If you’re unsure how to apply eyeshadow, you’ve arrived at the perfect destination. If you want new techniques, we’ve got those, too. First, you must choose the right eyeshadow palette for your eye color and skin tone, and then it’s time to learn how to layer the various shades on your lid. Ahead, makeup artist Tobi Henney shares how to create a basic eyeshadow look that complements your eye color and shape.
Step One: Prime Your Lid
Always sweep a primer over your lids before applying eyeshadow that you want to stay on all day. We swear by Urban Decay’s Primer Potion ($24), but there are all sorts of primers on the market (we also like MAC Prep + Prime 24-Hour Extend Eye Base, $25).
Why this step is important: If you have greasy lids or you’re prepping a summer makeup look, the primer keeps the eyeshadow in place. You’ll find your shadow won’t budge after a day of sightseeing even in the most humid temperatures.
Tools: You can use your finger to apply primer, but a Q-tip works also make a great budget-friendly tool. If you’re more of a brush makeup applier, then simply use a makeup brush for an even application.
Step Two: Sweep a Neutral Color Over Your Lids
Eyeshadow palettes come with several shades. For your lid, you’ll want to choose a neutral shade—not the darkest, not the lightest. Sweep this color over the entire lid up to the crease. For a more dramatic look, you can go darker, but if you have light skin and eyes, you may be better off with a lighter shade as the dark look can be harsh. You’ll also want to reconsider shimmer if you have more mature skin as it can accentuate fine lines.
Why this step is important: The neutral sweep of shadow is the base from which you’ll build the rest of your look. Even if you’re only going for a basic look for weekday or weekend, a neutral color will make your eyes pop and cover up any lid discoloration.
Tools: Throw out the freebie foam applicator that comes with some drugstore palettes. The best tool for eyeshadow application is a medium eyeshadow brush. You can get one at any drugstore, Sephora or department store. “Some beauty experts like to be edgy and recommend using your fingers to apply eyeshadow, but this never works for me,” Henney says.
Step Three: Blend a Darker Color into Your Crease
For the next step, blend in a darker shade into your crease. Start from the inside of the eye with a thinner line growing thicker as it extends to the outside of the crease. Make sure the lids match and blend, blend, blend.
If you have a 3-color palette, choose the darkest color. If you have a 4-color palette, choose the third darkest. If you’re not using a palette, use a color that’s in the same family as your neutral color.
Why this step is important: This step adds drama and definition to your eyes.
Tools: Use a brush meant for the crease and apply it to the crease.
Step Four: Add Highlighter Above the Crease
If you feel your eyes still need more color, you can take the lightest color in your palette and blend it in just above your crease. Try to keep the color off the brow bone (sweep color up to the brow bone) and stick with lighter shades, as dark shades aren’t the best option here.
Think of your lids like a rainbow, seamlessly blending from light to dark to light again. If you watch makeup application videos, you will see just how important blending with a makeup brush is when it comes to eyeshadow.
Step Five: Press a Light Shade into the Inside Corner of the Eye
To open up eyes, press your pinkie finger into the lightest color of the palette and then press your pinkie into the inside corner of your eye. This is the makeup artist’s secret for making eyes appear wider and more awake.
Why this step is important: Nothing will make your eyes look as awake as this trick. Use it for special events, dates, evenings out, or on days when you didn’t get a full eight hours of sleep.
Tools: Always use your pinkie finger here. You don’t want to press too much color into your eye, or it won’t look as natural.