Eye Shadow Tips & Tricks

Probably one of the most frustrating processes in the beauty world is the process of putting on eye shadow. You try to get fancy, layering colors and all of the sudden you’ve either got a muddy mess on your eyes or your shadows simply won’t blend together. It’s enough to make a lot of people I know give up and stick to just eyeliner. But if you really do like the effect and want to get better, there’s hope! Today I’m going to show you some super easy tips and tricks to get your eye shadow just right!

  1. Use a primer.

Seriously. You need to be using an eye shadow primer. I know it seems like some illuminati trick of the beauty industry to make you spend more money on useless cosmetics, but just adding this one step to your routine can really improve your eye shadow looks. Primer helps the shadow to stick to your eyelid better, last all day, and decreases creasing of your eye shadow. Some people like to just use concealer as a primer, but I’ve never had much luck with that method. It’ll do in a pinch, but I really feel like using an eye shadow primer is the way to go.


My personal favorite primer is the Wet n Wild Fergie Take On The Day Eyeshadow Primer. That’s a mouthful! Unfortunately, this primer is no longer available in the form I have. Wet n Wild discontinued their Fergie line, but there is hope! Supposedly they rebranded this primer as their Photo Focus Eyeshadow Primer ($5)., which is still very much available. Some people have found the Fergie version at their local dollar store so you could also check there. I’ve also heard that the Milani Eyeshadow Primer ($7) is an excellent drugstore option. If you want a higher end eye shadow, there’s the classic Urban Decay Primer Potion ($20), but I used it for a while and I didn’t think it was anything terribly special, and I actually prefer the Wet n Wild version. A lot of people also rave about the Too Faced Shadow Insurance ($20), but I haven’t personally tried it so I can’t comment on how effective it is.


To use the primer, dispense just a teeny tiny amount onto your finger, as shown in the photo. Yep, that really is all you need. Next, pat the product onto your eyelids, spreading it all the way up to your brow bone. At this point, I like to let it dry down a little bit and let it settle into your skin. This is the point in my routine where I usually do my brows. Once my brows are done and I feel like the product has dried down, I move on to the next step.


There are other options too. In the photo above, I have three different shimmery shadows. The top row is the shadows on my bare skin. They’re nice, but not as intense as they could be. The next row is the shadows layered on top of a white creme eyeshadow base, in this case NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk ($4.50). The white provides a sticky, clean background for the shadows and is great for intensifying shimmers or for making bright colors pop. The last row is each shadow mixed with some MAC Fix+ spray ($23). This isn’t technically a primer, but bear with me. This is my favorite method for making shimmers really pop. In the interest of not ruining your shadows, pick up the shadow on a brush and then spray the brush with Fix+ rather than dipping a wet brush into your eyeshadow.

  1. Lay down a neutral colored eye shadow all over your lid.

I know. This is a weird one. Why would you cover up the primer you just laid down? Primer helps make eye shadow stick, and this is a good thing, but it has its downsides. Sometimes when I put brightly colored or very dark eye shadows straight onto a primer, it makes them a little patchy and very hard to blend. Blending is what helps make your eye shadow look smooth and put together. By laying down a neutral colored base, this makes blending much easier. Powder blends into powder better than it blends into cream, so having that layer of powder between your shadow and your primer can make all the difference in the world.


Some people like to set their primer with some translucent powder, which is great if you just want to lightly set your primer. I like to use an actual eye shadow for a couple of reasons. For one, I feel like eye shadows blend much better into other eye shadows. I also like to use a pigmented eye shadow to cover up a little bit of the veining and darkness on my lids, providing a totally blank canvas to create an eye shadow look on. I like to apply it all over, from lid to brow bone, using a big fluffy brush. Since I’m fair, I go for the lighter colors; my favorite is Tempera from the Modern Renaissance palette ($42), but sometimes I also go for Golden Ochre if I’m doing a warm toned look. Wet n Wild’s Brulee ($1) is a great drugstore option, and you can usually find it for a dollar or less. You can do this trick regardless of skin tone! Just find an eye shadow that somewhat matches your skin tone and use it as a base!

  1. Slowly build up color.

A lot of people are super intimidated by super bright shadows. They shy away from fuchsias and oranges and purples because they think that they can’t pull of the colors. The truth is, they just don’t know how to apply them. Part of the reason they fail is because they don’t use a primer, and they don’t set their primer. Once you do those things, you can do just about anything. But for those of you saying, “Hey! I do those things and I still can’t do bright colors,” don’t worry: I know what’s wrong. For some reason, people think they can only dip their brush into an eye shadow once, and if it doesn’t come out perfect they’re somehow a huge failure. That’s not even remotely true!

The truth is, you should be picking up the same color multiple times. The key to making a bright color work is to pick up a little bit of product at a time and slowly build up the pigment. If you pick up too much at once it can end up looking patchy or too pigmented for your liking. The most important thing to remember is that the majority of the color is going to stay where your first put your brush down on your lid. For this reason you should always start where you want the color to be the most pigmented, usually towards the outer part of your eye.

  1. Blend, Blend, Blend!

Blending. There’s a word that gets tossed around a lot in beauty talk. It’s such a small thing, but it will up your eye shadow game more than anything else I’ve suggested here. But how do you do it? There’s two different times you should blend. One is when you’re laying down color on your lids. As you apply a color you should gently go in circular motions in the area you want to lay down the color. This helps distribute color more evenly in that area. If you’re applying a color to your crease, go back and forth in a windshield wiper motion to get the color concentrated in your crease.

The other time you should blend is toward the end of your look. In this case you should take a clean, fluffy brush and run it over the edges of your look. You should be pressing very lightly and moving in a circular motion around the outside of your look and in between colors to get rid of any harsh lines. If you’re having trouble blending out a color in your outer corner, you can take a little bit of the shade you used to set your primer and softly blend it into the darker color to help blend it out. Using both of these blending techniques is what takes an average shadow look and makes it look professional and put together.

  1. Tightline and Brighten

One thing that I do, whether I’m wearing eye shadow or not, is tightline. Tightlining is where you take black eyeliner and us it to line your upper water line, getting right into the lash line and filling in the gaps between lashes. This gives the illusion of fuller lashes and defines your eyes. My favorite eyeliner for tightlining is the NYX Tres Jolie Gel Liner ($12).


You can take that same black liner to the waterline on your bottom lid for a dramatic effect, or just to make your eyes pop. If you think that makes your eyes look small, try lining your waterline with a nude liner, like Milani’s Almond Crème Eyeshadow Stick ($7.49). This will help you look more awake.


In the same vein as the nude liner, use a little highlight on the inner corners of your eye and just under your brows, right at the arch (see above). This gives your look more dimension and makes your eyes pop and look more awake. You can either use your face highlighter, which I usually do, or use a light eye shadow, either shimmery or matte depending on the look.

  1. Figure out your eye shape

This is an easy one. I’ve found that this infographic from Smashbox is the best for people new to makeup. Once you know your eye shape you can Google “best eye shadow looks for _____ eyes” and you’ll be on your way!


  1. Always Keep Q-Tips Close at Hand!

Whether it’s cleaning up the edges of an eye look when you’ve gone outside of where you want your shadow to be or removing stray eyeliner and mascara, Q-Tips are an indispensable part of my routine. I usually use a little saliva to clean things up, but if that grosses you out, just take a little face primer and use it on a Q-Tip to clean up your look.

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Pro-Tip: You know when you get mascara where it’s not supposed to be and you feel like you’ve ruined everything? You haven’t! Wait for your mascara to dry fully, then lightly rub it off with a Q-Tip. When it’s dry it just flakes right off, but if you go at it while it’s wet, it will smudge everywhere.

  1. Experiment and have fun!

The most important part of this process is to experiment and have fun. You’re not going to get your look perfect the first time you try it. That’s ok! Keep practicing and trying new things and eventually you’ll find something you love. If you screw up really badly, don’t beat yourself up; it’s just makeup, it washes off, and you can always try again tomorrow.

What are your favorite eye shadow tips and tricks? Let me know in the comments!


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