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Doing eye makeup seems to be mystery for a lot of women. We can collect the most coveted eye shadow palette in the beauty community right now and still feel that we do not know what we will do with a 20-pan eye shadow palette. Sounds familiar? 😊 I’m sure it does, and don’t fret, your not alone. Here are some of the best eye makeup tips I’ve accumulated over the years to help you on your way to defining those eyes of yours!
First you must know that before I studied makeup professionally, I was just like you. I was bold enough to try different makeup looks – mostly by copying what I saw in magazines (I was a teenager in the late 90s, give me a break, there’s no Instagram yet!). If you’re like me, then you know how frustrating it is to copy an eye look step-by-step, yet still look completely different from the model. Also, if you watch YouTube tutorials on how to do “simple daytime eye look,” it still doesn’t come as easy as the beauty gurus do it.
It all comes down to this: you need to know the basic principles of doing makeup on the eye. Once you understand the basics, you will be able to decipher how to customize each technique, making it your own “best tips.” There is no singular best way to define your eyes. It’s always a combination of techniques, products and making it your own that draws out the best eye makeup for you.
So look no further, I’ve summarized them for you here!
Here are the best eye makeup tips and principles for you to start defining those eyes like a pro!
Eye Primer is a Must
You’d think that eyelids, occupying such little real estate on our faces, would not need some dedicated TLC? Well you’re wrong. You’d be surprised that such a small surface area on our face would be prone to dryness, wrinkling and oil overproduction. And for these factors, you experience eye shadows not blending properly, not showing true to color and the worst, not staying in place – smudging or disappearing as hours pass by. For the same purpose that face primers serve a relevant purpose, eye primers do exactly the same. There’s a reason why this is #1 on the list of the best eye makeup tips.
Eye primers provide a smooth and even layer before you apply eye shadow. It comes in 2 main forms – liquid or cream, not one is better than the other; it comes down to your personal preference. Its finish also varies – some dry down smooth and matte, while some dry down slightly tacky. For the latter, don’t be intimidated by the slightly tacky finish; it just means that whatever product you put on top of it, will adhere perfectly and will not slide off. This finish is actually perfect for those who have very oily eyelids.
If your eyelids are oily or dry, you need an eye primer so that eye shadows will blend evenly with zero chance of patchy-ness or skipping. A good eye primer will soothe the dry patches or control the oil so that oil does not “eat up” (break down) eye shadow or make eye shadow crease. Eye primers also provide an all-over even tone for your eyelids. Some people have discoloration on their eyelids; because of this, eye shadows do not show up true-to-color. With an eye-primer (like foundation), it provides a uniform and clean base for eye shadow.
I’ve tried a lot of primers both for personal and professional use and my #1 recommendation would be NARS Pro Prime Smudge-proof Eyeshadow Base.
This is a clear fluid primer encased in a tube and dispensed thru a doe-foot applicator. It dries clear and smooth; you can immediately apply eye shadow on top of it (no need to set it with a translucent powder). You will love that the texture is thin, light and fluid versus goop-y.
If you use it for personal use, the doe-foot applicator is perfect because you can lay down the product exactly where you want to put it. If you’re a professional makeup artist, I’d recommend putting the product at the back of your hand or on a stainless steel makeup palette, picking up the product, then applying with a brush onto client’s eyelids.
I noticed that my matte shadows, even more so the shimmer and glitter shadows, have better color pay-off when using this primer. With the NARS eye primer, eye shadows appear more saturated. If you have dry to normal eye lids, buying this NARS eye primer should be your primary takeaway for the best eye makeup tips.
Another option for eye primer would be cream eye shadows, particularly the cult favorite MAC Paint Pot.
If your eye lids are on the oilier side, then I’d recommend the MAC paint pots. They come in a variety of finishes – matte and shimmery and offered in a wide range of colors – skin tone neutrals and pops of color. This is a creamy formula encased in a glass pot. There are 2 ways to apply it – either you with a finger for lighter coverage application or with a synthetic brush for a fuller coverage. If you’re a professional makeup artist, you know it’s best to use a stainless steel spatula to take product from the glass pot to ensure that you don’t introduce unnecessary bacteria into the paint pot. Even if you use this paint pot everyday, you will not be able to finish this product in a years time.
Compared to the NARS primer, this is more cost-effective. I would also recommend for you to use a very thin layer of this product because thick layers won’t make the product any more effective, and actually, will cause the product to crease more. The #1 pro for cream shadows is that it’s a one-and-down product. You can actually make it your single eye shadow for the day. As an eye primer, it intensifies the pigment of the eye shadows laid on top of it. If you have oilier eye lids, you would find that this MAC paint pot does a good job in controlling oil from peeking thru your eye shadow.
Use the Right Tools
Any beauty junkie or professional makeup artist will tell you that if there’s one thing you should invest in your makeup kit, it would be tools, particularly makeup brushes. The best eye makeup tips would not be complete without a listing of the best tools in the game. You have to be armed with the best tools! Now listen, if you’re new to makeup, you will get overwhelmed with options for brushes – there are a lot of brands, brush types, brush shapes and brush materials to choose from.
Even for a small area like your eyes, you are looking at a minimum of 15 different brushes, each with a unique purpose for detailed precision eye work. Unless you’re a professional, you don’t need more than 5 eye brushes. But if you ask me, you only need 3 essential makeup brushes. If you travel a lot, you also need to know how to downsize your kit and know the basic eye makeup brushes to bring so you can achieve any eye look – simple or dramatic.
If you’re just starting your kit, you can start with these 3 brushes and work your way up to more specialized brushes. They are the packing brush, blending brush and defining brush.
This is a dense, flat, short-bristled brush whose primary purpose is to place and pack color across the entire eye lid for an even and strong application of pigment. For good quality eye shadows with a lot of pigment, you can use this brush to pick it up; then with the brush laying flat against your eye lid, apply directly to your mobile eye lid with a patting motion. If you’ve primed (step 1), then you will find that eye shadows will stick to your eye lid with ease. If you have any eye shadow that does not have a ton of pigment, or a shimmer/glitter eye shadow that you want to intensify, then you can wet this brush first before dipping it into your eye shadow.
Alternatively, you can also use this brush to pick up product only on its tips and precisely pack eye shadow on smaller or more focused areas like the crease or the under eye. Like I shared previously, there are a multitude eye brushes that can do this for you, but if you’re in a pinch, this packing brush should be able to multi-task for you. You just have to remember the main purpose of a packing brush – it deposits pigment exactly where you want it. Whether you use it flat (horizontal) or its tips (vertical), place the brush directly on top of the area where you want the color and pat precisely.
A good packing brush to start with is the Sigma E55 Eye Shading Brush. This is a good all-rounder brush ideal for use with both powder and cream formulas. It has a soft dense head that provides medium to full coverage.
This is a soft, fluffy and rounded-tip brush whose primary purpose is to diffuse and blend color for a seamless and soft (no harsh lines) finish. This is ideally used by picking product only by the tip of the blending brush and sweeping the brush back-and-forth (think windshield wiper motions) across the crease until you no longer see any harsh pigment sitting on top of your eye lid.
For simple eye looks, you’d use this blending brush to pick up bronzer or any darker colored skintone shade and sweeping this brush back-and-forth on your crease. The effect is a more open eye because of the soft crease definition. For more dramatic eye looks, you’d use this first to apply a transition color (usually skintone shade) on the crease so that other pigments will blend seamlessly on top of it. Alternatively, if you want to temper / soften a strongly pigmented eye shadow (say for example, a very poppy cranberry shade), you can use this fluffy brush for the most sheer eye shadow application on your mobile eye lid.
As opposed to the packing brush, which offers more full coverage pigment, a blending brush will deposit less product. That’s not surprising because a blending brush is more feathery and loosely packed compared to a packing brush.
A great blending brush to start with is the Sigma E40 Tapered Blending Brush. This blending brush has a soft and fluffy round tip that provides good sheer coverage. The tapered design of the brush helps to softly define creases with ease.
This is a flat, sharp and thin-edged brush whose primary purpose is to add definition and color on your eye by pressing down product against the upper or lower lashes. You can use this with eye shadow, gel or liquid eye liner. With its flat, sharp and thin edge, you are able to lay product exactly where you need it. It’s important that a defining brush has a precise shape because you want precise definition. The intensity of definition depends on the product you use. Powder eye shadow will offer a soft definition. Gel and liquid eye liners will offer a more intense definition.
You will find that the definition this brush provides actually yields the most impact when it comes to opening up your eye. In the later tips I will share, lining your eye is one of the key steps to make your eyes pop. If you find that you’ve laid down too harsh a line, you can use the packing brush to softly diffuse the line that this defining brush has created.
A solid blending brush to start with is the Sigma E15 Flat Definer Brush. This defining brush has a flat head and a very thin sharp edge that provides sharp and precise application. This defining brush provides full coverage. It’s ideal to use with liquid, powder or cream formulas.
Defining Your Eyes is Like Defining Your Face: Highlight and Contour
Like highlighting and contouring for the face, your eyes are defined with a play of light and shadow. Now let’s pretend you don’t know the principle 😉
Anything you highlight will move forward (depth-wise) and anything you contour will recede or pull back. You highlight the high points of your face – top of your brow, arch of your brow, top of your cheekbone, bridge of your nose, Cupid’s bow and the very center of your chin. By highlighting these areas, you give the illusion that these are higher and therefore your face looks more lifted.
You contour along the perimeter of your facial bone structures – under your cheekbone, on your jawline, on the edge of your forehead and temple. By contouring these areas, you give the illusion that these are tighter (smaller) and therefore your face looks more taut.
The same principle of highlighting and contouring your face applies to your eyes as well. Highlighting and contouring your eye ensures that your eyes look lifted and open. The moment you understand the proper way to highlight and contour your specific eye (with its unique shape, size, color), you will begin to embrace the best eye makeup tips.
Eye Definition 101
Now let’s not complicate the different sub-parts of your eye. All you need to know primarily are 2 basic parts – your mobile lid and your crease. How do you find them? It’s really simple. Pat your eye gently starting from your lashes and move up slowly towards your brow. The moment your finger dips down to your eye socket, you’ve located your crease. Everything below your crease is your mobile lid. Isn’t that simple? Now that’s out of the way, let’s go back to highlighting and contouring.
The basic principle and the main premise of eye makeup tips to apply here is – you highlight your mobile lid and contour your crease. You want the fleshy part (mobile lid) of your eye to pop — usually you put a (1) lighter toned matte eye shadow, (2) a shimmery/glittery eye shadow or (3) a fun eye shadow color that you want to stand out. You want the bone-y eye socket (crease) of your eye to recede in depth – usually you put a (1) color that’s slightly darker than your skintone (your bronzer shade) or (2) for more dramatic looks, you apply the darker toned shadow of what you put on your mobile lid. If you put a lilac shade on your mobile lid, put an eggplant shade on your crease.
The Secret to Color Gradients
You’re becoming a PRO now!! Now, let’s round up highlighting and contouring with 2 key eye makeup tips you need to know – gradation for your mobile lid, and gradation for your crease.
- Imagine your mobile lid divided into 3 vertical segments (from inner part nearer to your nose to outer part nearer to your ear) – this is what we call the inner lid, middle lid and outer lid. The gradient of your eye shadows should go from lightest to darkest if you go from inner to outer lid. Going back to the mother of all principles (see previous paragraph), you want to highlight the inner corner up to the middle of your eyelid. Then for extra definition, you need to contour the outer lid and connect the contour up to the crease. Visually, when you contour (use darker shadow) from the outer lid up to your crease, it looks like your drawing the letter “C”.
- Imagine your crease area divided into 3 horizontal segments (from down to up) – crease itself, slightly above the crease, brow bone. The gradient of your eye shadows should go from darkest to lightest if you go from crease to brow bone. The darkest color should be applied on the crease itself in order to create depth. Adding depth opens up your eye. Anything inside the crease will pop more if you put something dark on the crease. On top of the crease, add a skin-tone color to blend your crease seamlessly on to your skin. You want to do this so that you don’t have a harsh contour line on your crease. And above that area, you want to place the lightest color on the brow bone.
Start Basic with Eye Shadows
By now, you are armed with the basic principles of eye definition. In order for you to easily apply them, don’t go running out and buying 50-pan eye shadows. Start basic and look for compact eye shadow palette like the CoverGirl Eye Enhancers 4 Kit Shadows. You will have 3 basic shades – lightest shade to highlight, darkest shade to contour and a medium shade to diffuse the line between the 1st 2 shades. The 4th shade is a shimmery shade so you can have fun and apply it either in your tear duct to further highlight the inner lid or across your entire mobile lid.
Fool-Proof Eye Shadow Application Techniques
There are several application techniques that you can try, practice regularly and eventually master so that you can own the best way to define your eyes. I’ve learned them in my professional makeup classes and after practicing on myself and on clients. Over the years, I felt less intimidated on doing eye makeup. Here are some of the application techniques you should try.
Apply eye shadow in sheer layers and build up
After you pick up eye shadow, make it a habit to tap off your brush so that you’re sure your brush is not overloaded with pigment. When working with new eye shadows, it’s always best practice that you first test the pigment on your hand before you apply directly to the eyelid; this way you get a guage on the intensity, finish, tone, opacity of the eye shadow. If you are not familiar or certain of an eye shadow’s properties (intensity, tone, finish, opacity), it’s always best to test it on your hand first before your eyelid. The reason you would want to test first is so you can apply eye shadow in sheer layers and then build up to the intensity, finish, tone, opacity that you want – rather than starting heavy, realizing you do not like how it applied / it looked, and now needing to correct your application.
Pat eye shadow first, then blend
Pat the eye shadow pigment first exactly where you want it, then blend after. Whether you’re using a dense packing brush or a fluffy blending brush, the technique is the same. Sketch out first the shape where you want the eye shadow to lay. Place the eye shadow where you want it to be laid down, and if you’re happy with that placement, blend to remove harsh lines. Whether you’re highlighting your mobile lid or contouring your crease, eye shadow placement is key. If you do not place your eye shadows precisely, you will end up with an eye look that does not flatter your eye shape. Remember that highlighting and contouring serves a purpose – but it will only work for your eye, if placed correctly.
Blending is key, but know when to stop
If you over-blend an eye shadow color, you risk bleeding into other colors. Your goal is to diffuse the harsh line in between different colors but not blend them too much that the colors look muddy. One of the most common eye makeup tips is to blend, blend, blend. But I’d like an addendum to that: blend, but know when to stop. A way to decipher a good blend is when you can clearly see and appreciate the different colors used, without them looking like they were mixed in. You should see a seamless and harmonious blend that highlights the right parts of the eye and clearly defines the contours of the eye. To prevent eye shadows from looking muddy, blend with a clean fluffy brush.
If you only have your basic eye brushes and do not have the luxury of multiple eye brushes – that’s not a problem! In between eye shadows being used, make it a point to clean the brush by rubbing it against a clean paper towel to remove pigment. If you want to be a little fancy, you can try the Zodaca Brush Color Removal Sponge. Simply glide the used brush on top of this porous sponge and it whisks away the pigment, cleaning the brush and ready to be used on another eye shadow color. This is a god send for cleaning quickly or on the fly, and I highly recommend you give this a try.
Take a step back to assess your work
Eye makeup is real precision effort and you tend to look at the mirror closer so you see can execute the detail work. However, looking at such close distance will keep you from seeing the over-all look of your eye makeup. Here’s what you should do – after packing and blending eye shadow, step away and stand a good distance (1 person away) from your mirror and assess your work. When you look at your work at a macro view, you can see whether you have correctly highlighted and contoured; whether you have blended the colors seamlessly or sloppily. If you look too close at your detailed work (micro view), you will miss the big picture.
There are a lot of ways to define your eyes. Before you jump into the trendy techniques and new products, master the basics first and everything else is cherry on top!
Are you still with me after this massive information overload? C’mon, you didn’t assume that the best eye makeup tips would be a short blog post, right? It can’t be. This topic begs to be as detailed as a detailed eye makeup look is.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the best eye makeup tips! Yes, there’s more on the way!
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