How to Apply Each Type of Eye Makeup

The eyes are the windows of the soul, so learn how to apply eye makeup to make the most of what you’ve got. Various techniques can take your look from boring to brilliant and bring your features to life.

Types of Eye Makeup


Eye shadow is the coloring that goes on your lids. You can use one to four colors in complementary shades, depending on how dramatic an effect you want to create. Shadows are available in:

  • Powders in compact cases
  • Creams in stick or pencil form
  • Paints in tube form that go on creamy but dry to a powdery texture

To Apply

Many eye shadows come in sets of three or four complementary colors with three different values; light, medium, and dark. In sets of three, you’ll get an all-over color, a crease color, and an outer V color. In sets of four, you’ll get a highlight color, a lid color, a crease color, and an outer V color. You can also choose from frosted or matte finish.

For basic, everyday application, begin by applying the lightest shade from lash line to brow bone if you only have three colors, or apply your lightest shade to your brow bone and the next to lightest shade to your lid. Take the slightly darker color and apply it to the outer crease, working your way in. Though you want the most color on the outer edge of the eye, be sure that all edges are blended out so that there are no harsh lines between your skin and the shadow or between one shadow shade and the next. You can use a brush or fingertip to blend.

Apply the darkest color to the outer V. That means you’ll go along the upper lash line and about one-quarter way into the crease in a sideways V shape. Be sure to blend this as well, either with a brush or your fingertip.

When you have time, play around with other looks, such as the smoky eye that has the most intense color along the lash line and then fades out as it extends toward the brow bone or bright shadow or liner for a playful weekend look. There are no true rules in eye makeup application. It’s important to learn the basics and then branch out to see what works for your particular eye shape and size.

Eye Liner

Eyeliner is used to define the shape of your eyes by drawing a line just above or below your lashes, and is mainly available in two forms:

  • Liquid eyeliner, which is applied with a thin brush. This type of liner requires a steady hand to apply without making a mistake. Gel liners are similar, but they come in a pot and you’ll need to use your own angled liner brush to apply them. Gel liners are typically more user-friendly than liquid ones, but they offer almost the same effect.
  • Eyeliner pencils, which are a bit easier to use, as you don’t have to be quite as accurate. The best technique is to draw your lines and then smudge them just a little with your fingertip or makeup brush for a softer, sultry look.

Tip: You can also use shadow in place of or in combination with your chosen liner. Try adding a very thin line of color just below your lower lashes and then draw your liner on. This can really enhance your look. If you have a line that you feel is too harsh or if you just made a mistake with your liner, go over it with shadow in the same color for a softer effect.

To Apply

Apply a thin line of liner along the base of your lashes on top and bottom. Until you’ve had a lot of practice, you may wish to dot the liner on along the lash line and then connect those dots. This is especially effective with liquid liner. Here are a few tips to create different effects:

  • To make eyes appear more wide set, begin your line one quarter of the way out from the inner corners. The beginning should be very thin and grow slightly wider toward the edge.
  • To make extremely wide set eyes appear closer, apply a slight amount of the darkest shade of shadow just near the inner corners of each lid and begin your liner right at the inner edges of your lash line.
  • If you have small eyes, only apply the liner on the outer fourth of the bottom lash line and one-half to three-quarters of the way in on the top. If you have larger eyes, you can go all the way across.
  • If you have big eyes you wish to make look smaller, you can tightline, which means applying the liner to the strip of skin above your lower lashes (or the skin just below your lower lashes. Pull your lid down so that it’s not directly against your eye and apply a kohl in a dark color. If you want your eyes to look bigger, choose a white or flesh-toned color.
  • To elongate the eye, try a flick or cat eye shape at the outer edge. From the corner of the eye, draw a line up in the direction of the outer corner of your brow, extending as far as you’re comfortable with. Then connect the end of that line to the middle of the line above your upper lashes and fill in the space.


Mascara is applied by brush directly to your eye lashes to make them look fuller and longer, additionally completing your eye makeup.

Mascara is available in two main forms:

  • Liquid mascara comes in a tube with its own brush in the cap. This is by far the most popular type of mascara, and is even available in a waterproof formula, so avoid looking like a raccoon even if you shed a few tears.
  • Powder cake mascara is still available, but it is far less effective than liquid mascara and definitely not waterproof.

To Apply

Mascara looks best when it is just applied to the tips of your lashes. Repeated light brush strokes should separate the lashes and build a nice coating that darkens and extends the length of your lashes. Take great care not to leave clumps of mascara on your lashes. The idea is to make them look as natural as possible.

Under Eye Concealer

Though technically more a part of your foundation, the concealer is used to lighten dark circles under the eyes before applying the rest of your makeup. Concealer can come in a pot, a stick, or a tube, and it is typically flesh toned. Some concealers have a hint of yellow or coral in them to help cancel out the purple or blue in dark circles.

Tips for Asian Eyes

Asian eyes have a different lid structure from most other eye types and require a different technique to make them look their best. Since there is very little lid area, use a deeper shade of shadow for the entire main lid, and draw your liner as close to the lash line as possible. Instead of using a very light shade of shadow on the brow line, choose a more natural shade of coral. Apply it lightly and blend it well. Finish with mascara.

Don’t Overdo It

Daytime eye makeup should be lighter and more natural looking, and it’s okay to increase color and lining for evening looks. However, there is a point where too much is just too much. Need a guideline? Just look at Tammy Faye Baker or Mimi from the Drew Carey Show, and don’t let it happen to you.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice how to apply eye makeup at home until you find the look that best brings out your natural beauty. Then you’ll be ready to look the world straight in the eye.

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