How much do makeup artists make?

How Much Do Makeup Artists Make? Discover the Secrets

If you’ve ever wondered how much money makeup artists earn, you’re not alone. With the boom in social media beauty content and reality TV competitions, the world of professional makeup artistry can seem glamorous and lucrative. But how much do makeup artists really make?

The answer depends on many factors – experience level, employer type, geographic location, and more. An entry-level freelance makeup artist charging by the hour earns far less than a seasoned pro working full-time for a major film studio.

This in-depth guide breaks down makeup artist salaries across different specialties. You’ll discover average pay ranges for film, theater, salon, and freelance makeup artists. We’ll also look at what impacts income, from building your portfolio to working with A-list celebrity clients.

Whether you’re exploring makeup artistry as a career or just curious about the earning potential, read on for the truth about how much makeup artists make.

Key Takeaways:

Average Salaries$30,000 – $95,000
Freelance Hourly Rates$50 – $250 per hour
Celebrity Day Rates$1,000 – $3,000 per day
Location, Skills, EmployerGreatly affect pay

What Does a Makeup Artist Do?

So you want to know more about the day-to-day work of a professional makeup artist? As glamorous as the life of a makeup pro may seem, it involves long hours and a lot of hard work.

A makeup artist transforms a person’s appearance using cosmetic products and tools like brushes, sponges, and razors.

A makeup artist transforms a person’s appearance using cosmetic products and tools like brushes, sponges, and razors. But there’s much more to the job than just applying eyeliner and lipstick.

1. The Nitty Gritty: Makeup Artist Responsibilities

A makeup artist has many responsibilities, including:

  • Consulting with clients to understand their needs, skin type, desired look, and budget
  • Developing makeup strategies to align with creative direction for photo shoots, films, theater, events, etc.
  • Sanitizing and organizing the makeup workspace
  • Performing skin assessments and color-matching
  • Selecting, purchasing, and organizing all cosmetic products, tools, and supplies
  • Applying makeup for all types of looks – from natural and glamorous to special effects
  • Touching up makeup throughout shoots or performances
  • Educating clients on application, care of cosmetics, hygiene, and more

2. The Many Faces of Makeup Artistry

Makeup artists work in a wide variety of settings, including:

  • Film and television – Applying makeup for actors before shoots
  • Theater – Doing stage makeup for performers
  • Salons/spas – Providing bridal and special event makeup
  • Retail cosmetics – Assisting customers with selecting and applying makeup
  • Fashion shows – Prepping models backstage for the runway
  • Photography studios – Working with models for headshots and fashion editorials
  • Cruise ships – Serving as lead makeup artist for entertainment and guests

No matter where they work, makeup artists need to excel at:

  • Creativity and artistry
  • Technical skills with tools and products
  • Time management and efficiency -Attention to detail and sanitation
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Communication and client service skills

So in summary, the job of a makeup artist is multifaceted. It takes a blend of artistic talent, cosmetology training, people skills, and business savvy. But for those with a passion for makeup, it can be an extremely rewarding and fun career!

For those interested in permanent makeup services, check out how to become a permanent makeup artist.

Makeup Artist Salary Range: How Much Do Makeup Artists Make?

So you want the inside scoop on how much makeup artists really earn? Like any career, there’s a broad range when it comes to salaries in this field. The pay for a freelance makeup artist just starting out looks very different from an experienced pro working for a major film studio.

Let’s break down the salary range based on experience level and employer type.

1. Entry-Level Makeup Artists: $25,000 – $40,000

Makeup artists just starting their careers generally fall in the $25,000 to $40,000 salary range.

Entry-level makeup artists may work as:

  • Retail beauty advisors earning an hourly wage or commission
  • Salon assistants learn on the job before building their own clientele
  • Cruise ship entertainers with day rates of around $100
  • Theater assistants get small stipends as they train

It can take 1-3 years for new makeup artists to build skills and a portfolio before earning more. Gaining experience by assisting senior artists is crucial.

Makeup Artist Salary Range: How Much Do Makeup Artists Make?

2. Mid-Level Makeup Artists: $40,000 – $60,000

With 3-5 years experience, makeup artists earn $40,000 to $60,000.

At this point, they take on more responsibilities such as:

  • Salon or spa makeup services are paid by commission or hourly
  • Photoshoot bookings with day rates around $500
  • Theater productions with weekly or per-show contracts
  • TV stations as in-house artists paid hourly or per appearance

Building a reputation and specializing helps mid-level pros boost their income.

3. Experienced Makeup Artists: $60,000 – $100,000+

Once makeup artists have 5+ years of experience and an impressive portfolio, they can earn $60,000 up to $100,000 or more.

High-earning jobs include:

  • Union film/TV jobs with hourly rates over $70 and double pay for overtime
  • Celebrity clients paying $1,000 – $3,000 per day
  • Licensing their own product lines for added income
  • Head jobs at top spas or studios with benefits and profit-sharing

The top earners run their own businesses and have A-list clients. But it takes major dedication to reach this salary tier.

For details on makeup artist rates and fees, see this helpful article on how much does a makeup artist charge.

The Impact of Location, Experience, and Specialty on Makeup Artist Pay

As we’ve seen, makeup artists’ salaries can vary widely. But what accounts for those major differences in earning potential? Location, years of experience, and specialty all play key roles.

1. Location, Location, Location

Where a makeup artist works influences their income:

  • New York & Los Angeles pay the highest rates given the concentration of media, fashion, and entertainment jobs. But the cost of living is extremely high.
  • Regional markets like Atlanta, New Orleans, and Vancouver have plenty of film/TV work. Rates are strong with lower costs of living.
  • Mid-size cities offer theater, salon, and bridal work. Rates lag behind major markets but so does overhead.
  • Rural areas provide limited opportunities and lower pay rates. However, artists may be able to establish themselves quickly with less competition.

In general, urban areas pay more while rural settings pay less. But smart makeup artists focus on building a loyal clientele no matter where they’re based.

2. Experience Pays

A makeup artist’s pay tends to align with their years of experience:

  • 0-2 years: Entry-level and training wages
  • 3-5 years: Established with a specialty
  • 5-10 years: Lead jobs and top-tier clients
  • 10+ years: High-demand elite artist status

However, experience alone doesn’t guarantee top dollar. Makeup artists must continually upgrade their skills and network to win the best jobs.

3. Specialty Skills = Higher Pay

Developing expertise in a specific makeup niche also boosts income potential:


  • Required for film/TV creature effects
  • Complex techniques require years of practice
  • Can earn $500 – $1,500+ per day

Aerial/Circus Performance

  • Blends Makeup with extreme performance
  • Unique skills like stilts, silks, hoops
  • $300 – $800+ per show

Period/Historical Makeup

  • Required for historical theater and film
  • Needs extensive research and character work
  • $300 – $1,000 per day

So while well-rounded skills are essential, specialties give artists an edge in booking the best gigs.

Other Ways Makeup Artists Can Boost Their Income

So you’re a working makeup artist earning a decent wage, but you want to take your income to the next level. Besides getting more bookings, what other ways can you generate revenue?

Other Ways Makeup Artists Can Boost Their Income

There are several creative options makeup artists leverage to supplement their main income stream and build financial security:

1. Sell Retail Products

Most makeup artists work closely with cosmetic brands through pro discounts and free products. You can also earn a commission by selling products directly to clients.

  • Get a sales tax permit to legally sell retail items
  • Offer must-have products at the end of appointments
  • Create gift packs and bundles for easy shopping
  • Promote monthly specials and new launches
  • Consider creating your own makeup/brush line

Retail sales commission provides an effortless add-on income.

2. Create Educational Content

Share your expertise through classes, online tutorials, books, and workshops. These can be sold as:

  • One-time classes and workshops
  • Downloadable video tutorials
  • Monthly membership communities
  • Sponsored educational content

Leveraging your skills as an educator allows for passive income opportunities.

3. Monetize Social Media

Promote your work and affiliate products on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Ways to monetize include:

  • Affiliate links in profiles and posts
  • Sponsored content/brand partnerships
  • Selling digital products
  • Promoted video ads
  • Influencer collaborations

A strong social presence provides multiple income streams.

4. Invest in Your Business

Reinvest profits into your makeup artistry brand. Improvements like a customized website, professional equipment, and luxury studio space establish you as a top-tier pro and allow for increased pricing.

Smart business investments almost always yield bigger financial returns.

The income options are endless for savvy and determined makeup artists. Which ones will you leverage?

If you want to work for yourself, learn how to start a makeup artist business from home.

Getting Started as a Makeup Artist: Tips for Beginners

So you want to become a professional makeup artist but aren’t sure where to start. It’s an exciting career path, but launching a new beauty business can be daunting. Follow this beginner’s guide to get your makeup artistry career off the ground!

1. Choose Your Training

There are several options to get trained as a makeup artist:

  • Cosmetology school – Earn a cosmetology license including makeup training
  • Makeup schools – Attend a dedicated makeup artistry program
  • Online courses – Complete virtual makeup courses at your own pace
  • Apprenticeships – Assist established artists in learning on the job
  • Workshops/classes – Build skills through one-off training

Consider your time, budget, and learning style when choosing education.

Getting Started as a Makeup Artist: Tips for Beginners

Read up on the step-by-step process for becoming a makeup artist to understand training and licensing requirements.

2. Build Your Portfolio

A strong portfolio showcasing your skills is essential.

  • Reach out to photographers and models to collaborate on test shoots
  • Practice on friends and family to expand your portfolio diversity
  • Recreate looks from magazine ads or celebrities
  • Invest in a quality online portfolio like a website or app

Showcasing diverse looks is more important than the quantity of images.

3. Invest in Professional Tools

Having pro-level tools inspires confidence in clients. Recommended makeup kit essentials:

  • High-pigment eyeshadow palettes – at least 3 color schemes
  • Foundation range – variety of shades/undertones
  • Precision brushes – eye, lip, cheek, and multi-use
  • Disposables – mascara wands, lip brushes, spatulas

Build your kit over time and focus on versatile, high-performing cosmetics.

4. Develop Your Brand Image

Your personal brand as an artist matters. Be sure to:

  • Choose a memorable business name – short, descriptive names work best
  • Design a logo and color palette – convey your brand personality
  • Curate social media – showcase work on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook
  • Build website/online portfolio – establish a professional presence

Your branding represents you as an artist – put thought into it!

Follow these tips to launch your makeup artist career on a solid foundation. It takes consistent work, but the reward of doing what you love is priceless.

If you need guidance on building your portfolio, check out this guide on how to build a makeup artist portfolio.

Makeup Artistry as a Career: Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far, you know that working as a professional makeup artist offers immense creativity and satisfaction. But you also understand it requires significant training, practice, and business savvy to succeed.

While makeup artistry may seem glamorous from the outside, the reality involves hard work, dedication to honing your craft and dealing with the business demands of managing your freelance career.

The financial rewards can be substantial, but inconsistency is common. Earnings ebb and flow based on economic cycles, seasonality, and building your reputation over many years. Makeup artists must become masters of self-promotion and manage their finances through feast or famine periods.

The work itself requires stamina and precision. Long hours on your feet, the physical strain of hunching over clients, staying energized through late nights – makeup artistry tests your physical endurance. Performing precise techniques under extreme time pressure comes with a learning curve.

Yet for those fueled by a passion for the art of makeup, the joy of enhancing clients’ natural beauty makes the challenges worthwhile.

If you’re willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears to establish yourself, a career as a makeup artist can be incredibly fulfilling and financially rewarding. Just go in understanding that the path requires tenacity, savvy business skills, and an unfailing devotion to keep growing as an artist.

Now you have the unvarnished truth about the makeup artist career path. The choice of whether it’s the right fit for you is yours to make!


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