Key Makeup Artist

Apply the most important makeup during film shoots.
picture of Key Makeup Artist

Quick Stats

Salary Range
$18,000 – $102,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Key Makeup Artists do?

Getting everyone looking good on a movie set or catwalk is no easy task. As a Key Makeup Artist, you do your part by coming up with looks and applying makeup to everyone from bit players to lead Actors to Models.

When you’re working on a movie or television set as a Key Makeup Artist, you often collaborate closely with the Makeup Department Head. Together, the two of you come up with specific looks, and then you split up the necessary tasks. This means that throughout shooting, as a Key Makeup Artist, you might be responsible for certain characters or types of look, like scars or cadaver makeup.

The two of you also work closely with the Director, getting input on how the makeup should influence the look of a scene. While on set, you also oversee the work of the other Makeup Artists, doling out tasks and making sure looks are being recreated consistently from shot to shot.

If you decide that Models are more your cup of tea, you can work on fashion shoots or shows. In the fashion world, the Key Makeup Artist is the lead, so you’re in charge of it all. You work with the Fashion Designer to come up with a look that highlights the clothing or draws attention to specific features of the Models.

You then get to work making it all happen. You figure out the timing of the show, train your Assistant Makeup Artists, and coordinate with cosmetic companies to market their products. Working in the fashion world calls for faster work than on a movie set, though your looks don’t need to last as long.

Should I be a Key Makeup Artist?

You should have a high school degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Reliable: You can always be counted on to do a good job.
  • Team Player: You're able to listen, communicate, and work with tons of different people.
  • Calm Under Pressure: You keep your cool when dealing with highly stressful situations.

  • Also known as: Key Make Up Artist

    How to become a Key Makeup Artist

    Most Key Makeup Artists have a Certificate or no higher education and get on-the-job training. Think about earning a Certificate or Bachelor's degree to increase your competitiveness in the field. Chart?chd=s:93agaa&chl=no+college+%2850%25%29|certificate+%2845%25%29||bachelor%27s+%285%25%29||&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,50,50
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