Make-Up Artist Roles

Explore the range of make-up artist roles

From trainee to chief designer, there’s a range of make-up artist roles to suit the school leaver or career changer.

Great Career Opportunities with Make-Up Artist Roles

The UK ‘entertainment’ industry is vibrant and varied which is great news if you want to be a make-up artist. Whether you wish to specialise in a type of work (eg special effects) or concentrate on an industry sector (such as film), there many different make-up artist roles on offer for those with professional training behind them.

Training as a Make-Up Artist is the Key to Promotion

Our emphasis is on ‘professional’ because this is a competitive industry and the poorly trained will find it hard to get a foothold and sustain any kind of career without the proper training behind them. The make-up artist role is a key one in any production so taking your training seriously will put you in a strong position.

These days, make-up artists are required to be competent in both modern/contemporary and period make-up, prosthetics, and hairdressing. For this reason, Brushstroke courses are designed and structured to equip you with these highly sought-after skills. Then, you can go on to work anywhere in the industry.

Make-Up Artist Job Descriptions

Titles may vary but, generally, there are 3 main make-up artist roles:

  1. Trainee/assistant
  2. Artist/senior artist
  3. Designer/chief

Depending upon the production, and therefore budget, the make-up and hair departments may be combined and led by a single designer – hence the importance of hairdressing skills.


This may be the first rung of the ladder but it’s also an opportunity to observe and learn so much. As a trainee or assistant, your role is to help the more senior on-set make-up artists do their job. For example, setting up and maintaining workstations (cleaning, checking supplies and purchasing, etc), assisting the make-up and hair artist on set, and moving kit between locations. The more experienced and skilled trainee/assistant can be given certain responsibilities with individual performers. You would also be involved in touch-up between takes and general continuity tasks.

Sometimes, there are specific roles such as ‘crowd trainee’. As one of our past students, Dani Haigh, says: “…we were always first in, making sure all the equipment was switched on and ready, hairpieces set out and any continuity pictures to hand. We were also in charge of making teas and coffees, and sorting the breakfast order for the rest of our team!” Dani makes a very important general point about being a trainee: “Basically our job was to be the helping hand, always on alert and making sure that we knew where things were instant”. You can read more about her experiences as a newly-trained make-up artist in our blog.

Carla Viljoen, one of our fashion and ‘red carpet’ make-up tutors (and Brushstroke ITEC qualification manager) sums it all up for us:

“As a trainee, this is your chance to quietly observe and learn your trade. The smart ones use this time to continue their training and gain some really valuable experience from the best in the business.”

Artist/Senior Artist

At this level, you’ll probably have at least 18 months’ experience behind you. You’ll be expected to create make-up and hairstyles to meet specific production requirements. You’re likely to oversee continuity during filming and can expect to work throughout pre-production and production.

For working in film and TV, the artist’s work is directed by the make-up designer who may provide you with detailed notes and reference material or just a rough idea of what’s required. You’re likely to work with the principal and supporting performers (sometimes by request), usually looking after several at a time throughout a shoot.

On smaller productions, the role of the on-set make-up artist carries greater responsibility – from managing suppliers and producers (eg wig and prosthetics) to discussing colour palettes with production and costume designers. This is where your organisational skills will come in handy because you might be making appointments for performers to attend wig fittings or prosthetic castings – sometimes accompanying them on these trips to ensure all goes well.

Says one of our tutors, Paula Cahill, a film, TV and stage senior make-up artist (and Brushstroke BTEC qualification manager):

“As a fully-fledged artist, you need to be fast and skilful. For example on a TV soap, you’ll be part of a team working really fast from one scene to the next with touch-ups in between. It can be an adrenaline-fuelled day!”

Designer/Chief (sometimes known as ‘Key Make-Up Artist’)

The make-up and hair designer is responsible for the overall design, application, continuity, and care throughout the pre-production and production of a TV programme or film.

As well as managing their own area, the designer works closely with key people from other departments – directors, performers, costume, production, location – to ensure that the overall design is consistent with the rest of the production.

They assess make-up and hair requirements, set up the department, recruit staff, and prepare budgets and schedules. They break down the script scene-by-scene to identify the precise make-up and hair requirements. This means taking into account everything from successfully ‘ageing’ a character over time, to extreme weather conditions on location.

Anita Perrett, TV senior make-up artist and Brushstroke qualifications supervisor advises:

“The better your training the more likely you are to progress and find yourself a job that suits you – whether you dream of being in charge of the complete look of a production or decide to specialise in a skill or one area of the industry.”

Work Experience and Contract Opportunities at Brushstroke

Opportunities to work as make-up artists in trainee or assistant roles often arise for our students both during and after their courses. These opportunities represent the chance to work on authentic film, TV, stage, or fashion productions. Naturally, we can’t guarantee the volume or nature of these opportunities but they do occur through our tutors seeking assistants as well as from our other industry contacts. These opportunities enable students to not only test their developing skills but also put our training into the context of what they need to take on a make-up artist role.

More Information

Makeup and Hair Diploma Courses

2 Year
Makeup & Hair

BTEC Level 3 Diploma

Our most thorough training to prepare you for a career as an artist in TV, film, stage and fashion.

7 Month
MakeUp & Hair

ITEC Level 3 Diploma

The ideal course for those wanting to change career or work round family commitments.

1 Year
Haird & Barbering 

VTCT Level 2 Diploma

An intensive course taught by Toni & Guy trained tutors to complete your training as a versatile artist.

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HND Level 5 Diploma

Performing Arts- Make-up

This course is an optional 1-year extension of the 2-Year BTEC Make-up & Hair Course.


Makeup qualifications and the best training for the entertainment industry.


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Film, TV & Stage

There are endless options for makeup artists working in film and TV, from Sci-fi movie sets, to West End shows and soaps.