Buying new eyeshadow–or a whole new eyeshadow palette–is always super exciting. But if the thought of actually going in and applying that eyeshadow seems more daunting than delightful, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered, so you can show off those beautiful eyeshadow pigments and build the eyeshadow look you want.
So whether you’re looking to build a natural eye look without complication or want to keep your smoky eye from going up in flames, we’ve broken down all the tools and steps you’ll need to master basic eyeshadow application.
Once you’ve got it down, you can tweak these steps to recreate your favorite makeup looks—and invent your own.
Read on to learn how to apply eyeshadow like a professional makeup artist, including our tips and picks for the best products to getting a no-hassle eyeshadow look.
Before You Begin: Choose Your Brushes
While you can apply just about any type of makeup with your fingertips, the best way to flawlessly blend colors and define your features is with specialized makeup brushes. And when it comes to creating your eyeshadow look, you’ll want to invest in a few different eyeshadow brushes.
To get you started, here are four brushes you can use to build your beginner eyeshadow application kit:
- A wide-domed fluffy brush, like this IBY BEAUTY Fluffy Eyeshadow Brush, for covering your entire lid with swatches of color
- A smaller tapered blending brush for cutting your crease (where your eyelid meets your eye socket), like this IBY BEAUTY Crease Eyeshadow Brush, and an extra (or two) to keep clean for blending
- An angled blending brush, like this FURLESS Purple Angled Eyeshadow Brush, for getting into and blending any hard-to-reach areas (like the outer corner or inner corner of your eye)
- An stiffer-bristled angled eyeliner brush, like this MAËLLE BEAUTY Angled Eyeshadow Brush, to define and emphasize your lash line
Of course, if you only want to invest in one eyeshadow brush for now, we recommend a multi-purpose eyeshadow brush like the AISLING ORGANIC COSMETICS Pro Tool: Dual-Ended Eyeshadow Brush. It has an oval-shaped brush on one side for packing on pigment, and longer bristles on the other for smooth blending, so you can build a variety of different eye looks without having to switch between brushes.
Step 1. Prime Your Eyes
Why use an eyeshadow primer? Well, eye primer helps your eyeshadow last longer by preventing it from sliding off your eyelids when faced with heat or moisture, the same way face primer works to keep your foundation in place.
Eyeshadow primer is especially great if you have oily eyelids, or find eyeshadow creases on your lids throughout the day. And some eye primers, like the ELIZABETH MOTT Thank Me Later Eye Primer, not only control oil, but have added ingredients (like pearl powder in this case) to brighten and intensify your eyeshadow.
To apply, squirt a small amount of eyeshadow primer onto your ring finger (your ring finger is the best for applying eye makeup, because it has the lightest touch and won’t irritate your skin).
In general, you’ll want to prime any part of your eye where you’re planning on applying eyeshadow. Gently sweep the primer across your entire eyelid, up to your brow bone (right under your eyebrow), around the inner corner of your eye (where your tear duct is), and even along your lower lash line for stay-all-day wear.
Step 2. Build Your Base
Time to add your color. Most eyeshadow looks can easily be created with four shades: a neutral shade for your lid, a medium shade for your crease, a dark shade for your outer corner, and a light shade to highlight your inner corner and brow bone.
No matter the makeup look you’re going for, your first layer of eyeshadow will most likely always be a neutral shade swept all the way across your eyelid with a wide brush. You can choose a color close to your skin tone for natural looks, a lighter shimmer for sparkly styles, or go darker for smoky eyes.
Not sure which eyeshadow to reach for? An eyeshadow palette like TOO FACED COSMETICS’ Chocolate Bar Eye Shadow Palette offers an array of neutrals that flatter every skin tone. If you have fair or light skin, try one of the pinkier shades, like Marzipan or White Chocolate from the palette. Medium and darker skin tones look great in gold or beige shades, like Milk Chocolate, Salted Caramel, or Creme Brulee.
You can also choose your colors by your eye color. Brown eyes look beautiful in green, gold, purple, and grey shades, while colors like red, yellow, orange, and purple make blue eyes pop. For green eyes, try playing around with red, yellow, purple, and grey shades
Step 3. Define Your Crease
Now we’re going to define your crease to give your eye makeup more definition. This will also make your eyes look wider and bigger overall.
For a natural look, dip your fluffy or angled crease brush into your medium eyeshadow shade (fair and light skin tones might want to try Milk Chocolate or Salted Caramel from the Chocolate Bar palette, while medium to darker skin tones can try colors like Semi Sweet or Cherry Cordial).
Then, close your eye and apply the eyeshadow along where your eyelid meets your brow bone, creating a wash of color (as opposed to a thin, hard line).
If you have deep-set or hooded eyelids, you can apply the crease shade with your eyes open to see where it’ll be most visible—likely above your actual eyelid on the lower brow bone.
To define your eye shape even further, dip your angled brush in your dark shade and use it to define the outer corner of your crease, making a V-shape from the lash line to the outer crease. A color like Haute Chocolate or Amaretto would look great on light or fair skin, while Triple Fudge or Black Forest Truffle would flatter medium to dark skin tones
Ipster tip: Keep a light hand as you apply your pigment. It’s always easier to add more color than it is to remove it.
Step 4. Blend & Define
By now, your eyes might be looking more painted on than painterly. Don’t worry: this is where those extra blending brushes come in.
Use a clean blending brush to diffuse the shades on your crease and outer V until they blend seamlessly into your lid. If you end up over-blending some of the medium or dark pigment, no worries. Just use the crease brush again to pat some more shadow in, then blend, blend, blend.
Once your shadow is smoothed to perfection, you can go in and define your lash line. If you want, go in with a liquid or pencil eyeliner first. You can either stop at the end of your eyelashes or build a winged liner look, whichever you prefer. Then, dip your angled eyeliner brush in the medium or dark eyeshadow (whichever matches your eyeliner color) and use it to set your eyeliner.
Don’t want to use eyeliner? Simply dip your angled eyeliner brush into your medium or dark eyeshadow color and sweep across your upper and lower lash line to create a soft and subtle line.
Step 5. Highlight Away
Almost done–now it’s time to use your lightest eyeshadow shade to make your eyes really pop.
In general, a light matte eyeshadow will give you a fresh, natural look perfect for daytime. For more drama, use a shade with some shimmer, like Champagne Truffle or Creme Brulee from the Chocolate Bar palette. You can also use your regular face highlighter for optimal shine.
Whichever shade you decide to use, you’ll want to apply it along your brow bone (just below the arch of your eyebrow) to give your face a wide-awake and lifted look. You can also fake a full night’s rest by dotting it along the inner corners of your eyes. Both of these techniques will make your eyes look bigger, brighter, and more alert.
Then, make sure any harsh edges are blended out, and that’s it—your eyeshadow is done!
Finish the look with mascara and a little something to define your eyebrows, and you’re ready to go.
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