It’s never to late to learn (or brush up on) basic cosmetic techniques, so welcome to Makeup 101 – Basic Eye Shadow Application.


Even though fashion trends can be lots of fun, nothing beats a well-balanced, classic eye makeup. It all reverts back to shaping the eye using a progression of light to dark colors. Careful placement, lots of blending and practice (plus some eyeliner and mascara) are your keys to success.

No matter which of the three application techniques you choose from below, it’s VERY important to prep the eye area and remove any discoloration on the lid to achieve the best results. This is simple to do by priming with a touch of foundation or concealer on the eyelid and blending it with a brush or your fingertip. Immediately set it with a little translucent powder and you’re ready to move to eye shadow application.

ONE COLOR: This design blends one color all over the eye area, from the lashes to just under the eyebrow.

Application: Apply your single color from the lashes to the eye crease using a soft eye shadow brush. Make sure that you do not extend the color on to the inside corner (off the lid area) or out beyond the lid towards the temple. Your entire lid at this point should be one solid color.
Next, remove any extra eye shadow off your brush on a tissue. Now use this brush to blend and fade the color you’ve already applied to the lid. You want to fade the color from the crease up towards the brow bone, following the entire length of the eye socket from the inner bridge of you nose out to the end of the eyebrow. Avoid leaving a hard edge at the outside corner of the eye where the eye shadow stops or carrying the eye shadow all the way up to the eyebrow.  The best “natural” colors for this look include light tan, pale neutral taupe, beige, soft fleshy pink, light golden brown and light auburn. You can also use a dark or richly colored eye shadow with this technique for a quick smoky eye. Whatever the color, it must be blended well. Eyeliner is optional with this application, but mascara is mandatory.

TWO COLOR: This is one of the most common application techniques, using one light and then one deeper eye shadow.

Application: This application is quite simple. One color is applied to the lid and the other is applied into the eye crease and blended up to the brow bone.
But which color goes where? That’s easy…we follow the rules of how a human eye perceives the difference between light and dark. Lighter objects appear to move forward or look larger, while darker objects appear to recede or look smaller.


  • If you have a larger or more prominent eyelid as compared to your brow bone, use the deeper eye shadow color on the lid. This will minimize or “recede” the lid to balance the entire eye area.
  • If you have a smaller eyelid with a more prominent brow bone or “monolid”, do the reverse. Placing the deeper color on the protruding brow bone area will cause it to recede and the lighter eyelid will appear larger and more prominent.

Generally speaking, your second eye shadow should be several shades deeper or richer than the lighter color. For a fashion forward “ombre” look, the eye shadows should not be a visibly different color, just a lighter and darker variation of the same color. Stay away from shiny or shimmer shadows directly under the eyebrow, they can make the brow bone look overly prominent and heavy.
Whichever way you choose to apply this technique, the light and dark shades must be well blended at their meeting point. There should never be a hard-line defining where one color begins and the other ends. I suggest the addition of a brown, charcoal or black eyeliner and black mascara with this applications.

THREE COLOR: In this application, a third shadow is added to further define and shape the eye. This third color should be much deeper than the first two and can be a shade of brown, charcoal, black or even a strong saturated color like navy blue, dark green or a rich dark purple.

Application: Start by applying the two-color eye-makeup application outlined above. Once you have done that, the third shade is added to the outside corner of the lid and blended inward toward the center of the eye. Never cover more than the outer half of the lid with this color and make sure all edges are blended so you don’t see a hard-line where one color starts and the other ends. For an even more dramatic look, use this third color on the outside corner of the lid AND carry it to the lower lid, smudging it under your eyelashes. Due to the dramatic look of this application, I strongly suggest using eyeliner on the upper lid and possibly on the water line of the lower lid. Multiple coats of black mascara are a must, a feathery set of false eyelashes would be perfection.

A few of my favorite neutral eye shadow palettes:

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