Monday, February 28, 2011

How to train to be a professional makeup artist for free

So you think you want to be a make-up artist?  Or maybe you just want to learn how to apply makeup to yourself.  Either way, consider some of these handy ways to learn more about the art of applying makeup.

Steps for the complete novice:
  1. Start by watching tutorial videos on sites such as YouTube.  Find videos by professional makeup lines such as Jane Iredale, Scott Barnes, and MAC.  There are also some decent videos by independent artists, such as Kandee Johnson, Michelle Phan, and the lovely ladies at Nature's Knockout.
  2. Check out books at the library on makeup, and buy those that you think you will want to use as reference material.  Start off with books such as Face Forward, Making Faces, the Bobby Brown Makeup Manual, Makeup Makeovers, or About Face.
  3. Buy a large palette of cheap makeup to use for experimenting.  There's nothing like a good box of shadows to spark the imagination.  I keep a shadow set by NYX in my kit in case a client asks for a color that I don't use on a regular basis.
  4. Practice applying makeup on yourself. Set a goal for yourself to try one completely new makeup look each week or even each day.  Learn what works for your face and what doesn't.  Try looks from magaines, ads, movies, or books.  Your main goal is to get your biggest mistakes out of the way now, before you touch someone else's face.
  5. Practice applying makeup on your friends and family.  Get a friend to bring over her makeup and use her brushes.  See what kinds of looks you can create from the items you are given.  If you have a bit of cash, consider investing in some sanitizing products such as Beauty So Clean Sanitizing Mist and Sanitizing Wipes, as well as some disposable makeup sponges and a basic set of "work" brushes.
Once you have a bit of practice, move on to the steps below.

Steps for the aspiring make-up artist:
  1. Start taking pictures of your work, even if it's just on friends and family.  Take your "practice subjects" (from step 5, above) into natural light and snap a few digital pictures of their head and the tops of their shoulders.  Just make sure you have them sign a photo release if you will be posting these images online.  You want to be able to show off your work so people have an idea of your abilities.
  2. Build a profile on a model/photographer networking site such as Model Mayhem.  Beware of the "adult" sections of this site, and make sure to clearly define your boundaries.  Search through photographers who are willing to "TFP" or "TFCD," which stands for "trade for prints" or "trade for CD."  You want to find models and photographers who will volunteer their time to get images for their portfolios.  Consider creating a TFP contract as well to make sure your photographer delivers images on time.
  3. Start assembling a makeup kit.  While buying makeup isn't exactly cheap, start thinking about what you'll need to buy in order to apply makeup on anyone.  Consider buying a few staples and then fill in with collections specific to models before a shoot, instead of investing in a whole collection at once.
  4. Create an online portfolio and website for free on a site like  I recommend using a template and modifying it slightly to suit your needs.  Eventually, you'll want to buy your own domain and host your site there, as it is looks more professional.
  5. Find a makeup mentor.  Search for local artists in your area that are successful.  Reach out to them, offering to assist for free with anything from cleaning brushes to applying foundation.  Tell them you are just getting started in the industry and would love to observe them in action.  Chances are, you will find 1-2 artists who are in need of someone to help with large weddings and other projects.  Apprentice work can often lead to paid assistant work in the future.
  6. Continue to search for projects to build your network.  Check for casting calls on Model Mayhem, look for local crew calls for independent films, or email organizers of fashion shows.  If you're interested in the bridal market, reach out to photographers and wedding planners at bridal shows.
Remember, it may be free to learn makeup artistry, but how you conduct yourself on jobs is what will get you called back for paid work.

Thinking about going pro? Check out my book, The Mercenary Makeup Artist: Breaking into the Business with Style.

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