What Factors Affect Makeup Artist Rates?

Kathleen Howard

A makeup artist, also sometimes written make-up artist, is a professional who applies makeup and sometimes prosthetics to the face and body. An artist’s rates largely depend on his or her skill level, training and professional experience. Makeup artist rates also vary by location, industry and the specific job. Since many makeup artists are booked per day, they usually charge higher rates for long, complicated jobs.

Various types of makeup.
Various types of makeup.

One of the most important factors that affect makeup artist rates is the individual’s skill level. Skill level is usually determined by an artist’s portfolio, training and professional experience. A makeup artist who is just beginning his or her career will usually charge less than one with years of experience. As professionals build their reputation and portfolio, they can begin increasing their rates. Many makeup artists also increase their earning potential by continuing to take classes and learn new techniques throughout their career.

A makeup artist applies mascara to a client.
A makeup artist applies mascara to a client.

Location is another important factor that affects makeup artist rates. While this is not always true, makeup artists in large metropolitan areas tend to earn more than those working in smaller towns. The demand for makeup artists will significantly impact how much artists in the area can charge. In small towns, jobs are sometimes limited. Larger cities usually offer more job opportunities and the potential to earn higher wages.

A makeup artist applies blush to a woman's face.
A makeup artist applies blush to a woman's face.

Makeup artist rates also vary by industry. The highest paid artists are usually those who work on high-budget films, television shows and advertisements. Depending on the specific assignment, these jobs usually require makeup artists skilled in special effects (fx) makeup, fashion makeup and airbrush makeup. While the entertainment industry is generally the highest paying, makeup artists rates are lower for professionals who do theatrical makeup for smaller, low-budget productions. The rates one earns will depend on his or her employer’s budget as well as the length and complexity of the job.

A makeup artist will need a variety of makeup brushes.
A makeup artist will need a variety of makeup brushes.

The entertainment industry is not the only industry that employs makeup artists. These professionals work in a variety of industries. While many makeup artists apply cosmetics, others become educators and sales representatives. Many makeup artists also choose to specialize in certain areas of the field, like airbrushing, bridal makeup or fx makeup. These professionals commonly work in salons or spas as well as freelance.

Freelance makeup artists are typically paid by the day, while full-time workers might earn an annual salary or hourly wage. Most full-time employees are also given certain benefits including healthcare and paid time off. Freelance makeup artists are not given these benefits. The advantage of freelancing is that professionals can set their own makeup artist rates instead of having these rates dictated by an employer.

A good makeup artist should have an array of eyeshadow colors.
A good makeup artist should have an array of eyeshadow colors.

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Discussion Comments


@KoiwiGal - Most of the time a makeup artist isn't going to be freelancing like that anyway, particularly if they are the kind of makeup artist that works with the general public. They'll be attached to some kind of business and will get clients that way.

So I'd imagine that would affect their pay as well, since they'd have to throw a percentage at the company, although in return they'd have someone else to handle a lot of the business side of things.


@bythewell - Honestly, I think the average person looking for a makeup artist is just going to be looking at portfolio pictures and deciding from that and the price. They won't have many connections in the industry themselves, so it would be difficult for them to know who is popular and who isn't.

I'd be more concerned with makeup artists who use digital enhancements in their portfolios. I think it would be difficult to find photos that haven't been enhanced if you're working in the fashion or film industry. So you can't just judge from the photos that end up in magazines.


While I think that skill is often linked to popularity, I don't think that it is always linked to pay-rates. If you're really lucky, you can find someone who is extremely skilled but doesn't charge the earth because they are still relatively unknown.

If you're really unlucky you might end up with someone who has happened to become very popular but isn't all that skilled, which I can definitely imagine happening with a makeup artist who happened to work for someone famous and then just uses that name to sell themselves.

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