Television makeup artists are among the most important behind-the-scenes personnel on a film or television set. Ensuring that actors look good is just one task of television makeup artists. Additionally and more significantly, they must ensure that actors aesthetically represent the characters they are playing and that this satisfies the producer's and director's expectations. Salaries for television makeup artists vary greatly, and only a small number find work year-round.
The average hourly salary for makeup artists in the theatrical and performing arts (which includes television) is $12.63 per hour as of 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As with performers in the film, makeup artists often work other jobs to support themselves in lieu of the lack of steady employment. On television and film sets, makeup artists may earn $5,000 for the entire run of a production.
Top makeup artists may be hired repeatedly by television networks and producers. In spite of their status as freelance artists, they earn higher salaries than average and may earn between $45,000 and $75,000 annually. Some may receive paid vacations, health insurance and retirement benefits. Established makeup artist Sarah Jones, who works for MTV, states that she still has to work hard to find work, send invoices and chase payments.
Because of their celebrity status, celebrity makeup artists may dictate their salaries when working for television networks and producers. Not uncommonly these makeup artists make as much as $10,000 per day. Some television and film stars have their own makeup artists who accompany them to sets. An example is Keira Karlin whose resume includes "Saturday Night Live" and "The Larry King Show." She was actor Christopher Reeves' personal makeup artist for three years.
Advice From a Makeup Artist
Mary Erickson, who has worked for ESPN and "Good Morning America" as well as television personalities Ron Jaworski and Joe Theisman, advises that most established makeup artists earn between $30,000 and $60,000 after five or more years in the business. She also notes that effective marketing is the key to how successful makeup artists can be. For television work, she advises that most work is in New York and Los Angeles.