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Becoming a Make-up ArtistI have been contacted alot lately about becoming a make-up artist and the different courses that are out there. So I thought I would put together a few tips:


Everything in life starts with an idea. If you believe it is possible and put all your determination into it, things will happen for you. Everything takes time so try not to get disheartened. Starting off you will get little to no money and it will seem like a thankless job. However if you love the job you are doing all the pain will be worth it right?

Do your research, find make-up artists you like and that inspire you. Tear sheets out of magazines, look at websites, read blogs and watch youtube videos. Then practise practise practise. Try and get as many of your unsuspecting friends, girlfriends, moms or sisters to sit down and practise on them! It’s one thing being able to do make-up on yourself, its another to apply it on someone else. Try and get as many different looking people as you can, with different eyeshapes, lipshapes, skin tones etc. This will prepare you for any eventuality that you may come across when you start working as a professional make-up artist.


I trained in a private makeup school in Ireland, it was a part time course over 3 months, which to be honest is a very short space of time. It doesn’t allow you enough practise of different techniques and different skin types, people etc.  If I was to do it all over again I would attend the 4 year full time makeup course in IADT, it is much more comprehensive and prepares you for every aspect of the Make-Up Industry.

I would have loved to go abroad and study, but at the time I never really considered it as an option. There are a few courses that really stand out in my mind, they are the Make-up Forever Course in Paris, Blanche Macdonald course in Canada, London College of Fashion and Brushstrokes which are both in the UK.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good or bad a course is that you choose, you will learn only as much as you are willing. No one can teach you to be a fantastic Make-Up Artist, it is a combination of learning the technique, practising your skills and a bit of raw talent, then even that isn’t enough…if you are going to work freelance you have to have a business acumen to boot.


Probably the fastest way to get experience and learn the trade is by getting a job on a make-up counter. They have great training programmes as well as some of the counters will give you the opportunity to do fashion shows and shoots if you are with them long enough. The only thing about this is that it is very sales focused, so if like me you are rubbish at selling people things, then this route is not for you. Another option is to test with photographers and models. Work for local theatre productions for free. Work on short films. They don’t pay and they can be very hard work, but the experience is invaluable. The best way to get in contact with people is on the many great websites out there. For fashion testing try Model Mayhem or Folio32, if you are keen to get into film and tv try the Film Makers Network,  also place your own adverts saying that you would like to practise and are willing to work for free. I am sure that you will get loads of people willing to take you up on your offer.

Another great way to get experience and learn to tread the boards is by assisting a Make-Up Artist. Make sure that you do your research before hand, remember they probably get requests for assistants all the time so you have to make your request stand out from the crowd. The best way to make sure that you are not even considered is by not even addressing the person by name. It amazes me how many requests I get from people saying “hi there” or “to whom it may concern”, you just know they have sent the same email to 100 other make-up artists. Make sure that you make it known that you have seen their work and have done a bit of homework first.


The most important thing that a Make-Up Artist will own is not the best foundation or the brightest eyeshadow. It is in fact your portfolio. It is the one thing that will get you jobs and shows people what you are capable of. In a beauty driven industry it is imperitive that your posrtfolio looks the part. Make sure that the prints are impeccable in large format and bound in a professional way. I like the books by House of Portfolios. If you can’t find anyone to test with, it may even be an idea to pay a photographer to take good shots of your work. Nothing screams amateur more than badly taken photos! Linked into your portfolio is your website and business cards. Again these should be really well designed, if you can’t do it well enough yourself, then pay someone to do it for you, after all you can’t be brilliant at everything! I once went to a talk given by Sarah Newman of “The Dragons Den”, in which she said you have to learn what you are good at and when to call in the professionals.


In the beginning you will find yourself working for free alot, but don’t worry, this is not in vain, you are not a charity case. Not only is it to build experience, but it is also to build invaluable contacts. There have been many occasions that I have worked for free and people have brought me back for paid assignments. As people’s careers build and grow so will yours. You will soon learn to weed the time wasters and users from the genuine professionals just trying to make a break.


I know I said this at the first point, but I think it is really important to stress again…you are going to have loads of times of self doubt, where you think: “What am I doing, maybe I’m not cut out for this” Just believe in yourself and know that your big break could be right around the corner. Also enjoy the journey, life is an adventure with ups and downs, if it was too easy it wouldn’t be worth doing.

That’s all for now 🙂 If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me: emma@emmafarrellmakeup.com or 0863274449

Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • celinemarrec says:

    Hi Emma,

    I am becoming more and more aware of petro chemicals being too much part of our life and house… There are plenty in our soaps, shampoo, make up and cleaning products. Parabens, artificial fragrances and all those bad stuff are damaging our skin.

    What do you think about natural/organic make up?

  • emmafarrell says:

    Hi Celine,

    Thanks for getting in contact. That’s an interesting question. I can definitely see the positive aspects of Organic and Mineral make-up. In fact I do have some organic brands in my kit. Namely Lagona and Sante. The are german brands which are 100% organic unlike alot of the mineral make-up out there that is selling itself as 100% natural when in fact it isn’t.

    Perhaps I should write an in-depth article about the subject.

    All the best,


  • Sarah Mcc says:

    Hey Emma,

    Im just starting out on the path to becoming a makeup artist and just wanted to say I found your information really helpfull.
    Thank you

  • Emma Farrell says:

    Hi Sarah, Thanks for commenting, I am glad that I could be of some help 🙂

  • Lauren_b22 says:

    Im so glad i came across this article!! im only starting out and am already starting to doubt myself and think im not good enough!!! at the moment im literally doing make up everyday on friends and family and scouring the job sites for make up counter jobs!!! I love doing make up i could let hours go by just doing make up and testing different looks!!! this is a great article and has inspired me!!! thanks Emma!!!

  • Emma Farrell says:

    Hi Lauren, thanks for commenting, I am delighted that it helped! If you are looking for a counter job, go to the counter and ask to speak to the counter manager and give them your cv. Keep going back on a weekly basis so they start to remember your face. Get photographs of your work, so you can show them how good you are. 

    You can also try http://www.esteelaudercareers.com/retail/esteelauder/index.html

  • Natke05 says:

    I was so glad to find this post.:D im doin a 6week private make up course next month, it not an educational cert one. but its a start for me, i want to do the course in galway next year, but i was wondering do i need a educational qualification to be a freelancer?? Natalie.x

  • Emma Farrell says:

    Best of luck with your course! No you don’t need a qualification to be a freelancer. Some of the best makeup artists in the world are self taught. I think that education is important though because it gives you the opportunity to practise your skills in a safe environment. No matter what course you do, you will still have a lot to learn on the job, which only comes with experience. I still do courses and workshops to try and learn new skills.

  • Kittens :) says:

    hey emma, thanks for your posting this advice to budding makeup artists, just wondering, do you know of any good makeup courses in london? im graduating next year and i have a sudden interest to do a course there…thanks again 🙂

  • Emma Farrell says:

    It is my pleasure. I think the London College of Fashion does the best makeup course xx

  • Emma Farrell says:

    Hi! Sorry thought I had answered you already, obviously not…I think the London College of Fashions course is the best, but really depends what aspect of the industry you want to get into. What would you like to do?

  • Lipglossandslippers says:

    I love this post, I’m just starting out myself and as i have a really good paying job at the moment that I’ll be honest I wouldnt miss for a second i cant afford to get out there full time. I’ve been applying for some part time work on counters but finding it sooo hard as i have no retail experieince. I’ll deffo hit the counters directly though now. Love the blog BTW too.


  • Emma Farrell says:

    Thanks for commenting. I know how tough it can be when you are starting out, it is scary taking the first leap! I have heard that if you have any sort of retail experience it really helps with counter applications, so maybe get a job in the clothing section of Brown Thomas or something, then when you have enough experience there you can transfer over to make-up..thanks for the compliments of the blog, very much appreciated xx

  • Alison says:

    Hi Emma, Thank you for posting this advise, I have spent hours trawling through the internet to get different opinions and advise on courses, and qualifications. I am changing careers so I need to pick the right course for me. Do you think a qualification in hairdressing with the make-up would be beneficial in getting work and what is the best qualification to look for when choosing a make-up course other than a degree? Your advise would be really appreciated. Alison

  • Emma Farrell says:

    Hi Alison,

    Thanks for getting in touch. I am delighted that you found the information helpful. Yes I think that to have hairdressing would be VERY beneficial. Yes if I was starting out again, I would do a defree in makeup, it will stand to you in uears to come. If you are not persuing a degree, then I would say that the length of the course is important. The longer a course is, the more time you will have to practise and get confidence before heading out and working on clients.

  • […] reason for my starting this section is that one of the most popular posts on my blog is How to become a Makeup Artist. I also get emails every day from people hoping to become make-up artists and want to help them in […]

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