It is a truth universally acknowledged: You can buy the most expensive eye makeup in the world, and you can invest in the best brushes. But if you don’t know how to blend your shadow, your makeup is always going to look a mess.
Conversely, if you know what you’re doing, you could apply your eye makeup with a q-tip and look perfect. I mean, I’m not saying that you should. That would be a lot of wasted q-tips. But in case of an eyeshadow emergency (IT’S A THING), it’s good to know that you could.
A lot of you have asked specifically HOW to go about blending eyeshadow, and since I dedicated many, many hours in college to teaching myself how to do this, I have written up this incredibly handy, detailed guide for you. Seriously, you will not want for knowledge after reading this.
So let’s get into it and learn how to blend eyeshadow like a pro!
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, SO IMPORTANT THAT IT IS IN BOLD AND ITALICS: CLEAN YOUR STUFF.
Many people will tell you to buy multiples of your favourite brushes so that you can use new ones for each colour eyeshadow you apply, and a clean one for blending. If you have tonnes of money to spend on six sets of five identical brushes, go for it. But it really isn’t necessary.
I have about fifty makeup brushes, and half of them are specifically for applying eye makeup. Do you know how many of them I use? Two.
This is what works for me; with time and practice, you’ll figure out what works for you. I promise.
However many brushes you use and no matter what they’re made of, they absolutely must be clean AT ALL TIMES. But obviously you can’t wash brushes in the middle of doing your face and then wait for them to dry, so what gives?
When I’m doing my eye makeup, I keep a light-coloured hand towel nearby. I apply whatever colour to my face, then stroke the brush back and forth on the towel a few times until it no longer leaves a coloured trail behind.
After this dry cleaning, your brush is clean enough for makeup purposes, and you can go ahead and use another shadow without it being adulterated by the last colour.
Notice I said “for makeup purposes.” For hygiene purposes, you need to wet clean them. I clean my brushes every week (or after shooting every article, whichever comes first) in gentle soap and water, squeezing the bristles rather than rubbing them. It keeps them soft, ensures they last a long time and prevents them from becoming a bacteria jamboree.
Even though I love my brushes, they aren’t the only things I use to apply eye makeup. A few of you have said that you use your fingers and you feel like that’s wrong, but I do it too, especially for cream or gelee products. Fingers are great! They are really easy to keep clean and with a light touch, they’re excellent blenders. Plus, they’re free and you have five of them.
Just make sure you wash your hands frequently. That’s all I ask.
Okay? Okay. Let’s get started.
Technique one: THE "NATURAL" CREASE.
Let’s talk about blending shadow at your crease. This works whether you’re creating a crease or enhancing what you’ve already got.
Your crease is where the eye socket of your skull dips in and meets your eyeball. Some people have visible creases of skin here and some people don't. Either way, if you half-close your eyes and press gently, you’ll find it.
If you just draw a line there, it’s not gonna be your best look. But there’s a technique that ensures a perfectly blended defined crease.
Cover your entire eyelid with whatever colour you like. Then pick an eyeshadow that is a little darker than whatever you’ve used on your lid; this will be your crease colour. Matte is usually best, especially when you’re learning because it’s easier to see how you’re blending, but go nuts with a shimmery shadow if you’d rather. I’m using a matte dark brown (MAC, Brown Down) for my crease, and I have a shiny ivory on my lids (bareMinerals, Celestine).
Take your crease colour from the outer corner of your eye on a slight angle. Then follow the contour of your eyeball around, almost to the inner corner but not quite.
It will look kind of crazy when you’re done, but this is what blending is for.
Clean your brush on the hand towel so that there’s no extra shadow on it. You don’t want to apply more colour to your eye, you’re just softening what's already there.
Start at the outer corner, where you brought the dark colour up and out from the lashline. Move your brush in little circles and blend the dark shadow inwards about a quarter of the way across your lid. It will look like the light colour on the lid is fading into the dark colour.
Easy, right? Now we're going to blend the long crease line.
With a back and forth motion like a windshield wiper, blend the dark shadow all the way from the outermost corner to where your shadow line stops. Continue this windshield wiper motion until you can no longer see a hard line between your light shadow and your dark. Brace your elbow on a desk or a counter if you’re having a hard time keeping your strokes even.
This is how it will look when it’s blended. Compare and contrast with the unblended side.
So to recap: little circles on the outer corner, windshield wiper on the crease. Don’t blend until everything is one mixed up shadow mess, just until there are no hard lines between your colours.
Here’s the finished look, with a very thin line of liquid eyeliner and some mascara.
Fun fact: I had a lot of court-related stuff to do last week, and this is how I did my makeup (with a slightly lighter brown crease shade). It looked very professional.
Technique two: TWO-COLOUR GRADIENT.
Let’s say you can’t decide between wearing gold (bareMinerals, True Gold) and green eyeshadow (Bloom Cosmetics, Moss), so you’re like “Why not both?”
Obviously you don’t want to have a giant dividing line between the two, so what to do? MORE BLENDING, OF COURSE!
First, a little “duh” colour theory: Colours can create all sorts of weird illusions on your face, ie: dark colours near the inner corners of your eyes will make them look closer together. So when you’re asking yourself “Which colours should go where?” keep that in mind.
I put the gold all across my lid, cleaned my brush on the towel, then put a small amount of green on the outer corner. I like my shadow to be a pointy shape, but if you prefer yours rounded, that’s cool too.
(I’m using my little brush for this, just to show you it’s possible, but I could have used my bigger brush and it would have worked out just as well.)
Clean your brush again. Like before, you don’t want to deposit more colour here, you just want to move around the colour you’ve already got. Bloom eye shadows are really awesomely blendable, which you don't always find in metallic finishes.
I always start by blending into the lid. Using short, feathery strokes, blend the outer colour inwards towards your nose. Imagine that your lid is divided into thirds, with the inner third made up totally of your lightest colour, the center third a mixture of both, and the outer third your darker colour. Keep blending inwards until there are no hard lines.
You’ve done the hard part! Yay! Now we’re going to blend the outer point so it isn’t harsh and jagged.
Clean your brush on the towel again (it’s probably looking interesting by now). With the same short, feathery strokes as before, blend the corner shadow outward so that the line is softened, but it still maintains the shape that you want.
You can see the difference blending makes!
And here is the finished look with a more dramatic cat eye, because why not.
To recap: short, feathery strokes. Divide your lid into thirds.
Also: you aren’t just limited to two colours! Blend three or four! Have the pigment going horizontally! Makeup is fun, and you can be as creative as you want.
Technique 3: THE CUT CREASE.
You can cut your crease with seriously any colour (so long as it's darker than what you put on your lid), and you can join it up to your lashline or not. Your call. I’m going to do a bit of a Mod look here and have my cut crease follow the line of my straight cat eye without joining it. I’ve chosen a light taupe shadow with fine glitter in it for all over my lid (Smashbox, Flirt) and a matte black shadow for my crease (Urban Decay, Perversion).
I always use my small brush for cut creases because it gives me the most control. And I did my liquid liner first so that I could use it as a guideline.
A cut crease is a very clear delineation between the shadow on the lid and the crease itself. Instead of blending all over, you only blend up towards your eyebrow.
First, draw in your crease by following the curve of your eyeball with a small brush and your shadow. If you aren’t quite so steady with a little brush and straight shadow, you can use a blendable pencil eyeliner in the same colour as the shadow you plan to use. This will get your line clean and straight.
Clean your brush (or get a little bit of shadow on it if you used pencil as a guide). Now with little tiny upward strokes, brush your eyeshadow up towards your brows. When you reach the end, sweep the entire crease with the windshield wiper blending motion we have already discussed. DON’T pull the dark colour down to the lid.
If you find it’s looking streaky, or it isn’t as dark as you’d like, add a VERY little bit more of the shadow and continue to blend. It’s done when the line is quite soft but there’s still a very clear contrast between the lid and the crease.
Compare and contrast!
Here is how it looks when it’s done, with mascara and liquid liner on the bottom lashline in the Moddest style possible.
Like I said, you can attach this to your lashline if you like (which I did in the Powerpuff tutorial) or you can leave it freestanding (like I did here). This isn’t my usual style, but I like how it turned out.
To recap: tiny little upward strokes, followed by a couple windshield-wiper passes. Add more shadow a little bit at a time.
As with so many things beauty related, the key here is practice. Nobody wakes up one day and is like “Oh hey, I’m a blending expert now.” Likewise it can’t be transmitted to you via radioactive spider bite, or in some terrifying scientific accident caused by one’s own hubris.
Now that you know what you’re doing, you can go forth and practice blending your eyeshadow. You’ll be amazing in no time, I promise!
How many makeup brushes do you guys have, and how many do you use? How often do you clean your brushes? Did anyone else spend hours learning how to apply cool makeup so they could post pictures to Livejournal?