Diary / Beauty / May 8, 2023
A Beginner's Guide: How to Apply Eyeshadow
Written by: Piper Gray
Photography by: Ben Ritter & Jon Paterson
Learning how to apply eyeshadow is easier than it may seem. If you’re hoping to understand how to wear a fresh, everyday look or how to master a more complicated application for a night out, you just need the right tools and colors—and, of course, to practice. (Remember: Even the experts had to start somewhere.) We’ll go over how to build your makeup kit with the best brushes, formulas, and colors, as well as other helpful tips.
First: It’s All About the Tools
This is especially important for beginners who may not know where to start when it comes to defining their eyes or blending complementary hues. Using the right brushes—with the right bristles—will help you control where you apply your chosen eyeshadow color or colors. Once you understand which brush to use and when, you can feel confident that you’re not mistakenly over-applying shadow or under-doing color where your eyelids need it most.
You’ll notice that most eye brushes have short bristles (in comparison to, say, one for applying blush) that are fairly compact (meaning: they don’t always fan out, and if they do, they are tightly locked in at the base). When you want to apply all-over color to your face or cheeks, look for bristles with more movement designed for light, larger coverage, but stick to shorter, tighter bristles for the eyes for greater control and precision.
Eye Fluffy Brush
We’re partial, but if you can only have one brush, this is where you want to start. Our Eye Fluffy Brush is a fundamental tool for applying an even wash of color to your eyes. A quick sweep across the lid leaves a clean layer that serves as a one-and-done color or a simple base that you can build up with more dimension, through more defined color application, liner, or shimmer (or all three).
Eye Blending Brush
Even if you’re an eyeshadow novice, you’ll quickly get comfortable with using multiple shades to lend depth to your eyes. Our Eye Blending Brush will easily blend and soften colors for a harmonious look.
The Eye Detail Brush
When you want to get even more precise in your application, a dense brush like The Eye Detail Brush will help you target color in specific areas. The bristles are even shorter and more compact, which are ideal for applying additional shadow along your lash lines for extra dimension.
The Eyeliner Brush
Before you feel intimidated, mastering a precise line—no matter if you use a pencil or shadow—along the lash isn’t cause for anxiety. When you’re starting out, your lines may not be as exact as you’d hope, but a brush like ours just needs a steady hand. And even if you’re not going for a cat-eye or a graphic look, this blends and softens color for a smudgy line or smoky eye. Plus, when you’re not using it for the eyes, the brush’s compact bristles are also great for applying your favorite lip color. Just make sure to clean it well between uses.
Other non-brush tools
Even if you have the full range of brushes on hand, sometimes you may want to use your fingers or a sponge for a more diffused look with just a hint of color or shimmer. (Wash your hands, of course, if you decide to use either.) With your fingers or sponge, you can quickly build up more shading for a noticeable look, and this is especially true when you’re using cream or liquid eyeshadows. Their fluid formulas go on easily and smoothly so you don’t have to be quite so cautious. Skip the brushes when you want to be a bit more experimental.
Choose the Right Color Eyeshadow
Our philosophy when it comes to choosing the right colors of makeup for you is that you should go with what makes you feel most comfortable. And especially when it comes to deciding on your eye look, what you prefer one day will change the next depending on a few factors. For example, do you want to look alert for that important video call this morning? Then you may want a mix of darker colors to add some depth and lighter options to highlight. If a smoky eye is your plan for the evening, then you’ll need a dark palette. (But if you want your lip color to take center stage instead, then you will probably want a softer-hued shadow for your eyes.)
In other words, improvise and experiment. The Best Eyeshadow is available in 15 colors, an array of deep neutrals to peachy shimmers, so you have plenty to play around with. To brighten your eyes, top your shadow with Just A Sec for a lightweight shimmer. And for extra glimmer, build up a magical sheen with our liquid, glitter eyeshadow, Sparkle Wash (which also works on your cheeks, lips, or anywhere else you want to shine).
Now, How to Apply
Prime your lids
Those with dry skin may experience oily lids so everyone, regardless of their skin type, needs to apply a primer before any eye color. Primer will ensure eyeshadow stays put, so it won’t slide around or smear. You don’t need much but make sure the primer dries before you move on to applying color. Our Light Moisture Cream will do the trick, providing a subtle barrier between your skin and your first layer of makeup.
Add a base layer
If you’re aiming for an everyday look, start with a neutral color. When your eyes are closed, your lids make a semi-circle—that’s where you want to apply your base. But if you’re opting for something dramatic and impactful, you can stretch the color closer in the direction of your browline, as much past your socket as you like.
Work on your creases
To add a little depth or definition, choose a darker color for the crease. Start slowly and gently, and then build so the darker hue doesn’t overpower your look. It can also be helpful to keep your eyes open when you’re targeting the crease so you don’t mistakenly deposit color too high or too low.
Blending is an important next step, especially because the color along your crease may at first appear harsh. Use your brush to diffuse the darker color and blend until you’re satisfied.
Rim your eyes
Applying eyeliner every time you are playing up your eyes isn’t a must—but it is an impactful way to deepen your color and liven up your look, especially if you’re going out for the night or to a formal event. But a soft application can work day-to-day, too. Liner makes your eyes pop and thickens your lashes; just make sure to layer on the liner as close to your lash line as possible.
It’s important to use an ultra-dark color to create contrast, and there are a couple of methods for application. Using an eyeshadow and brush will give you subtle definition that can be dialed up or down—so your eyes can appear natural-but-better or you can add a deliberately smoky layer.
But for a crisper line, reach for a pencil. It will best apply a crisp, clean line when it stays sharpened, and it also glides on smoothly so you can lightly smudge it along your lash line.
And if you want to add a little highlight to your inner rims or above your freshly applied liner, finish off your eyes with Just a Sec.
The Bottom Line
Applying eyeshadow is a surprisingly simple and versatile way to top off your makeup, no matter if it’s for everyday or for a special evening out. Once you have the right brushes on hand, and you’ve mastered the basic steps, you’ll be comfortable with adding more dimension and colors for a natural or dramatic look.