Even those who own a full skincare line tend to shy away from eyeshadow.
It’s the hardest set of makeup tricks to pull off and between fading, creasing, and smearing it hardly seems worth it sometimes to put in all that effort just to have to touch it up every hour.
But if you’re willing to give it a try, eyeshadow can be the cherry on top of a perfect look and we’ve found 30 tips you must know if you’re going to stock up on palettes and add some color to your crease.
1. Keep it simple (at first)
If you’re just starting out on your eyeshadow journey, it’s best to keep it simple at first, unless you’ve got some spare time and a bottle of good makeup remover nearby.
All the blending and palettes and primers came come later, once you find a shade you like and start figuring out how much to use and where.
Start with neutrals and work your way up to brights unless you’re feeling really adventurous.
But don’t worry – we’ll tell you how to step up your game as you keep clicking!
2. Go white or nude
Depending on your skin tone, a white or nude (for you) shadow or pencil is your best friend when it comes to looking bright-eyed and bushy tailed, especially after a rough night of sleep.
A bit of white eyeliner and some white shadow in the corners of your eyes will make them pop.
3. Invest in some decent brushes
Those little foam wands that come in your eyeshadow case? Awful for applying the product with precision!
Makeup brushes can run you anywhere from $5 to $500 for a whole set, but there’s no need to break the bank when you’re first starting out.
MAC, Bobbi Brown, and NARS are all known for making great eyeshadow brushes.
If you plan on experimenting with dramatic looks, get a short-haired, firm bristled brush with an angled flat edge. For those who intend to blend, go for a soft synthetic bristle.
4. Brown is your friend
Unsure where to start? Believe it or not, matte brown eyeshadow is almost universally flattering when used in small doses.
If you just want to invest in one shade for now while you test out your new skills, go for a light brown (or copper if you really need some shimmer).
Start with just your bottom crease and then increase the coverage area , adding layers to make it darker as you get more confident.
5. Invest in a good primer
Ok, so you have your application down and now you want your masterpiece to stay in place all day.
Eyeshadow primer is not just some marketing gimmick – a good one will lay a solid (but sheer!) foundation for your color so you don’t have to worry about it moving around as you go about your day.
Primer will be especially helpful for those with oily eyelids that cause shadows to smear or fade.
And the best part is that primers come in all price ranges. Urban Decay is a customer favorite if you’re willing to shell out over $20, but NYX is a drugstore brand that has diehard fans as well and runs for under $10.
6. Ran out of primer? Use foundation
Out of primer or not ready to invest yet? If you own a good foundation that you can trust to stay in place all day (we recommend a tiny dot of Fenty), you can use that as a stand-in.
It’s not formulated in the same way, but it will help makeup stay in place.
Just keep in mind that you might need to blend out your eye crease a bit when you head to the ladies room.
7. For your first trick, try a cut crease
You’ll need some practice, but with the right tools and primers, the cut crease is a great skill for a dramatic look.
You’ll want to watch a tutorial such as this one, but it basically involves swiping on your primer, then adding a dark brown shadow above you lid with a fluffy blending brush.
Then, you’ll take your firm, angled brush and swipe a concealer across your lid to create a line – or cut a crease – between your upper and lower lids.
You can add flair to this with eyeliner and more color, but the basic technique involves creating that line between your upper and lower lids.
8. Fix broken eyeshadow easily
There’s nothing more frustrating that buying a new eyeshadow or a whole palette and then dropping it or having it break during travel.
If your solid shadow bites the dust, there’s an easy way to fix it.
Simply gather up the remnants, add a drop or two of rubbing alcohol, and use the back of a spoon to smash it down to mold it back together.
The shape of your eye and the size of your lid (as well as whether it’s hooded) will determine what you can and can’t do with eyeshadow.
What works for someone with great big eyelids and is not going to work for Asian eyes.
Make sure you study your shape and do your research on what’s best for your own eyes. For example, if you have very little lid and end up putting your eyeshadow too close to your eye, you won’t be able to see it until it ends up in the wrong place. In that case, you’ll want to focus on the area right under your eyebrow.
10. Use a template
Have a palette and not sure where to put the darks and the lights?
This diagram can help give you a little guidance on both areas and orders of application.
After all, there are some places (like the corner of your eye) that dark shadow just don’t look good.
11. Use a white base to make bold colors pop
We’ve talked about the beauty of having a white or nude shadow underneath or in the corner of your eyes, but a white shadow applied to you lid will really make bold colors pop.
Just like painting a room, painting your eyelid requires the right color underneath to bring out its vibrant tone.
12. Know your most complimentary colors
You can wear whatever color strikes you fancy, but if you want to know what tends to work best based on eye color, the diagram below will help you choose a palette.
You lucky ladies with green eyes can wear some of the boldest shades without issue!
13. How to deal with the fallout
When you’re working with powder, there’s a good chance that some of it will end up on your cheeks or somewhere else you didn’t intend for it to go.
To solve this problem – which happens to the best of us – you can either do your eye makeup first and clean up the rest of your face before applying your foundation or concealer or grab an eyeshadow shield to catch the color that flies out of the brush during application.
14. Use a makeup remover pen to clean up the area
Sometimes we accidentally color outside the lines – it happens!
If you didn’t get your line quite right but don’t want to involve the nuclear option of getting out the makeup remover (which will strip off any base layers underneath) get yourself a makeup remover pen.
Just a quick swipe will wipe off what you need so you can start over or clean up just a simple squiggle.
15. Smear your shadow for a winged eyeliner hack
Not into playing around with dark eyeliner that requires a steady hand? You can create a wing out of a smoky eye with just a bit of tissue by purposely smearing your shadow up and out.
No doubt discovered by accident when someone was taking off their makeup and found that the smear looked pretty fab, we love this trick for when you just don’t have the time to play with pencil.
16. Use tape as a guide
You can use just about any tape that won’t damage the delicate skin around your eyes to create straight lines for your eyeliner or eyeshadow.
No more winging your winged eyeliner freehand with this easy trick!
17. Bring the under over
No matter what colors you’re playing with, if you like a dramatic look, try lining underneath your eyes with the same color you’re using on top.
Then, blend the two together at the outer corner of your eye to bring the whole look together.
18. Use shadow to fill in brows
Your look can’t come together properly unless your brows are in good shape.
Stop over-tweezing now and embrace the full brow that compliments the shape of your face (no upside down smiley faces or straight lines!).
You can take some of your dark shadow and fill in brows as well. After all, we’ve all plucked a few too many hairs in the past and need a little extra coverage.
Using the same color as your darkest eyeshadow (as long as it compliments your hair color) is a great way to bring your entire look together.
19. Use darker shades with caution
Dark eyeshadows (and using lots of liner) will always make your eyes look smaller.
Unless you’re going super dramatic and contouring with white on your brow bones and corners, make sure you use the darkest shades sparingly, unless you have big eyes that you actually want to minimize (or are going for a goth look).
20. The return of the white shadow
You really need a white (or nude, depending on your skin tone) shadow or pencil if you’re going to perfect your look.
Aside from opening up your eyes and helping your color pop, a well-blended bit of white right beneath your eyebrow will also give you an instant brow lift and hide any errant hairs that are popping up between waxing appointments.
You’ll want to be sure to blend it well and make sure you don’t just have a weird white line beneath your brows, but the effort is worth it.
21. Blend, blend, and then blend some more
If you’re going to use more than one color and aren’t going for the cut crease look, you need to blend. And that means you need a blending brush.
No matter how bold your shade is, blending is the key to making colors work together without giving you an amateur look.
22. Add some tilt
When you’re looking in your makeup mirror, your best bet is to tilt your head back during application so you can get a good glimpse of the color at an angle. Looking at yourself head-on isn’t going to give you the perspective you need.
You’ll also get a better idea of whether you’re eyeshadow and eyeliner are symmetrical this way.
Applying darker shadow to your crease will add more dimension to your eyes. But if your eyelids are small or non-existent, you can fake a crease by contouring your eyes a bit above any crease you do have.
This photo gives you an indication of where you should be drawing the line if you want to increase your crease.
24. Don’t start with shimmer
There’s nothing wrong with a little sparkle, but it’s best not to apply a shimmery eyeshadow right to your eyelid without some sort of base color, otherwise you’re going to end up with a big glitter crease across your eyelid.
Be sure to apply shimmer last and blend until it looks as natural as possible.
25. Blue to counteract red
Blue eye makeup might seem so 80s, but if you tend to have redness in and around your eyes, a bit of blue liner will actually help draw attention away from that redness.
Go easy on the bold colors though – start small and build up to bold.
26. Get creative with bright eyeliner
There’s no perfect way to apply pink or blue or green eyeliner – you need to get creative and experiment for yourself.
No, it’s never going to look natural, but that’s not really what you’re going for in this case.
However, since each eye is different, some placements may look better than others and you’re not going to know until you try them all out.
27. Try ombre shadow for a fun night out
You’re priming, you’re blending, you have a whole palette of colors at your disposal – now it’s time to play!
Ombré is a great way to blend colors from darkest to lightest and give yourself an avant garde and playful look.
It might not be right for the office, but it’s definitely a fun experiment for a night on the town!
28. Apply by dabbing
The key to applying your color it to dab, not drag.
Just like using a makeup sponge to apply your foundation, wiping your eye makeup across you lid results in lines and streaks that you might not even see until you’re in better light.
The key to streak-less-ness is to use your brush in a dabbing or dappling motion when first applying color. Then your blending brush can swoop in for the swiping action.
29. Try to walk the line
Go ahead and try that straight line by hand. If at first you don’t succeed, you can always blend it out (or get out the makeup remover).
You can’t get better at applying makeup until you try (and fail a few times).
Just be sure not to try anything too complicated if you need to be out the door in the next 15 minutes.
The smokey eye is the ultimate goal of so many makeup fanatics, but it’s not as easy as all the “this is easy” tutorials would have you believe.
This is one case in which practice makes perfect.
The best way we’ve found so far to achieve the holy grail of eye makeup is to use the hashtag trick.
Like all the best tricks, it requires blending, but it’s actually pretty simple. Just draw a hashtag at the corner of your eye (usually with a pencil), then use a smudging brush (something more firm than a blender) to smudge it out.
You can even apply more hashtags to make it darker.