What does a Make-Up Artist do?

The Make-Up Artist will ensure that the Actors and Performers have suitable make-up for a performance. In theatre, they may also be referred to as Wigs, Hair and Make-Up Assistants, Technicians and Supervisors. Depending on the size of the production and the requirements of the show, there may be separate positions for wigs, hair and make-up staff, or they may be combined roles.

What are the main responsibilities of a Make-Up Artist?

  • Applying and removing make-up, facial hairpieces and prosthetics
  • The care and maintenance of the make-up
  • Ensuring that appropriate action is taken to reduce the risk of side effects from using special effects make-up
  • Being aware of any allergies of the cast 
  • Casting facial and body moulds and sculpting latex foam for prosthetics
  • Assisting with quick changes requiring make-up
  • Research on the styles of historical periods

What qualifications do you need to work in theatre make-up?

Often, academic qualifications are not as important as creative and practical skills. It’s possible to become a Make-Up Artist without a degree. You can complete traineeships and freelance work within the industry to gain experience. Qualifications such as an apprenticeship in make-up may be useful. Find training and experience opportunities in make-up to help you get into theatre here.

What skills do I need to work in make-up?

  • An understanding of historical and cultural styles
  • Excellent technical make-up skills
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Confident self-promotion
  • Effective teamwork
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Ability to replicate a design from paper

What does a career in make-up look like?

A lot of Make-Up Artists start as Trainees, Apprentices or Assistants, helping with shows and photoshoots for productions and working their way up whilst completing additional technique training. It is common for Make-Up Artists to be freelance so it is essential to be able to promote yourself and your work. Remember to take pictures of your work to build a portfolio. Read our blog 'How to become a freelancer in theatre' for more information.

How much can a Make-Up Artist earn?

A trainee can earn no less than the national minimum wage or union minimum. Grade 2 and 3 rates for 2023-2025 as per the SOLT/BECTU Agreement suggests a minimum weekly rate of £661.87 - £717.87. 

The above is a guide. Pay, salary or fee can vary depending on the theatre or company, as well as your personal experience. National institutions or commercial productions can pay in excess of the above, with profit-share or community theatre paying less. 

You can find theatre jobs via The Stage Jobs here 


Photo: Shutterstock

Updated: 6th June 2024

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