Kaitoi Whakapaipai Kanohi
Make-up artists apply make-up to enhance or alter people's appearances.
Pay rates for make-up artists vary depending on their ability, how often they work, and what type of work they do.
Source: careers.govt.nz research, Media Makeup, 2019; and Screen Industry Guild, 2019.
Pay for make-up artists varies depending on skills, experience and where they work.
Pay for make-up artists in salons and stores
- Make-up artists in salons and stores usually earn minimum wage, and often work part time.
- Make-up artists working as team leaders or managers can earn up to $30 an hour.
They may receive bonuses, commissions and staff discounts.
Pay for make-up artists in television
- Assistant make-up artists in television – usually freelancers – earn from $25 an hour.
- Make-up team leaders – usually employees – earn from $30 an hour.
Pay for make-up artists at New Zealand film production companies
- Make-up artists in film earn from $250 per half day, or $500 per day.
- Make-up designers – who create the overall make-up look for a production – earn from $350 per half day, or $650 per day.
They receive time and a half over 10 hours, and double time after 12 hours, and may charge kit fees.
Pay for freelance make-up artists
Freelance make-up artists’ income depends on how often they work, and the success of their business.
- Recently qualified freelance make-up artists with some work experience usually start on $50 an hour.
- Experienced freelance make-up artists usually earn $70 to $130 an hour.
- Senior freelance make-up artists who also style hair can earn $150 an hour or more.
They may also charge for travel and food.
Source: careers.govt.nz research, 2019; Media Makeup; and Screen Industry Guild, 'New Zealand Crew Rates', 2018.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
- Screen Industry Guild website - film and television crew rates (PDF - 162KB)
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Make-up artists may do some or all of the following:
- consult with clients about the look they want
- read scripts and research the background to historic film or television productions
- write make-up sheets explaining what make-up look should be applied
- put make-up on clients and style their hair for special occasions and performances
- clean and sanitise their brushes and equipment
- make facial and body moulds (prosthetics) for actors to wear
- sell cosmetics
- create social media make-up demos, or give make-up lessons in person.
We have to sterilise our brushes, and I shampoo and condition them. I don't want to pass on a cold sore or eye infection.
Warren Dion Smith
Hair, Make-up and Special Effects Artist
Skills and knowledge
Make-up artists need to have:
- knowledge of different types of skin and hair, and how to work with them
- knowledge of hygiene and how to avoid spreading infections
- an understanding of make-up, the latest styles and colours, and how to apply them
- basic hairstyling skills
- an understanding of camera and lighting techniques
- research skills, so they can make sure they use the correct make-up style for actors' needs
- sales skills.
Make-up artists who are self-employed also need business, marketing and social media skills.
- may work long or irregular hours, including early mornings, weekends and evenings if they are working in television or film, or normal retail hours if they work in a store
- work in hair and beauty salons, stores, clients' homes, dressing rooms, film studios and on location
- may work in stressful conditions with short deadlines, or outdoors in all weather conditions
- may travel locally, nationally or internationally.
What's the job really like?
Warren Dion Smith
Hair, Make-up and Special Effects Artist
A dream that came true
Warren Dion Smith got into make-up at an early age, and has worked on major films and travelled the world with his career.
"Nana bought me a paint set when I was six, and I put the paint on my face. I knew I was going to do make-up – my dream was to win awards, to see what I could achieve."
Warren's now won many awards, and his favourite is a local one. "I’m proudest of my Absolutely Positively Wellingtonian award, and it's the only one I display."
The reality of film work
Warren says make-up artists working in film have to be available all day, and film days are long.
"When I get a phone call saying, 'Darling, are you available to work on Monday at 4am?', I always say ‘Yes.'
"You have to be the first person on set and the last out – 18-hour days on your feet."
Proudest moments are supporting family events
Although Warren has worked on hair, make-up and special effects for films such as King Kong and The Hobbit, it’s his role in people’s lives that he counts as most important.
"It's more of an honour for me to contribute to people's special days. I do weddings – they are special days – but my greatest honour was to do the make-up for my brother, mother and grandmother after they passed away."
There are no specific requirements for becoming a make-up artist. However, you may find it useful to have:
- a certificate or diploma from a polytechnic or make-up school
- a portfolio showing your make-up ideas and style.
No specific secondary education is required for this job. However, design and visual communication (graphics), media studies and drama are useful.
Make-up artists need to be:
- able to relate to people from a range of cultures and backgrounds
- adaptable and good at solving problems
- good listeners
- accurate, with good attention to detail
- reliable and organised
- able to work well in a team
- motivated, with initiative.
You need to be a great team player – proactive, professional, and a good listener. Only the best hair and make-up artists survive in the New Zealand marketplace.
Hair and Make-up Team Leader
Useful experience for make-up artists includes:
- work as a beauty therapist, beautician or hairdresser
- work at a cosmetic counter, or other customer or retail work
- paid or voluntary make-up work for theatre or film.
Make-up artists need:
- clear speech and good hearing
- normal colour vision
- good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses)
- good hand-eye co-ordination
- the ability to spend long hours on their feet.
Find out more about training
- NZ Hair and Beauty Industry Training Organisation (HITO)
- (04) 499 1180 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.hito.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Chances are good for make-up artists
Demand for make-up artists who have completed a full film, television, fashion and SPFX (special effects) course is increasing as more commercials, films and television programmes are being shot in New Zealand.
Network and volunteer to improve your chances of finding a first job
Networking, and having work experience can help you find a job.
You can network and market yourself by:
joining industry organisations such as WIFT NZ (Women in Film and Television) or Ngā Aho Whakaari (Māori in screen production)
- attending industry events and introducing yourself, particularly to make-up designers (who create the overall make-up look for films or other productions)
- checking industry magazines and websites for new productions and contacting their make-up designers directly
- reading and advertising on networking websites and social media pages for the arts
- being professional on social media when you showcase your make-up work, and in personal pages.
You can gain work experience by:
- training at make-up schools that offers internships and job placements
- volunteering for amateur and drama school productions.
It's also useful to have experience in hairstyling, hairdressing, beauty therapy and customer service.
According to the Census, 540 make-up artists worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Types of employers varied
Make-up artists may work for:
- hair and beauty salons
- television, film, magazine and theatre productions
- department stores, cosmetic stores and pharmacies
- fashion design companies and magazines.
Some make-up artists work freelance or run their own business.
- Black, E, 'Inside New Zealand's Beauty Boom', 30 September 2017, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- Ensor, D, co-director, The Makeup School, careers.govt.nz interview, October 2018.
- Gatanela, J, 'M.A.C suspends beauty services and cancels makeover appointments in NZ', Beautydirectory, 16 March 2020, (www.beautydirectory.co.nz)
- Iqbal, N, 'The New Beauty Elite', Otago Daily Times, 13 August 2018, (www.odt.govt.nz).
- MECCA website, accessed June 2020, (www.meccabeauty.co.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Make-up artists may progress to:
- set up their own business
- become make-up designers, who create the overall make-up look for films, television commercials, fashion shows or make-up collections.
Make-up artists who work in retail stores and hair and beauty salons may move into managerial or training roles.
Make-up artists may specialise in:
- hairdressing and wig application
- prosthetics – casting facial and body moulds for costumes
- video tutorials
- body painting.
Last updated 17 January 2022