eyeshadow tips

TODAY style editor and author Bobbie Thomas is here to share some helpful finds and clever tips.

Go-to guides
When it comes to applying eye makeup, half the battle is just staying inside the lines. Available in almond, oval and elliptical shapes, the stencils are reusable, and 6 pairs come in each pack. 

If you’re often frustrated with excess shadow or mascara collecting under your eyes, a Butterfly Lash Guard may be your solution. Whatever you choose, just be sure to blend and soften the edges.

Primer picks
Applying primer to your eyelids helps even your skin tone and provides a smooth surface to apply makeup on. Most eyes look best with a subtle drop shadow effect, and it’s usually most flattering to follow the natural contour of your eye shape. Apply shadow starting at the outer corners, then drag and blend product into the crease below your brow bone, while allowing the color to fade. 

If your eyes are set far apart, use shadow to visually extended your eyes inward. First, wet a small round-tip brush, swipe only on one side of the palette, then apply like an eyeliner. 

Next, switch to a slightly softer/fuller brush, swipe on the dry side of the palette, and then use to blend over the shadow you applied while wet. Cult-favorite collections include Urban Decay’s Shadows (available in 78 shades, $18), Laura Mercier’s Baked Eye Colours (also available in Petite Bonbons, $23-25), and Physician Formula’s Baked Collection. 

Bonus tip: brushes
A double-ended brush, like Stila’s #15 or Revlon’s Smoky Eye Brush, can put everything you need at the flip of your fingertips (Stila #15 Double Sided Brush $32;

 I’ll also show you the best brushes for perfecting any look, as well as how to pair together eye shadows to do a complete look!

I know with many different shapes, sizes, and angles, choosing which makeup brushes you need can be a challenging task. Because of the fine tip of the brush, you can also use it to apply color to the crease area in a fine line. This brush also works great for applying shadow to the outer part of the eye to darken and intensify the color. (Makeup Geek Store)
Stiff Dome brushes come in many different sizes. It’s best to use the flat stiff brush to apply this, making sure to blend the lines where the colors meet.

Additional Examples: Boho Chic Look  &  Sugarpill Heartbreaker Look

Smokey Eye

This look is very popular. Next, use a soft dome brush with a medium or light color and blend out the crease area to soften the look.

Additional Examples: Classic Black Smokey Eye  &  Purple Smokey Eye

Cat Eye

The Cat eye look can be done with either eyeliner or eyeshadow. Pull your eye upwards with this cat eye shape by applying your darkest shadow to the outer corner in a large winged shape. Then, go over the liner with a pencil brush to set and soften the line. This shape elongates the eye making it ideal for people with rounder eyes, as it creates an almond look to the eye.

Additional Examples: Kat Von D Look &  Black and Orange Look

Cut Crease or Open Banana

To achieve a cut crease, use an eyeliner pencil or a very chiseled brush to make a defined line in the crease of the eye. Place a lighter shade on the lower lid below the crease to create a look that is edgy and sharp.

Additional Example: Grape-Inspired Look 

Round Banana / Closed Banana

The Closed Banana uses the same technique as the Cut Crease, however with the Closed Banana you round the edge and place a light color on the lower eyelid below the cut crease. Next, drop the shadow down and place it below the lower lash line.

Additional Example: Chicago Bears Look  

Choosing Eyeshadow Colors

The standard number of eyeshadows needed to achieve a look is 4.

Light Shimmery Color – This color is used under the brow bone as a highlight shade, and in the inner tear duct for a pop of brightness.Light Matte Finish Color – This color is used under the brow bone to soften any harsh lines.Medium Color – This color is used in the crease to blend out harsh lines.

Whether you want to use just two or up to four colors (more than four tends to get too complicated and the results tend to be muddy-looking unless blending is extremely precise) this step-by-step guide will help you create a classic look which you can tone down or build upon.

It is best to finish every eye design with eyeliner and mascara.

NOTE: Please refer to the eye illustration above for placement of shades.

Brush Tips Before You BeginIn order to find the perfect area to place your brush, look straight ahead into a mirror, find the highest point of your eyebrow, and then follow an imaginary vertical line going down toward the eye’s crease.Set the brush down into the crease precisely on the imaginary line and begin blending in a slightly outward direction that follows the true crease and just above, to where the brow bone begins.Next, move inward (think windshield-wiper motion) in the crease and along the edge of the brow bone.Do not blend all the way into the inner corner of the eye unless your eyes are noticeably wide-set.Two-Color Design

The goal of this classic, common design is to apply a lighter eyeshadow color to the lid area and a deeper color in the crease slightly blending it upward. You may also reverse this order, which can be helpful for those with large eyelids or protruding eyes.


Using a large eyeshadow brush apply the lighter color to the base of the lashes and blend all the way up to the brow.Next, use a crease defining brush to apply the second shade in the crease, blending up and out toward the outer corner of the eye along the edge of where the brow bone begins.Keeping the second color in and just slightly above the crease will create a natural highlight under the brow’s arch while shading the outer corner of the eye.For a softer, more diffused effect after crease color is applied, use a blending brush without any eyeshadow and blend using soft circular motions along the outer part of the crease.Three-Color Design

This design builds on the two-color design detailed above, but adds a third, darker color for shading the outside corner of the eye.


Follow the directions for the two-color eye design above.Once that is done, use a crease defining brush to apply the third shade to the true crease areaMake sure none of the darkest shade is actually on the eyelid or to the back corner of the eye, where some of the color is blended down onto the outer third of the eyelid and also into the crease.When applying color in the eye’s crease, be sure to blend out and slightly up rather than following the downward curve of the eye.Four-Color Design

This design builds on the two-and three-color designs detailed above, but adds a fourth color for more intense shading.

First, you must choose the right eyeshadow palette for your eye color, then you have to figure out how to use all the various shades on your lid.

In this article, I share a few eyeshadow application secrets I wish I knew before I became a beauty writer.

How to Properly Apply Eyeshadow

I outline a basic eyeshadow application in my article How to Apply Eyeshadow.

It’s a 5-step system that involves primer, a neutral base, a crease color and highlighter. Taupe and lavender look great on all eye colors.

Check out my list of the best eyeshadows from cheap to steep.

Get Professional Help in Choosing Your Best Colors

I to shop at Sephora because I find the salespeople aren’t as pushy as they are at other department stores yet they’ll help you find makeup that complements your skin and eye color and teach you application tips. I suggest hitting a few counters, making it clear to the salepersons that you are shopping for a new eye shadow and will pick the one you like best from the bunch.

See How They Trick You at the Cosmetics Counter.

How to Wear Jewel Tones On Your Lids

Jewel-toned colors with dark pigments look best on women with olive skin tones. If you have a pink complexion, light skin, light hair and light eyes, deeply pigmented colors such as deep purples, blues and greens can be too harsh on your skin color.

See Is It OK to Wear Blue Eyeshadow?

Be Careful With Shimmer Eyeshadows

Shimmer makes eyes really pop, but it also highlights heavy lids, lines and wrinkles. You can go all out and get a smaller blending brush for your highlighter color and an angled brush to apply eyeshadow as a liner.

How to Use Eye Shadow as Eyeliner

I don’t use pencil or liquid liners, instead, I use the darkest color in my makeup palette as an eyeliner. Almost everyone makes them but I swear by Urban Decay’s Primer Potion.

I apply Urban Decay Primer Potion at the beginning of the day and sweep my favorite Christian Dior shadow over it and the shadow stays on all day long with nary a smudge, even through hardcore workouts with my personal trainer. You can use a white pencil to do this, too, but I find the lightest color in any makeup palette works best.

Should You Save or Splurge on an Eyeshadow?

A great eyeshadow (like the beauty editor’s all-time favorite, Dior 5-Colour Shadow Palette) will stay on your eyes all day long, while a cheap, $4 palette will have faded by the time you finish your mid-morning coffee. It’s made up competely of natural occurring ingredients like mica.

To get the full scoop on eye makeup that’s good for you and the environment, see my list: Natural Eye Makeup.

The Best Eyeshadows From Cheap to Steep

I’ve done the work for you when it comes to selecting eyeshadows with great staying power and lovely pigment that’s not too light for the eye.

Nothing shouts glamour more than a set of dazzling eyes, and with the help of my colour chameleons and these eyeshadow tips to enhance your eye colour sparkle you can easily take this look from day to night in just a matter of minutes.

Step 1

Carefully select a shade from my Natural Colour Chameleons that best suits your eye colour. Apply this also to your lower lash line and inner corner off your eye for that smoky, bedroom eye effect.

Step 3

Next pick from my selection ofRock n’ Kohl Eyeliners and take this along your upper lash line and then down across your waterline for a really dramatic, full-on effect.

Step 4

The final step to achieve those sparkling eyes is of course to apply lashings and lashings of my Full Fat Lashes Mascara.