How to Apply Eyeshadow 101: Ultimate Guide

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Last Updated: November 2, 2021

We all know it’s harder than it looks.  

Buying a new eyeshadow palette always gives me a rush, but sometimes I panic at the thought that I won’t be able to come up with a look. Applying eyeshadow is where it gets complicated.  How do you know what colors suit your eyes? Are you using good makeup brushes?  

It all comes down to a few simple steps.  You just need to cover the basics first.  Once you have mastered the knowledge of eyeshadow application, it’ll be easy to throw on that Friday night ‘90s glam or the perfect early morning, dewy off-duty look! 

What Brushes Do You Use?

When it comes to how to apply eyeshadow, you want to start off by equipping yourself with at least a handful of eye brushes if you want to have precise control over each part of your eyeshadow look.  

I prefer the synthetic brushes because they are usually hypoallergenic and apply easier than brushes that are real hair. They are also much softer.  

  1. A fluffy blending brush will help you cover your entire lid with your color of choice.  It will mix the colors seamlessly, making sure to blur any harsh lines.
  2. A tapered mini blending brush will make it easy to reach the hollow crease of your eye as well as define the inner and outer corners. 
  3. Next you’ll want to have a firm shadow brush that can pack on the color to your lid.  
  4. Lastly, you will need a flat or angled liner brush that will define your eyeliner or eyeshadow underneath your lash line or on the outer V. 

Some of my favorite brands to buy brushes from would be It Cosmetics, Elf, Morphe and Lime Crime. But, there is no need to splurge on makeup brushes when you can get good quality from the drugstore, there is no shame in the game! 

The normal person most likely wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between pricier synthetic brushes and ones found at the local Walgreens.  

How to Apply Eyeshadow (Steps)

how to apply eyeshadow

Step 1: Prime Your Eyelids 

Start off with a primer. For some reason, I have seen many people skip this step when they apply eyeshadow. They wonder why the color has dusted off onto their cheeks, and it’s because there was nothing used to keep your shadow in place. 

Why it is important to prime: the oil from your lids can cause the colors and application to be splotchy. Primer will keep your shadow in place. I like to use the classic Urban Decay Primer Potion or my favorite concealer. 

You don’t need to apply with a brush, you can use your fingers or a Q-tip!

Step 2: Start With a Base Shadow

You’ll want to start with the lightest and most neutral shade in the eyeshadow palette that you have chosen.  

Cover your eyelid and all the way up into the crease, if you are going for glam you could stop at the brow bone.  A base shadow will make building the rest of your look easy, the natural shade will add pop to your eye color.  

For this step I like to use the firm shadow brush to pack on the color easily.  Look down towards your lash line and hold the brush from the bottom end lightly.  You can pack on the color starting from the crease and working downwards towards your lash line!  

If you are going for a natural look, use skin tone shades. Glam looks should use shimmer or sparkle and don’t be afraid to go dark for a sexy smokey eye. 

You could also pick colors according to eye color. Blue eyes can pop with reds and oranges. To make green eyes glow, you can delve into purples, greys and yellows. Brown eyes are beautiful in shades of green, gold and purple. 

Step 3: Work on Your Crease 

The crease color is essential to any makeup look.  It defines your eye and adds depth to make it bigger, bolder and wider.  

Gently dip into a slightly darker or deeper shade in your eyeshadow palette. Make sure to tap off the excess, that way you don’t apply too much to your lids and ruin your look. It is way easier to keep adding on to the color rather than doing too much at once.  

Take your tapered brush and put the contrasting color into your crease.  Hold the end top of the brush with your index and thumb and gently sweep back and forth in your crease area.  

Close your eyes and apply where your eyelid meets your brow bone area. For a more cat eye look, connect the end of the crease shadow to the outer v of your eyes. This will bring the shape together and make your eyes look wider by defining them! 

Step 4: Blend, Blend, Blend!

You can’t forget blending when learning how to apply eyeshadow! After you’ve applied all of the colors you want, it’s time to marry it all together. Makeup is a work of art, you have to treat it like a delicate painting. 

Take a clean fluffy blending brush and start from the inner lid working your way outward.  You do not want to be heavy handed, create a color scheme that blends seamlessly on your lids.    

If you find that you have overblended and some of the colors have worn off or lost definition, go back in with previous brushes and apply the pigment again. Having multiple blending brushes will help you in this step, you can use them on different parts of the eye (crease, outer V). 

Step 5: Do NOT Forget the Lash Line!

Using the flat or angled liner brush, you can define the lower lash line with any color of choice.  If you are not a fan of liquid or gel liners, it is easy to substitute those for shadow.  Dip your brush into a black or brown color and build a wing shape on the outer v of the eye.  

Sweep the angled brush across your upper and lower lash line edges to create an eyeliner effect.  If you are well-versed in eyeliner, you can always use a shadow to set the liner and make it less prone to smudging.  

A paler, nude look would look great if nude eyeliner was applied to the bottom waterline.  If you want a sexier and bolder look, you can glide on black gel liner to the bottom waterline. 

Step 6: Highlight Your Brow Bone 

One of the highest points of the face is the brow bone! You don’t want to leave this step out as it will really pull the contrasting colors of the eyeshadow look together.

Use your lightest shade and a fluffy brush to sweep on the color that would highlight your brow bone, just below the arch of your brow.  

If you want to look more natural, go for the lightest nude in the pallete. You can even use a regular face highlighter for a greater shine. One of my favorites is the Diorskin Nude Luminizer.  

When you’re finally finished, add an extra brightening effect by applying the lightest shade to your inner corner. You don’t need to use a brush, your pinky is fine. You will create a more wide awake look!

Bottom Line

Finish off your eyes with a coat of mascara, plus a brow pencil to define your shape and create fuller, fluffy looking brows. Voila! All of these steps will leave you looking awake, fierce and ready to take the outside world by storm. We hope you perfected how to apply eyeshadow with our guide!