When it comes to makeup, there are few things as impactful (or transformative) as eyeshadow. Available in a vast array of colors, textures, and finishes, this makeup bag staple can be used in a nearly-infinite number of creative and colorful ways. But in order to really nail your eye makeup look, you need to know how to apply eyeshadow properly—a skill that any makeup expert will tell you can take time to hone.
Here’s the thing, though: Eyeshadow application isn’t difficult as long you have the right tools for the job (and the know-how to use them properly). That’s where we come in. Here, we’ll let you in on our best eyeshadow tips, tricks, and hacks, plus give you step-by-step instructions for creating two classic eyeshadow looks. Keep reading for the complete NYX Professional Makeup eyeshadow guide.
Eyeshadow Basics: Tips For an Easy Application
Before jumping in, we thought it’d be useful to go over the eyeshadow basics—what you’ll need, what you should know, and how to prep your eyes before packing on the pigment.
Tip #1. Find Your Formula
There are a few different types of eyeshadow you can choose from, but they generally fall into one of three categories: liquid, cream, or powder. Liquid shadows, such as our Ultimate Glow Shots, typically come in a tube, almost like lip gloss, and have their own applicator. They apply easily and tend to dry quickly, which makes them great for creating accents or full monochromatic eyeshadow looks. Cream eyeshadows are more balm-like in texture and can come in a pot or in pencil form (like our Jumbo Eye Pencils). Much like liquid formulas, they’re easy to apply and can often double as eyeliner, making them great multi-taskers.
Lastly is the most ubiquitous type of eyeshadow and the type we’ll be focusing on primarily in this guide: powder eyeshadow. Generally found in pressed powder forms, these shadows offer a ton of versatility and can be used to create subtle or bold looks, thanks to their buildability and blendability. You can find them sold individually or in palettes, usually with complementary colors in varying finishes.
Tip #2: Gather The Essential Tools
In order to apply eyeshadow effectively, you’ll need a brush—or, more accurately, brushes. We recommend the following:
- A wide-domed eyeshadow brush, like our Tapered All Over Shadow Brush, for applying and layering your shadows.
- Blending brushes for diffusing and buffing out your shadows. Use our Pro Blending Brush for blending on the lids and crease, and keep the Micro Blending Brush on hand for more precise blending work in the inner corners or other small areas.
- A stiff-bristled angled brush, like our Pro Angled Makeup Brush, to accentuate and define your lash line, draw soft wings, and shape your crease. Bonus: This brush can also be used as an eyebrow brush (we love a multi-tasker).
Tip #3: Always Use Eyeshadow Primer
Using eye primer can help extend wear, improve color payoff, protect against fallout, and ensure that your shadow doesn’t move around when exposed to heat, moisture, or your skin’s natural oils. As for which eye primer to use, we recommend our Ultimate Shadow & Liner Primer. The creamy, lightweight eyeshadow primer comes in four skin-adapting shades that leave your lids with a soft, blurred finish. Spread it over your lids before applying shadow, or wear it on its own for a natural no-makeup makeup look.
Tip #4: Learn Your Eye Shape
Just like your face shape determines proper blush and contour placement, your eye shape plays a significant role in determining how and where you should apply your eyeshadow. Eyes come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from large and round to small and narrow, and proper shadow placement is key for crafting a flattering eye makeup look.
Tip #5: Make Use Of a Base Shadow
Before layering on your color, we recommend applying a light, neutral-toned eyeshadow to the entire lid—think of it as a base for the rest of your look. Applying this base shadow not only helps your other eyeshadows apply more smoothly and evenly, but it can also help you make easy work of blending, buffing, and shading.
Tip #6: Practice Blending
Being able to create sharp, precise lines is important for many eye makeup looks (the perfect wing wouldn’t be perfect if it were uneven) but so is blending. Often, the difference between an expert-level eyeshadow look and one that needs work is how well-blended the edges are. Practice blending by lightly sweeping your eyeshadow brush over your lid in a back-and-forth motion using our aforementioned Pro Blending Brush and Micro Blending Brush.
How To Apply Eyeshadow: A Step-By-Step Tutorial
There are many different ways you can apply eyeshadow—that versatility is one of the things we love most about this eye makeup essential. While we can’t break down every single eyeshadow look possible, we’ve created two distinct tutorials: one detailing a basic eyeshadow look for beginners and one for creating a classic smokey eye.
How To Do Eyeshadow For Beginners
Our natural eyeshadow tutorial is all about subtly accentuating your eyes. Here’s the step-by-step breakdown for this easy eyeshadow look.
Step 1: Select Your Shades
Choose an eyeshadow palette that contains several nude and neutral eyeshadow shades. We suggest Ultimate Shadow Palette in Warm Neutrals. The pro-level palette boasts 16 warm neutral shadows in both matte and shimmer finishes and is ideal for creating softer eye looks. For this tutorial, you’ll only need to use two shades from the palette—one lighter (this will be the base) and one a shade or two darker than your skin tone.
Step 2: Dip Your Brush In
Sweep the domed bristles of your tapered brush across the lighter eyeshadow shade to pick up some of the pigment. Avoid pushing the brush too hard into the shadow—you don’t want to overload it with product.
Step 3: Apply Your Lid Color
Starting at your lash line, begin dusting the base shadow onto your eyelid. You’ll want to cover your entire upper lid and extend the color just beyond the crease (the area where your eyelid folds), so if you need to dip into your eyeshadow palette once more, that’s totally fine.
Step 4: Prepare Your Crease Shade
Once you’ve buffed out your base shadow, use your blending brush to pick up a bit of the darker eyeshadow shade you’ve selected. Again, use light pressure to avoid picking up too much product.
Step 5: Darken Your Crease
Place the blending brush at the outer edge of your crease. Then, begin swiping the brush back and forth along your crease in a windshield-wiper-like motion to apply and blend the color. Stop about three-quarters of the way to your inner corner to avoid making your eyes look smaller or closed-off.
Step 6: Blend, Define, and Set
Finish blending until the eyeshadow has a soft, diffused effect, then apply one to two coats of Worth The Hype Waterproof Mascara to your upper lashes. Repeat each step on your other eye, then mist your face with setting spray (we recommend our Matte Setting Spray—the breathable, lightweight formula is America’s #1 makeup setting spray).*
*Disclaimer: L’Oreal calculation based in part on data reported by NielsenIQ through its Scantrack Service for the Makeup Spray sub segment for the 52-week period ending January 1, 2022, for the US xAOC market according to L’Oreal’s custom product hierarchy. Copyright © 2022, Nielsen Consumer LLC
How To Do Smokey Eyeshadow
Timeless and flattering, a smokey eye is one of our favorite go-to eye makeup looks. Keep reading to learn how to nail the sultry, smokey look like a pro.
Step 1: Pick Your Palette
Select an eyeshadow palette that contains both lighter and darker shades—you’ll need three (one lighter, one medium, and one dark) to achieve a smokey gradient effect. We recommend Ultimate Color Palette in Smokey & Highlight. It contains 16 velvety pressed eyeshadows in a range of shades perfect for creating a classic smokey eye.
Step 2: Shade Your Lid
Using your domed eyeshadow brush, sweep the darkest shade across your lid, concentrating the color along your lash line. As you blend, buff the color upward, so it extends toward your crease.
Step 3: Blend With The Medium Shade
Using your blending brush, apply the medium shade to your crease, blending it with the darker hue to create a dark-to-light gradient effect.
Step 4: Apply Your Final Shade
Clean off your blending brush, then dip it into the lightest shade that you’ve chosen. Apply this shade just above your crease and buff it up toward your brow bone to help soften the edges of your smokey eye look. You can also tap this color onto your inner corners to help add dimension and make your eyes appear more open.
Step 5: Smoke Out The Color
Blend the three eyeshadows until the gradient effect is seamless—you want to avoid any harsh lines of demarcation to achieve a soft, diffused look.
Step 6: Add Liner and Lashes
Trace your upper lash line with black eyeliner (we recommend the waterproof Epic Ink Liner), then coat your lashes in mascara to complete the look.
Finally, remember that makeup is all about experimentation, and both of these tutorials are simply a jumping-off point. Once you get the basics down, you can take your eyeshadow in any number of directions. Feel free to experiment with different shades, finishes, and techniques to create a look that’s 100% yours.