How To Apply Eyeshadow

Quick Techniques, Tools & Style Options

Maybe you will never be 'gifted' in the art of makeup application, but you can learn how to apply eyeshadow, like a pro.

With some understanding of the basic zones of the eye area , the sequence eye makeup is applied in,  and a few different layering techniques under your belt, you will be on your way to pro results (well almost - keep experimenting).

(And don't forget, the right quality brushes will make any application SO much easier:-)

How To Apply Eyeshadow


There is a structured method to the brilliant results you see. I can guarantee that almost every professional application of eye makeup, was preceded by:

  • probably primer for the eye area (smooth out texture)
  • definitely foundation (even out tone)
  • definitely concealer (under eye tone)
  • definitely a dusting of loose powder (to set the eye area, create staying power of present and future makeup applications and generate an even moisture level- so the brush doesn't catch on 'stickier' patches of skin).
How To Apply Eyeshadow


eyeshadow zones diagram Image: ©

Consider the eye area a large zone, with smaller mini zones in it.

Each mini zone has:

  • specific types of makeup i.e. shadow, liner, mascara
  • specific tools to apply the type of makeup i.e. eyeshadow brushes, eyelash curler...
  • AND tools designed to accommodate the zone shape, size & technique (you wouldn't use a fine eye liner brush to apply eyeshadow to your upper lid).

eyeshadow toolsImage: ©

In the diagram top right, one eye is divided into mini zones and the other eye outlines the general eye zone.

The photo image of Eye Zone Tools shows some versatile eyeshadow brushes that I would consider staples.  They are divided into two groups; upper lid and crease AND lash line.

Professional makeup artists have many more eye shadow brushes to perform all of their styling tasks.

You can too if you like, but you really don't need much more than the six eye makeup brushes you see to the left; two medium eye shadow brushes, one for powder, and one for cream or wet applications, a large soft haired blending brush, an angled small head brush, a fine liner, and a smaller blender/ or smudge brush.   (Add an eyelash curler and you will have everything you need to complete most eye makeup styles).

How To Apply Eyeshadow


Here are three basic but versatile style sequences of eyeshadow application.  They are the building blocks to most eye makeup looks that you see in magazines and on celebrities.  Knowing these and a variety of eye liner techniques, will help you analyze and re-create the styles you see and like.

Here is a quick look at these styles.  For more detail on each

Three Style Sequences Of How To Apply Eyeshadow:

eyeshadow toolsImage: ©


In the classic style, you begin with a light to medium shade from lash line to brow bone (A).  Then you  work the crease (B) with a medium shade for a subtle contrast.  A third shade in a light color can act as a highlight on your outer brow bone (C).

The look is completed with dark fine eye liner placed tightly along the upper lash line, a narrow band of the medium shade swept below the lower lash line (D) and mascara.


In a more dramatic approach, a medium to dark shade is used from lash line to crease (A), blending into crease and below brow bone.  A light shade is blended at and above the crease into the brow bone (B & C).

As shown in the middle column above, the look is completed with a more bold eye lining still tight to the lash line, and softened with a brush.  Again, a sweep of color under the lower lash line, and multiple coats of mascara, completes this style.


In this sequence you begin with eye liner, dark and smudged thickly along the upper lash line, followed by your darkest shadow shade of the trio you use, blending in zone A (lash line and upper lid), and into crease (zone B).

You then layer your medium shade at the crease (B) working the arc and into under the brow bone.  You will also use that same medium shade, sweeping back and forth from the outer corner of the eye, under the lower lash line, to the inner corner of the eye (normal or close set eyes will avoid going all the way to the corner).

The smoky effect is then completed by lining the inner rim of the eyelids (the water line) with black (traditionally) which will give you the greatest "smoked out" effect.  (You can experiment with any color liners on the water line, all with a distinct effect of soft to dramatic, to see what degree of effect you want) .

Last but not least, lots of mascara.

How To Apply Eyeshadow


What other elements, beyond how you apply eyeshadow, changes the eye make up style?

Color Scheme Choices

  • monochromatic ( single family of color just light to deep tones i.e. sand, taupe, deep beige/brown)
  • combine completely different color families (NARS Duos have some surprising combinations that are quite beautiful)
  • high contrasting color ( the higher the contrast the greater the drama).

Style Of Liner And Definition At The Lash Lines

  • will it be a fine precise line hidden in the lashes for low key enhancement, 'cat eye' style or a smudged coal liner for that smoky style.
  • under lower lashes? Choosing to line or define under the lower lash line will also determine style and drama. 
  • lining the inner rim of your lids (the 'water line') has a very distinctive look as well

Mascara & Lashes Style

  • blackest black, in multiple layers will create more drama (think Dior 'Diorshow' Mascara) than say brown in one or two coats.
  • colored mascara in blue, purple, etc.
  • false lashes will take your eye makeup impact to new heights and the types of lashes you can choose from range from natural looking, one by one, that you might only place at the outer corners of your lash line, to full on, dramatic lengths and materials (ex. Shu Uemura has an awesome selection of false lashes including lashes that are feathery).

Last word on how to apply eyeshadow...

The variety of combinations are endless and so are the looks you can create. Handy terms to know for how to apply eyeshadow for creating beautiful definition and dimension;

Highlight - to bring forward, to catch light
Shade - to send backward, recede into space
Contrast - the light-dark distance between the two shades (the greater the difference, the greater the drama).

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Spring 2018

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