How to Become a Makeup Artist: Everything You Need to Know

If you grew up raiding your mom's lipstick stash or daydreamed about turning faces into masterpieces (and still do to this day), becoming a makeup artist could be your calling. Makeup artistry is an intriguing field that allows individuals to showcase their creativity, talent, and passion while also making others feel beautiful. Ahead, find out how to become a makeup artist through eight essential steps to kickstart your creative career.

What Do Makeup Artists Do?

Before you dive into the process of becoming a makeup artist, you’ll want to explore the role this career plays in the beauty industry and what you may expect to do on a daily basis. Makeup artists are just that – artists. Their medium just happens to be cosmetics. Whether using their talents to enhance an everyday person's appearance or create imaginative looks for various occasions (from weddings and fashion shows to films and photo shoots), they accentuate features, highlight natural beauty, and bring their client's visions to life with their creative touch.

Like any service provider, a makeup artist’s schedule can change from one day to the next. You could be booked and busy for weeks during the wedding season or the holidays. During slower seasons, your calendar may be filled with smaller makeup artist jobs like eyebrow shaping or simply selling retail products. Makeup artists may also offer color consultations so that clients can learn how to shop for cosmetic products that better suit their skin type or offer lessons for application as another stream of revenue.

Why Become a Makeup Artist?

First off, you get to unleash your artistic genius and let your creativity run wild while serving all kinds of cool clients. You could become the ultimate bridal makeup guru in your town or take your skills global, beautifying A-list celebs and hotshot influencers. Plus, the makeup industry is always buzzing with fresh vibes and new tricks, so there's always something new to learn, keeping you on your toes and loving every minute of it.

Most important, as a makeup artist, you have options. You can choose between freelancing, working for prestigious brands or salons, establishing your own business, or creating your own cosmetics line. Whatever you dare to dream up can be yours.

What Qualifications Do You Need To Be a Makeup Artist?

You don't always have to jump through formal hoops, but getting some pro training and certification can give your career a boost. Sign up at a solid school and soak up all the info on the latest techniques, product choices, best skin care practices, and color theory. These skills will set you up for success and show everyone how dedicated you are to your craft.

What Skills Do You Need To Be a Makeup Artist

Because of the creative nature of the beauty industry, not every single skill a service provider should employ can be taught. While you can train and practice to learn the basic principles of application and color, artistry won’t come easy to everyone. Here’s a breakdown of all the skills one might need to become a successful MUA to cross-reference before you get started.

  • Design skills: A good MUA needs to have a good eye for symmetry, angles, and TK.
  • The ability to work well with your hands: A steady hand is a must! Especially when you’re working with different tools in people’s faces.
  • Artistic and creative flair: This is an art, after all! You’ll need to be able to apply color theory, stay up to date with trends, and be able to execute your client’s vision in a timely manner.
  • The ability to work well with others: Like any service provider, playing well with others is essential. You may be working in a salon with other creatives, on a set with several different types of professionals, and with different types of clients with vastly varying personalities.
  • Attention to detail: From a single lash being out of place to the tiniest smudge of eye shadow, you need to have a keen eye for the little things that make a big difference on someone’s face.
  • Excellent verbal communication skills: If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: communication is key. Being able to actively listen to clients and gracefully receive feedback is an essential everyday skill in this job.

Do Makeup Artists Need a License?

The short answer is, it depends. In the U.S. the requirement for licensure varies from one state to another and may depend on the services you plan to offer. In some regions, a license may be mandatory for professional makeup artists who are working in salons.

This role shouldn’t be confused with practicing esthetics or cosmetology. Makeup artists usually focus on makeup and don't typically provide hair or skincare services – those services are usually offered by licensed estheticians and cosmetologists.

Cosmetologists offer a wider range of services that might include skincare, nail care, and different hair care treatments but their training often also consists of some foundational techniques for applying makeup.

Estheticians have many skills in common with both. Their area of expertise homes in on more advanced skincare services such as facials, exfoliations, hair removal, and brow/lash services. They also receive training in makeup application.

Whichever role you ultimately decide to move forward with, be sure to research the laws specific to your location. And even if a license is not mandatory, it’s a good move to pursue one anyway as it can enhance your credibility and open up more opportunities.

How to Become a Professional Makeup Artist (In 8 Steps)

Here are eight steps to becoming a makeup artist:

  1. Choose a Reputable Makeup Artist School
  2. Complete a Makeup Artist Training Program
  3. Obtain a Makeup Artist License (if required)
  4. Gain Practical Experience Through Internships and Apprenticeships
  5. Build a Professional Portfolio
  6. Develop a Strong Network and Personal Brand
  7. Seek Out Job Opportunities or Freelance Work
  8. Continue Your Education and Stay Updated on Trends

Okay, let's dive deeper into each one.

1. Choose a Reputable Makeup Artist School

Research and select a beauty school that offers comprehensive programs tailored to your interests and goals. Look for schools with experienced instructors, positive reviews, and a curriculum that covers various aspects of makeup artistry.

Ask yourself what you’ll have the opportunity to learn beyond makeup application. What does the program offer in terms of portfolio development? Will you learn the fundamentals of selling retail? Does the curriculum include any lessons on branding and marketing?

2. Complete a Makeup Artist Training Program

Enroll in a makeup artist training program or cosmetology school and get started soaking up fundamental skills such as facial anatomy, color theory, different techniques, and product knowledge. The hands-on practice you receive here under the guidance of been-there-done-that pros is essential for honing your skills.

3. Obtain a Makeup Artist License (if required)

Look up the licensing requirements in your area and complete the necessary steps to make it official if it’s mandatory for where you plan to provide services. If it is required, obtaining a cosmetology license may involve written exams, practical assessments, and meeting specific educational or experience criteria, so make sure you study up and find out what you need to be prepared for.

4. Gain Practical Experience Through Internships and Apprenticeships

This is where the real magic happens. Working alongside seasoned professionals gives you hands-on training that a classroom can never replicate. You'll pick up invaluable tricks of the trade, continue building a solid portfolio, and most importantly, make meaningful connections in the industry. Whether it's assisting on photoshoots, runway shows, or film sets, each experience adds depth to your expertise and boosts your confidence.

5. Build a Professional Portfolio

Building your portfolio is essentially like creating a resume. It's your chance to show off your talent and prove you're a force to be reckoned with. Snap some killer before-and-after shots and showcase your creativity with different looks and styles that include a variety of clients to demonstrate your versatility. If you don't have clients yet, don't sweat it. Get started with your friends, family, and even yourself.

6. Develop a Strong Network and Personal Brand

Networking plays a crucial role in the makeup industry. Attend industry events, connect and build relationships with photographers, models, other professionals in adjacent industries, and potential clients.

And while in-person connections are equally important, in today’s digital world, it’s tough to thrive without a strong presence on the Internet. Not all beauty pros need to be digital marketing mavens or social media influencers, but it is essential to have a solid web presence when working within a visually driven environment. Establishing your brand is critical to the success of your developing career and growing business. Having a website is step one for clearly showcasing who you are, what you offer, and how you stand out against the competition. When clients come across your website, they’re just as much looking for insight into who you are as a service provider as they are looking for the facts about your business. Make sure your branding is on point from first sight with a free website builder that will speak volumes about your professional presence.

When it comes to growing your presence as a makeup artist, social media platforms are your secret weapons. Whether you focus on Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok, consistency is key. Post regularly, interact with your followers, and stay on top of the latest beauty trends and beauty discussions. Leverage hashtags relevant to the makeup industry and the location(s) you work within to reach a wider audience and gain exposure.

Building your personal brand is all about figuring out what makes you special and sharing it with the world. Whether it's flawless contouring, killer smoky eyes, or mind-blowing special effects, show off those amazing skills that set you apart from the rest. Be consistent with your branding, by making sure everything screams "you" and keeping your best looks up-to-date in your portfolio and social media. When you stay true to yourself and deliver quality work, the clients who dig your artistic vision will come flocking.

7. Seek Out Job Opportunities or Freelance Work

Once you’ve established a network, it's time to tap into it as you seek new job opportunities. If you want something more immediate and reliable, look for positions at beauty salons, spas, fashion agencies, or film and television production companies. But you can also consider offering your services as a freelancer, which allows you to work independently and take on various projects. Utilize online platforms, social media, and word-of-mouth referrals to market yourself, and attract clients.

8. Continue Your Education and Stay Updated on Trends

To thrive as a makeup artist, it's crucial to stay current with industry trends and techniques. Attend workshops, seminars, and trade shows to expand your knowledge, sharpen your skill set, and continuously grow your network. Make it a practice also to follow influential makeup artists, industry publications, and online resources to stay updated. Continuously learning and adapting to the evolving beauty landscape will keep you ahead of the curve.


There’s never just one way to turn your dreams into reality but if you start by following these eight steps, you’ll be that much closer to paving the way towards a successful career in the beauty industry. As you embark on this fulfilling career path, always remember to stay true to your unique style and express your creativity through your work.

When it’s all said and done, becoming a makeup artist is an exciting journey that allows you to combine your passion for makeup with your creative skills. With dedication, perseverance, and a continued zest for artistry, you’ll thrive as a makeup artist. So go ahead, unleash your creative potential, and let your talents shine.

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