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.

Types of Makeup Career Pathways – What You Need to Know

makeup artist career path

ACSM courses open the doors to a wide array of makeup careers that can take you so much further than the salon. Armed with the best possible specialised education, you will find opportunities in the fashion, beauty and retail industries and in the performing arts in exciting fields such as film and theatre makeup.

Makeup Career opportunities exist with companies both large and small, or to be your own boss as an independent freelancer. And if working overseas is a part of your dream, an ACSM course can be the first step for an exciting international career.

For example, our Diploma of Screen and Media prepares you for the glamorous world of film, TV, high-fashion, photographic and stage makeup. The course builds the highly-sought after skills you’ll need to establish a range of careers in the world of specialist makeup. If you’re creative and ambitious, if you pride yourself on being a little different to the competition – this could be the perfect course for you.

Your qualifications could lead you into number of makeup careers, including:

  • Special effects makeup
  • Professional makeup artist
  • Film, TV and stage makeup
  • Retail makeup artist
  • Freelance makeup artist
  • Prosthetic artist
  • Editorial makeup artist
  • Face/body painter
  • Social media influencer

ACSM can provide you with the information you need about all our courses, which include a Certificate III in Makeup, a Certificate II in Retail Cosmetics, a Diploma of Screen and Media, a dual qualification Diploma of Beauty Therapy and Diploma of Screen and Media, along with a range of Beauty Therapy courses at our sister school, ACBT.

While a formal qualification may not be absolutely essential, many larger organisations and brands will often prefer to employ someone who is certified. This increases their confidence that you will already have mastered the skills essential to the job. They also know that some parts of your training can only be learned in a classroom. They want to be confident that you’re already across the technical aspects of the craft and that you understand how to operate within a safe and creative environment. In short, a certificate or diploma from ACSM will make you more readily employable in your makeup career.

ACSM also offers a variety of short courses and workshops that will help you to keep up with industry trends and new techniques or just learn new skills for your own use.


What Does a Special Effects Makeup Artist Do?

special effects makeup ACSM

Have you ever used makeup to transform yourself or a friend and found yourself daydreaming about being a special effects makeup artist for a living?

It’s a highly specialised and incredibly creative career – and getting started isn’t as hard as you probably think!

From Avatar to Aliens, Game of Thrones, The Grinch to awesome Halloween makeup, there are very talented people behind the scenes in showbiz creating those iconic looks.

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Which ACSM Short Course Suits You Best

ACSM_makeup short courses perth halloween makeup


Want to transform into a spooky ghoul for Halloween? Or is the glitz and glamour of a drag show more your vibe?
ACSM offer makeup short courses in Perth to brush up on a range of skills, from teen makeup workshops to advanced Halloween SFX.

Why take a makeup short course in Perth?

Short courses are a great intro to the exciting, varied world of beauty.

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