film and theatrical makeup artist

In this category you are the one who enhances the actor’s features to emphasize the character they will be portraying. As a film and theatrical makeup artist you will have the ability to make an older actor look younger, a younger actor look older, have someone hold the appearance of scars, blemishes, etc.You may also have the chance to take a person and make a creative character from nothing.In this field, there are also creative effect makeup artists that are responsible for helping to create those special effects such as the illusion of gore and blood. They are also responsible for creating the makeup that makes imaginative science fiction and fantasy creatures seem real and creating characters via makeup from days past. Being a special effects makeup artist is one of the most challenging fields to break into.

As a makeup artist in any field, you will be required to work with different lighting conditions. You will also need to discover how to judge the distance between the audience and the stage in order to make sure the makeup is perfect when they go on stage. You will also know the requirements determined by high definition and digital cameras.

There are also some characteristics/qualities that every makeup artist should possess, which include:

  • Creativity
  • Good management of time
  • Great customer service
  • Self-motivation
  • Understanding of design and art
  • Great listener
  • Comfortable offering feedback to their clients along with making recommendations
  • Steadiness in their arm-hand
  • Manual dexterity
  • Ability to see detail up close

How to Become a Makeup Artist?

One of the first signs that a career as a makeup artist is right for you is the passion and deep love of cosmetics and creativity. In every state, they have their own requirements that must be met before you can become a certified makeup artist. In some states, they put all the requirements to become a makeup artist into a full cosmetology certification while other states have a separate license where you specialize only in the field of makeup artistry. Other states do not even regulate a makeup artist. It is highly recommended that no matter what requirements your state has that you get advanced training to be successful.

Although many times official education requirements are non-existent for becoming a makeup artist you will need your high school diploma. It is advisable to have some type of basic training. Typically you will spend 300 to 600 hours in the makeup training program, but again it depends on the state. This number of hours can take less than 6 months to finish.If your state requires that you attend a full cosmetology program the number of hours you have to complete go up to 1,500 to 2,000 hours, which will take 12 to 24 months to finish. When you finish your cosmetology program, you will have an associate’s degree.

To get their start in a makeup artist career, they will choose to work the makeup counter at their local department store. Some volunteer to be their makeup artist for their local schools or Community Theater to get practice. When you start your training, you will be working on live models, both men and women. Once you have finished your program, you will receive either a certificate or a cosmetology degree. The next step is becoming accredited by your state if it is needed. The test to become licensed is given by the Department of Health or the State Board of Cosmetology.

Work Environment and Schedule

  • Fashion or cosmetic makeup artists – because of digital photography these makeup artists are increasing in demand for fashion shoots and shows, weddings, corporate headshot photography, and any special event that will be recorded or photographed.
  • Film and theatrical makeup artist – in this field you make work on a movie set 10 to 12 hours a day, work at night, weekends, or whenever you are needed because when making a film or doing theater the characters will need their makeup touched up between scenes. They will also need their makeup changed to fit into the scene they will be in, etc.

When working as a makeup artist you have the choice of working as a freelance makeup artist you have your own business where you chose who you want to work for, the type of makeup artistry you want to do, the hours you want to work, and the amount you want to charge for each job. Whether you are a fashion, cosmetic, film, or theatrical makeup artist you can work for modeling agencies, for a theater company, demonstrating how to put on makeup in department stores, and more. Some makeup artists even work in the sports entertainment field such as doing the makeup for wrestling superstars before they have their match.

As a makeup artist, your work environment is unlimited. You can work at spas, salons, in department stores, bridal boutiques, in a theater, for television and motion pictures, etc.One benefit of working as a freelance makeup artist is that you can specialize in a specific genre such as special events and weddings, runway models, special effects, and mortuary makeup.

The exact schedule that a makeup artist would work all depends on your employer and what type of makeup artistry you are doing. One day it could be 10-12 hours while another day may only be 8 hours. The environment also depends on where you are working as it could be on the stage, on the location where the movie is being filmed working in a small trailer, on the runway, etc.

One of the first tasks that you would do when you arrived at work would be to prepare your tools. This means that your supplies and brushes are clean, sanitized and organized. You also need to make sure that you have everything there for the job you are doing. Always consult with your client to make sure if there are any skin allergies, challenges with their skin, what they want to be done if you do not already know, especially if it is a new client. If it is a wedding, you want to make sure that you do their makeup as they want. When doing theatrical makeup normally, the director is your client or boss. Once the consultation is done it is time to apply the makeup after you clean their skin.

Some of the makeup that you might use can include primers, concealers, foundation, eye shadow, lip liners, eye liners, and anything else that they request. You want to make sure that the client is satisfied with their makeup.

When you are a well-established and professional makeup artist you could become an editor or columnist for style and beauty magazines, serve as an expert panelist on shows about makeup or even write a book on makeup and how to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Some freelance makeup artists even have their own blog on how to apply makeup along with makeup tips and tricks. Many makeup artists will specialize in a particular field such as high fashion, theatrical, special effects, prosthetics, airbrushing, and more. When working with prosthetics or special effects the makeup artist will spend several tedious hours creating the perfect illusion.

Pros and Cons of Being a Makeup Artist

Do you enjoy putting makeup on and creating an entirely new face? Do you love to create new ideas for a fantasy character or science fiction character? If the answer to these two questions is yes, then becoming a makeup artist might just be the career for you. When you are following television or a movie, you think about all the glamorous places where they are taking place, and you know that the makeup artist also gets to go because they need someone to make the actors look beautiful. You can also be your own boss with your own business. Yes, these are some pros for making a career out of being a makeup artist but on the flip side of the coin there are many cons. Before making the decision to become a makeup artist look at both lists. The cons might help you decide just which category you want to major in.


  • Getting to meet famous actors
  • When working on location you get to travel to different locations both in the United States and all over the world
  • Owning your own business, which means that you work for yourself and can choose the hours you work, whom you want for clients, charge what you for the jobs, and more.
  • In theater, you may do makeup on actors that are in plays that are on Broadway.
  • Earning an annual salary that is in the six-figure range. That is great, and if you work for famous actors, your six-figure income might get closer to a seven-figure income. It all depends on what contract you land on.


  • When not a freelance makeup artist you may not have set hours and will have to work many hours counting nights and weekends as well. In such cases, it’s really a disadvantage for anyone with family, especially if they have children.
  • Being on your feet for several hours a day. It can be exhausting, especially if working for a big event, putting up makeup on actors or other people. To resist, you might need a higher intake of vitamins, nutritional supplements, fruits, meat and more. You must simply have that physical condition.
  • Putting up with actors, models, and anyone you are doing makeup on when they are complaining that you do not know your job. It’s all about tastes, and just because they consider your job was poorly made doesn’t mean you’re weak, it’s just that they seek something different. In those cases, you will have to do it again and again, until they are happy with results.
  • Putting up with obnoxious bosses. Yes you will need to be patient in many situations.
  • When working in film you may be on sets that are less than ideal such as working in hot, dry arid areas like the desert, working in the extreme cold, etc. So, if you’re not open minded and would complain about anything extreme, then this job might not be for you.
  • When working on location for a film you may have a trailer that you live in and work out of, or you have to stay in a motel for a period of time and practically live out of a suitcase.
  • If working on location, you may not see your friends and family for several months. In some cases that works out some way, but in most cases it may end up in losing friends or ruining marriages.
  • Working for yourself indicates that you have to do all the book work including billing the clients, worrying about taking clients to court if they do not pay, not having a steady income, paying for a studio, hiring assistances, and more.
  • When starting out in a theater you may be doing the makeup for actors in off-Broadway plays or small towns. Yes, not everything starts in Hollywood or on Broadway, and you need to take that into account – step by step is the only way to get there!
  • Although the actors are sitting in chairs many times, you will have to bend over to get the makeup just right so in the long term you may be plagued with back pain from all the bending over.
  • New makeup artists are at the very bottom of the pay scale averaging less than an entry-level factory worker. You need perseverance, or else you might easily give up believing that your work is worthless. It’s never worthless, it’s just that it might take a while until the right person notices your talent and skills.
  • When you are a freelance makeup artist, you do not have any benefits such as paid vacation or sick days, insurance, etc. unless you pay for them yourself.
  • Working as a makeup artist there may be no holidays off, especially if you are working in film on location or in a theater.So, if you’re one of the people who often want to visit certain places and enjoy shorter/longer holidays, then this career will not always have that door open.

Makeup Artist Job Growth

According to some of the surveys, the main worry is that the job growth is estimated to be very slow reaching only at around 3 percent. As for a makeup artist with all the popularity for the movie industry or video industry and many other opportunities, the competition for occupying a position is very fierce.

The highest levels of employments can be found among the mentioned states in metro areas such as Las Vegas metro, Los Angeles metro and New York City metro. This field is not that easy, especially since they are many working in various settings, and the higher paid jobs, are sometimes difficult to achieve due to those that already made a good name and reputation.

Still there will always be additional job openings that will vary from year to year according to the number of demanding. There will be plenty of work with the movie industry growing as well as other stores or facilities that are using makeup artists.

In the US, the majority that works on a makeup artist position are women, while men represent only a small percentage in this profession. The job satisfaction among these professionals is estimated to rank at a higher level since there are plenty of settings in which one can work.

Makeup Artist Salary

The salary of a makeup artist varies according to where they are employed, the city and state, and a number of years they have been working as a makeup artist.Being a freelance makeup artist, many will give themselves a set salary, but that can vary. In New York, the hourly was is $44.90 with California coming in second at $35.21 per hour. The state with the lowest hourly rate is Texas with an hourly rate of $20.51. Being new in the field of makeup artistry you may start with an average hourly wage of $10.00, but the pay will go up as you gain more experience. There are also tips that many receive from their clients. Included in the salary are the benefits, so if your hourly wage is at the bottom of the scale when you add in benefits, it will seem like more. Again, the benefits will vary according to the working environment, but generally the benefits include paid vacation and sick days. We should also mention paid holidays, medical, dental, and life insurance for you and your family, profit sharing, overtime pay, travel expenses paid, use of a car, supplies you need are paid for, and more. As you can see, the beginning salary for a makeup artist is quite low but within five years you can be making $36,000 to $50,000 a year.

Depending on where you are employed there are many benefits that can go along with the job. Some of these benefits can include paid vacation and sick days, paid holidays, life insurance, health insurance, profit sharing, tips, bonuses, paid travel to exotic places, and more. If you are a freelance makeup artist, there are usually no special benefits except for tips and maybe bonuses.

Salary of a Makeup Artist in 2015

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, the annual salary of a makeup artist ranges from $18,780 to $115,030. The actual salary will depend on a variety of factors such as what type of makeup artist you are, are you freelancing or working for a company, the state, and city. Further on, the difference is made by the number of years you have been practicing your craft, working full or part time, benefits receiving, quality of portfolio, gratuities and tips, and more. In 2015, the top paid makeup artists were working in Texas, New York, Nevada, California, and Georgia. The top three highest paying metro areas are Los Angeles, New York City, and Las Vegas.

Makeup Artist Salary in 2016

The yearly income for a makeup artist in 2016 is influenced as well according to several decisive constituents such as the geographical location, the experience that one gained in this field and as well as according to their portfolios. The salaries for these professionals tend to have a lower point and a higher point according to the industry in which they’ve found work.

For instance, the income of a makeup artist will vary from between $18,789 per year or up to $115,032 per year and even higher. Since the jobs vary a lot, the incomes will also differ. You can work as a part time makeup artist, or you can have a job in the retail stores or in salons. However, you can also find a great job if you possess the necessary skills and you are indeed great at what you are producing for famous artists and other celebrities, or work on your own and provide your services.

In the US, the salary in 2016 for a makeup artist is also influenced according to the metropolitan area or according to each state. The top paying states where you ca find a great job can be seen in New York, California, Texas, Georgia, and a few other.

A makeup artist income is also influenced by the education that one has gained. For instance, you can specialize in a certain area of the makeup artistry such as 3-D Makeup Artistry or other. Another factor that affects in a very common way the salaries of these professionals are the years of experience that they’ve earned in the field. According to the years of experience in the field, each salary will increase gradually and constantly.

Makeup Artist Salary in Canada, Australia and the UK

In Canada, the average makeup artist earns between C$22.027 and C$65,746 per year.The average hourly rate is C$10.01 to C$30.91. If you have worked for more than five years, you can earn between C$13.23 and C$32.55 per hour.

In the United Kingdom, the average annual salary a makeup artist earns is between £11,956 and£60,125, but the median is approximately £20,219. They also receive a top yearly commission and bonus of £2,442 and £2,061 respectively.

In Australia, the average annual salary is between AU$29,315 to AU$106,950. They can also earn an annual commission of AU $3,600 and a top bonus of AU$1,500.

Conclusion on Makeup Artist Salary

Most earn a median salary of around $36,185. In addition, you need to consider all the benefits, bonuses, and tips that a makeup artist can receive. When you are able to have a career that you love sometimes what you make does not really matter all that much, especially if you are working for a filming company and get to travel the world or work in one of the big cities working with runway models. Today the fashion and entertainment industry employs the largest margin of makeup artists, which can lead to that six figure income you want.

The projected growth rate for a makeup artist between the years of 2012-2022 is 3%, so there is not a lot of growth rate expected. Although the real reason is not known for such a low growth rate, it is thought to be that much work in this field until they retire, so there are not many openings for new makeup artists who want to break into the field. Even though the growth rate is low, and the average salary is less than $40,000 per year, it seems that many are choosing to go into the field of makeup artists because they have that creative flair and love to work with makeup.