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How to Get a Career as a Special Effects Makeup Artist

Updated: Sep 26


Lights, Camera, Action! How to Become a Special Effects Makeup Artist

Do you eagerly count down the days until Halloween the way most people anticipate Christmas, strictly because of the costumes and makeup looks? Do you watch episodes of “The Walking Dead” in slow motion so you can get a better look at this week’s deranged zombies? Is your Instagram feed filled with creative cosplay posts that showcase your unique talents with eyeshadows, foundations, lipsticks, and maybe even some liquid latex?


Perhaps a rewarding career as a special effects makeup artist is calling your name.


Becoming a certified makeup artist is a dream that’s well within your reach. It’s not limited to a precious few Hollywood elites with high-powered connections; a career in makeup artistry is two parts passion, one part drive, and a dash of required education. In just 600 hours — the equivalent of 15 full-time weeks — you could be well on your way toward sharing your magical powers with an enthralled audience.


How to Become a Makeup Artist

The first step in becoming a special effects makeup artist is completely involuntary: You have to love the craft. This is not an industry in which you can fake it until you make it. You must have the passion to fuel your purpose. Check.


Beyond that, special effects makeup artists need certification, which requires education. And that’s the fun part! Imagine the opportunity to learn about the world you love with like-minded students in a hands-on environment. The old clichés about school being a drag do not apply to cosmetology school. It’s exhilarating, artistic, and fun. But finding the right SFX makeup school is important. No matter what, you’ll need to learn the basics of makeup application before learning to apply prosthetics or smaller on-skin effects. You may dream of creating the appearance of wrinkles, wounds, and scars, but that all begins with a basic cosmetology foundation.


What is a special effects makeup artist’s salary?

Once you’re certified as a makeup artist, you are eligible to enter the exciting field of special effects makeup artistry. While the industry is small and competitive, opportunities exist — especially in California, New York, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, where TV shows, movies, and other forms of entertainment are so frequently made. According to the most recently updated U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those four states employ the highest number of makeup artists who work in theatrical and performance settings. And the average special effects makeup artist salary is nothing to scoff at — $99,990 (or $48 per hour).


Are you ready for your turn in the spotlight?


Education Requirements for Special Effects Makeup Artists

When you enroll for classes at specialized schools such as Cortiva Institute, you’re making an investment in yourself. Our makeup artistry and skin care curriculum is split into two 300-hour halves: One where you learn all the ins and outs of proper skin care and maintenance, and another where you study the art and science of several makeup applications. You’ll also acquire in-depth knowledge of anatomy and physiology, learn business acumen skills, and receive a wealth of career development training along the way.


By the end of the course, you’ll have the tools and insights to be able to work numerous rewarding fields — at a luxurious spa, for a local theater troupe, as an esthetician, or even in Hollywood as a special effects makeup artist for television and motion pictures. Can you imagine being able to write your own storybook ending? We can help you make it happen.


Ultimately, a professional special effects makeup artist needs repeated opportunities to perform the hands-on work of applying prosthetics, understanding the effects of various chemicals and products, and effectively communicating with a high-demand clientele. Are you up for the challenge?


The Best Special Effects Makeup Artist You Can Be

While you consider enrollment or even as you begin your certification classes, there are a few actions you can take to build up the skills needed to be a special effects makeup artist. Because special effects makeup artistry is one of the most creative professions in the world, you should always be exploring new opportunities to push the boundaries of your own creativity.


Flex those innovative muscles by experimenting on your family and friends. Host a costume party and offer to create specialized looks for everyone who attends, or volunteer to work on a local school play or haunted house. And take pictures. Your portfolio will be an instrumental part of your job application process for years to come.


Lights, camera, action! It’s your time to shine. Contact Cortiva Institute today and start turning your specialized visions of what makeup can be into a satisfying career that makes those around you stand and applaud.