While eyeliner slip-ups and foundation mismatches are incredibly easy to spot, eyeshadow is a bit more subtle. Blending is probably the most important makeup skill that you’ll ever learn. It’s a critical skill for everything from advanced contouring to basic eyeshadow application. If you want to create a truly smoldering eye, you need to know exactly how to blend eyeshadow.
Whether you have never worn eyeshadow or you’ve just given up hope that you’ll ever perfect your smokey eye look, this is the guide for you. With simple tips and tricks, you’ll be ready for any eyeshadow that comes your way.
Gather your tools
You can apply eyeshadow with whatever you want. There are more than a few amazing makeup artists out there who can use just their fingers or half of a cotton swab and make your eyes look flawless. Sadly, we aren’t all makeup pros just yet. For most of us, the good old makeup brush is an absolute must-have.
You might be able to get by with your fingertips for gel formulas but you definitely won’t get enough precision if you don’t use a proper brush.
While there isn’t really a minimum of brushes that you should have, it’s good to have a few extra. If you want a bold shade you are always going to need to have a fresh, clean makeup brush. If you are using multiple shades of eyeshadow, it can make your life a lot easier to have multiple brushes so that you aren’t constantly cleaning your brushes throughout the process.
The specific brushes that you use are really going to depend on the style that you want to go for. If you like to mix it up, you will want to have a few different brushes on hand. If you generally go for the same couple of styles (and that’s OKAY!), then just get what you need.
There are some crazy specific brush reviews and recommendations online that are worth checking out, but as a beginner, you can probably get by with any old application brush and a decent blending brush.
Use a blending brush
When you’re using a blending brush at the edge of your eye, you’ll want to imitate the motion of a windshield wiper. Use a light touch and gently move back and forth. It’s incredibly important not to press too hard because you won’t want to move too much shadow. You’ll just want to move the very top layer of eyeshadow so that you can subtly blend the lines.
This windshield wiper motion will seamlessly blend your shadow into your surrounding skin. This is an important movement to master when you are working on the outer corner of the eye. You don’t want there to be a clear stopping point so move back and forth until you have a subtle line.
When you are trying to blend two eyeshadow colors together, use small swirling motions. While you’re working on a spot where the two colors meet, you’ll want to make incredibly small movements. Just very softly create tiny circles that will erase away the line between the two shades. Keep swirling and making slightly larger circles until the colors subtly blend into each other. Once the dividing line is blurred, you are done!
Keep the order when it comes to colors
When you’re blending, start with the lighter color so that you can keep sharp shades. For example, if you are doing a smokey eye, start with the white shadow then move to the grey and finally the black eyeshadow. If you go the other direction, you’re just going to end up with the same dark color everywhere.
If you are using two completely contrasting shades of eyeshadow, it’s handy to have two different blending brushes on hand so that you can keep the shades separate. For example, if your inner corner is silver and your outer eye is plum, you won’t want to get the silver liner at the very outer edge of your eye.
The most important thing to remember about your blending brush is that it’s only for blending. Never, ever use your blending brush to apply shadow. If you do that, you’ll end up with a muddy look. You’ll just pick up too much eyeshadow during the application for the brush to be useful for blending.
Find the best brush
There has been a lot of debate on brush prices in the world of makeup. Some swear that you need to buy pricey brushes to get a good result. Others say that you can get by with whatever you’ve got. I’d say that it really depends.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to have a clean brush. Whether it’s cheap or expensive, it absolutely must be clean. So, here is where you need to just be honest with yourself and think about how often you’re prepared to clean them. If you are willing to clean your makeup brushes once a week, go for the pricey brush. If you take care of them, they will last for ages.
On the other hand, if you know that you aren’t going to ever get around to washing your brushes, go for something cheap. Use a brush for a week then toss it aside and go for a fresh one. You will want to wash them eventually, but if you keep using a cheap, fresh brush, you are good to go indefinitely.
Master the art of cleanliness
If you are going to keep your brushes clean, it’s important to know how to wash them. There are tons of different cleansers out there that are specifically designed for cleaning your brushes. Or, if you want to cheap out, just grab some baby shampoo.Again, go for whatever method you are going to stick with.
If you decide on a makeup brush cleaning spray or wipe, then it will dry pretty quickly. Follow the instructions and you’ll be good to go in five minutes. The baby shampoo route is much cheaper but it’ll take you a bit longer. Here’s what you’ll do:
- Add a teaspoon of shampoo into a bowl filled with warm water.
- Dip one brush at a time into the water and swirl it over the bottom of the bowl.
- Let the brush sit for ten seconds.
- Run the brush under cold water.
- Mold the brush back into its original shape.
- Leave your brush pointing downward (just fold a towel under it or set it on the side of the sink ledge) and let it dry overnight.
When you are actually applying your eyeshadow, you’ll want to keep your brush clean but you’ll use a different process. To keep your brushes from getting too much buildup, just keep a towel on hand. Use an old hand towel or just a thick paper towel.
If you are going to use one brush for multiple shades (going light to dark, of course), just gently run your brush across the towel to brush away the excess. Keep running it back and forth until you can’t see any more color being deposited onto the towel. Once your towel is showing up clean, you can safely move onto the next color.
Use eyeshadow base
If you are going to go through all the trouble of perfectly blending your eyeshadow, primer is a must!
Using an eyeshadow primer will make a major difference in your finished look. Not only will your eyeshadow last twice as long, it’ll also go on easier. Using an eyelid primer will create a smooth base that will make blending (almost) effortless.
If you don’t have an eyeshadow primer on hand, go for a skin toned eyeshadow. It’s not quite as good but it’s definitely much better than bare skin.
Whether you go for eyeshadow primer or skin toned eyeshadow, prepping your eyelid really is critical. Do this step every time and you’ll prevent smudges, fading, creasing and be able to blend your eyeshadow like a pro.
Master the perfect blend
The perfect eyeshadow blend should be seamless. You’ll want a visible gradient but you shouldn’t be able to pinpoint the exact spot where one color ends and another begins.
An under blended eyeshadow is easy to see by a lack of gradient tone. It’s a bit hard to tell when you are just starting out but if you look at other women’s shadow, you’ll slowly be able to spot under blended, well blended and over blended eyes.
An under blended eye is obvious by its clear starting and stopping points. While it’s perfectly fine for eyeliner to have a clear stopping point at the corner of your eye, eyeshadow should be far more subtle. It should just suddenly fade away.
Over blended eyeshadow typically has a muddy look. It often happens when you are working with only one color. It’s important to remember that you’ll still want to have lighter and darker shades even if you’re only working with a single color. Ideally, you’ll want to have three different levels of color whatever color you go for.
Pick your colors well
You can use as many or as few different shades of eyeshadow as you want, but for a starting point three is a good number. The classic smokey eye will consist of white, grey and black. The simple formula of dark, medium and light is universally flattering and it’s the easiest to work with.
If you are starting from square one, the easiest palate is probably cream, tan and chocolate brown. These colors will be the closest to any given skin tone so they are the most forgiving.
When you are using this light/ medium/ dark color palate, there is a standard placement guide that you can follow for a perfect finish. For an ultra-flattering look, use the darkest shade at your crease and the lightest shade directly under your brow bone.
Once you are good at blending, you’ll be able to take those two shades and blend together a third color. In the meantime, while you are learning, you can cheat and use a third color so that the blending is easier.
Find your crease
There are countless different styles of eyeshadow that you can try out later, but for now let’s focus on mastering the basics. Most styles of shadow are going to be focused around your crease. Darkening your crease is always flattering so every shadow lover does it on a regular basis.
Of course, you’ll want to start with eyelid primer. Once you’ve got that on, cover your entire eyelid in a light color. Whatever color you use on your lid, you’ll want to have a darker version of it to use as your crease color. So, if you go for a tan lid, use a dark brown crease color.
Matte is the most flattering type of eyeshadow for your crease. The idea is to create the illusion of depth; so obviously, matte shadow will be more convincing than a shimmery shade.
Once you’ve got your colors, move along your crease from the outer corner of your eye. Hold the brush at a slight angle and just follow the contour of your eye. Stop right before you reach the inner corner of your eye.
At this point, your eyeshadow will look silly and unnatural. This is where blending comes in! Grab your blending brush and work your way in from the outer corner. Remember that tiny circular motion? Use that to blend your darker shade with your light shade. Your goal is to create the illusion of the dark color just subtlety fading into the lighter shade.
Once you have the line between the dark shade blended into the lighter shade, move onto the edges. Now you’ll have a chance to try out that windshield motion. Go to the outermost edge of your eye and slowly blend the shadow toward your temple. Keep going back and forth in the wiper motion until the blunt line is gone.
Now that you have mastered this look, you can tell us what your first attempt looked like, or if you’re a pro, you can share some more secrets with us in the comment section below.
Don’t forget to check out the eyeliner Infographic we’ve made for you: How to Apply Eyeliner for Every Eye Shape.