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My Best Eyeshadow Application Tips & Tricks

how to pick the right palette, why primers are key & how to make eyes pop


Asian woman applying make up
Dougal Waters/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Eyeshadow application can be daunting. First, you must choose the right eyeshadow palette for your eye color, then you have to figure out how to use all the various shades on your lid. In this article, I share a few eyeshadow application secrets I wished I knew 10 years ago.


How to Properly Apply Eyeshadow

I outline a basic eyeshadow application in my article How to Apply Eyeshadow. It's a 5-step system that involves primer, a neutral base, a crease color and highlighter. You can tame it down for a daytime look or play it up for nighttime drama.

How to Choose an Eyeshadow Palette

The key to selecting an eye shadow palette is to consider your eye color. You want your eyes to pop and the best way to do this is to use a contrasting color palette on your lids. Blue eyes look great with golds and browns. Green eyes are wonderful with pinks and browns. Brown or dark brown eyes look wonderful with blues, greens, aubergine (a deep purple) or even deep, jewel colors. Taupe and lavender look great on all eye colors.

Check out my list of the best eyeshadows from cheap to steep.

Get Professional Help in Choosing Your Best Colors

I love to shop at Sephora because I find the salespeople aren't as pushy as they are at other department stores yet they'll help you find makeup that complements your skin and eye color and teach you application tips. They'll also help you find the right brushes for your shadow application.

Department store counters are also a good bet for finding the right colors for you. Just don't get suckered into a full-makeover, unless you want one. You may feel obligated to pay a lot more money on makeup than you meant to. I suggest hitting a few counters, making it clear to the salepersons that you are shopping for a new eye shadow and will pick the one you like best from the bunch. See How They Trick You at the Cosmetics Counter.

How to Wear Jewel Tones On Your Lids

Jewel-toned colors with dark pigments look best on women with olive skin tones. If you have a pink complexion, light skin, light hair and light eyes, deeply pigmented colors such as deep purples, blues and greens can be too harsh on your skin color.

See Is It OK to Wear Blue Eyeshadow?


Be Careful With Shimmer Eyeshadows

Shimmer makes eyes really pop, but it also highlights heavy lids, lines and wrinkles. If you don't have wrinkled eyelids yet (I kind of do and I don't care!), try this great look for shimmer: create a "nude" lid, but apply a bit of gold shimmer to the browbone. Gorgeous!

Throw Out Those Freebie Foam Applicators

The best tools for eyeshadow application are brushes. You can use just a couple: One medium-sized brush for your neutral color and one for the crease. You can go all out and get a smaller blending brush for your highlighter color and an angled brush to apply eyeshadow as a liner.

How to Use Eye Shadow as Eyeliner

I don't use pencil or liquid liners, instead, I use the darkest color in my makeup palette as an eyeliner. I use a small rounded brush, dip it into the dark brown color and then sweep it just under my bottom lashes. I then go over it with a finger to smudge it a bit. You can also use an angled brush to get a more precise line. Dip the brush in water first to create a liquid liner from your shadow.

Want Your Shadow to Last? Set it With a Primer First

Primers are super hot right now because they help set makeup that stays for hours. I've found the secret to keeping shadow in place for hours is a shadow base, or primer. Almost everyone makes them but I swear by Urban Decay's Primer Potion.

I apply Urban Decay Primer Potion at the beginning of the day and sweep my favorite Christian Dior shadow over it and the shadow stays on all day long with nary a smudge, even through hardcore workouts with my personal trainer. You cannot beat that.

See How to Keep Eye Makeup in Place for Hours.

Blending is Key

I love to watch makeup application videos and the women are always geniuses at applying eyeshadow. You learn pretty quickly that the key to complicated eyeshadow is in the blending. You want your shadows to seamlessly blend, sort of like a rainbow.

How to Create a Smokey Eye

The smokey eye is a classic look that hasn't gone out of style. If you're going for this look, keep color to the lid and just under the lower lashline. Don't extend color above the crease.

See How to Get Smokey Eyes.

How to Make Your Eyes Look Brighter and More Awake

A makeup artist secret is to press a bit of light eyeshadow into the inside corner of the eye. This makes eyes look brighter and more awake. You can use a white pencil to do this, too, but I find the lightest color in any makeup palette works best.

Should You Save or Splurge on an Eyeshadow?

A great eyeshadow (like the beauty editor's all-time favorite, Dior 5-Colour Shadow Palette) will stay on your eyes all day long, while a cheap, $4 palette will have faded by the time you finish your mid-morning coffee. What's more, quality department counter eyeshadows typically have richer colors.

See Should you splurge or save on eyeshadow and eyeliner?


How to Pair Eyeshadow With Red Lips

I sort of live by the beauty rule "Thou Shalt Not Play up the Lips AND the Mouth." If you're going for dramatic red lips (never out of fashion), cover unsightly blue lines on lids with a concealer or shadow primer and then keep eyeshadow light.

Into Natural Makeup? Your Best Option is Mineral Makeup

My friends tend to be a health conscious bunch. They want to know what products are not tested on animals and which ones are not full of awful, potentially cancer-causing ingredients. While they are a subset of the nation as a whole, green beauty is a trend that's growing every year. If you don't want to put any unnatural products on your eyelids, I don't blame you. I will tell you that your best bet is mineral makeup. It's made up competely of natural occurring ingredients like mica.

To get the full scoop on eye makeup that's good for you and the environment, see my list: Natural Eye Makeup.

The Best Eyeshadows From Cheap to Steep

I've done the work for you when it comes to selecting eyeshadows with great staying power and lovely pigment that's not too light for the eye. See my list of favorite eyeshadows (Dior's on the list!).

More on eye makeup:

Related Video
How to Apply the Perfect Lips
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