How to apply eyeshadow

How to Apply Eyeshadow Like a Pro

On the other hand, Snagg opts out of primer, and instead sticks with products such as cream blushes, cream eyeshadows, and vibrant eye pencils as her base. “It helps matte eyeshadows pop and the shimmer eyeshadows illuminate more while lasting all day,” she says.

Ask a Beauty Editor: How to Apply Eyeshadow Like a Pro

Hana Hong is the beauty and fashion editor at She has been a writer and editor in the beauty and fashion industry for more than six years, sharing her expansive knowledge on skincare, hair care, makeup, fashion, and more. In addition to her broad network of beauty experts, she uses her family’s background and training in skin science and cosmetic chemistry to differentiate between effective skincare formulations and marketing jargon.

Blue, brown, green—no matter what color your eyes are, a swipe of eyeshadow can make them pop. But raw color pigments can be intimidating to apply (maybe even the most intimidating, next to eyeliner). In order to prevent looking like you broke into a toddler’s Caboodle, strategic swiping is important.

First a disclaimer: There isn’t one correct way to apply eyeshadow. The fun part about makeup is that there are no rules, after all. That being said, there are some fundamental techniques, which we’ll review here in just a sec.

But first, let’s cover picking the right eyeshadow. If you’re a beginner, opt for matte shadows, which are more forgiving of mistakes and easy to wear on any skin type. If you’re going for a dramatic or festive look, go for loose powder shadows. In a rush but looking for long-term wear? I recommend liquid shadows—just one swipe gets you the most pigment, doesn’t require any tools, and won’t budge once it’s on. And we can’t forget about metallic shadows, which are ideal if you want a little sparkle without going overboard with glitter.

Now that we have that covered, let’s dive into the process.

Stock up on the essential brushes.

If you’re starting from scratch, there are a few essential brushes you can use to build your beginner eyeshadow application kit.

  1. A wide-domed eyeshadow brush, like Rare Beauty Stay Vulnerable All-Over Eyeshadow Brush ($15;, for covering your entire lid with swatches of color. The stubby compacted bristles help pick up a lot of product and pack it onto the lid.
  2. A blending brush for applying and diffusing along the crease, like Fenty Beauty Precision Blending Eyeshadow Brush ($24; You might want to keep a few types of blending brushes on hand, including an angled blending brush for hard-to-reach areas, like the outer or inner corners of your eye.
  3. An angled eyeliner brush, like Hourglass Angled Liner Brush ($34; to define and emphasize your lash line. The tightly packed bristles work with cream, gel, and powder formulas.

Looking to score all three at once? Try Real Techniques Eye Shade + Blend Makeup Brush Trio ($9;

Prime your lids.

A non-negotiable step, eye primer helps your eyeshadow last longer, the same way face primer works to keep your foundation in place. Neglecting this step can result in your shadow moving around your eyelids when exposed to heat, moisture, excess oil, or friction. To apply, take a small amount onto your ring finger (your ring finger has the lightest touch) and gently massage the primer into your entire eyelid. Don’t forget the brow bone (right under your eyebrow) and the inner corner of your eye (where your tear duct is) where oil tends to settle.

Apply a base shadow all over your lids.

Sweep the shade of your choosing across the entire lid using an eyeshadow brush (or your fingers if you’re dealing with liquid eyeshadow). Gently buff the line and blend it so that most of the product is on the lid and the least amount is on the inside, near the inner corner. Depending on the look you’re going for, you can bring this base color all the way up to your brow bone, or you can stop at the crease of your eye for a more subtle, everyday look.

If you want to go for a single shade shadow, you can stop after this step. For something more dramatic, continue to the next step.

Apply a darker matte color on the crease.

Placing a darker shadow (i.e., chocolate brown) in the crease (where your eyelid meets your eye socket) can help add depth and dimension to your eyes. Taking a rounded blending brush, sweep it over the darker shadow, tapping off any excess, and apply it where the bone hits the crease. Brush back and forth in a half-moon shape several times for a blended contour until they blend seamlessly into your lid. (Note: Don’t darken the innermost part of the eyelid—this can close up the eye and make it appear smaller.) To intensify color, repeat with more shadow.

If you have deep-set or hooded eyelids, try applying the crease shade with your eyes open to see where it’ll be most visible—this will probably fall above your actual eyelid on the lower brow bone.

Apply a lighter shade as the highlight on your inner corners and browbone.

Tired eyes? A light eyeshadow shade can moonlight as highlighter and make sunken eyes look more awake. Generally speaking, you should go for a matte, bone-colored eyeshadow for a more natural look, but for more drama, you can also opt for an ivory shade with shimmer. Using the angled blending brush, smudge a bit of pigment in the inner corners and brow bone (right above the crease).

If you’re going for a daytime look, stop at this step. For a more smoky eye, proceed to the last step.

Define your lash lines in a dark color with an angled eyeliner brush.

Run a slanted eyeliner brush over a dark powder shadow to pick up pigment. If you want a more concentrated line, wet the brush before applying. Next, run the brush along the upper lash line (where your eyelashes begin) and lower lash line (near the waterline) to deposit color. You can either stop at the end of your eyelashes or build a winged liner look, whichever you prefer.

How to Apply Eyeshadow Like a Pro

Celebrity makeup artists share their step-by-step tips.

Danielle James is a New York-based journalist who covers all things fashion, beauty, and celebrity. She is also the founder of Model Citizen, a sustainable fashion company that encourages peer-to-peer clothing sharing and supports emerging designers.

Eye shadow application

If you’ve ever gotten your makeup done professionally, then you know eyeshadow can take your whole makeup look to the next level. But if you don’t often wear a lot of makeup, eyeshadow — and all of the palettes and brushes that come along with it — can feel pretty intimidating. Luckily, it doesn’t have to involve hours of watching YouTube videos.

To help you get started, we spoke with makeup artists Adam Brechaud and Keandra Snagg to find out everything there is to know about how to apply eyeshadow correctly, so you can create looks ranging from no makeup makeup to all-out glam. Discover all of their pro tips and tricks, ahead.

What tools will I need to work with eyeshadow?

First, you’ll want to make sure you have a good set of professional makeup brushes. Next, choose an eyeshadow you’re dying to work with, as well as a good primer. Then to finish off, grab your favorite mascara and eyeliner. And don’t forget to get creative.

Brechaud, who has worked with numerous celebrities, including American Horror Story star Sarah Paulson and Bridgerton actress Nicola Coughlan, stresses the importance of discovering what works best for you, rather than following trends. “The fun part of makeup is there really are no rules,” he stresses.

Oh! And don’t be afraid to use your hands if that’s easier for you. “Some cream eyeshadows apply and spread easily with your finger,” Brechaud shares.

However, if you’re more into brushes, Snagg, the head makeup artist for ABC 7 NY, recommends the Laruce Beauty Tapered Blending Brush and Short Shadow Brush. “[They are] super soft and affordable,” she explains.

VIDEO: The Unexpected Eye Makeup Color That’s About to Be Everywhere

How do I apply eyeshadow?

Lucky for you, we’ve created a step-by-step guide with the help of our pros.

Step 1

Before applying any makeup, you want to ensure your skin and makeup brushes are clean.

For your skin, look for a hydrating facial cleanser like LLHOMD Beauty Pomegranate Collection Refresh Face Wash. Formulated with aloe vera, vitamin E, and pomegranate extract, this product will help to keep your skin moisturized and bright.

As for your eye makeup brushes, give them a good wash with something as simple as Dove Antibacterial Hand Wash or Dial Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap. Then, make sure to lay flat so they dry properly.

Step 2

priming the eye

Prep your eyes by sweeping some primer across your lids.

“I find it helps the eyeshadow stay and look more pigmented,” says Brechaud.

On the other hand, Snagg opts out of primer, and instead sticks with products such as cream blushes, cream eyeshadows, and vibrant eye pencils as her base. “It helps matte eyeshadows pop and the shimmer eyeshadows illuminate more while lasting all day,” she says.

“Primers or cream shadow colors can be an easy way to add depth or gradation to your look,” adds Brechaud.

Step 3

After your primer has been applied, it’s time to build your base. The easiest way to create a beginner eye is to opt for a makeup palette with complementary colors. “Mented Cosmetics Everyday Eyeshadow Palette [is] great for beginners because it has shimmer and matte eyeshadows that are easy to apply and compliments all skin tones,” shares Snagg.

While the color spectrum is your oyster, it’s good to keep in mind that there are four general shades you will use to build the perfect beginner eyeshadow look: a neutral color on your base, a medium shade in your crease for depth, a darker color for the outer corner of your eye, and a shimmer shade or lighter color to highlight underneath your brow and for your inner eye to open them up.

“If you like to play with deep dark [tones] like deep browns, purples, greys, and blacks, try using a smaller brush to help control where you place the shadow,” instructs Brechaud. For bright colors like red, blue, pink, and green, Brechaud reveals that they “tend to all apply and blend slightly different.” So make sure to keep this in mind when you are trying new colors. “Give yourself extra time to play and the grace to learn,” the makeup artist advises.

Step 4

Start off with the neutral color and place it over your entire lid. Then you’ll want to define your crease (where your lid and brow bone meet) with something that’s complementary for the base. So for example, say you are using a light brown; you may want to use a slightly darker brown for the crease, then blend it out.

neutral eye shadow

Step 5

For the outer corners of the eyes, start by taking an angled brush and applying a color darker than what you used on your crease. You’ll want to create a V-shape from your lash line to the outer portion of your eye crease — and remember, start with just a little bit of product, then work your way up.

“Applying too much product is a repeated problem with everyone these days. Technique, the right brushes, and patience are key,” Snagg shares.

darker eye shadow

Step 6

Once you’re done, you’ll want to finish off your look with a highlight. Choose a shimmer shadow within your color palette, apply underneath your brow bone and in your inner eye, and watch your eyes pop!

shimmer eye shadow

Step 7

Finally, you’ll want to blend everything together. Although your eye makeup consists of four different colors, it shouldn’t look like it. Spend time blending so the colors meld together and you don’t have sharp lines. Blending brings the entire look together.

Step 8

After applying your shadow, now is the time to use your eyeliner. Snagg is a fan of The Lip Bar ‘Straight Outta Patience’ Eyeliner. “It’s super black, soft, and long wearing,” she reveals.

Brechaud also shares that it’s important to pay attention to the eyeliner formula before applying. “Some stay ‘wet’ and ‘moveable’ longer and some almost immediately ‘dry’ and want to stay in place,” he explains. “Depending on your eye shape and liner abilities, the first can be helpful as you have more time to move and apply it. However, if you have a smaller eyelid or a hooded eyelid, this type of liner can get all over quickly if you blink or look up before it’s dry. In [this] case, the second type of liner might suit you better.”

eyeliner application

Step 9

Finish off your new eye look with your favorite mascara (or faux lashes if you prefer).

mascara application

Are There Any Hacks I Should Keep In Mind While Applying Eyeshadow?

“Take either your favorite bronzer or blush and use it as an overall monochromatic look,” suggests Brechaud.

final look

Photographer: BriAnne Willis, assisted by Katy Andrascik. Hair: Madison Sullivan. Makeup: Hiro Yonemoto. Production: Retouching: Kevin Lee. Kelly Chiello, assisted by Amanda Lauro.