How to be a great makeup artist's assistant

Why should you assist other makeup artists?

Assisting more experienced makeup artists is a great way to develop your makeup skills and network within your industry. When you go to makeup school you learn the basics. These foundation skills (ha) allow you to explore and create your own style safely, but you won’t be an expert. The skills you need to be a great makeup artist are honed over time through practice and experiencing different scenarios, lighting conditions, eye shapes and skin types.

How to be a great makeup artist assistant

  • Ask for clear instructions at the start, not sure what you are expected to do, ask.

  • Let the artist know if there is something in particular you have struggled with that you want to see.

  • Don’t be distracting while the artist is working, I have had assistants that chat to me non-stop while I am working. I am usually busy ensuring the best service for the client so need to focus.

  • Watch and learn, if the artist hasn’t given you a task, watch what they are doing and discreetly ask questions.

  • Be prepared to do the dirty work, washing brushes is one of the most crucial tasks my assistants can do that will actually be helpful to me.

  • Be their second pair of hands, my favourite assistants are always there anticipating what I will need and handing it to me just as I turn around to look for it.

  • Take note of how they set up their kit and how they work, every artist is different. I have a very particular way for setting up my work area.

  • Research their style and work, working with people that have styles that are totally different to yours will mean looks can be inconsistent.

  • Don’t take photos without permission and never post them without first checking. Lots of shoots are confidential until the release date. Posting instagram stories of shoots can mean that magazines won’t accept the submission.

  • Stay out of the way with your phone, the number of times I have been trying to take a photo and a makeup student jumps in to take one on their phone is astounding.

  • Don’t hand out your business card on the shoot, this comes across as trying to steal the makeup artists clients. We are all happy to share with other respectful artists.

  • Check before taking tools from the makeup artist’s kit and return them. I once had an assistant take my makeup chair when I asked her to do a minor lip touch up on some models, when my next model showed up she had to stand. So many times I have had makeup students borrow something from my kit and not bring it back to me, so when I need it I cannot find it.

What should you expect in return for being an assistant?

If you want to assist other makeup artists you should treat it like a learning experience and so should they. I provide my assistants with a break down and brief of what I want them to do before hand. Most artists will not have a budget to pay you for assisting. If they do then you will be expected to perform higher duties. For this reason many are hesitant to take on assistants as it cuts into the budget. I won’t take an assistant onto a job where I won’t have time to instruct them if there is no budget. I prefer to take assistants to jobs where they will learn something outside the norm that could be useful for their business. Or if they are particularly interested in something but cannot access it, like fashion shows. On the other end of the scale are makeup artists that will exploit free labour. I once assisted an artist that asked me to apply 4 full faces of makeup for a wedding using my own products with no guidance from her. She didn't show me anything and got paid $120 for each face I did. I walked away feeling gutted, like I had been taken advantage of. Of course she asked me to assist her again next weekend but I said no.

I often refer jobs to my previous assistants so being a good assistant is an important step for your business. There are enough jobs to go around and some artists have a bigger network so receive more jobs. I actively support and promote anyone that has assisted me where I can.

Happy assisting!

xo Katie