Building Your Kit Part 2: It's in the Bag!

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Do you want a kit that works best for you? Then let’s start with the bag. A makeup kit may be all about the product, but how it’s stored and transported are huge factors to consider. The life of a makeup artist is often location-based, and lugging an oversized kit around only to use a few items is a common, easily avoidable problem among young artists.

When first thinking about makeup storage, ask yourself two questions: 1. What is reasonable for you to carry? And, 2. Are you bringing product you really don’t need? I try to address these questions by using three different bags for my work: one for New York, one for Los Angeles, and one internationally. My NYC kit is much smaller and portable compared to my L.A. kit, which I can easily drive around in the trunk of my car. My international kit is always durable and in-flight ready; made up of slim, easy-to-pack palettes and TSA-approved sizes that stand up to the rough-and-tumble life of travel.

There’s a Caboodle case and piece of Louis Vuitton luggage for every kind of artist’s lifestyle, but often the appearance of the bag itself can lead clients and co-workers to make assumptions about your experience in the industry—unfair yes, but a reality. That aside, remember that professional makeup cases are not purses, and you don’t have to carry an expensive designer label to lead a successful career. Rather, clear functionality, ease of portability, convenience, and price take higher priority than aesthetics. When in doubt, keep it simple and keep it clean.

Your kit’s organization system should work for you in the present, and still accommodate future career (and product) growth. Options abound from bags and briefcases to old-school tackle boxes and tool kits, but once you decide what fits into your budget and artistry, you’ll have the foundation on which to build not only your kit, but your career as a makeup artist. Let’s review a few industry standbys below.

Train Cases and Tackle Boxes

When it comes to organizing makeup, people have adapted anything from scrapbook cases to tool boxes. When I first started doing makeup over seventeen years ago, the old fishing tackle box or Caboodle concept was big in the industry. A tackle box’s basic structure is a compartmentalized container that has sectioned-off areas of different shapes and sizes—allowing you to keep yourself as organized as actual fishermen. The great thing about a tackle box is it does not take up much room and forces you to make decisions about every item you buy and bring on a job. I love the Camera Ready Pro Makeup Case by Japonesque or the Sephora Embossed Train Case.

Carrying Cases and Backpacks

If you’re looking for an option to hand carry instead of roll, opt for a special artistry briefcase or backpack. Unlike wheeled alternatives, these bags are great for travel and transport because they prevent less wear and tear from the constant hauling and lugging of frequent travel. The carry-on sizes are engineered with multiple pockets and pouches for maximum storage space, and are easy to separate into categories while keeping your makeup safe.

But it all comes down to preference. A backpack can be great in a city setting with mass transit, but it does not allow you to carry much more than your must-haves on your back. A carrying case or briefcase allows for easy organization, but keeps your hands full and can be a heavier to lug around all day. Most come with a protective shoulder strap, but back or neck strain may be an issue as well.

Popular brand briefcases such as the Make Up For Ever Make Up Bag and MAC Cosmetics Carry All, or many of the hands-free backpacks such as the NC Squared Bag and Zuca’s Artist Backpack are all excellent options for the makeup artist who understands how to edit his or her kit.

Luggage and Roll-Aboards

Any piece of luggage can be converted into a makeshift kit holder if you commit to editing down your product and using some imagination. I prefer suitcases that are waterproof with hard construction and durable wheels, ideal for protecting your product—snowboard brands like Burton or Etnies make great options. These cases stand up to wear and tear and can take a beating for hardcore travellers. Their designs feel young and fun, and they have enough room to fit anything I need and want with me. You can bring your luggage to any office supply outlet and create your own variety of boxes and holders, or you’ll find many options from makeup artist brands such as the Clear Soft Packs from The Powder Group or the Clear Actor Bags from Stilazzi (more on this in Part 3).

Professional Artist Cases

On the other side of the cost spectrum are professional artist cases. These makeup cases have become a common sight in the industry. Companies like Zuca provide many options to protect and organize the tools of your trade and travel in style. The best part is the inside of the case is organized for you and you need only add in your product in a way that best fits your makeup application and clients. Many brands including MAC and Inglot Cosmetics have developed their own versions in partnership with Zuca that have added artist details. Companies like Stilazzi are changing the way artists think by providing them customizable kits to fit every need and every price point. These can come designed in hard or soft materials and can be tailored to meet the needs of every artist and every job. Each of these options allows for maximum organization with minimal effort.

Premium Cases (The Professional Cabinet)

And then there is the Rolls-Royce of makeup kits—the professional, big-sized, all-in-one cabinet. These traditional cases are perfect for large jobs, like in film and television, or for the artist that wants to have all of their product on set with them. The largest cases have tiered drawers and cabinets to organize tools and product. Traditional options are available from companies like Kryolan and pro resource boutiques like Alcone, Cinema Secrets, and Frends and can be found in countless shapes, sizes and materials, allowing you to master your own kit set up.

Check out Part 1 of James Vincent's Building Your Kit series, and stay tuned for Part 3: Storage Secrets!

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.