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Eyeshadow 101: Basics + Tips & Tricks

While eyeshadow is typically used to accentuate and enhance the eyes, by adding depth and dimension, but it can also be used to correct any negative aspects.

In this blog post, I’ll go over all the basic of eyeshadow, as well as:

  • The differences and benefits between highlight & shadow, as it applies to an eyeshadow application

  • How to apply eyeshadow in order to draw attention to the eyes

  • How to recognize and correct a variety of problematic areas of the eye

  • How to apply eyeshadow in order to create the illusion of ‘lift’ to the eye, which will give a more youthful appearance



PHYSICAL FEATURES OF THE EYE

The area directly above the eye and just under the eyebrow is where eyeshadow will be placed. If you're looking to achieve a more intense or dramatic look, you can also place the eyeshadow under and/or around the outer-corner of the eye.


This eye area is broken down into the following sections: the upper eyelid, the lower eyelid, the fold, the brow bone, the outer-corner, and the tear duct.

The skin in this area may be tighter for some, while looser on others. Those with more youthful eyes tend to have a smoother and more taut area in which to apply eyeshadow, while those with more mature eyes may have an uneven surface on the upper-lid (generally referred to as a “crepey eyelid”.

It's also important to note that when it comes to width & height, this space can vary quite a bit for each individual.





FOLDS OF THE EYE

There are numerous different types of eye-shapes, as well as eye-folds. Eye-shapes tend to be round or oval, with varying types of folds. The area between the upper-lid line and just under the brow is the space where you should concentrate on, when applying eyeshadow.


The eye-folds are generally broken down into the following categories: the flat eye, the slight fold, the recessed eye, the heavy fold, the Asian slight fold, and the Asian heavy fold. It’s important to note that the eye-folds can either be one of, or a combination of, those categories.


Depending on the placement of the eyeshadow, it can either help lift-up or pull-down any of the eye shapes and/or folds, ultimately creating an illusion of something that doesn’t exist. For example, you can create the illusion that a ‘heavy fold’ is more like a ‘slight fold’, reducing the heaviness of the fold, thereby opening and lifting up the eye (this will help give lift to the entire face and, on a mature person, will create a more youthful look).



Below are illustrations of the various, common types of eye-folds. While some of you may have one of these exact eye-folds, others may have a combination.


Flat Eye
Slight Fold
Recessed Eye
Heavy Fold
Asian Slight Fold
Asian Heavy Fold

EYESHADOW PLACEMENT

While eyeshadow is often used to enhance the eyes by applying color, it can also be used to help bring balance to the eyes and, ultimately, the face.


Eyeshadow can be applied either before or after your base and eyebrows have been finished. However, some people prefer to do their eyebrows before applying eyeshadow, since the eyebrows will frame the eyes, thus helping to determine where the eyeshadow should be placed.


When applying eyeshadow, the most important thing to remember is where and how the eyeshadow is placed, as it can greatly affect the desired outcome.


SKINCARE

Prepping the skin is an essential factor for a good eyeshadow application. To ensure a smooth eyeshadow application, be sure to cleanse and moisturize the eye area (if you have oily eyelids, avoid moisturizing this area—too much moisture can cause the eyeshadow to move).




BLENDING

Blending is the key to a flawless eyeshadow application. The goal is to have a smooth gradient of colors where one color transitions into another color, without any harsh edges. Having a proper blending brush will make a huge difference between a decent and an amazing eyeshadow application. I recommend using one brush for each color choice and a separate, clean brush for blending (if you mix brushes, it can cause the application to look muddy).



HIGHLIGHT & SHADOW

Highlight and shadow are the two key elements of the eyeshadow application. Each shade has a specific purpose: the highlight shade should be a much lighter shade of color than the shadow, while shadow should be a darker/deeper color than the highlight shade. The highlight shade draws attention to an area by pulling it forward, while the shadow shade will push an area backward, creating depth.

The placement of highlight and shadow is determined by the type of eye fold, since each fold has its own required needs. However, there are a few key elements that apply to most eye folds:

  • Keep the eye lifted

  • Eyeshadow should not exceed the outer-corner of the eye (if the shadow is placed past the outer-corner of the eye, it can cause the eye to droop, dragging it down)

  • Harsh edges should be well-blended and softened (an un-blended edge can appear harsh and messy)

  • Generally, the inside edge of the shadow (closest to the nose) should not exceed below the tear duct, since shadow below the tear duct can make the eye appear to droop (one exception to this rule is when working with Asian eyes, since it may be necessary to go slightly past the tear duct)


CORRECTIVE POSITIONS

The following examples of eyeshadow placement are illustrations for corrective positions. However, with some eye folds, there may be one choice. For example, the Asian Slight Fold has three unique application choices, each with a different result. Furthermore, the Asian Heavy Fold may utilize elements taken from the three choices for the Asian Slight Fold.



Flat Eye

This eye shape is slightly concave. It’s called the Flat Eye because it doesn’t have a fold or tissue that overhangs, nor is it recessed. Also known as the “perfect eye shape”, the Flat Eye is perfect for a wide-array of eyeshadow looks and applications.







Slight Fold

The Slight Fold requires just a minor correction, in order to enhance and open up the eye. By placing the highlight shade on the brow bone and upper lid, it will give dimension against the shadow.








Recessed Eye

The recessed eye typically has little-to-no fold. Therefore, on the area that protrudes from the eye the farthest (usually just below the brow on the bone). Depending on the amount of space available, there is little-to-no highlight applied under the eyebrow.







Heavy Fold

Attention should be drawn to the area of the lid where the skin hangs down at its heaviest point. Making this type of correction can make a huge difference in lifting the eye, producing a more youthfully-shaped eye.








Asian Slight Fold #1

As with most Asian eye shapes, the lid is generally less pronounced and the fold hangs over the lid in varying degrees, creating a somewhat flat appearance to the eye. With the proper use of highlight and shadow, it’ll add dimension and give the appearance of a more open and rounded look to the eye (this is also known as an imposed caucasian).






Asian Slight Fold #2

This eyeshadow placement also works well for this type of fold. It adds dimension in a slightly different area, opening the eye a little more than the Asian Slight Fold #1









Asian Slight Fold #3

This placement of highlights and shadow will give dimension on a slight, vertical angle. The darkest amount of shadow is on the outer and inner portion of the eye.









Asian Heavy Fold

The Asian Heavy Fold has a flat appearance and the lid is hidden by the heaviness of the fold. Also, the eyelashes typically tend to point down. With proper placement of highlight and shadow, the heavy fold will become more balanced and will add a rounded-effect to the eye. NOTE: all three positions of the Asian slight fold will also work on the Asian heavy fold.





Keep in mind that these corrective positions are based on general types of folds and that it’s possible to have combinations of folds.


The following illustrations show eyeshadow placement for the various folds of the eye, both open and closed. If you look at the blending of the shadow and highlight, you’ll notice a soft-edge of shadow blending into a soft-edge of highlight. Additionally, notice that the eyeshadow doesn’t exceed past the outer-corner of the eye.


The key to making the eyeshadow appear flawless is by using the right amount of product, in combination with good blending techniques.


Flat Eye

Slight Fold

Recessed Eye

Heavy Fold

Asian Slight Fold #1

Asian Slight Fold #2

Asian Slight Fold #3

Asian Heavy Fold

EYESHADOW APPLICATION

Before applying eyeshadow, assess your eye shape and type of fold. Remember that not all eyes will be symmetrical and that it’s possible to have a combination of folds.


Choose a small eyeshadow brush to use as your highlight brush. Pick up a small amount of product on the brush and begin building the product on the eye in small increments (this will give you control over depth and will help ensure an even, well-blended application).


Applying the product in small increments will also help prevent eyeshadow fallout (when the eyeshadow falls from the brush onto the face), which can especially be a problem when working with darker colors. If the eyeshadow falls onto your face, immediately brush away and remove the excess product.


Loading The Brush

Load the product into your brush by gently tapping the brush into the eye shadow. Begin with a small amount of product on the brush, building-up and reloading the product as needed (this technique will give you control over the amount of product applied to the eye).

Remember, it’s much easier to add product than to have to remove excess product, if too much has been applied.

Highlight

Following the illustrations above of each of the folds, place the highlight directly under the eyebrow on the brow bone. Apply the highlight with soft, gentle strokes or a light tapping motion. Begin working the product from the inner-corner of the eye, toward the arch of the brow, stopping at the outside-edge of the brow. Then blend the eyeshadow by using a back-and-forth motion with the brush, being sure not to lift it off of the skin.


Next, apply the highlight to the lid. Work from the inner-corner of the eye, at the tear duct, across the middle of the lid, and then to the outer-corner (most applications of eyeshadow are done from the inside corner to the outside corner). Remember to not to exceed the outer-edge, as this will cause the eye to droop. Bring the highlight up to meet the fold.


Shadow

Choose a medium-sized eyeshadow brush. Using a light and gentle stroke, or a light tapping motion, place the shadow on the fold (the deepest/darkest part of the shadow will be placed on the heaviest portion of the fold). Working the product up the fold, concentrate on blending the edges from the shadow to the highlight (this is a soft-edge to soft-edge blending technique).


Drop Shadow

Depending on your desired look, you may choose to place in a drop shadow. A drop shadow creates the illusion of thicker lower lashes (although, on occasion, this is done simply to balance out a heavy upper eye treatment).

The drop shadow is placed on the lower-lid, right under the lower lashes. Using a small eyeshadow brush, place the shadow on the lower lid using soft and gentle strokes. Blend evenly across the lower lid. When finished, look into the mirror to check your work and make any necessary adjustments.


Eyeshadow Examples: Fashion & Glamour

Although most people tend to work with neutral tones, there are numerous techniques that can add variety. These techniques will allow you to achieve a more dramatic and glamorous look.


The shades of the eyeshadows chosen are just as crucial as a well-blended application. Additionally, the effect you can achieve is based on not only the shade chosen, but how the shadow is layered & blended. How these shades are applied can change and/or enhance the eyes.

Depending upon the desired look, consider whether you’ll be using matte or iridescent eyeshadows.

If you choose to use several shades of eyeshadow, be sure that the eyeshadow is applied according to the shade, layering the eyeshadow from the lightest shade to the darkest shade. This process will give you complete control over the dimension of the final look (i.e. adding a deeper shade along the fold will give the illusion of depth) and will help draw attention to the eyes by making the color of the iris seem more vibrant.


When doing a fashion or glamour look, the eyeshadow generally connects with the drop shadow at the outer-corner. An example of this is what is generally referred to as a “smokey eye”.

The following illustrations are examples of the different looks that you can create by layering eyeshadows, working from the lightest shade to the darkest. Each look is progressively more dramatic and any of these looks may be used, depending on the desired result.


EXAMPLE #1

This eyeshadow look is the typical shadow placement for the flat eye and is also the base for the other eyeshadow looks. The highlight shade is placed under the eyebrow and on the lid, and then a taupe eyeshadow is applied as shown.


EXAMPLE #2

For this look, the shadow has been brought down slightly onto the lid. Begin with a taupe shade and then add a slightly darker shade, such as a deep brown, to give extra depth to the eye. Place highlight shade on the lid and brow bone.


EXAMPLE #3

After you apply your highlight shade, layer in shades of taupe and deep brown. The darker shades should be at the fold, blending up into the lighter eyeshadow color.


EXAMPLE #4

This eyeshadow look is similar to the one above, except that black has been added on top of the deep brown, and then blended upwards. Be careful not to have too much product on your brush when working with black eyeshadows.


With countless eyeshadow colors, available in a variety of finishes, there’s an endless array of eyeshadow looks you can create—limited only by your imagination!







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