How to Become a Special Effects Make-Up Artist (MUA)

There’s no other way to describe it--special effects makeup is FUN. Whether you’re adding bruises to a staged street fight, or bringing horrific creations of the design team to life on the face and/or body of an actor, you shade reality, trick the eye, and have the opportunity to stun audiences, whether on stage or onscreen. But becoming a special effects Make-up artist (or MUA as they’re called in the industry) takes skill and training. Here’s how to make it happen:

1. Gain A Cosmetology Degree

Since special effects makeup is a specific branch of general makeup artistry, the first thing you want to do is become a general makeup artist. Attend a cosmetology school where you can learn the tricks of the makeup trade and become certified. (For more information on how to become a licensed cosmetologist, see here). Make sure you go to an excellent school that is state approved so you can earn your certification from great teachers and learn modern methods using the latest equipment. Once you’ve graduated and taken the certification exam, it’s time to specialize.


2. Specialize

Once you've earned your cosmetology degree, turn your focus toward your specialization--special effects makeup. Like with regular cosmetology schools, not all special effects MUA schools are created equally. Ensure that your school has good teachers and uses up-to-date, modern equipment and the latest methods--and in field like special effects makeup, this technology is constantly updating and reinventing methods and tools. Ensure that your instructors are industry professionals. This not only means you will be learning from the best in your field, but it also allows you excellent networking opportunities once you’ve graduated. Check out the school’s reviews online and see what previous students are saying. Also check how many of the school’s graduates now work successfully in the field--do employers like what they see?  Once you have found a school to your liking, it’s time to hone your skills.

3. Practice Your Craft

Apply Yourself to your studies. Much like with your cosmetology certification, the best thing you will have to offer on the job are your knowledge and skills. Make use of your instructors, ask questions, and take advantage of hands-on practice opportunities. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes--they're the best way to learn. You don’t need to be state certified to work as a special effects MUA, but a good school offers a rigorous certification that will make your portfolio shine.

4. Build Your Portfolio

This is a process that will begin in school and will continue into your jobs. Catalog your work. Take high quality photos of your projects--preferably before and after shots to show the breadth of the changes your subject has undergone. Your clients will want to see variety as well, so have fun with it and challenge yourself to create a full spectrum of creatures and situation--create aliens, blend someone into their surroundings, paint ghastly injuries, and more! Any moment you find some free time is a great time to practice. Ask friends and family to model for you. Cultivate a good online presence with visual friendly social media like Instagram. Portfolio building is where those who earn a cosmetology degree before specialization really shine--they have deeper breadth of knowledge and experience, not just in special effects, but in makeup, hair, skincare, and working with real clients. These are all things that potential employers will be looking at when they choose you over someone else to complete a job.

Special Effects makeup is an incredibly fun and rewarding field, and if you're determined, passionate, and willing to put in the legwork, you have what it takes to succeed. And there is no better place to start your journey than at Cameo Beauty Academy. We pride ourselves in training cosmetologists and makeup artists, giving them the tools they need to excel in their fields of choice upon graduation. New enrollees are eligible for a scholarship just for applying. Begin your journey with us today!


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