I’ve had a crashing realisation: lots of people find eyeshadow terrifying. I feel a bit of a wally for not having cottoned on sooner; navigating finishes and placement and warm tones v cool is, of course, an art, hence people who apply make-up for a living being referred to as artists.
So before I show you the dazzling array of newbies on the market, let’s get back to basics and go from there. In essence, eyeshadow is about creating structure. Dark recesses, light enhances and creates space. Any shimmer or shine adds a reflective element, catching the light and thereby drawing attention (if new to shadows use these with caution – they will, for example, only serve to make wrinkles look more pronounced).
When starting out with eyeshadows, I think you need three – and two brushes – to create a basic eye: a pale, a medium shade, and a deeper version of the medium shade. Preferably all would be matte. Brown/taupes are the easiest hues to use, though greys and deep blues are eminently flattering and work on the same principle. I would suggest following these steps:
– Start by taking a blending brush (MAC 217 is the best), swirling it in your pale shadow and sweeping this all over your eyelid. This does two things – first, it makes the skin look more uniform; second, it helps subsequent shadows go on smoothly without sticking to moisture. To give the brows the appearance of being lifted, make sure you apply some underneath them. If you want to create the illusion of wide set eyes, dust a little around your tear duct.
– Next, apply a little of the medium shade in the crease using the blending brush – just go back and forth like a windscreen wiper to make sure it’s even. Start with a little and build up the intensity (through in my experience for a day-to-day look you want to keep this as natural as possible).
– Take the deepest shade on a smaller headed brush (Louise Young’s LY13 brush is ideal) and sweep the shadow next to your lash line, back and forth, pushing the pigment right into your lashes. Do the same not he outer corner of lower lashes if need be.
– Apply mascara. This step is non-negotiable – shadow without mascara can look flat.
Once you’ve got the hang of that, you can play around a bit. Try adding a shimmer onto the centre of your lid, or a line of kohl onto the lower lash line. Experiment too with colour – jewel hues make a lovely alternative to black. Here I am applying a smoky eye using the above basic principles for Marie Claire:
While you’re mastering the basics, I’d suggest sticking to a quad. Tom Ford make the best (Cocoa Mirage, which I use in the above video, is my all time favourite – full review here), Charlotte Tilbury makes nice ones too, as do Dior and bareMinerals. If you feel ready to spread your wings and try a more comprehensive palette, might I suggest graduating to one of these new launches //
Urban Decay Naked Ultimate Basics / I cannot heap enough praise on this palette. 12 matte neutrals housed in a hardy, but lightweight, tin, I can see myself using this a whole lot when making up wedding parties and friends. If you want to add interest in the form of shimmer, these make great base shades for Chanel Illusion D’Ombre pots.
Topshop Smokey Eye Palette in Battle / While the metallic shades aren’t up to much and really only work as a filter over another shade, rather than as a shadow in and of its own right, the deep chocolate all the way on the left and the taupe all the way on the right are fantastic, as is the chocolate speckled with gold and the gold glitter (which I’d suggest tapping onto the centre of your lid). Also, at £15 it’s not too spendy.
Zoeva Blanc Fusion Eyeshadow Palette
Zoeva Caramel Melange Eyeshadow Palette
Zoeva Cocoa Blend Eyeshadow Palette
Zoeva Plaisir Box / I’ve discounted the mouthwatering names of the three palettes and their ten shadows in recommending these, though the words liquid centre, freshly toasted and pure ganache make my mouth water a little bit every time I read them. But that’s not why these have made this page. They’re here because they’re well worth consideration if you’re ready to embrace shades of brown. They’re here because they’re creamy and because the metallics look great – not tacky – on. They’re here because I love that these are divided up by intensity into three lightweight palettes that travel enormously well (for the record, Blanc Fusion is my favourite). They’re also here because, at £48 for all three palettes, they’d make a sumptuous, but not bankrupting, Christmas gift for make-up lovers.
Clarins The Essentials Eye Palette / Clarins release one of these every year for Christmas and they do enormously well. Consistency is key here – all the shades perform well, aren’t too avant garde, and contain skincare benefits. This looks alright brown eyes, but the purples make blue or green eyes look extraordinary and I’d strongly suggest those with paler eyes give it a whirl.