#BizTalk – Taking Your Makeup Kit From Student to Pro

makeup to go blog Los Angeles makeup San Francisco makeup Tania d Russell taking your makeup kit from student to pro

I was asked to make a post specifically about taking your kit from student to Pro, and I wanted to be sure to do so before this weekend’s The Makeup Show trade show. This one goes out to all of my Emerging Artists who are finishing up makeup school and about to head out into the Real Makeup World. If you’re just starting out DIY-style and didn’t go to a makeup school, hopefully this helps you as well. πŸ™‚

makeup to go blog taking your makeup kit from student to pro

…but one of the many variations of my working makeup kit…


Ahh product. Product is great. Don’t you love it? I sure do. And lucky us, as makeup artists we legitimately need product to do our work. HOWEVER product is but ONE piece of the financial puzzle of growing a makeup business. Obviously, buying new makeup is the fun piece of the puzzle, right? But buying makeup because you actually have JOBS is even more fun. And getting jobs means doing what it takes to get booked as a freelancer. Thus, when transitioning from a student to a Pro, you have to resist the temptation to just wildly buy AllOfTheThings and develop a plan of investing in and building your kit.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]A lot of would-be artists never make it because they tether themselves financially and cannot afford to invest in their makeup business[/pullquote]

Let me say that again for the folks in the back: If you do not allocate the money necessary to grow your business, you will soon be out of business.

What are these business expenses of which I speak?

– Promotions (business cards, promo cards, your website, a digital or print portfolio, etc.)
– Continued Education
– Trade Shows
– Testing and/or low budget projects (if a job isn’t making you money, it’s costing you money, period.)
– Job opportunities (??? Yep. As a freelancer many jobs require money spent up front (travel, accommodations, special items like Wigs, etc.) and then you’ll be paid back when the client pays your invoice.)
– Transportation to and from tests and jobs including parking, tolls, train fees (BART goes up seemingly every time in working in the SF Bay Area).
– Business and personal insurance
– Liscensing and/or professional fees where applicable
– Taxes (as a freelancer you pay business tax and eventually you’ll be kissing those refunds goodbye)

If I took the time to think I could probably come up with 5 more things to add to this list. Also, be mentally prepared for the fact that – at least for those of us who work in media makeup – you will likely NOT be paid right away. Sometimes you can negotiate for that, but more often than not you will invoice a client and the industry standard is that they have 30 days to pay you. Some international jobs take 60-90 days. And real talk: 30 days often means 40-45 days. Therefore maintaining your cashflow so you can keep going is one of the most important aspects of becoming and staying a freelance artist.

How would I suggest proceeding thoughtfully and wisely with taking your makeup kit from Student to Pro? Here we go…

1) First Things First
Without any doubt, when you are first coming out of school the two main things you need to invest in are your foundation/skin products and your tools. The inter-webs are constantly inundating you, as a young artist, with the latest greatest thing that is supposed to take you from rank amateur to superstar makeup artist in five seconds. But do you really need a new gadget to help you clean your brushes when you haven’t invested in good brushes yet? Do you really need a new doodad to give you a “flawless foundation finish” when you don’t have a full selection of foundations yet? If you get called to a job and you find you do not have the proper color foundation for your client you’re going to wish you had bought foundation instead of some silly thing to clean your brushes. And PLEASE do NOT forget skincare!!!!! Your preparation prior to applying makeup can be more important than the makeup application itself. This is a time where cheap-o drugstore brands will largely NOT get it done (although there are a few exceptions). Quality skincare will absolutely, positively elevate your makeup applications.

2 ) Think Like A Pro
If you’re saying you’re a pro makeup artist then it is time to start thinking like one. The latest greatest products do not necessarily work for us. Mass-market/drugstore brands do not necessarily work for us. Does the caliber of product I am using correlate with the work that I am doing? (i.e. – if I’m doing a $150 headshot job, is now the time to pull out my $80 Tom Ford foundation?) When I open my kit am I making a good presentation/first impression to my client? These are all things that must be considered when building a kit. I am NOT a fan of an artist running out and buying all the most expensive product in an attempt to impress a client. Even if you can afford it, a lot of that stuff does not even work in a pro kit. That said, you absolutely cannot open your kit and have a bunch of cheap brands (BH Cosmetics, Coastal Scents, etc.) and mass-market/drugstore stuff with a couple of popular items stuck in there and call that a working kit. Your kit should be a balance of professional product and high quality brand-name product that you know will perform when you go to use it. Oh and forego the temptation to buy these super-premium makeup brushes that are all the rage as well. Some of them are amazing, some of them are all hype, none of them will turn you into Troy Suratt overnight. Artistry is in your hands and your skill-set which is developed with time, not product.

3 ) Not Everyone Is Your Color
Even if you get a good brand-name product, it does not mean it will work on everyone. Below is a picture of my hand. On top is a “black” eyeshadow color from a popular consumer brand, middle the Black eyeshadow color from the LORAC Pro 1 eyeshadow palette, and the bottom is the BLACK eyeshadow color from the Viseart #1 neutral palette. See the difference? When you are purchasing for your kit, remember that people of color not only need a different color range, but we also need a lot more pigmentation. I’ll tell you right now those cheap-o 1-zillion color eyeshadow palettes do not even register on my skin. It will look like you did not even put anything on me. It is vital to bear this in mind when you are selecting your color cosmetics.

makeup to go blog taking your makeup kit from student to pro

black-ish, blacker, blackest… not all color cosmetics are created equal


4 ) Get Organized
The way I see a lot of students carry their products is – and I mean this in the most loving way possible – laughable. You will never be able to work with these setups. The most common mistake I see is people trying to carry EVERYTHING with them all the time because they’re “afraid” of not having something. A ) That’s highly inefficient and will make you work more slowly. B ) It’s unrealistic almost anywhere other than LA where we drive everywhere. In NYC and SF – for example – you will likely be on public transportation to the job and then you may have to carry that kit up multiple flights of stairs. How’s that train case looking now? C ) That’s a good way to have your entire inventory of product damaged, lost or stolen. D ) If you are working on a private client in their home or hotel room, they are not checking for you dragging some big a** setup into their space. Ain’t nobody got time for all that!

On the flip-side, those little boxes that open up with the drawers are really only good for smaller jobs/private clients where you can take a more edited kit. Otherwise you’re trying to cram too many things in too small of a space and it gets messy and cluttered, which slows you down and also does not make a good first impression. And your product can become easily damaged that way.

I have posted articles on my kit setup before (click to read), and I am about to do a new updated post because things have changed again. But if you do some research online it is easy to find information on how working artists organize their kits and even though every single artist on the planet has their own method, you will see certain commonalities repeated and you can start to emulate those practices.

5 ) Think Long-Term and Cross Platform
I think the reason a lot of artists become fixated on the latest greatest new palette or whatever is because they are trapped in their current circumstance, and not thinking about further down the line. Let’s say you are currently primarily doing Bridal. On a Bride you may very well use a lot of the popular consumer products, because there is a lot of psychology involved with doing “real people” clients and part of that is making them comfortable with product with which they are familiar. What many consumers think of as “high end” and “professional”, however, most artists would not. If you only build a kit with bridal/consumer clients in mind, what happens when you go to move beyond Bridal? If you have ambitions to move into media makeup, for example, you need to build a kit with that in mind, starting now. First of all, quite frankly, your bridal will come out better. If you think of Bridal as a photographic event – because once you do the bride’s makeup she will be photographed all day and night – you and your bride will be much happier with the final makeup outcome. Secondly, there is no more sign of being an amateur than having to do the mad dash shopping trip before a job. That’s just lack of preparedness. Buy products that can work in multiple venues. I already showed the difference – for example – between the Viseart and LORAC Pro palettes, and the run-of-the-mill consumer brand palette. If you select professional foundation/skin products and then stick to color products that can work in multiple mediums, you have just saved yourself a lot of time and money AND you’ll be ready to work when the opportunity presents itself.

6 ) What Else Are You Doing?
Thus far we have talked about the Beauty makeup kit. This blog is run by a beauty makeup artist and hence, most of my discussion is from that point of view. Also on the practical level, it is where a lot of artists start since a lot of artists nowadays start out with bridal or working for a cosmetics line, etc. However, for most of us the Beauty Kit will not be the only game in town. For example, a goodly percentage of my jobs – over half, I would say – also necessitate that I do hair. This means I had to invest in and now have to maintain a hair kit. Hair product is expensive. Tools are expensive. One of my best clients also required that I carry extensions. Extensions are expensive. Therefore, you will need to plan for that as well. I also do a lot of men’s grooming so I had to invest in a good clipper/trimmer, a nose/ear hair trimmmer (which thankfully I rarely ever have to use, but I do have it), and with the whole “Lumbersexual” trend, beard grooming/styling product, etc.

And we have not even touched upon maintaining an FX kit, which you will obviously need to do if you plan to work in FX. I do NOT work in FX at all, HOWEVER I’ve worked on projects where I had to bald cap or do some facial hair work. Or create a bruise or bloodshot eyes. So while I do not often carry it with me, even I have to own some theatrical/character makeup (I refuse to keep any blood of any kind whatsoever. Refuse!!! LOL)

7 ) How Do You Get There?
If this post seems like more questions than answers, my apologies but it kind of is. I am throwing out guidelines for you to think about as you grow your kit and your business. Here at Makeup to Go, I focus a lot on thinking, which is exactly what a lot of these trend brands and trend items do not want you to do. They want you to blindly purchase whatever it is they are selling so they can keep making money. I want you to not be a sheep and to build a successful makeup business. if you want a particular popular item because you have thought about it and decided that it is going to add value to your kit/business, go for it. The name of the game, however, is making informed choices based on your priorities of what you are trying to do and where you are trying to go. If it is not adding anything to the party, skip it. Once you have what you feel is a fully materialized kit where you can walk out the door to any job feeling prepared, then you can start adding in doodads, trinkets, and the latest palette du jour if you so choose. πŸ™‚

8 ) Give Me Some Specific Recommendations, Dammit!
As you know, I talk a lot about products I am actually using here on the blog, so that is a good place to start. I am reticent to “prescribe” specific products because the journey of developing a kit is quite personal. What one artists loves another may disdain, hence I am a huge advocate of getting a lot of samples and trying a lot of product before you settle down and start committing.

THAT SAID: If you just want to know what products I use and recommend, there is always my Makeup to Go Preferred Products List. You can buy the List for $10, or you can by a Subscription (updated quarterly or so, and actually a new update is coming soon) for $25/year. The links to purchase are below.

MTG Preferred Products List –






MTG Preferred Products List SUBSCRIPTION –





As you can see, there is a lot to think about, purchase, maintain and upkeep in the professional working kit. Do you really have time for another contour kit? Nah…and not only that, if you have a functional pro kit, you do not need a contour kit at all. You’ll already have about 10000 different products you can contour/highlight with.

#MakeupMonday – MUJI – Makeup Organization Paradise

muji makeup to go blog makeup san francisco makeup los angeles tania d russell

entrance to the San Francisco store…


A couple of months ago, I was introduced to MUJI USA in Los Angeles by a fellow makeup artist.

I knew of MUJI from NYC where they have a few different locations, but I did not know they had migrated to other parts of the country, namely California. Yay!

For those who may not be familiar, MUJI is a chain of – I would describe – mini department stores selling a variety of goods. The focus of goods at MUJI is in clothing, housewares, household organization, some limited specialty food items, stationary, skin care & beauty accessories, etc. MUJI is short for Mujirushi Ryōhin, which translates as No Brand, Quality Goods. Basically instead of a bunch of flashy design, and wasteful packaging etc., MUJI uses a minimalist aesthetic and focuses on recycling, responsible manufacturing and waste reduction. My type of company. I LOVE the aesthetic and vibe of MUJI stores. It is absolutely the type of space I could spend hours in just relaxing and taking in all there is to take in.

For the makeup artist or aficionado, MUJI is an organizers paradise. From tubes, to pump bottles to acrylic organizers, pencil cases… you name it. In pretty much every quadrant of the store (except for the clothing section πŸ˜‰ ) you can find something that can be beneficial to organizing your health, beauty and makeup essentials. WARNING: This is the type of store where it is easy to spend way too much money! This is what I purchased on two recent trips;

muji makeup organization paradise makeup to go blog makeup san francisco makeup los angeles tania d russell

I am constantly obsessed with getting my kit smaller and more efficient so I purchased some tubes in which I plan to put various moisturizer and skin cleansers, an Oil Cleanser – which is one of the best ways to remove makeup – for my kit, a facial toner and a facial loton which I just want to try for myself, a couple of flip top squeezable bottles that I have no idea what I’ll use them for yet, a set of spatulas and syringes to help move product into their new containers and a set of 3 corrugated cardboard business cards holders which I LOVE. Those are going to come in quite handy as I actually two different business cards (one for Makeup to Go and one for myself as a freelance makeup artist) and I’ll be able to keep them organized and clean in my purse πŸ™‚ MAKEUP ARTIST NOTE: While the MUJI Tubes are OK in a pinch for color cosmetics, for my foundations, liquid blushes, etc. I still prefer the Yaby tubes. In particular it’s the shaker balls in the Yaby tubes which ensure the pigments stay evenly mixed in your color cosmetics that make all the difference IMO. HOWEVER, for moisturizers, gels, toothpaste, etc. etc. the MUJI tubes are great and they come in a few different sizes.

How does MUJI compare to say, The Container Store? Well, as you know The Container Store is my boo and no one will ever fully replace them. I have to say that – aside from the Asian aesthetic which makes them very different in feel from TCS – MUJI is a more curated, targeted, niche experience. They are not as big and they do not carry as much stuff as TCS and they are not trying to. MUJI is not new, the company began in the 1980’s, so it is not an issue of them growing as a company. The stores in Asia may be bigger, I have not been, but I feel like MUJI USA has pared their offerings down to what best fits their customer and what best serves their company ethos. Short English Version: There is room for both, both stores are great, and I will continue to frequent both.

Here is a visual walkthrough of the fabulousness that is MUJI. If you are like me and love organizational products and stationary, I warn you now this may be dangerous to your viewing health πŸ˜‰

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beauty accessories and implements


muji makeup organization paradise makeup to go blog makeup san francisco makeup los angeles tania d russell

more beauty accessories and implements


muji makeup organization paradise makeup to go blog makeup san francisco makeup los angeles tania d russell

even more beauty accessories and implements


muji makeup organization paradise makeup to go blog makeup san francisco makeup los angeles tania d russell

MUJI brand skincare


muji makeup organization paradise makeup to go blog makeup san francisco makeup los angeles tania d russell

more MUJI skincare, this is the men’s grooming section


muji makeup organization paradise makeup to go blog makeup san francisco makeup los angeles tania d russell

in addition to the skincare cosmetics, they also have great accessories like muslin face cloths and cotton face pads…


muji makeup organization paradise

beauty organization section: tubes, and jars and bottles, OH MY! (also pill cases, clear travel pouches, etc.)


muji makeup organization paradise makeup to go blog makeup san francisco makeup los angeles tania d russell

pump bottles in different colors, either for color coding or for product that should not be exposed to a lot of light


muji makeup organization paradise

stationary section: pencil cases, pouches, etc.

More VueSet Palettes

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco tania d russell more vueset palettes by brenda green

4 more Tahitis and a Star Nova


I’ve gone VueSet crazy!

But the difference the VueSet palettes have made in my kit are undeniable. I have just returned from a working trip in the SF Bay area and my VueSets allowed me to travel lighter while carrying more product. I am now going to transfer all of my cream foundations from their individual palettes to VueSets. Stay tuned… will update when completed.

EDIT – The Star Nova case is for pencils. After years of “group storage” of my pencils in various containers, I realized that is not a method of organization that works for me and I started using fine artist’s pencil cases. That said, I’m willing to give the Star Nova a shot πŸ™‚ (I ordered the 4 Tahitis and Brenda gifted me the Star Nova so I could try it)

UPDATE: Here are photos of my Graftobian HD Creme foundations now de-potted into VueSets. A few notes on this;

– I stirred my foundations as I was melting them down so that the pigments didn’t settle on me.

– As you can see, some of the colors did not want to fully melt down. In trying to get them to melt down I ever so slightly warped a very small section of my VueSet. I did not want to force the issue and risk actual damage to my palette so I stopped.

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco tania d russell more vueset palettes filled with graftobian HD creme foundations


SECOND UPDATE: The Star Nova VueSet did not work for me, at least not for pencils, so I will try it for something else in my kit. As suspected I do not want to go back to a “group storage” situation. I like having my pencils where I can see/find what I need immediately. Also the Star Nova is shallow so it does not hold as many pencils as my current storage solution does. That said, I’m sure I will find another use for it somewhere (if not in my kit then in my office or something…it’s a useful case).

TO ORDER visit www.Vueset.com

#BizTalk – Makeup Kit Organization – VueSet Palettes

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco brenda green vueset palettes

VueSet Palettes


ALSO CHECK OUT: my second VueSet article for more VueSet reviews

About 1,000,000 years ago I worked on the Britney Spears video for “Toxic”

and I met makeup artist Brenda Green. Way back when she mentioned to me how she wanted to put out a new line of empty palettes (also known as “empties”) for makeup kit organization. Unlike other empties, hers would be durable, clear palettes with metal hinges. I apparently was impressed with the idea even then because I gave her my card and wrote the following note;

brenda green biz card note

Fast forward 10 years later and not only did Brenda still have my card with the note (!!!) but her vision has become a reality. Brenda introduced her VueSet palettes and cases to the makeup community this year at the PHAMExpo. I previously mentioned that I had a rough day at PHAME so did not get to actually see Brenda at the show πŸ™ , but I was able to order a couple of palettes (and she was so kind as to send me a few more) and they are the bomb. The Bomb. THE. BOMB. View Post

#BizTalk: The Makeup Kit Revisited

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco tania d russell makeup artist kit organization makeup kit revisited

YIKES! My makeup kit being cleaned and organized this morning…


Regulars of Makeup to Go! will know that I had a series a while back called “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” wherein I covered some of the basics of moving from a makeup fan to a professional artist. Without a doubt, one of the most topical of these installments is the Kit Building installation of the series. Click on that and you can see what I had to say about it back then. What I want to share now is how my makeup kit has evolved. First a story: View Post