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Occupational Profile

Make-Up Artist

Make-up artists prepare performers for stage, television and film appearances and photography shoots by applying make-up to portray a physical character, enhance beauty or create special effects.

  • Avg. Salary $45,100.00
  • Avg. Wage $23.32
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Artist, Cosmetologist

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

37%
37%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 10 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Make-Up Artist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Make-up Artists
NOC code: 5226.5
OBJECTIVE

Interest in precision working to manipulate brushes and other devices used for the care of skin, and to apply cosmetic and special effects make-up on actors and other performers

METHODICAL

Interest in compiling information from period files to obtain images of characters to be depicted; and in requisitioning cosmetics and make-up materials

INNOVATIVE

Interest in applying prostheses, cosmetics and make-up to change physical characteristics such as facial features, skin texture, body contours and dimensions, and in producing effects appropriate to characters and situations

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation. 

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Oct 03, 2016

Make-up artists work with news broadcasters and actors in television, motion picture, stage and theatre productions. In general, they assess performers' skin to ensure that make-up will not cause break outs or skin irritations, and use make-up to:

  • enhance performers' features for close up camera shots or the scrutiny of a live audience
  • restore the normal colour values of the hands and face under bright production lighting
  • create special features or effects such as scars, aging or a particular look for a character
  • create the illusion of a distorted or alien body (often with the assistance of three-dimensional prosthetics).

For each television, film or stage production, make-up artists analyze the script, noting events that affect each character's appearance (for example, time period changes, weather elements, sickness, injuries) and plan for each scene. They meet with producers, directors and production designers to discuss the desired look for all characters and integrate those wishes with the performer's wishes. 

Make-up artists must duplicate their work precisely time after time (for example, reproduce a bruise months later for the filming of a subsequent scene) because scenes often are shot out of order. Considerable research, testing and experimentation is required to create time period make-ups and special effects for science fiction and horror characters.

Working Conditions
Updated Oct 03, 2016

Make-up artists may stand for many hours at their work. In film making, a typical working day is 12 hours long but much of the time is spent watching and waiting.

Make-up artists work under pressure to finish their work in a set timeframe. They may be required to travel to fairly remote location shoots for television or film, and work in all kinds of weather and terrain. The bags they carry to work sites may weigh up to 10 kilograms. Lifting requirements are considerably more for artists who also must carry items such as stools and lighting equipment.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 10 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Oct 03, 2016

Make-up artists need the following characteristics:

  • good colour vision
  • creativity and imagination
  • confidence and an outgoing personality
  • good communication and interpersonal skills
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • good time management skills
  • the ability to take direction and accept criticism
  • the ability to consistently create an environment in which performers can focus on their work
  • the ability to work independently and with others in a team environment
  • the ability to work long hours.

They should enjoy performing tasks requiring precision, compiling information about character requirements and developing innovative approaches to their work.

Educational Requirements
Updated Oct 03, 2016

Make-up artists need skills and knowledge related to:

  • the proper care and use of make-up and related equipment and accessories such as wigs, facial hair pieces and special adhesives
  • hair styling techniques
  • colour, shading, texture and mixing pigments, and the effect of light on pigment and how pigment affects colour
  • the use of highlight and shadow to create the illusion of three dimensions
  • airbrushing techniques
  • bald caps and special effects make-up
  • skin care, esthetics, human anatomy and how aging affects the face and body
  • the safe use of adhesives and solvents for the application and removal of prosthetics.

Make-up artists also must be able to market their services and negotiate contracts.

There is no minimum education requirement in this occupation. However, successful completion of a Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) course and a Set Etiquette course is required to work on an International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) project. Some unions require members to have a high school diploma or equivalent. A background in theatre, film, television or visual arts is a definite asset.

Prospective make-up artists gain experience working under the supervision of recognized make-up artists. They also may acquire the skills and knowledge they need by taking related courses offered:

  • in some high school drama programs
  • in post-secondary drama programs (for more information, see the Actor occupational profile)
  • by private vocational schools.

Prospective make-up artists are advised to discuss their education options with program graduates and other make-up artists before enrolling in an education program.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Oct 03, 2016

Some theatre and television studios only hire IATSE members and require make-up artists to have insurance.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Oct 03, 2016

Make-up artists usually work on a contract basis for:

  • film and video production companies
  • television studios
  • theatre companies
  • dance and opera companies
  • photographers.

Creating character make-up requires research. Make-up artists need to build and maintain files of people's faces representing different nationalities, historical periods, and interesting or unusual looks. They also need to build a portfolio of photographs or videotapes of their best work to show potential employers.

To gain experience and recognition, make-up artists may do volunteer work for local theatres, not-for-profit film companies or community cable television stations.

Make-up artists must supply their own equipment and make-up. A good basic make-up kit costs about a thousand dollars. Top make-up artists in Alberta may have eight to fifty thousand dollars worth of equipment and supplies much of which must be replaced often. Larger film and television projects often pay a kit rental fee.

Most work opportunities are located in large urban centres. Until make-up artists establish contacts and build a reputation in the entertainment industry, they usually do other types of work as well. They may:

  • do personal make-overs for people preparing for special occasions such as weddings, graduations, photography sessions or Hallowe'en
  • work as sales clerks at cosmetic counters in department stores or as cosmeticians (for more information, see the Cosmetician and Esthetician occupational profiles)
  • teach theatrical make-up
  • work in the fashion and modelling industry
  • work for funeral homes.

In Alberta, even the most successful make-up artists do other types of work as well. The entertainment industry is limited and employers generally prefer to hire make-up artists they have worked with before.

Wage & Salary
Updated Oct 03, 2016

Fees depend on the nature of the contract and the reputation of the artist. In film and television, minimum rates are set by the IATSE collective agreement. (As of October 1, 2016, the minimum wage in Alberta is $12.20 per hour for most jobs. For more information, see Alberta Employment Standards.)

There are slow months of work as well as busy ones, so make-up artists may need to supplement their incomes at times with other part time jobs.

Other technical and co-ordinating occupations in motion pictures, broadcasting and the performing arts
NOC code: 5226

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $14.42 $31.19 $20.52 $18.70
Overall $17.00 $33.78 $23.32 $21.63
Top $18.50 $39.63 $27.82 $27.54

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Information, Culture, Recreation
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

37%
37%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

10%
10%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

1%
1%

2015 Vacancy Rate

N/A
Related High School Subjects
  • Fine Arts
    • Drama
    • Visual Arts
  • Science
    • Chemistry
  • Health, Recreation and Human Services
    • Esthetics
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
  • Personal and Food Services
Other Sources of Information
Updated Oct 03, 2016

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Locals Calgary website: www.iatse212.com

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Locals Edmonton website: www.iatse210.com

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Jan 18, 2013. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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