Makeup Artists


Exploring this Job

High school drama departments or local community theaters can provide you with great opportunities to explore the makeup artist's work. Volunteer to assist with makeup during a stage production and you will learn about the materials and tools of a makeup kit, as well as see your work under stage lights. A high school video production team or film department may also offer you opportunities for makeup experience.

Most states have their own film commissions that are responsible for promoting film locales and inviting film productions to the local area. These film commissions generally need volunteers and may have internships for students. By working for a film commission, you will learn about productions coming to your state and may have the chance to work on the production. Film industry publications such as Variety ( can alert you to internship opportunities.

The summer is a great time for students interested in stage production to gain firsthand experience. There are probably local productions in your area, but summer theaters often promote positions nationally. The Theatre Communications Group ( publishes a directory of nonprofit professional theaters across the country. Its electronic publication, ARTSEARCH, provides information on summer theater positions and internships, as well as job listings.

Finally, explore this career by reading other publications for the field. For example, check out Make-Up Artist Magazine (, a bimonthly publication with profiles of makeup artists for film as well as how-to columns and product information. Another interesting publication is The Artisan, which is published by the Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild. Visit to read past issues.

The Job

The work of a makeup artist can involve something as simple as making a performer look their best before the camera to completely transforming their appearance through use of prosthetic attachments. The earliest examples of theatrical makeup date back to the Middle Ages when makeup effects were used to represent God, angels, and devils. Today makeup designs may include complicated animatronic wings, detailed rubber masks, and radio-controlled mechanical creatures. Effects may be created using rubber, plastic, fiberglass, latex paints, radio-control units from model airplanes, and steel cables.

Not every project involves prosthetics and special effects. Makeup artists also apply "clean" makeup, which is a technique of applying foundations and powders to keep actors and models looking natural under the harsh lighting of stage and film productions. Makeup artists accent, or downplay, an actor's natural features. They conceal an actor's scars, skin blemishes, tattoos, and wrinkles, as well as apply these things when needed for the character. Having read the script and met with the director and technicians, makeup artists take into consideration many factors: the age of the characters, the setting of the production, time period, lighting effects, and other details that determine how an actor should appear. Historical productions require a great deal of research to learn about the hair and clothing styles of the time. Makeup artists also style hair; apply wigs, bald caps, beards, and sideburns; and temporarily color hair. In many states, however, makeup artists are limited in the hair services they can perform; some productions bring in locally licensed cosmetologists for hair cutting, dye jobs, and perms.

After much preparation, the makeup artist becomes an important backstage presence during a production. Throughout the making of a film, makeup artists arrive early for work every day. Applying an actors' makeup can often take many hours. Makeup artists are required to maintain the actors' proper makeup throughout filming and to help the actors remove the makeup at the end of the day. With the aid of fluorescent lighting, makeup artists apply the makeup, and they keep their eyes on the monitors during filming to make sure the makeup looks right. The makeup production crew is also responsible for the mechanical creatures they create, repairing them and keeping them in working order for the duration of filming.

Most makeup artists for film are in business for themselves, contracting work from studios, production companies, and special effects houses on a freelance basis. They may supplement their film work with projects for TV, video, commercials, industrial films, and photo shoots for professional photographers. Makeup artists for theater may also work freelance or be employed full time by a theater or theater troupe. Makeup artists for theater find work with regional theaters, touring shows, and recreational parks.