Building Your Kit Part 1: Getting Started

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When it comes to being a savvy makeup artist, the big secret is: it’s all in the kit. Like your portfolio, your makeup kit is constantly evolving, expanding, changing, and what you have or don’t have in your kit can separate an expert from an amateur. Sometimes the hardest reality of putting together the perfect group of products is letting go of personal favorites and instead focusing on those practical essentials with time-tested benefits, versatility, and value.


Whether you want to work as a professional makeup artist or just put together a complete collection for yourself, an understanding of the industry’s processes and procedures will help you develop and maintain your kit like the leading artists. In this exclusive series for Beautylish, I’m sharing some of my best kit-building insights from 17+ years of experience in the business. Let’s build the best kit together!

Getting Started: Think Big!

Building your kit is an exercise in decision-making. Before you even think about buying product, you need to ask some larger questions about your artistry: What kind of makeup will you need for the jobs you’re working? How will you carry this makeup and organize it on set? How will it travel?

There are a lot of concerns to face all at once, but just relax and let your mind think through your kit creatively. It takes time, resources, and planning to create a master collection of artistry staples you can always depend on. While complete starter kits are available for purchase, I believe the ability to get your own custom gear together allows you to work as a true professional.

You’ll undeniably need to assemble a selection of various products, pigments, tones, textures, and tools, but it’s not about buying every eye shadow or lip pencil available. My most important rule: only buy what you know will have the versatility and durability you need. Once you have this set of basics, you can then learn to edit and refine for each job—bridal, editorial, HD or FX, etc.

It’s important to think about your clients, too. What are the specific demands of shoots and locations? How about direction or themes your clients are aiming for—do you have the products to achieve them? Do you really have what you need to design, apply, and maintain this particular makeup?

Putting together a kit plan might take you a day or even a few months, but a huge investment like this is no joke. To help brainstorm various scenarios and answer the above questions, get a designated kit notebook. Draw your fantasy bag. List your dream career and goals. Write down 10 new products you’re excited to test out. Your kit is a reflection of your artist self—think big and ambitiously about your potential and the products that can help make that happen. And when you’re ready, let’s dive in.

Ready to get started? Stay tuned for Part 2: It’s in the Bag! 

As Director of Artistry for The Makeup Show, The Powder Group and On Makeup Magazine, makeup artist James Vincent has touched every facet of the industry with his talent. With specialties in film and theatre, television and celebrity work, editorial and runway work, James is foremast a passionate educator, training for brands such as MAC, Stila, CNN and Lancome. He continues to inspire the next wave of artists with his beauty expertise. Follow James on Twitter 

@JVincentmakeup.