How to Apply Eyeshadow

5 simple steps to absolutely gorgeous eyes

Black Make up Palette with Eye Shadow
mark wragg / E+ / Getty Images

If you're unsure how to apply eyeshadow, you've arrived at the perfect destination. If you want new techniques, I've got those, too. 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. This basic application is all you need to know when applying eyeshadow. Use more dramatic shades for the evening, lighter shades for day.

Step 1: Prime Your Lid

I always sweep a primer over my lids before applying eyeshadow that I want to stay on all day. I swear by Urban Decay's Primer Potion, but there are all sorts of primers on the market (I also like the shimmery MAC Paints).

Learn more about primers in How to Keep Makeup in Place for Hours. They will change your life. Or at least your makeup routine.

Why this step is important: If you have greasy lids or do when summer hits, the primer keeps the eyeshadow in place. You'll find your shadow won't budge even when running the New York City Marathon.

Tools: I use my finger to apply primer, but a Q-tip works and some people who are really into makeup use a brush for this. You can literally have a makeup brush for every step of your makeup process.

Step 2: Sweep a Neutral Color Over Your Lids

All eyeshadow palettes come with several shades. For your lid, you'll want to choose a neutral shade: not the darkest, not the lightest.

Sweep this color over the entire lid up to the crease. For a more dramatic look, you can go darker, but if you have light skin and eyes, the look can be too harsh. You're better off with a lighter shade. Shimmer is fun for the evening but can make mature skin look more wrinkled.

Why this step is important: The neutral sweep of shadow is the main shadow base from which you'll build the rest of your look.

Even if you're only going for a basic look for weekday or weekend, a neutral color will make your eyes pop and cover up any lid discoloration.

Tools: I always throw out the freebie foam applicator that comes with some drugstore palettes. The best tool for eyeshadow application is a medium eyeshadow brush. You can get one at any drugstore, Sephora or department store. Some beauty experts like to be edgy and recommend using your fingers to apply eyeshadow. This never worked for me.

Step 3: Blend in a Darker Color To Your Crease

For the next step, blend in a darker shade into your crease, starting from the inside of the eye with a thinner line growing thicker as it extends to the outside of the crease. Make sure the lids match and blend, blend, blend.

If you have a 3-color palette, choose the darkest color. If you have a 4-color palette, choose the 3rd darkest. If you're not using a palette, use a color that's in the same family as your neutral color.

Why this step is important. This step adds drama and definition to your eyes.

Tools: Use a brush meant for the crease and apply to the crease.

Step 4: Add Highlighter Above the Crease

If you feel your eyes still need more color, you can take the lightest color in your palette and blend it in just above your crease.

Try to keep the color off the browbone (sweep color up to the browbone) and lighter shades are always better. Stay away from dark shades here.

Think of your lids like a rainbow, seamlessly blending from light to dark to light again. If you watch makeup application videos, you will see just how important blending is when it comes to eyeshadow. Both lids need to match and you want the colors to look like a rainbow, seamlessly blending from light to dark to light again. 

Step 5: Press a Light Shade Into the Inside Corner of the Eye

To open up eyes, press your pinkie finger into the lightest color of the palette and then press your pinkie into the inside corner of your eye. This is the makeup artist's secret for making eyes appear wider and more awake.

Why this step is important: Nothing will make your eyes look as awake as this trick.

I don't use it most days, but it's amazing for special events, dates or for evenings out.

Tools: I always use my pinkie finger here. You don't want to press too much color into your eye or it will be obvious.

Now that you know how to apply eyeshadow, get the scoop on my top eyeshadow secrets in My Best Eyeshadow Tips & Tricks