IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

How to apply eye shadow, according to top makeup artists

Here's everything you need to know to step up your makeup game.
/ Source: TODAY

Learning how to apply makeup seems easy enough, but sometimes, beauty basics can be pretty darn baffling. Luckily, eye shadow isn't as intimidating as it seems, and it can totally transform your beauty routine.

"Eye shadow can do wonders for drawing attention to the eyes. Depending on color choice, intensity and placement, it can provide shape and balance to the face and make your eye color pop," said Glamsquad artistic director, Kelli J. Bartlett.

Whether you're looking for some insider eye shadow application tips, the best shade for your eye color or the right tools to get you started, we've got you covered. TODAY Style consulted makeup pros to learn everything you need to know about mastering the art of eye shadow.

Eye shadow palette and brushes
Make sure to stock up on quality makeup brushes before applying eye shadow.Getty Images

Eye shadow brushes 101

Before even attempting to master eye shadow application, you'll want to arm yourself with the proper tools to get the job done. A good set of makeup brushes can make a world of difference, and can help you get a smooth, professional finish. But when it comes to eye shadow, there's really no one-size-fits-all list of brushes you should own. That's because the tools you use will depend on the look you're trying to create.

"Eye shadow can be applied in a multitude of different ways, depending on how you want the finish to look. If you want the look to be soft and diffused, choose a fluffy brush. For more detail or higher saturation, choose a densely bristled brush to help apply shadow with specificity. For high-shine metallic formulas, your finger can be an excellent tool to burnish on shadow," said Bartlett.

If you're not quite ready to get fancy yet and are just starting your eye shadow brush collection, here are some good tools to look for:

  • A blending brush to help create a seamless look between different colors
  • A flat, small dense brush to hold plenty of color
  • A spare brush for when you're applying multiple colors at once

When to apply eye shadow in your routine

Once you're ready to work some eye shadow magic, the question remains: Should you apply your eye makeup before or after foundation? It's all personal preference, really, but taking care of your eye makeup looks first can save you a bit of cleanup later.

"When applying eye shadow I suggest applying the eye shadow first before you apply foundation to avoid the fallout. First apply a thin layer of eye shadow primer, then eye shadow and eyeliner where you desire," celebrity makeup artist Billie Gene said.

Applying eye shadow first can also help if you're creating a pretty intense look. "If you are looking to create a smokey eye or vibrant look then it is a good idea to start with your eyes in case you make any mistakes or have eye shadow fallout," said Claudia Soare, president and creative director of Anastasia Beverly Hills.

If you're more experienced and prefer to take care of your concealer and foundation first, you can always save eye shadow for later. "Just put some translucent powder onto a brush or pad and dab it under your eyes. Make sure to apply enough powder, so that if there is any eye shadow fallout it lands on the translucent powder. Then you sweep it off when finished," said celebrity makeup artist Desirae Cherman.

How to apply eye shadow

There are many different ways to apply eye shadow and, with practice, you'll develop a few shortcuts of your own to help achieve the look you're craving. But there are a few basic tips that can get you started.

Prepping for eye shadow application:

  1. Prep the skin: "I like to wipe the eye area down with micellar water before I start makeup to remove anything that could be on the face. Oil is your enemy, as is anything slippery on the lid," said celebrity makeup artist Mary Irwin.
  2. Start with an eye shadow primer: "It’s good to set your eye shadow by starting with a primer. This helps to not only hold the shadow in place, but also preps the eyelid, getting rid of discoloration," Cherman said.
  3. Concealer: Still have some dark spots? Irwin recommends using a neutralizing concealer to create a totally clean canvas.
  4. Set the eye shadow: Bartlett recommends finishing with translucent setting powder dusted over the look.

Basic eye shadow application:

  1. Use an eye shadow the color of your skin all over, from lashes to brows.
  2. Follow up with a neutral color all over the lid up to the crease (you can use a matte or satin finish)
  3. Add dimension with a slightly darker color in a matte finish to the outer corner of the crease and blend well.
  4. Add an eyeliner of your choice.
  5. Take a highlighter or shimmery eye shadow lighter than your skin tone on the inner corner of the eyes to brighten things up.

Expert eye shadow application tips:

  • Want to add depth and dimension? Bartlettrecommends using a small flat brush and dark shadow pressed into where the lashes grow.
  • Want to make an area stand out more? Use a lighter color. "You can also use multiple colors to create varying levels of dimension," Cherman said.
  • Want to add more intensity? Gene suggests applying loose shadow with a slightly damp brush.
  • Consider your eye shape! "If you have hooded eyes, you want to create the appearance of depth and a crease. You would add eye shadow just above the fold of the eye, to give a pushed back appearance. If you have more round eyes you want to soften a little and create a wider look. You would use eyeliner to draw along the lash line and push just based the outer edge," Cherman said.
  • Bartlett suggests using a fluffy brush and a windshield wiper motion to apply color all over the eye.
Makeup palette eye shadow
Here's how to pick the right eye shadow for your eye color.Getty Images

Eye shadow for your eye color

Knowing how to apply eye shadow is great and all, but figuring out which hues complement your eye color is a whole other matter.

"To enhance your eye color, you want to use shades that are opposite. For instance, if your eyes are blue then use warmer shades with hints of orange or coral. If you have brown eyes use blue shades, and if you have green eyes use violet shades," Soare said.

Whether you've got baby blues or gorgeous green eyes, the following eye shadow colors will help you emphasize your best asset:

  • Blue eyes: Try brown, gold or yellow tones.
  • Brown eyes: Aim for gold, purples and other warm tones.
  • Hazel eyes: Pink, purple and green eye shadows are your best bet.
  • Green eyes: Warm tones like gold and lavender will complement your peepers.