Basics Series: Eye Shadow

Eye shadow is perhaps one of the makeup products that we are the most familiar with--who could forget the blue eye shadow that we all wore in middle school? This was the first product I ever bought and used regularly, but it took years before I finally understood how to properly apply eye shadow. When used correctly, eye shadow can change your entire look by bringing out the color of your eyes and making them really pop. Unfortunately, eye shadow is probably the trickiest product to apply, and learning how to use it properly can take a lot of time and practice. That’s why the final installment of the Basics Series focuses solely on eye shadow and it’s application; it can be a very complicated process, but in the end, it is the key to a successful and complete makeup look. I’ve found that with eye shadow, it’s best to commit completely. What I mean is that while a four dollar shadow quad from the drugstore may make your wallet happy, it will give you a pretty lackluster finish. I’m not suggesting you go out and buy a sixty dollar Marc Jacobs palette, but you should definitely consider investing a little bit of money in order to get high quality products. Ulta has random sales on high-end palettes, especially Stila palettes, so keep an eye out for those flash sales to save some money. But if you’re going to invest, then I suggest getting a Lorac Pro palette. These palettes are absolutely incredible; the shadow is buttery, pigmented, and long lasting. It may be a splurge, but these palettes last forever. Of course, Urban Decay’s Naked palettes are a cult favorite, but in my opinion, the quality of the shadows are subpar to other shadows from Stila or Lorac…and the Naked palettes cost a lot more.

Lorac Pro Palette

Now while I recommend spending a little more than usual on high quality shadows, I’ve noticed that you can score some pretty solid eye shadow brushes without giving up an arm and a leg—you just have to know what you’re looking for. E.l.f. has some quality brushes for only a few dollars, which is a bargain compared to the more expensive MAC and Sigma brushes. Here’s a list of must-have eye shadow brushes that will help you achieve the perfect look:

  • Flat shader brush – use to pack color all over the lid
  • Small and large fluffy blending brushes – necessary for blending the colors together
  • Pencil brush – perfect for applying color in the inner corners and blending under the eye
  • Smudge brush – use to smudge color under the eye

It can be a little difficult to find these specific brushes in stores, so I tend to order them online. Some of my favorite brands for brushes are Real Techniques, Makeup Geek, e.l.f., MAC, and Sigma. You’ll find more brushes that you’ll need at these websites, so take a look!

Sigma Brushes

Once you’ve got your shadow and brushes, you’re ready to get started! The picture below demonstrates where you should place each color


  • 1- This is your browbone highlight. You’ll only want to place either shimmery or matte highlighting shadows here.
  • 2- This is your inner corner, and you should also use only highlight colors here—preferably shimmery. This will make you look awake and your eyes will really pop.
  • 3- This area is called aptly named the crease. You’ll want to put darker colors here and really work to blend them out in order to define your eye shape.
  • 4- This covers your entire lid, and this is where you’ll want to place your base color first.
  • 5- Finally, this is the outer corner, or sometimes referred to as the outer-V. This is where you’ll blend your darkest colors to get a smokey effect and connect your crease color to your lid color.

That can all be a little difficult to understand at first, so I’ll quickly run through the application process.

To begin, you should place a primer all over your lid and blend it into the crease so your shadow will stay. I’m a big fan of Lorac’s Behind the Scenes Eye Primer and the Maybelline Color Tattoos. Next, take a flat shader brush, or use your ring finger, and place your base color all over your lid. You’ll then want to take a small fluffy blender brush with a slightly darker shadow color and gently blend it into the crease. Start near the outer corner, and blend it in using small windshield wiper motions. Keep blending as much as possible to keep the look natural and fluid. Once it’s blended out, take your darkest color and gently pack it into the outer-V using a pencil brush. Then take your large fluffy blending brush and blend this color slightly onto the lid and bring it up into the crease just a bit. It shouldn’t be completely in the crease, but you should blend the crease and outer-V colors together. Finally, use a pencil brush to place a brightening shadow both in the inner corners of your eyes as well as right under the arch of your eyebrow to highlight.

If you want to take the next step and create a completely cohesive look, take a smudge brush and run the color that you used in the outer corner of your eye along the outer third of your lower lash line. Smudge your crease color under the middle third of your eye, and finish off the final third with either your lid color or your inner-corner color. Use your smudge brush to blend all of this together, and voila! You now have a totally rockin’ eye shadow look.

eye look

As I mentioned earlier, eyeshadow can be a bit of a beast to tackle. It can be hard to get the blending down just right, and to be honest, I’m still working on that. But once you get the hang of it, eye shadow can really amp up your look and connect your makeup to your outfit. The best part about eye shadow is that you can have tons of fun with it and create an endless number of looks.

Hopefully the Basics series has really helped increase your understanding of applying makeup and will give you further confidence in this realm. While all of this information can seem complicated and overwhelming, I promise that it will soon become second nature to you. Just remember that makeup is a form of self-expression, so use all of these tips and tricks to showcase your personality through your makeup looks!