From wedding days to the runway, skilled makeup artists are in high demand across the globe. If working in a role that combines your love of makeup and creative flair with flexibility and freedom appeals to you, studying to become a makeup artist could land you a rewarding and fulfilling career.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at what it takes to become a sought-after makeup artist, exploring the skills you will need, work and study options, earning potential and career development.
How to become a qualified makeup artist
You don’t need formal qualifications to work as a makeup artist (MUA) in Australia, but studying with a reputable training organisation will set you up for success across a broad range of industry roles and niche areas.
Start by thinking about your career goals and what lights your fire. Are you a creative person who loves to work in a fast-paced, action-packed environment? A career in the media industry might suit you best. On the flip side, working as a makeup artist for weddings and other occasions may be a better fit if you prefer a more intimate setting.
Either way, opt for a course that offers (at minimum) hands-on training in foundation makeup design, theoretical and practical, plus special event makeup training.
Next, look for a course that helps you develop your skills and gain formal training in your specific area of interest.
Celebrity makeup artist
If you dream of working with celebrities across film and theatre, choose a course that offers special effects (SPFX ) training and teaches you how to work with prosthetics, create wounds and scars and enhance facial features.
Fashion makeup artist
Is the runway calling you? To break into the fashion industry, find a course that gives you a solid understanding of makeup design and application for professional photography.
Freelance makeup artist
Business planning is another core training area to consider, especially if your goal is to freelance. Successful freelancers are highly skilled in their craft and astute business owners who dedicate time to business development and marketing.
How to choose a makeup artist training course
With so many makeup courses available across Australia, how do you choose the right one?
A comprehensive course, like the Demi International Diploma of Screen and Media [CUA51020], will give you a broad set of makeup skills to pursue a career in film, tv, theatre or fashion and teach you how to thrive as a freelance makeup artist. Tuition fees include a range of professional makeup kits and products to practise your new skills, plus the chance to build your portfolio during quarterly fun-filled, professional photo shoots.
This course will give you practical skills and knowledge across key areas of makeup artistry, including:
Foundation makeup design skills
- Makeup design and planning for weddings, formals and special events
- Special effects makeup (SPFX ) for film and TV, exploring wounds, scars, facial features and prosthetics
- Creative hair and makeup for performances and productions, from traditional to modern-day styling
- Makeup design for professional photography
- Design brief creation, collaboration and application
- Freelance makeup artist business planning and marketing
If you’re unsure exactly what to study and want to keep your options open, consider a dual qualification like the Certificate III Beauty Services [SHB30121] with Certificate III in Makeup [SHB30221]. This course will teach you the foundations of makeup artistry and beauty therapy so you can offer a diverse range of services, including makeup, tanning and nails.
Career opportunities for makeup artists
The beauty industry continues to thrive across Australia, and demand for MUAs is projected to grow by 12.2% in the next five years. Training to become a qualified makeup artist can pave the way for you to work in many exciting and rewarding industry roles, including:
- Special event makeup artist and bridal makeup
- Theatre and performance makeup artist
- Film and tv makeup artist
- Special effects makeup artist (SPFX)
- Cosmetic brand representative
- Fashion makeup artist
- Freelance makeup artist
- Social media influencer (brand rep)
- Personal makeup artist for hire
Where can a makeup artist work?
Skilled makeup artists work across the globe—from home-based salons and cosmetic juggernauts to the runways of Paris and entertainment studios of Hollywood. You’ll find makeup artists at television and movie studios, theatres, hair and beauty salons, mobile salons, day spas, hotels and beyond.
What skills do I need to become a makeup artist?
Here are the top 10 skills you will need as a professional, successful makeup artist:
1. Great communication
Being a good communicator will go a long way when dealing with clients, particularly in the makeup chair. Knowing when to listen and how to respond respectfully will help your clients feel comfortable. Plus, you’ll need to be approachable and honest to manage expectations, answer concerns and deal with challenges.
2. Artistic flair
From wedding aisles to curtain calls, a natural flair for design and creativity will help you thrive as a makeup artist. You’ll call on creativity when producing showstopping looks, building your portfolio and marketing your services.
As a makeup artist, your hands and eyes are your most crucial tools—more important than tools and products. Applying makeup quickly and skillfully requires dexterity and good hand-eye coordination that improves with time and practice.
4. Time management
Good time management skills are essential for makeup artists. You will often find yourself working on a tight schedule in a professional setting, with little time to spare between clients. Planning ahead, working efficiently and prioritising tasks will keep projects flowing and allow space for flexibility.
A natural curiosity for beauty industry trends and fashion can help you to design looks, stay ahead of the game and open doors to new opportunities.
6. Attention to detail
In this line of work, attention to detail separates exceptional makeup artists from the pack. Every stroke, palette choice and product selection can impact the final result, so you’ll need to stay laser-focused each step of the way.
7. Theoretical knowledge
As a makeup artist, you will deal with people with varying skin types and cosmetic needs daily. Understanding the principles of colour theory, product chemistry, skincare routines and facial anatomy will help you choose products and create the perfect look for each client.
Beyond theory, a makeup artist must be empathetic and flexible to adapt to individual style preferences and concerns. Clients with sensitive skin and other considerations should feel comfortable discussing their concerns with you. Understanding and being respectful will help you plan for a successful, collaborative outcome.
No matter your speciality, you’ll be on your feet for long periods. Good quality shoes, comfortable clothes and stamina are essential to get you through.
10. Business skills
Learning basic business skills will help you handle the billing, marketing and admin side of things.
How much do makeup artists earn in Australia?
The average salary of a makeup artist in Australia is $60,000 per year or around $30.00 per hour.
Like all industries, earning potential boils down to your level of education and experience. Chasing sought-after roles in a specialised field could increase your annual salary to over $100,000 per year down under.
Salaries vary between employers and locations, so it’s a good idea to regularly check job listings and familiarise yourself with what’s out there.
How long does it take to become a professional makeup artist?
The time you need to study depends on which course you choose at which training institution. Some courses can be completed in as little as 12 weeks, while others may take up to 12 months, including a practical placement or on-the-job training.
Things to know before becoming a makeup artist
- Your portfolio will be instrumental in securing jobs and exploring new opportunities, so keep it current and interesting
- Hands-on training is just as important as learning theory
- Makeup artistry is a demanding job. Be prepared for erratic working days that can start early and finish late
- There is no substitute for practice! Master your skills by practising on yourself, your friends and family, and consider volunteering to gain experience
- Be reliable! A late (or MIA) makeup artist can derail an event and lead to bad reviews
- Knowing your value as an artist will help you set prices and promote your services authentically