The Perfect Light for Makeup

Cloudbreak Creative

When we added a new makeup space to our members studio, we had one main question — what color lights should we use?  We asked a couple of Houston makeup artists for their thoughts before making any decisions.  Our members studio has no natural light source (it’s like Vegas, no windows) so we really only had a few options for working lights that would satisfy most makeup artists.  Our choices were basically warm light, cool light, or somewhere in the middle based on the Kelvin temperature scale.

There used to be a time when you might have asked about the type of light source — incandescent, fluorescent, or some other energy-sucker.  These days, it’s LEDs all the way!  Again, the central question comes back to light color.  Out of curiosity, we also wanted to know why a particular color of light is preferred.

“Natural light is always best,” says professional makeup artist and instructor Samantha Loesch.  “But since the sun moves it helps to have the ring light as a steady source, she said.  Loesch wants flexibility with her lighting setups.  “I always carry an adjustable ring light with me.  It’s awesome, you can adjust the brightness and adjust the warm tones and cool tones of the light (2700k – 5500k),” said Loesch.

Houston makeup artist Katie Burns of Katie Lynn Beauty agrees, “Natural sunlight is always the best.”  If you don’t have natural light, Burns also suggests a dimmable ring light.  “You can choose warm and cool depending on what the needs of your client & setting is,” she said.

What those needs are depend on a few things.  One of which is how much natural light can you find.  In some cases, Burns says she mixes natural and artificial light, if necessary, to achieve the correct color.  Other things like the color of paint on a wall can influence what your eye sees.  Loesch says, “Sometimes I work in places where the walls are a yellowish color or their over head lights are yellow.  So, I would adjust my lighting to be more on the white side to balance out the yellow-ness.”  Lighting is, of course, also dictated to a degree by the subject.  Burns considers the person’s skin tone, hair, and other things before making a final decision on light.

When it comes to photography or video shoots, a makeup artist may consider applying makeup in the same light that will be used for the project.  Burns says, “If I’m doing a photoshoot or a video shoot, then I want to see what kind of lighting they are using.”  Matching light helps the makeup artist to better match colors.  Because that’s the ultimate goal, says Loesch, “to have a light that will show the true colors of the makeup.”

If color is the most-important aspect of makeup, then it may help for makeup artists to apply makeup to subjects in the kind of light where the makeup job will be seen — daylight for daylight, soft white for soft white, etc.  When in doubt, go with daylight!

Samantha Loesch uses a ring light from The MUA Project.  Learn more about Sam at

Katie Burns uses an 18-inch DIVA ring light (LED dimmable) and prefers Glamcor lighting whenever possible.  Learn more about Katie at Katie Lynn Beauty.

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