Make-up artist
Drama, Dance & Music

Make-up artists make sure that people who appear on television, in film or the theatre have suitable make-up and hairstyles. Creative make-up is required for dramas and light entertainment. News and current affairs and chat shows require 'corrective' make-up and general tidying up.

Work Activities

Make-up artists are responsible for doing people's make-up and hair before they appear in front of cameras and/or an audience. They apply corrective or creative character make-up, depending on the type of production.

Corrective make-up is used mainly on people appearing in news and current affairs programmes and chat shows. The artists apply powder to prevent reflection from studio lights, make sure hair is neat and generally tidy up appearances.

'Character' make-up is required for dramas and light entertainment. The make-up artist has to create make-up and hairstyles that suit the period and style of the production. This requires careful preparation and research.

For really dramatic effects, materials such as latex foam are used to change the shape of a face, add age features or simulate injuries and wounds. This part of the work is referred to as prosthetics. When using these materials, the make-up artist needs to be aware of any harmful effects they could have on human skin.

If the same scene is filmed on different days, the make-up artist must keep photographs and notes of a character's appearance, so they can recreate exactly the same make-up at a later date.

Hairdressing forms a major part of a make-up artist's work. Special effects hairdressing can involve the use of wigs, hairpieces, false moustaches and facial hair.

In the theatre, actors and actresses are sometimes responsible for their own make-up. The make-up artist is called in if more complicated make-up or hairstyles are required.

Make-up artists also do the make-up and hair of models before photo sessions for fashion magazines, and before they appear in catwalk shows.

There are routine tasks to be completed, such as cleaning equipment and wigs.

Make-up artists usually work irregular hours, which could include early starts, late finishes and work on weekends and public holidays. Travel to local, national and international locations may be necessary.

Doing hair and make-up for TV and film could include working outdoors in all weather conditions.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills

  • Creative and artistic.
  • The ability to do very close and detailed work.
  • Good people skills, including tact, diplomacy and patience.
  • Confidence and the ability to work well under pressure.
  • Able to work as part of a team.
  • Knowledge of different make-up techniques.

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of make-up artists

Work is found with theatre, film and television production companies and with photographers, for example, for fashion shoots.


Entry routes and training

Make-up artists usually begin their careers as make-up assistants, working under the supervision of a senior make-up artist. Assistants start by doing most of the routine tasks, such as cleaning equipment and preparing cosmetics.

During this time, assistants learn the 'tricks of the trade' by observing and helping experienced make-up artists. It can take a number of years to gain enough experience to take on sole responsibility for a whole production.

A small number of relevant foundation degrees, HNDs and degrees are available, with titles such as:

  • Media make-up
  • Make-up and special effects
  • Specialist make-up design.

Other qualifications, such as the Edexcel (BTEC) level 3 National Award, Certificate or Diploma in Production Arts (Make-up) are also possible starting points.

Some specialist private colleges also run courses for potential make-up artists.

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