Becoming a Theatrical Makeup Artist – What It’s Really Like

theatrical makeup being applied

Schooldays are over, and you’re looking to start out in a career. You want more than just a job – you want a stimulating, challenging career where you can truly express your creativity.

If you’ve always been interested in makeup, then you need to take a serious look at the world of the theatrical makeup artistry. Special effects and theatrical makeup skills are in constant demand in the exciting worlds of stage, film and TV. And if you have the travel bug, you’re in luck, because talented makeup artists are highly sought after all around the world so travel could be on the cards for you!

If this sounds like you, here are some quick insights into the exciting and rewarding working life of a theatrical/performance makeup artist.

What do theatrical makeup artists do?

Theatrical makeup artists apply makeup to performers to reflect the period, setting, and situation of their role. They alter, maintain and re-apply makeup during productions to allow for changes to lighting and to ensure continuity of effect.

The responsibilities of a theatrical makeup artist are wide-ranging and varied and may include:

  • Studying production information, character descriptions, period settings, and film sets.
  • Cleansing, toning and preparing the skin for makeup application.
  • Selecting and applying desired makeup from stock, or mixing oil, grease, and colouring to achieve the required effects.
  • Assessing performers’ skin to help guard against break-outs and skin irritations.
  • Identifying and ordering supplies and materials for special effects, such as wigs, prosthetics or plaster models.

How much do theatrical makeup artists earn?

As you’d expect, pay rates will vary depending on your particular job, where you’re working and how much experience you have. Currently, theatrical makeup artists in Australia can expect to earn in the range of $50,000 to $70,000 per year. (, July 2019).

Reasons to work in theatre makeup

  • Theatrical makeup artists get to exercise their creativity alongside a broad range of fellow creative people.
  • Variety is part of the normal working day – this is certainly not a traditional 9-5 job!
  • Theatrical makeup expertise is portable – so another exciting benefit is that you could find yourself working internationally.


Formal qualifications are a vital first step towards success as a theatrical makeup artist. With a history spanning over 30 years, ACSM is so much more than just a beauty school. Our reputation for quality training and education means an ACSM diploma or certificate is highly prized by prospective employers. To find out which makeup artist course is right for you, click here.