How to Choose a Professional Makeup Artist

So,  you have decided to engage a professional makeup artist, what should you do next?

Seek out a makeup artist

It’s difficult and unfair to gauge what an artist can do without looking at his/her portfolio.  However, for an evening / day makeup, a general rule of thumb is this:  if you like a particular artist’s own makeup, then you’ll likely like what she can do for you.

Professional makeup artists fall in a couple categories:

  • Employed – If you engage one, that usually means you’re engaging the company that employs them unless you engage them during their non-work hours. If they work for a company that sells products, they are expected to use their products.
  • Freelancing –  Freelancers are more flexible in mobility and time.

Another important thing to consider when you choose an artist is the ‘trust’ factor.  Oftentimes this is built from an existing relationship, or recommendations from others.  Yet other times you choose a random artist because of your intuition. Whatever reason it is, ‘you’ – the client – makes the decision.


Expectations for Professional Dinner, Bridal or Special Formal Occasion Makeup

Here’s a list of the things to look out for.

  • Before The Appointment:
  • Tell your artist what the occasion is, what kind of dress/outfit you will be wearing, what look you aim to achieve. You should do this when you make the appointment.
  • Important tip:  If you wish to change into your outfit only AFTER your hairstyling/makeup, make sure that you wear a buttoned down blouse/shirt.  No pull-over shirts – that will ruin your hairstyle and makeup!
  • Hygiene

Sanitisation of tools and products is important.  Find out if the artist sanitises her products and tools.  I am very particular about this.  I disinfect my tools with brush cleaners and alcohol, and I use fresh sponges for application of foundations.  However, realistically, complete sanitisation can’t take place when many people need to be made up one after another, but disinfecting of tools with brush cleaners can be done. (Click here to read about sanitisation of tools.)

Photo Credit: Teeratas /

  • Products

Bear in mind that freelance makeup artists are not obliged to be brand-loyal.  Different products are used by artists, and they don’t have to be expensive to be good.  Many cheaper products can give equivalent or better results. A lot of drugstore brands like L’oreal, Maybelline and Revlon have excellent bases, foundations and colours.

Using higher-end products is a personal preference. But if you’re particular about the brands of products, ask before you engage the artist.  Usually an artist who uses higher-end products will charge more for their services.

If you prefer to use your own products, bear in mind that the artist will still need to supplement yours with hers in the event that you do not have what she needs.

  • Location to do makeup

Some makeup artists are mobile.  They can travel to your home or the salon where you do your hair, and for that you should expect to pay more.  In truth, most artists prefer the client to go to their workplace because of better lighting conditions for makeup.  Discuss this with the artist beforehand.

  • Time required

Good makeup takes time to achieve. Depending on the look and the makeup artist, it can take any amount of time between 30 and 60 minutes.  To be safe, 45-60 minutes should be allocated for dinner makeup because it takes time to build a look and that often is crucial to achieving good, longer lasting finishes.   There are eyebrows to trim, base to apply and eyes to dress.  Be prepared to give the artist time to perform all these.

  • Hairstyling or makeup first?

Preferably makeup before hairstyling.  However, should a hair-wash be required, then it should come first.

  • Never judge makeup whilst in progress! 

A makeup look is never complete until the artist says so. So, wait till the end before you decide if you like it.  Avoid looking into the mirror if you find yourself worrying about your final look while it’s in progress.

Have a trial makeup session if you are concerned that you won’t like the look, but do know that trial sessions are charged as well.

  • Application of false eyelashes

It’s common for the artist to ask if you would like to have false lashes.  (In fact, for phototaking purposes, false lashes are  highly recommended.) If you do not have any, you could buy from her and the application is free.  If you bring your own lashes and want the artist to apply them for you, be prepared to pay RM5 for the application.  This is industry practice.

To know if you lashes are suitable for the look you want, discuss with the artist beforehand.

  • Fees  $$$

A makeup artist’s fee is determined by many factors.  For makeup alone, most artists determine their fee by their level of skill, experience, the products they use and time needed.  If you engage a celebrity artist, be prepared to pay multiple times more than a non-celebrity artist.

However, additional charges are incurred for the following:

  1. purchase of false eyelashes or application of false eyelashes you bring,
  2. trial makeup session,
  3. additional treatment before makeup (eg. use of ampoule),
  4. transportation if it’s a distance away.

Discuss these with the artist before the actual appointment to avoid misunderstanding.

If there is a group of you who needs makeup done, you can always negotiate the fees.

Photo credit: renjith krishnan /

  • Trust and listen to your artist

Many people have set ideas about what they should look like after makeup.  Those who are very conservative are wary of changes, while those who are more adventurous expect more.

  1. If you’re very conservative, chances are you do not use sufficient colours to brighten up your look.  You need to trust your artist to give you sufficient colour.
  2. If you’re very adventurous, chances are you follow trends and possibly like to highlight features boldly.  Whilst that’s a good thing, it can backfire when your makeup is not harmonious / balanced with the rest of the makeup (unless it’s stage or special effects makeup).

Always tell your artist about any concerns you may have after the completion of the makeup and discuss it with her.  The important thing is to listen to her input as well.