Building a Makeup Artistry Portfolio 101: Finding Models

If you’re serious about getting involved in a career in makeup artistry, then you need a portfolio.

A makeup artistry portfolio is a compilation of your best work in a format that’s easily accessible to others.  They can be in physical (book) form, or online (which is more common today).

If you’re trying to attract new clients, being able to show them examples of your past work will help them trust you a lot faster than a simple business card or website will. Surprisingly, however, very few makeup artists take the time to create a good portfolio.

But if you’re just starting out, how can you create a portfolio if you don’t have any clients?  It’s a vicious cycle, but here are some tips to help you get started.

Volunteer your time: give free makeovers!

It’s important to have a wide variety of faces and skin types in your portfolio.  The beauty of makeup is you can always find people to work on.

If you don’t have any paying clients (or your clients don’t want to give you permission to photograph them), offer free makeovers to family, friends, and strangers. In exchange for your services, simply ask them for permission to photograph your work and use those photos in your portfolio.

While using friends and family is a start, go a step further and volunteer your services at community centers, school plays, etc. It’s a great chance to practice your skills and gain some real-world experience as well!

Pro Tip: It’s always a good idea to have your clients sign a release form allowing you to use photos of them in your portfolio.  It takes just a few minutes and can save you many headaches down the road.

Use your course work

As part of your online makeup artistry courses, you’ll be asked to complete assignments on models (even if you use yourself as the model).  Why not take the assignments you’re particularly proud of, and display them in your portfolio!

You can even include your tutor’s quoted feedback along with your work.  This is especially valuable when your tutor is a well-respected professional makeup artist.  Again, just make sure you have your tutor’s permission first.

Use isolated features

A portfolio doesn’t have to feature fully-finished faces only.  You can include close-up shots of eyes, lips, contouring that you’ve created, along with polished whole looks.  Adding these individual pieces can accomplish two goals:

  1. It allows the viewer to see your technical skills up close, and
  2. It allows you to add to your portfolio more quickly than if you were to focus on full looks only.

Author Mireille Pitre

More posts by Mireille Pitre

Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • Ashley says:

    What size should the photos be in the BOOK form?

    • Joanne Pendon says:

      Hi Ashley- The photos should ideally be 8″ x 10″ . This will allow your potential clients to really see the makeup on your models.

  • kira-marie says:

    Hi i was just wondering if you could show us a hardcopy of a portfolio and what is it meant to look like, do we have to have text on the page if so could you give an example of what its meant to say? What size does the pictures need to be? What makes a portfolio look professional could you do a side by side comparison of whats not. Do we need to mention people we have worked with? What about newspaper articles where are work has been featured does that go in to? please be more detailed

    • Mireille Pitre says:

      Hi Kira-Marie — Thanks for your questions! I’m sorry I don’t have a hardcopy handy to show you. Your pictures of full faces should be 8″ x 10″… while pictures of individual features can be a little smaller if you need the space. In terms of text, keep it simple but descriptive. As long as you keep a constant theme throughout your portfolio and adhere to the tips listed in this article, you’re in good shape. It’s a great idea to add your newspaper clippings, but I’d keep them for the back of the portfolio. If you’re interested in learning more, there is quite a bit of information about portfolio work in the online makeup course offered by QC 🙂

  • Desiree' Simmons says:

    Do all the pictures have to be head shots or can I show fashion clothes and makeup together?

    • Joanne Pendon says:

      If you are applying for a position that involves strictly makeup artistry, I would suggest that you highlight your makeup in the photos. Use lots of beautiful close-up shots. If you are applying for a position that requires both an understanding of fashion and makeup, feel free to showcase the clothes in the photograph. This will show your potential employer that you understand how to create a look that enhances the look of the clothing. Good luck!

  • Cheyanne says:

    Hi I was just wondering if I have pictures of myself in makeup that I have done over 4-5 years of expierence if I could use those pictures. I am only 17 and am in a program at school that teachers really try to help kids get into college and what not. They also have a program that helps pay for the future like college or a home or something like that and hopefully I will be doing that so by 2015 or 2016 I should be doing this. I have done so much makeup and lots of dark, halloween, or costume makeup that I am very proud of thats why I was wondering if I could use myself for the Portfolio. Anyways Thank You for your time! <3

    • Mireille Pitre says:

      Hi Cheyenne,

      You can certainly use a few pictures of yourself in your portfolio, especially when first starting out. As you gain more experience, however, you’ll want to expand with more and more pictures of other models and slowly weed out some of the older photos.

      Best of luck with your studies! We look forward to having you as a QC student one day!

      -Mireille 🙂

  • janina says:

    I’m a self taught makeup artist and I can do hair. I know that some of the best makeup artist out there are self taught. They didn’t go to any fancy schools or anything. Is it possible fit me to make my portfolio maybe get a youtube channel and build from there?
    I’ve went into some high end stores and I’ve gotten makeovers that were terrible. I’ve also went into the high end stores and have been complimented on my makeup. In one day I was asked by different ppl in the high end stores if I did my own makeup.
    Is it possible for me to become a makeup artist without going to school? All the schools around me are cosmology schools and I really don’t have twenty k or more to go back to school. I just need advice on where to start. Thanks for your time…

    • Mireille Pitre says:

      Hi Janina,

      In most areas makeup is an unregulated field and if you’re talented, you can probably start a business without a cosmetology degree. However most students in our makeup artistry classes quickly learn that there’s much more to makeup when you get to working on other people’s faces! That’s where proper training comes in: it gives you the training and confidence to work with clients!

      Another important element to consider is if you’re just starting out as a professional makeup artist, many clients will feel much more comfortable hiring you if you can show that you’ve received some form of professional training.

      Before getting too far ahead, you’ll want to first and foremost check your local regulations to see if you need any type of certification or license to legally run a makeup business. That will give you a better idea of the steps you need to take.

      If you do end up deciding to become certified (which we definitely recommend!), the makeup artistry programs here at QC are a great way to get a professional certification without breaking the bank! You can work from home on your own time, and you’re backed by your personal tutor every step of the way. You can check out our online makeup courses here.

      Please feel free to contact our student support team if you have any questions about our courses 🙂


  • Kayla says:

    Hi I am contemplating taking the makeup artistry course, I am a navy wife and therefore we move around a lot so it is difficult to make acquaintances in order to have a model. The course is all online so for some assignments would I be able to use myself as a model? Especially for those assignments that do not need a model feedback?

    • Ana Scholtes says:

      Hi Kayla, thanks for your comment! We do strongly recommend that you practice and complete assignments on others, as this will help you perfect your techniques. It can be very different applying makeup on yourself than it is on other people, so it’s important to get as much practice as you can. However, you can use yourself as the model for an assignment from time to time if you’re in a bind, as we certainly understand that it may not be possible to coordinate a time to get together with friends or family members to use as models for assignments. 🙂

  • Adelicia B. says:

    HI I am a freelance makeup artist and would like to know if there is a “proper” way to ask a professional photographer for a photo of a mutual bridal client of ours? I love this photographers work and would love to have a few photos in my portfolio. I am just not sure how to ask… I am willing to pay if I had to.

    Thanks 🙂

    • Mireille Pitre says:

      Hi Adelicia!

      There is no one “proper” way to communicate with the photographer. It really depends on your business relationship with them more than anything else. Presuming you two are on good terms, try this type of format in a friendly tone:

      1. (re)Introduce yourself and remind him/her of the event you worked on together
      2. Compliment the photographs you admire and explain why you like them so much
      3. Mention his/her photographs showcase the makeup you did perfectly, and for that reason you’d love to showcase them in your portfolio
      4. Ask him/her if this would be acceptable on their part, and mention you’d be more than happy to credit their work in your portfolio
      5. Thank them in advance for their time

      I wouldn’t offer to pay to use the photographs right away. If the photographer would like to sell you a license to the photo(s), they can bring it up themselves. The best advice I have for you is don’t be shy! The photographer should be happy to allow you to use a photograph in a professional makeup portfolio!

      Hope this helps!

  • maggie says:

    How do I get models to volunteer for my upcoming portfolio?

  • Treasure Prescott says:

    Hi I always follow you guys and my mom too , I work in the mall and they have a casting call . What kind of book should my portfolio be in . Do you guys recommend and type of book

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