6 Makeup Artists Share How They Pack Their Bags to Do Great Jobs

Working as a makeup artist is something that requires quite a bit of planning and packing (besides lots of skills with the brushes and pencils).

To improve how we pack our makeup bags, we have talked with six experienced makeup artists and asked them to share their best advice.

Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all six makeup artists have lots of experience, so they really know what they are talking about!).


Amy S. Perdigone

Raised in South Sacramento, California. I grew up surrounded by ethnic and cultural diversity. As an Asian-Mexican-American, I have always enjoyed working with a variety of women and believe this helps me to intuitively identify the unique qualities within every woman I work with and draw on this to create a look that is both beautiful and natural. I draw inspiration from my travels abroad and the exposure to other beauty trends. For example, in college at UCLA, I studied abroad in, Budapest, Hungary and after graduate school at SFSU, I spent a summer living in Guatemala. My love for travel and adventure has led me to Israel, where I currently live and work. This has certainly broadened my understanding of beauty across different cultures.

My natural interest in style and aesthetics began at a young age. Both of my parents are artists and my two sisters and I spent many hours playing dress-up — I was always the stylist of course! My early years, spent working as a wedding planner, taught me the value of time, which is why our business model is designed to go on-location. This convenience makes it especially easy to accommodate any wedding day hiccups. While working as a wedding planner, I continuously noticed how many brides–specifically, ethnically-diverse brides, had trouble finding a makeup artist sensitive to their hair and skin needs.

With this in mind, coupled with my training as a MAC makeup artist, The Traveling Stylist business was born. I was entering graduate school at SFSU and wanted to use what little time was afforded to me to start a bridal hair and makeup business. It was the perfect way to blend my background, experience and passions together! What started as a business model where I serviced all the hair/makeup and ran the business–has grown into a diverse team of wicked-talented artists: Heather Camp (Master Stylist), Adela Lopez (Senior Stylist), Sheryl Sharma and Angelica Carranza (Junior Stylist), and all of our amazing assistants! I currently operate the business and provide training and support for our team, but no longer service hair and makeup.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all makeup artists bring?

  • High-protein snacks and water! Some mornings would begin at 3:00am and I wouldn’t finish until early-evening. Having healthy, protein-rich foods on hand (hard-boiled eggs , nuts/seeds, oatmeal, chia-shakes and cheese/turkey rolls…all things you can eat while working:) allowed me keep my energy level up and avoid fatigue and dehydration;
  • First-aid kit. So many times, I was the only person other than the bridal party on-site…and there is always someone who needs a bandaid, safety pin, needle/thread, or alcohol at the last-minute! I also packed straws, which were a big hit for everyone wanting to drink after lipstick was applied;
  • Thank-you cards/business cards. Many times, I would be left alone in a hotel after the bridal party dashed off. After cleaning up and eating, I found the ritual of writing a thank you card to the bride or client a wonderful way to bookend my time spent with the group, while adding a personal-touch to the day.

I remember one time the bride was getting into her dress and someone’s fingernail ripped her button off while scratching her back. My first-aid kit saved the day!

Hmmm….most “useless”, I guess that really depends. Since each group of people and event is different, your supplies have to reflect these needs. That said, I see many artists bogged-down with so many foundation shades in their kits. I make it a rule-of-thumb to stock only 3-4 warm and cool shades and custom-blend colors for each client.

How do you bring things with you?

Since organisation and durability are SO important to being a traveling makeup artist….my #1 favourite tool is my Fat Stanley rolling toolbox. It is a mechanic’s toolbox so it is extra durable and provided the perfect space and protection for all my makeup and tools. It also slides nicely into the passenger-side of most cars. 🙂

My rule of thumb for packing was: Only bring what will fit! This kept me focused and mindful of what tools and products I used and needed the most and how to organise in an efficient manner. The Stanley toolbox made it easy, since all the dividers and shelves made organising a breeze!

What are your top tips for other makeup artists?

  • People-skills first, makeup skills come second. Without being a genuine person, empathetic listener and sensitive to the nuances of each client, it really doesn’t matter what your skill-set is. In order to deliver the best service, you have to be clear you understand and can articulate what you hear your client wants, needs and deliver that;
  • Don’t get bogged-down in all the latest tools/gadgets and products….these will continue to change over time. Get to know YOUR favourite brand(s) and products well and stick with this. Not to say, adding items to enhance what you do is not important–just don’t get carried away in quantity over quality;
  • Create a space for your client to give honest/candid feedback. As artists, we see the end-result much faster than our clients. Be patient and when finished, invite them to go look at their makeup alone and share with you what they immediately LOVE, don’t like, and/or are unsure of.

Every artist is different; therefore, packing and organising will vary. For me, brand-recognition and knowledge of products are very important. Use brands people know and feel safe with (do they test on animals, are the ingredients good for sensitive skin, are colors made for very light or very dark-skinned women, etc.) and get to know them well! Know what active-ingredients are in products. Carry 2-3 makeup lines at most. When I see makeup artists with a hodgepodge mix of makeup brands, I question how much or how well they know about what they are using. Keep it simple. In the beginning, start with the basics (by now, you can google this…see what “most” MU artists are using and what are “must-haves”).

Know who you want to market to. We market to bridal so all of our products and makeup colors are meant to enhance skin and pull from natural color-pallets — the kits we put together might look drastically different than someone who markets to HD makeup.

So to sum it all up: keep it simple, know who you are marketing to, and sharpen your people skills, as this is a highly social business and not everyone is able to articulate aesthetics — so it’s our job to not only deliver what they want, but also help give them to vocabulary to express what they want.

Visit Amy S. Perdigone’s website

Renelyn Thomas

I was born to Filipino parents in Riverside, California, raised in Orlando, FL and currently living in Atlanta, GA.

I started my beauty journey over a decade ago. I had just finished Business School and was armed with my degree and prepared to take on Corporate America. However, about a year in the game, I noticed that something was missing. The creative side of my brain wasn’t being nurtured. I was always interested in beauty but it was just something I dabbled in – doing makeup on myself and my girlfriends for a night out.

In 2007, I decided to fill a gap in the beauty industry. As an everyday beauty consumer, I could not find products or artists that suited my Filipino features and skin tone. I decided to fill this void by creating a blog catering to women of all ethnicities, ages, and walks of life. I also expanded Makeup By Ren Ren, the blog, to include video reviews and makeup tutorials on YouTube. My YouTube page has received over 8 million views and my blog has been featured on many top websites. I have also partnered with major cosmetic companies to offer product reviews, giveaways and interactive events for readers. After an overwhelming positive response, I entered into a professional career in Freelance Makeup by launching Renelyn Thomas Makeup Artistry.

In 2016 I took the leap and left Corporate America for good to focus on my beauty career. I became co-owner of Industry Makeup Academy in Atlanta, offering aspiring makeup artists the opportunity to follow their dreams like I did. Check out http://www.makeupbyrenren.com, http://www.youtube.com/makeupbyrenren, or www.RenelynThomas.com to learn more.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all makeup artists bring?

  • I always bring a makeup light. Without the proper lighting, all the makeup in the world can’t do anything to fix it.
  • I also bring water activated makeup remover towelettes. They do the job of removing makeup as well as cleansing the skin and you don’t need a separate makeup remover. Since they’re dry, they’re so travel friendly. They do the job of removing even the most stubborn waterproof makeup and help exfoliate as well. Makeup will not lay smoothly on top of dirty or dry skin and these towelettes are so simple to use and compact for travel. They’re great for use to prep the skin or end the night making sure you go to bed with a clean slate.
  • Always pack emergency items like a sewing kit, stain remover pen, mints, hair ties as these are the items that you or your client will always need in a pinch.

How do you bring things with you?

I pack tons of clear makeup bags. I have one for skincare, one for lips, one for eyes, face, etc. Keeping your makeup organized and contained prevents it from breaking when traveling and also makes finding items as well as clean up much quicker. I love the Zuca pouches – they’re durable, easy to clean and last forever. They also stack nicely in any luggage. But really any clear makeup bag, as long as it’s a thicker clear vinyl will work. You need to be able to see the product and grab them quickly. For powder products I go the extra step of wrapping them in bubble wrap to make sure they’re cushioned.

What are your top tips for other makeup artists?

Make a list before you pack and check items off so that you don’t forget everything. Try to have travel sized versions of skincare or put them in mini 3 oz bottles you can find in the travel aisle. The key is to be mobile. Use a luggage that you can put on your back easily or something that you can wheel but still be able to lift up stairs – that’s how you don’t overpack. I see a lot of makeup artists overpack or not organize their kit and it just looks unprofessional and slows down their makeup process.

Visit Renelyn Thomas’ website

Mimi Johnson

I’m originally from Kansas City, MO but currently reside in Atlanta, GA. I literally fell into my career in makeup. I’ve always been artistic and I just became the designated makeup artist for my friends. I organically fell in love and developed a passion for it over the year. I started networking with photographers, event planner, hairstylist, publicists and other makeup artists. I also playing around with YouTube videos and blogging in the very beginning.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all makeup artists bring?

Of course, an arsenal of brushes because you have to have the right tools. I have to bring a makeup light because great lighting is key for great application. I recently have gotten into aromatherapy to set a calming mood with essential oils on my wrist.

How do you bring things with you?

I carry the Milk Makeup x Burton collaboration bag. i Love it! Great for airport travel and everything stretches and expands so that nothing will ever burst from the seams. Lots of room and very durable.

What are your top tips for other makeup artists?

Don’t bring everything you own! Try to condense your kit with things you use often unless its a special project. Condense lipsticks/foundations, etc., in smaller containers or pill cases.

You have to believe in yourself. The first step to achieving any dream is to simply start! Practice makes perfect. Your network is your net worth so be genuine to others along the way.

Visit Mimi Johnson’s website

Gen-zel Delas Alas

Hi I’m Gen-zel. Originally from Cavite but I moved here in Manila two years ago.

I started as a beauty blogger way back 2012 then after a couple of years I’ve been offered makeup gigs but I wasn’t confident to do other people’s makeup back then so I decided to strengthen my foundation in makeup and enrolled myself in a makeup school. After graduating makeup school, I started accepting clients for gigs and weddings.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all makeup artists bring?

  • I bring my own extension wire. It saves me every time the venue is not capable to provide one;
  • Sewing kit and safety pins;
  • Oil blotting sheets. I always give my makeup clients a few for them to use if they don’t have their own blotting paper.

These are really helpful for emergencies, because you’ll never know when these items will be needed not only by your makeup client but your co-artists too.

How do you bring things with you?

I only have one Suesh trolly bag for makeup and hair.

Bag organizers are my game. I want my bag to be organize and clean at all times.

I have enough room in my bag to fit all the things I need to bring.

What are your top tips for other makeup artists?

  • I’m guilty of bringing almost my entire house on my first makeup gigs, it’s okay that’s normal. As you go along, you’ll realize what items, products, and makeups you use most of the time so you’ll learn to remove those unused items in your makeup kit;
  • It’s also helpful to have those travel jars and cases. You can transfer your basic essentials like alcohol, creams, primers, tissue, and other bulky items into small bottles;
  • Before going to your makeup gig, you can ask your makeup client their peg and preference so you know what you need to bring then just leave unnecessary products;
  • It’s okay to watch YouTube videos and makeup tutorials but you cannot rely on everything you see online. If you really want to make this a profession, once you already have the budget, you can enroll yourself in a reputable makeup school to enhance and polish your skills and knowledge;
  • Like what I always say, JUST DO IT. You can start by doing makeup for your friends and ask them for feedback. You don’t need all the extravagant items and makeup before you can start. Start little by little and build your dreams.

Visit Gen-zel Delas Alas’ website

Lishma Patel

Born and raised in London, my love affair with makeup and henna started at a very young age. Over time, I was involved in many dance performances and stage shows where my knack for makeup came in handy. My hobby became a passion and upon graduating from University of North London in 2001, I moved to California and launched Beauty By Lishma. The rest, as they say, is history!

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all makeup artists bring?

  • My therapist personality with a positive attitude because brides are usually nervous and stressed at the same time. The brides have all sorts of emotions are running through their heads, therefore, good listening skills and positive advice are best tools to calm them down.
  • Time management – It prevents us from running late which could make the wedding run late or cut into photography time and adds to the bride’s anxiety.
  • Organized kits – An organized kit allows you quickly access the right products and allows you to focus your time on the bride.

How do you bring things with you?

  • Zucca Bag – It’s easy to organize different products in separate pouches for different parts of the face. It’s easy to setup and pack up and can carry onto a flight.
  • Brief case bags – One for all my lipsticks and lips pencils and another for all my foundations and airbrush; This keeps my foundations and concealers organized and easy to access. The bag for my lip products keeps the lip colors separate and easy to access and see what colors I have on hand.
  • Carry on bag (Samsonite) which holds all my tools and products such as airbrush and sprays. I keep all my hair products in the lid pouch and the main compartment is where I store my tools and hair pin box along with any other hair pieces I may carry.

What are your top tips for other makeup artists?

  • Makeup Light – a life savior. The lighting conditions can vary greatly based on location and time of the day.
  • A collection of multiple brushes so you can have separate brushes for each client. This will save time since it prevents cleaning between clients.
  • While traveling by air, pack makeup items in small containers or ziplock bags to reduce spillage and ensure everything fits in your Zucca bag; also, carry hand sanitizer to quickly sanitize products or surfaces.

Visit Lishma Patel ‘s website

Jill Harth

I’m from New York and currently live here from the past 19 years. I’ve lived in other places but I came back home after a major life change: divorce/career change. I was a show producer and in charge of a Model Search/Pageant division. I worked with the world’s most beautiful women for years and I learned a lot of tricks by watching what they wore and how they put themselves together. I also worked with many top photographers in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and in New York and soaked up all that I learned. So when I moved home, I know I had to do something that was going to bring me peace and joy and use my skill set and love of all things beauty. I started all over again at age 37, and I started my career at Clinique as a Counter Manager. Which in retrospect was a great job but I didn’t appreciate it at the time.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all makeup artists bring?

I tend to bring too much but experience has taught me in my 19-year makeup artist career that better be prepared than not. I always bring a small mirror, so many times I see other makeup artists forget them. Also, some portable lighting when it’s iffy about the lighting conditions. Makeup is all about the light. If your client looks in the mirror and doesn’t like how she looks, many times it’s the lighting. You can be the most skilled artist in the world but if you can’t see well or are looking at yourself in unflattering lighting, they won’t like it. Always bring your business cards and make sure you hand them out to everyone you meet.

How do you bring things with you?

I use a ZUCA travel case. I recommend the cases they sell. Find one in a size you like and a style you like. I like the heavy duty plastic packaging inserts that come with it to organize my cosmetics into groups. If I am doing a large group then I always bring another bag to out my airbrush makeup in and the overflow. I put the extra bag on top of the ZUCA as it rolls.

What are your top tips for other makeup artists?

I always bring a disposable paper sheets to set the makeup on. I also use it as a makeup palette and brush cleaner in a pinch. Everybody does their packing differently. No artists will ever work identically. Sometimes I see makeup artists not bringing enough choice in cosmetics. Or like me, sometimes I tend to bring too much because I have my own product cosmetic line and skincare line and it’s hard for me to objectively edit all the great products I use. My moisturizers and primers are second to none in making a face looks smooth and flawless.

When you know your clients and they become a regular client, you can just bring what you know works for them and colors in the range.

Pursuing a professional makeup artist career is very hard. It’s highly competitive and it takes a lot of persistence and resilience to succeed. Besides having skill, you need to be the whole package and have courage. Everyone who wants to seriously be a makeup artist, especially freelance must be ready for the inevitable ups and downs of the freelance life. It’s not an easy path to pursue. Connections, situations you find yourself in and pure luck can play a huge part in finding work and meeting the right clients and companies. The joy is actually doing the makeup on your client….but the reality is you will spend much more time promoting yourself, preparing your kit, cleaning your kit and looking for work than you actually get to do what you love.

Makeup is a passion for me and I’ve been doing it professionally for close to 20 years. Very few makeup artists grab the brass ring and make it to the top of the profession. If that’s what you aspire to, go ahead and take your chance. I wish you all the best of luck. You can always reach out to me for questions and guidance.

Wishing you beauty, wishing you love,
Jill Harth

Visit Jill Harth’s website