Makeup Artist Characteristics and Qualities

Are you interested in a career as a makeup artist? Wonderful! It's an exciting and creative way to make a living. Are you interested to learn what makes a good makeup artist? Also good! Asking that question is the first step to becoming a professional.

What Makes a Good Makeup Artist?​

We've talked with MUAs from many different cities and asked them, what are the makeup artist characteristics and qualities that someone would need to succeed? Here's what they said.

They're Quick and They're Capable

This one seems obvious, but it came up again and again. A successful makeup artist knows what she or he is doing, and will be able to quickly and efficiently create the look that she or he has been paid to produce. They've got the skills.

That can be challenging, because the look you're requested to produce can vary quite a bit! You have to be able to quickly understand a person's skin tone and facial contours and what would look best on them, but sometimes you'll need to create a look that surprises you.

Here's what we mean by that: It's often assumed that makeup artists get paid to help people find their best look... but that's not always the case! Very often you'll work with a photographer who wants an avant garde look, or a commercial director who wants the makeup to express a certain emotion state (such as sadness, anger, loneliness), or you may even work with a bride who is CERTAIN she wants a look that doesn't quite work for her.

In other words, you'll need to have a great amount of control over the looks you produce, because the longer you're in the business, the more you'll be get some pretty odd requests.

The makeup artists who are able to make a living are at the top of their game, and they've worked hard to get there.

Makeup Artist Qualities

That brings us to the second of the makeup artist qualities, which is...

They Are Experienced

There's only way to develop your makeup artist skills, and that is through EXPERIENCE. You just need to get out there and work with as many people as you can.

Here's the good news: you've got a face, and it is always available for practice. So try everything. Different looks, different products, different lighting. Find what works and what DOESN'T work. Become an expert on your face.

Here's the bad news: your face is not nearly enough! Every human face is different, and being an expert at what looks best on you isn't enough. Your goal is to be able to work with absolutely anyone, so you need to work with people with drastically different features and skin tones. You need to be working on new faces, all the time.

Experience is important because it'll prepare you for the trillions of different experiences you'll face as a MUA. But there's another reason why it's super important: the more experience you have, the more confident you'll be. You will KNOW that you can walk into any situation and kick some butt, and that is a pretty wonderful feeling.

We've written a couple posts on how to get experience, and they'll help you find people to work with.

They Show Up on Time!

Believe it or not, being punctual and showing up on time might be the most important of the makeup artist qualities. That sounds weird, right? But think about it: if the MUA doesn't show up on time, she can't do the job she was hired for! For most gigs, makeup is applied before anything else happens---before the photoshoot, the runway, or the walk down the aisle. Being there at the appropriate time is INCREDIBLY important.

Here's the good news: punctuality, like everything else, is a skill. Even if you're bad at it now, you practice it until it becomes second nature. Some of the most capable makeup artists around had to really work on being on time, and--if we're being honest, we're still getting the hang of punctuality!--so we've written a post about how to get places on time. 

They Know How to Work with Other People

This also sounds a little bit silly, but it's true: you will never work alone as a makeup artist! There will always be at least one other person around, and very often, dozens of people around! You'll need to be able to work with others and collaborate with them.

A big part of a MUAs job is interviewing/having meetings with a "decision maker" and determining the right look for the job. The decision maker is the person who has the final say on what the style of the makeup will be. If it's a wedding, the decision maker is usually the bride; if it's a photo shoot, it may be the photographer; if it's an advertisement, it's usually the creative director of the company paying for the ad.

Very often, those meetings are collaborative exercises, where both the MUA and the director/photographer/client brainstorm ideas (although sometimes it's not that collaborative, and the decision maker will say, "This is what we need"). So being able to communicate with others and intuit their desires is important.

But there's another reason why people skills are important: if you're a MUA, you're going to come across some difficult personalities. It may be a bride who is freaking out on her big day, a model who is bit of a prima donna, or a photographer who is not quite certain about the look he wants. You will definitely meet some sparkly magical people, but you'll also meet a couple of monsters, and you'll need to be able to get the job done, even when they person you're working with is a little "prickly."

They LOVE Makeup

Last but not least, you've got to love it! This is usually the easiest of characteristics we've mentioned, because most of the people who are seriously considering a career in makeup absolutely love makeup. This, really, is the most important characteristic. If you love makeup, applying makeup, and coming up with looks, you'll keep going until you've built a great career.

Practice Makes Perfect---In Other Words, You Got This

If you're a little freaked out by any of the makeup artist characteristics above, DON'T BE. You can do it. The great news about each of the items above is that you can practice them. Lack experience? Offer your services to people in your area for free. Do you always run late? Practice being on time. Terrified of working with others? So are most people who are starting out! If you're nervous, that is OK. You've got what it takes to make it, and if you keep trying, it's only a matter of time before you are living the life you want to live!

Image Credit: "Sydney Fashion Week - Backstage at Fashion Assassin - Cargo Hall" by Charlie Brewer via Wikimedia Commons (changes made to original: image resized)

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