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How to Apply Eye Makeup Perfectly

eye makeupWhen you are first starting out learning how to best apply eye makeup to your advantage, you need to know two critical things:

  • The best techniques, and
  • Which colors look best on you. Even something a few shades off can drastically change the way your eye makeup looks, and not always for the better.

Once you have learned the basics you can build on your skills to create the perfect look for any occasion.

How to choose the best colors

Shades of pink and magenta can look beautiful on medium to olive skin tones. [CC License via Verónica Calderón]

Shades of pink and magenta can look beautiful on medium to olive skin tones. [CC License via Verónica Calderón]

Your skin tone is not identical to any other person’s skin tone. There are certain generalities we can make about ideal coloring, but there will always be exceptions, and even professional makeup artists may argue in different ways.

The most important thing is to find colors you are confident in, and the best way to do that is to experiment with applying and blending colors on yourself – a lot. One quick way to try out colors quickly without constantly having to wipe your eyelids clean is to apply the colors to the back of your hand with a brush. From there, it’s easy to make quick adjustments until you have the perfect blend of colors for the look you are going for.

In terms of specific colors, there are no set rules, but some general guidelines are to avoid any hues that look:

  • Too light on dark skin (whites, yellows, light beige, pale blues, etc.)
  • Too dark on light skin (dark brown, deep purple, dark blue, etc.)
  • Makes your skin look sallow (does it pull out any yellow undertones in your skin?)
  • Any color that makes your eyelids look bruised (too dark a purple on light skin), too red (which makes the eyes look puffy and painful), or too light of a blue on very fair skin (drawing attention to any visible eyelid veins is rarely the most attractive look)
  • Using a primary eye shadow color that is much lighter than your actual skin tone
  • If you have light eyes, anything that clashes with your eye color. Bright blue or green eyes should not be surrounded by bright blue or green eye shadow. Design the colors you use to complement the color of your eyes, not to compete with it.


Ivory and brown eye makeup that does not clash with the model's blue eyes. [CC License via Ricky Cain]

Ivory and brown eye makeup that does not clash with the model’s blue eyes. [CC License via Ricky Cain]

It may feel like you are going very slowly, but keep your movements soft, slow, and gentle in the beginning. You may have seen quick, “whisking” motions by professionals, but you aren’t to that stage yet.

Also, lighter skin shows color really quickly. Apply the eye shadow in very light layers and build up the hue gradually so you don’t let the eyelids get too dark too fast.

As you practice blending colors, your results will get better and better, and one hue will blend more flawlessly with the next.  Professional makeup artists have spent hours working on real faces and dummies, and you will improve with practice, too.

Remember: The purpose of makeup

Unless you’re applying costume or stage makeup, the whole point of applying any makeup is to enhance your natural beauty, not cover it up and try to create something new. At best it will look a little unnatural, and at worst it will keep people staring at you, and not in a good way. The last thing you want is to create a look that makes you look like you don’t know what you are doing.


A simple diagram of where shadows and highlights on your eyelids should go. [CC License via Synergy by Design]

Applying makeup is an art, and to make high-quality art, you need high-quality tools. The major tools you will wield are makeup brushes. This doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive brushes, because often you are paying for the name and not necessarily the quality. Look up reviews to find a brush that will hold up over time, is easy to clean without falling apart, and works well for blending. You also want it to be dense and fluffy and pick up color well without clumping or having the pigment disappear inside the brushes’ inner strands.

Other ways to improve your eyes

If you have dark circles under the eyes, use a cosmetic concealer that matches your pigmentation (or is even a shade lighter) to blend into your skin tone and give you a fresh, even look that appears natural.

Always apply an eye shadow base. This will enable your eye shadow to last for the entire day without wearing away or getting displaced. You can use an oil-free foundation or a base made that is specific to use around the eyes and won’t cause irritation.

Remove any previously applied makeup before going to bed with an eye makeup remover that won’t be an irritant to eyelids like a normal cleanser might be.

Cleaning up Mistakes

Always have some Q-tips lying around and ready for when you need to remove mistakes (and in the beginning, you will make mistakes). Use an oil-based makeup remover and some Q-tips to wipe off any smudges. These are also good for removing eye shadow or eyeliner from underneath your eyes right up to your lash line.

top photo: CC License via Paolo Neoz