What Is the Average Salary for a Makeup Artist?

If you are considering a career as a makeup artist, you may be wondering what the average salary is for someone in this profession.

Job Description

A makeup artist is a person who applies makeup to not only models and performers but also to people in beauty salons and department stores. Most often, we think of makeup artists as people who help make celebrities look beautiful; however, makeup artists can also be called on to help actors look older or to look like monsters or aliens. They are also employed to do makeup for brides, girls going to proms and ladies who want professional help for other special occasions. Thus, the job is a varied one that usually requires some trade-school education as well as a great deal of on-the-job training.


The best-paid makeup artists work in the motion picture industry in Hollywood with an average salary of about $80,000 a year as opposed to the $30,000 to $40,000 a year made by makeup artists working elsewhere. But the competition for these positions is great, and the job openings are few and far between. In fact, one publication announced that every movie for the next 10 years could be handled by the makeup artists that are currently working in Hollywood. While this might be discouraging if you want to do makeup for films, it does not utterly rule out the possibility that--with the right combination of skills, assertiveness and networking--you could gain a position with a Hollywood studio.


More opportunities for makeup artists exist in the fields of modeling and photography. Starting on a freelance basis to get your work known is a good idea, especially since it generally takes time to build good relationships with modeling agencies and professional photographers. In general, junior freelance makeup artists make between $400 and $600 a day, and more experienced artists earn in the range of $1,200 to $2,000 a day. A drawback is that you probably won't work a regular 5-day, 40-hour work week. As a result, you might make only somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000 to $50,000 per year. In order to supplement your income, you should consider working in a beauty salon to make contacts and gain experience.


You might also consider doing makeup for theater performers. Doing so could allow you to travel all over the world with a stage company that is part of a successful show. Your skills may be needed to help older performers look younger or vice versa, depending on what is called for in the script. You may also have to cover imperfections or create a wound that looks real. Sometimes you will be called on to create facial prostheses like false noses and then incorporate them seamlessly into characters' faces. If a show has an extended run, the work can be steadier than what makeup artists frequently experience. In general, you will work as an independent contractor unless a theater or dance company hires you as an employee. In 2008, the average annual earnings for theatrical makeup artists were just over $26,000.

Other Factors

While you might earn more as a makeup artist in New York or California, you also have to be aware that these places have a higher cost of living than some other areas of the country. These places also have a greater concentration of makeup artists than other states, so the competition for jobs is more intense. Other places where you might find a need for your talents are cities like Las Vegas, Reno and Branson. You might even look into the possibility of working on a cruise ship. You have to weigh the pros and cons of where you want to work to make a decision that is right for you.