While there are a number of film and television job roles that may seem relatively obscure, there are some that are self-explanatory.

In this instance, for example, makeup artists will use their skills to alter the look of a particular actor or actress, whether this is to achieve a unique aesthetic or for the purpose of beautification.

In this post, we’ll explore this career option in a little more detail, while appraising the potential pathway and determining how much you can earn as a makeup artist in film and television.

What Does a Makeup Artist Do?

During the course of their day-to-day jobs, makeup artists will utilise compounds and various products to tint, conceal or otherwise alter a subject’s look according to a particular brief.

This will depend on the precise program on which they’re working and the demands of the director, while a makeup artist will occasionally have to use various tools and techniques to achieve such objectives.

In theatre and movie productions, artists may even use prosthetics to achieve the desired look, although this is quite a niche skill that needs to be learned and honed over time.

Of course, we’re focusing here on makeup artists who work in film and theatre, but individuals with similar skills can also operate in spas, salons and as freelancers who cater to a wide range of private clients.

How Do You Become a Makeup Artist for Film and Television?

Interestingly, makeup artists who work in film and television often start out in the beauty industry, with many undertaking internships and training as hairdressers or beauticians before focusing on makeup and targeting alternative industries.

Interestingly, a background in hairdressing when looking to work in film and television, as this represents a complementary and in-demand skill that can be deployed on film sets across the globe.

When starting out, you can look to earn vocational qualifications at public school or specialist vocational training academies, before looking to undertake a two-year hairdressing course (or internship) at the age of 18. Some paths of this type will require you to have two or more GCSEs from grades 9 to 3, but this can be determined as and when you apply.

This should provide a solid foundation for your career, from which you can focus on gaining practical industry experience in relevant workplaces. This could also be combined with a university media makeup course, which teaches a higher prevalence of theoretical skills and provides key opportunities for networking over time.

woman with brushes, makeup artist

What Skills Do You Need?

Networking is a key element of becoming a makeup artist for film and TV, particularly as you’ll need to be able to identify key opportunities in a relatively restricted industry.

When opportunities do present themselves, you may also have to be willing to work for free or the remuneration of expenses only, as while it represents quite a sacrifice, it enables you to cultivate relationships with employees and earn better-paid work in the future.

But apart from being creative and talented with hair and makeup, what are the key transferable skills needed to provide such services in the world of film and TV?

Attention to detail is certainly key, particularly when delivering on complex briefs and requests from directors. Flexibility is also a critical skill, while you may need to use your initiative to change course when cultivating a bold and creative look that reflects your own unique vision.

Interestingly, both stamina and professionalism are also highly beneficial in this field. The reason for this is simple; as film and TV sets usually operate long and unsociable hours depending on filming, while you may have to deal with highly-strung and famous individuals who have high demands and less than desirable communication skills.

As a result, working on film and TV sets is both physically and mentally demanding, so you’ll need to have a positive and ambitious mindset that embraces being the very first on set and the hustle and bustle of 12-hour days (as a minimum).

What Can I Earn as a Makeup Artist for Film and TV

Unsurprisingly, the salary range for those working as makeup artists within film and television is vast, starting at £27,100 and soaring as high as £91,000 for more experienced workers.

Overall, the median salary for a makeup artist working in film and television is approximately £55,000. This is a more than competitive salary, and one that continues to entice aspiring artists from a range of different backgrounds.

Of course, those who work in salaried positions may be paid at a slightly lower rate, whereas more experienced freelancers can charge a premium for their services.