“Little Miss Makeup, I suck at applying eye makeup!”

October 31st, 2011

Dear LMM,

I love makeup but have never really known how to apply it properly. The biggest issue for me is applying eye makeup. Can you please talk me through basic eyeshadow and pencil eyeliner application, and the brushes I should use? I have brown, almond-shaped eyes, dark-brown hair and a pale complexion.

Thanks in advance for your advice! Juanita.

Dear Juanita,

There are many different ways to apply eyeshadow. Today I will take you through what I consider to be a foolproof technique, which is great for both beginners and experts alike. In fact, you will notice in my videos that I use this technique (and variations of it) almost every single time I apply eye makeup.

To do basic eyeshadow I would recommend you start with two pressed-powder eyeshadows (a light shade and a mid-toned shade in either a matte, satin or metallic texture) and two brushes: a fluffy blending brush and a flat eyeshadow brush. For basic eyeliner, I would suggest you use an eyeliner pencil in conjunction with a small angle brush.

(Note: The brushes and techniques outlined below will work equally as well with loose-powder shadows, but when you are just starting out, pressed formulations are usually easier to manage.)

THE STEPS!

1) Prepare the eyelid.

To ensure you get a true color payoff from your eyeshadow, even out the skin tone in the eye area by applying a layer of foundation and/or concealer first.

Makeup artist tip!
If you are going to use a metallic-textured shadow, apply it directly on top of a satin-finish foundation or concealer for maximum shine. Alternatively, if you are going to use a matte eyeshadow and want to make blending easier, dust some matte loose powder over the foundation or concealer before you start.

To watch me prepare the eyelid for a metallic eyeshadow, watch the segment of the video at 0.00 to 1 min 25 secs in the following blog post: Glam-eyed pirate girl.

To watch me prepare the eyelid for a matte eyeshadow, watch the segment of the video at 1 min 44 secs to 3 mins 21 secs in the following blog post: A strong brow is very now!

2) Highlight the brow bone and inner corner of the eye with a fluffy blending brush.

Pick up a pale-colored eyeshadow on a fluffy blending brush and tap off any excess. Using back-and-forth strokes and circular movements, blend the shadow over the brow bone, inner corner of the eye, and eyelid (optional).

Fluffy blending brush Little Miss Makeup, I suck at applying eye makeup!

Avoid white when you highlight!
Be careful if you choose to highlight the eye area with white. If it’s not applied properly and blended well, it can make the eyes look ‘drag queenish’. Light colors (such as nude, cream, beige or vanilla) work well as highlighters on fair complexions. Pastel yellow and peach are my picks for yellow-based/dark-olive skins, while ochre yellows and orangey browns work best on black skin. Making a feature of the brow bone is very 1980s, so to keep your makeup modern, subtlety is key in the brow bone department. I typically apply something very sheer to achieve that ‘just caught the light’ effect. Leaving the brow bone bare is also acceptable, but can sometimes leave the look unfinished.

Makeup artist tip!
If you pick up too much eyeshadow on a fluffy blending brush and don’t knock off the excess, you will get fallout on your face. After I dip the bristles in eyeshadow, I like to tap any excess off on the back of my hand before I apply it to the eye. Then, if I need more shadow, I simply revisit the back of my hand and collect it from there.

To watch me highlight the brow bone and inner corner of the eye, watch the segment of the video at 4 mins 17 secs to 4 mins 33 secs in the following blog post: Golden Girl: A Valentino-inspired summer makeup look.

My favorite fluffy blending brushes are MAC’s 224 Tapered Blending Brush and Bobbi Brown’s Eye Blender Brush.

3) Apply color to the lid with a flat eyeshadow brush.

Pick up a mid-toned eyeshadow on the wide side of a flat eyeshadow brush and knock off any excess. To make the eyelid taut, stretch the skin by gently pulling the outer corner of the eye with your fingertips (on your non-writing hand) or tilt your head slightly backwards. Using a repetitive patting motion and following the natural contour of the eye, press the shadow over the eyelid from the lash line to the crease to create a solid block of color. Then, take a fluffy blending brush and blend the shadow back-and-forth and round-and-round over the lid, and through the socket line to soften the color and smooth the edges.

Flat eyeshadow brush Little Miss Makeup, I suck at applying eye makeup!

Makeup artist tip!
When most people apply eyeshadow to the eyelid, they simply blend it back and forward and wonder why they can never achieve much more than a diluted wash of color. The secret to professional-looking eyeshadow is to press it on. Patting the eyeshadow onto the lid allows you to build up a layer of color, which you can then blend to achieve that soft-focus, smoky, ”I’ve just visited a makeup artist” effect. Like most things makeup related, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, so how much color you initially apply and how much you blend it is totally up to you. If you are trying this technique for the first time, be patient and don’t rush it! Remember, practicing and experimenting is all part of the fun. Flat eyeshadow brushes come in varying shapes and sizes; choose one that works with the size and shape of your eye.

The fallout frustration!
The best way to prevent fallout is to make sure you don’t overload your brush. As I mentioned earlier, ensure you tap off any excess shadow on the back of your hand before you begin. Then, using your hand as a palette, work between it and your face to add more color to the eye. Some eyeshadows (particularly dark hues and certain textures) have a tendency to cause fallout regardless of the precautions you take. In this case, to prevent your eyeshadow from dropping particles on your cheeks and ruining your foundation, apply your eye makeup first, clean up your skin and then apply your base. If you are a foundation-first kinda girl and have a free hand available when you are applying your eyeshadow, hold a tissue beneath your eye. The tissue will protect your complexion by catching any stray specks as they fall. Another trick to try is tilting your head slightly backwards when you are looking into the mirror; this not only helps keep the eyeshadow on your lids, but it’s also a great way to see what you are doing.

To watch me apply an antique-gold eyeshadow to the eyelid with a flat eyeshadow brush and blend it with a fluffy blending brush, watch the segment of the video at 4 mins 52 secs to 7 mins 20 secs in the following blog post: Golden Girl: A Valentino-inspired summer makeup look.

My favorite flat eyeshadow brushes are MAC’s 239 Eye Shader Brush and Dior’s Medium Eyeshadow Brush.

4) Blend eyeliner pencil with a small angle brush.

For a smooth application, take a sharpened eye pencil and warm the point on the back of your hand. Tip your head back slightly as you look into the mirror, and using your free hand stretch the skin at the outer corner of the eye. This will pull the skin on the eyelid tight and make application easier. To make the eyelashes appear fuller, apply the pencil using a series of short, overlapping strokes along the top and bottom lash lines, as close to the roots of the lashes as possible. If desired, also apply it along the upper and lower inner rims. To accentuate the shape and lift the eye, apply your eyeliner thinnest at the inner corner, thickening it as you move outwards. To take the harshness off the line, blur it slightly by blending with a small angle brush. Use small strokes, and work from both the inside out and outside in. If you want your eyes to appear more elongated, line them all the way around, and then blend the pencil with a small angle brush so the inner and outer corners meet in a wing.

To watch me apply pencil eyeliner and blend it with a small angle brush, watch the segment of the video at 4 mins 18 secs to 6 mins 11 secs in the following blog post: Smoky eyes for daytime.

Makeup artist tip!
A small angle brush has many uses! Use it to:

  • apply powder eyeshadow as eyeliner. Watch the segment of the video at 0.00 to 3 mins 16 secs in the following blog post: Is applying liquid eyeliner your biggest beauty frustration?
  • apply powder eyeshadow to the lower lash line and lower inner rim. Watch the segment of the video at 3 mins 4 secs to 4 mins 16 secs in the following blog post: Gothic Glamor.
  • achieve a perfect flick with gel eyeliner. Watch the segment of the video at 6 mins 24 secs to 8 mins 13 secs in the following blog post: Bright is the new black!
  • apply brow powder. Watch this segment of the video at 8 mins 37 secs to 10 mins 39 secs in the following blog post: A strong brow is very now!

Small angle brush Little Miss Makeup, I suck at applying eye makeup!

My favorite small angle brushes are MAC’s 266 Small Angle Brush and Shu Uemura’s Natural Brush 6 o b.

For more tips and tricks on how to use these eye makeup brushes, go here: The three eye makeup brushes you should own!

Hope this is helpful!

Love lots and pink polka dots, Little Miss Makeup.

Juanita trialed the three MAC brushes and the techniques mentioned in this post, and her verdict is in! This is what Juanita said about the brushes:

MAC 224 Tapered Blending Brush: “I’m in love. I use this brush to apply my matte beige base/highlighter and it works a treat. It distributes the product well and gives an even finish. I do have a few issues with fallout, so I use a tissue to protect my under-eye area as you recommend.”

MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush: “This brush makes applying lid color easy. I like the technique you suggested. Pressing a medium-tone eyeshadow over the lid gives a nice saturation of color, and then you have the flexibility to blend it as much or as little as you like. I tend to blend a lot when I’m creating a daytime look, and less at night when I want a heavier, more pigmented finish.”

MAC 266 Small Angle Brush: “I wasn’t in love with this brush in the beginning; it felt kind of scratchy. I had to brush rather hard to blend the pencil eyeliner, which left my eyes red and sensitive. That said, I think it worked effectively and I did achieve a fine, sharp line. I have since tried using it with a gel eyeliner and got a better, less-irritating result. I feel like the bristles will splay quite quickly with this brush though.”

LMM’s response to Juanita’s comments about the MAC 266 Small Angle Brush: “Oh, dear. It sounds like you were using a long-wear eye pencil. These formulations tend to set on application, and because they don’t usually contain much wax they can be impossible to blend. The upside is that they are generally long-lasting and smudge-proof. You shouldn’t have to press hard with this brush, so there should be no reason for the bristles to splay. Stop now before you do yourself (and the brush) an irreversible injury :). To blend successfully with the MAC 266 Small Angle Brush you need a little bit of slip, so I would recommend you try a softer eye pencil next time. I have been using my MAC 266 Small Angle Brush almost every day for over ten years, and it still looks as good as new. The secret to keeping your brushes in top condition is to clean them regularly with a mild cleanser and water. So they retain their shape, ensure you squeeze any excess water from the bristles before you lay them down to dry.

If you want to try something different, you may like to give the following eyelining technique a go. With this method you get the benefit of full-looking lashes without the stress of having to create a precision-perfect line on the lid. Instead of working along the top side of the lashes, you will be working from the underside. Start by picking up a dark-toned matte eyeshadow with a small angle brush and tap off any excess. Angle your head slightly backward and look into the mirror. With your spare hand, gently stretch the skin at the temple to pull the eyelid taut. Keep your eye open, and use the full tip of the brush to repeatedly press the shadow along the upper inner rim (the fleshy strip beneath your lashes). If needed, pick up more shadow as you go. Repeat along the lower inner rim if you wish. When you first try this your natural instinct will be to blink, but persevere and you will get used to it. If this method causes serious waterworks, I have another solution.

Again, pick up a dark-toned matte eyeshadow with a small angle brush and tap off any excess. This time, look straight into the mirror so you can see your lash line clearly. Close your eye, and with your free hand gently pull the skin at the outer corner of the eye to stretch the eyelid tight. Using the full length of the brush tip and an overlapping, repetitive motion, press the shadow along the top lash line as close to the roots of the lashes as possible. In non-technical terms, there is a ridge between where the eyelid finishes and the lashes start; this is where you should be aiming to place the shadow. As before, pick up more shadow as needed, and use a similar action to line the lower lashes if desired. This technique works well because the thickness of the line you create is controlled by the width of the brush, and with the MAC 266 Small Angle Brush, the result is fine and well-measured. If you try these suggestions, please let me know how you go. Have fun!”

Juanita Little Miss Makeup, I suck at applying eye makeup!

Juanita's finished look. Such a stunning job!

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One Response to ““Little Miss Makeup, I suck at applying eye makeup!””

  1. Narda says:

    Oh my God! This is easy! Thanks for sharing this and I want to try these as soon as I can. Applying eye makeup is the most difficult task that I want to master in such a short time.
    Narda´s last post . . . Custom Printed Labels from Frontier Label

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