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How to Apply Eye Shadow

Updated on July 14, 2016
Jayne Lancer profile image

A beauty consultant by profession, Jayne has been advising on correct skin and hair care, makeup, and other cosmetics for almost 20 years.

How to apply eye shadow and choose products that work with your skin type, coloring and eye shape.

Applying eye shadow is about shading and highlighting to improve the eye contour, accentuate color and create effects.
Applying eye shadow is about shading and highlighting to improve the eye contour, accentuate color and create effects. | Source

Applying eye shadow is about shading and highlighting to improve the eye contour, accentuate color and create effects. Most of all, your eye shadow should flatter you.

Do You Need Eye Primer?

An eye shadow primer will make your eye makeup last longer and colors appear more vivid, but there’s no need to invest in a separate product labeled ‘eye primer’. The best base for eye makeup is foundation.

If you’ve got deep set eyes, use concealer two nuances lighter than your natural skin tone as a base. It will make your eyes seem more open and expressive.

Which Eye Shadow to Use

If your skin is young and healthy, you can wear any type of eye shadow according to the effect you want to create. But if you’ve got dry and/or mature skin, you should avoid glossy, satin or cream eye shadows—they’ll make your skin look crepy. Only matte powder products will work well, even for highlighting.

Always use matte powder eye shadow for shading, blending and smudging.

If you use cream eye shadow, fix it with a light dusting of translucent powder.

Light or Dark Eye Shadow First?

Apply dark colors before light colors. In other words: shade first, then highlight.

Which Eye Shadow Color is Best for You

Fashion usually dictates colors, but the following choices work for most women no matter what the fashion:

Tip: You can't make a new color by mixing two eye shadow colors together—it will just turn out looking 'muddy'.

  • If your eyes are brown, choose brown, mahogany and gray tones.
  • If your eyes are blue, choose brown tones to make your eyes seem even bluer, or blue tones for a more subtle look.
  • If your eyes are green or hazel you’ve got quite a wide choice. Mauves, purples and violets make green eyes look greener, as do orange based tones, or if you want something more discreet, go for brown and khaki tones.
  • If your eyes are gray, choose blacks and grays.

Fashion usually dictates eye makeup colors.
Fashion usually dictates eye makeup colors. | Source

Which Eye Shadow Brushes to Use

Good quality, sable brushes work best for powder eye shadow. You can create almost any effect with the following four brush types:

  • A flat tipped brush is an all-rounder as brushes go. It's great to apply eye shadow to your upper lid, and if you turn it sideways you can use it for your lid crease and lower lash line. The stiffer the brush, the more definition you’ll get—it’s a good idea to have a soft and a firm one.
  • A firm round tipped brush is perfect for creating a smoky effect. Use it in the crease of your eye and for feathering.
  • Use a soft, round tipped brush for blending. It's essential for smoky eyes.
  • Tightly bound pencil and angled brushes are useful for applying powder kohl and eye shadow as eyeliner, or whenever you need more definition. Angled brushes are also perfect for eyebrow powder.

Tip: Before applying powder eye shadow, dust some loose powder over the tops of your cheeks. That way, you’ll be able to brush away any stray particles of eye shadow without smears.

Eye shadow brushes are available in various sizes. You should choose according to the size of your eyes and the effect you want to create. Large round tipped brushes, for example, are good for a more blended look.

Applicators are best for smudging, as well as being more convenient to carry in your purse than brushes.

How to Apply Eye Shadow

Eye Shadow Over Your Entire Upper Lid

The easiest way to apply eye shadow is over your whole upper lid. If you choose a dark color, it can look smoldering and sultry. If you choose a pastel shade, it can look fresh and dewy. But it will only work if your eyelids are perfect—that means visible from corner to corner.

All eye shadow products are suitable for this technique depending on the effect you want to create and your eye shape, e.g., if your eyes are convex, you’ll need a dark, neutral, matte powder eye shadow.

Use a flat tipped eye shadow brush for this.



A Highlight Beneath Your Brow

Place a highlight beneath your brow to accentuate your brow bone and soften the effect of dark eye shadow.

Use a white or pastel color and blend downwardly. Opalescent products like Benefit’s High Beam work well for a nighttime effect, especially if you use it to highlight your cheekbones as well.

This highlight isn’t a good idea if you’ve got a strong brow bone or hooded eyes—it will accentuate them.

Use a soft, round tipped eye shadow brush for this.


A Highlight On Your Eyelid

Add sparkle to your eyes with a highlight at the center of your eyelid.

All you have to do is apply a spot of light eye shadow above your pupil and blend outwardly. As with the brow highlight, an opalescent product also works well here.

This highlight is ideal if you’ve got small or deep set eyes.

Use a soft, round tipped eye shadow brush.



Shading Your Inner Brow

This little bit of shading is a godsend if you have to dash from the office to a dinner date. It instantly turns your daytime makeup into a seductive nighttime look, which saves lots of time.

You can only do this if your eyes are perfectly spaced or wide set. Don’t try it if you’ve got close set eyes—it’ll make them seem even closer set!

Just apply a neutral toned eye shadow beneath the inner section of your brow and blend it downwardly towards your inner eye corner.

Use a soft, round tipped brush.


Shading Your Outer Eye

This is how you can minimize a prominent brow bone or hooded eyes.

Apply eye shadow beneath the outer section of your brow and blend downwardly until it fades.

You can place a highlight in the arch of your brows, but be prepared that it might not work—it doesn’t work for all women.

Use a firm, round tipped brush for the shading, and a soft, round tipped brush for the highlight.


How to Elongate Eyes

This pulls close set eyes apart and makes round eyes look narrower. Unless you’ve got East Asian eyes, try this if your eyes are small; it's often more effective than trying to make them look rounder. It’s also great if you want to create a ‘cat eye’ effect.

Simply apply dark eye shadow to your outer eye corner and work inwardly, blending outwardly and upwardly along the lid crease.

Use a flat tipped brush, and blend further for a smoky look with a firm, round tipped brush.


How to Make Your Eyes Look Rounder and Larger

Shade your entire upper eyelid blending upwardly, then shade your lower lid, blending outwardly until it joins the shading of your upper lid.

Alternatively, apply a lighter color to your upper lid, and a darker one in the crease. Experiment and see how you look with and without eye shadow on your lower lash line. This technique also works well for hooded eyes.

Use a flat tipped eye shadow brush, and a firm round tipped brush for extra blending.

© 2010 Jayne Lancer


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    • Mariana Fuzaro profile image

      Mariana Fuzaro 2 years ago from São Paulo, Brazil

      Thank you!