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National Association of Screen Make-up Artists and Hairdressers

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An overview of the make-up team in film and television, from the designer to the trainee, and a look at some specialist areas


The size of a make-up department  on a film or television production varies, depending on the scale of the production. Here is an outline of the different roles:



The designer (can also be known as head of department, chief or key make-up artist) is the person responsible for the overall design and implementation of the make-ups and management of the make-up department. Key responsiblities include:

  • Researching and designing the characters' make-ups in keeping with the period and style of the production;

  • Liaising with other departments and HODs;

  • Managing various members of the team and delegating work as appropriate;

  • Managing the make-up budget and organising supplies for the production;

  • Organising items such as facial hair, teeth and contacts as needed and wigs (if no separate hair dept.);

  • Ensuring health and safety is implemented and observed;

  • Ensuring continuity is maintained.



The MUA is there to support and help the designer carry out the requirements for particular artistes (including principals), from completing the make-up to maintaining make-ups throughout the shooting day and any scene-to-scene/time changes in continuity. And at the end of the day, assists in removing make-ups, clearing up and prepping for the next day.



Help the designer with certain tasks under supervision. Depending on the assistant's experience, tasks can vary, from having artistes to look after, maintaining equipment and facial hair, to cleaning up and standing by on set.



A new entrant to the industry or someone with a little experience, a trainee carries out whatever tasks are required by the designer and the team (from cleaning up and getting drinks to possibly assisting with a make-up, especially on the crowd).




They organise the crowd (or background) artistes make-up, from organising fittings or make-up tests to booking make-up dailies, to prepping crowd tents and organising the supplies needed.



A daily is employed on an adhoc basis, usually when there are crowd scenes and, therefore, a lot of background artistes to make-up and maintain. A daily would be organised by the Crowd Supervisor.



A personal make-up artist works closely with a principal actor, overseeing and maintaining their make-up for the duration of the production. They don't necessarily come under the direction of the designer.






Prosthetics are used to change an actor's face and body for a variety of reasons like ageing, creating aliens or monsters, or to subtly change a person's features to make them look like a historical character.


Prosthetics are also used to create casualty effects and injuries (e.g. broken bones, scars, wounds), any body part to a complete corpse, bones and "blood and guts" effects.



Body painting is the temporary artwork applied direct to the skin. Lasting for several hours, or at most (in the case of Mehndi or "henna tattoo"), a couple of weeks. Body painting that is limited to the face is known as face painting.



To change the appearance of an actor's eye colour or pupil size/shape, contact lenses are custom made by specialist contact makers. It is also a requirement that a contact lens technician is on set to fit the contacts during filming.



Specialist makers will take a mould of the actor's teeth using dental alginate - this ensures the final scultped fake teeth fit the actor properly, not only for their comfort and safety, but for the realism - HD and closeups are not forgiving!



The make-up department is responsible for  the research, design, the application, maintenance and continuity of make-up during feature film and television productions. There may be a separate hair department, or just the one department that looks after both the hair and make-up requirements. This depends on the scale (and budget) of the production.


A make-up artist has to create a wide range of looks, from the contemporary to recreating period styles, or transforming an actor's face and body using prosthetics to making it looks as if someone has no make-up on at all. Make-up also includes the application of facial hair, bald caps, tattoos, bodypaint to creating casualty effects such as scars, wounds, injuries and blood. All make-ups then have to be maintained during filming and are photographed and logged for reference.


Make-up and hair are key elements in the overall design of films, creating a look that is appropriate for the characters, time periods, setting and overall style of the production.



Actors performing in a theatrical production normally do their own make-up. A make-up artist may be employed if there is specialist make-up required (like prosthetic pieces for the Beast in "Beauty And The Beast"), or a designer may be involved in the set-up of a production to design the make-ups and show the actors how to apply the designs for the show. It is more common to find make-up artists working in the wig department.


Stage make-up is different to film and television make-up, as the make-up is required to work with stage lighting and the size of the venue to enable to an audience to see the actors' faces and expressions from varying distances.



Fashion make-up is used for editorial photography as well as fashion shows. The make-ups required can vary tremendously from natural to avant garde - more experimental or highly artistic make-up.


A fashion make-up artist works under the requirements of the client e.g. the dress designer, the clothing label or the outlet.


There is usually a hairdresser on fashion shoots or, for bigger productions like a fashion show, a completely separate hair  department.

O v e r v i e w


the make-up department

J o b  D e s c r i p t i o n s









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