What Does a Theater Makeup Artist Do?


What Does a Theater Makeup Artist Do?

A theater makeup artist specializes in the art of changing the outward appearance of an actor, performer or model. They assist in creating the façade of certain characters that actors portray during theater production. In addition to the theater, there can be a variety of settings such as film, photography shoots, television, video and live music.

The area of focus is predominantly the face but a theater makeup artist also works with a performer’s hair and other extremities. The art involves the use of paints, makeup, plastic, wigs and hair patches. In addition, techniques can vary from basic methods to intricate makeup or special effects.

Aside from working with the needs of a performer, the artist has to take into consideration the stage lighting and other special conditions such as weather or the style of the performance. Additionally, the director’s perception is very important.

Usual Work Activities

Depending on the type of job, a theater makeup artist can work alone, with a make-up design team or as an assistant for an executive. As well, job activities can vary and may include the following:

  • Maintain and fit hairpieces and wigs
  • Work fast and precisely under deadlines
  • Sketch design ideas for makeup and hairstyles
  • Accurate time management for applying makeup
  • Clarifying visual requirements with the performer
  • Keep informed about current beauty products and makeup
  • Coordinate with the design team for consistency and accuracy
  • Stay educated about current health and safety issues and laws
  • Budget, source and order equipment and material from suppliers
  • Record detailed notes and photographs of work to maintain current portfolio
  • Knowledge of prosthetics like body molds, face casting and latex foam sculpting
  • Knowledge of potential allergic reactions and negative effects caused by makeup
  • Prepare the skin for makeup applications and evaluate the skin type to prevent irritation
  • Apply a practical understanding of color, the photographic process, special effects and lighting
  • Read the script to establish what is needed such as budget, a certain makeup look and materials
  • Confirm that there is suitable action to minimize side effects caused from certain makeup or hair techniques


In general, it helps to have certain characteristics to become a theater makeup artist such as dynamic creativity. As well, technical skills for applying makeup are needed. Other special characteristics consist of teamwork, unusual hours or overtime, work well under pressure and deadlines and cooperating with directors, performers and designers.