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How to Apply Eye Shadow

Learning how to apply eye shadow is a bit like taking an art class. Think of your eyelid as a mini-canvas. Every day, you have the opportunity to create a new work of art just by choosing different shadow colors, styles, and application techniques.

It’s less intimidating than it sounds. You don’t have to be any good at “regular” art, like drawing or painting, to learn how to apply eye shadow stylishly. Just remember that the purpose of eye shadow is to highlight the natural beauty of your eyes—not to mask it, overwhelm it, or drown it out. Sometimes, the most beautiful art is subtle art.

Magazine articles often recommend a 1-2-3-step process for applying eye shadow. It’s always good to learn the basics, but it doesn’t mean that you have to follow the same formula every time.

The fact is, lots of variables come into play in applying eye shadow. The colors you use can change. You might choose different consistencies—powders one day, creams the next. Different products might call for different tools, from sponges to brushes to your little finger. These endless possibilities are what turn the seemingly mundane task of learning how to apply eye shadow into a fun and creative endeavor.

The standard rules of applying eye shadow are fairly simple. Start with a light or medium-light shade. With your eye shadow brush, smooth this shade over your eyelid from the lash line to the crease, and maybe a little above. Choose a darker shade and use a narrower brush to fill in the crease of your eyelid. Finally, the lightest shade will fill in the space between the crease and the brow. Take care not to brush this color all the way up the brow.

This is a great way to apply eye shadow when you have three shades of colors you want to use. But don’t feel that you have to stick this basic blueprint all the time. Sometimes you may want to use only two colors and skip the dark shadow in the crease, or the upper highlight color. Sometimes you may want to use four colors and add a little extra punch to the outside corners of your eyes.

Have fun experimenting with different colors and different types of shadows and see what you come up with. The great thing about using your eyelid as a canvas is that you can easily wipe the slate clean and start again if you are not happy with the results.

Ultimately, leaning how to apply eye shadow isn’t so much about following a series of finite steps as it is about developing a feel for what looks good on you and what doesn’t. The more you experiment, the more you’ll develop that instinct. You may even set some new trends of your own.

Written by Arden Davidson

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