How to Apply Subtle Eyeshadow

Two Parts:Getting StartedApplying Eyeshadow Styles

Whether you're trying to evade school policies or just enjoy a classy appearance, you've decided to adopt a subtle style. Here's an assortment of tips that will help you get started, plus several specific styles that you can adopt. Most important of all, select a neutral shade of eyeshadow for your first attempts. Subtlety is much harder when you're painting in emerald and amethyst.

Part 1
Getting Started

  1. Image titled Apply Subtle Eyeshadow Step 1
    Pick an eyeshadow shade that is close to your own skin color. If you have pale skin, go for a creamy white or light pink. If you have light brown skin (or a tan), go for a very light gold or brown. If you have dark skin, choose a warm chocolate color.
    • For one of the style options described below, you'll need at least four shades. Choose them from the examples above and arrange them from lightest to darkest.
    • You can try to branch out to other colors, but you should stick to fairly neutral tones. You might be able to pull of a deep purple, but most purples, blues, and greens are very obvious.
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    Choose your eyeshadow brush. Your choice of tool is almost as important as the makeup itself. An extra-soft eyeshadow brush allows for more subtle blending than a cotton pad or sponge applicator. Start with one of these brushes, depending on which style you like:
    • A thick eyeshadow brush blends the makeup in especially well. This is great for a subtle style, especially if you prefer a more rounded look.
    • Use an angled brush for more precise effects, such as a cut crease or cat eye effect.
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    Apply the base. Moisturize if necessary to start with a clean, fresh surface. Cover your eyelids with eyeshadow primer, concealer, or a foundation that matches your skin tone. This creates an even, natural tone and holds your eyeshadow in place for a longer time.
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    Learn to use the brush. If this is one of the first times you've applied eyeshadow, you should learn the basics before you try for a specific style. Here's a great way to apply a subtle effect when brushing on eyeshadow. You can even do this across your whole eyelid for an easy, subtle style by itself:
    • Hold the eyeshadow brush near the tip. This gives you a lighter touch, making your makeup more subtle.
    • Dip the brush in the eyeshadow, then brush it lightly across your eyelid in a sweeping motion.
    • Brush the same area three or four times without adding more eyeshadow to the brush. This will blend it into your skin tone.

Part 2
Applying Eyeshadow Styles

  1. Image titled Apply Subtle Eyeshadow Step 5
    Create a subtle, blended transition. If you have at least four different neutral shades of eyeshadow, arrange them from lightest to darkest. Apply as follows, using a thick brush:
    • Apply the lightest shade onto your inner eye, stopping at the crease. Blend the edge until you cannot tell where the transition is.
    • Repeat with a slightly darker shade, starting at the outer eyelid, blending at the edge of the previous shade.
    • Keep repeating with slightly darker shades, starting further out and blending thoroughly.
    • Finish with the darkest shade to form the upper V. Apply this over your lash line as well if you are not using eyeliner.
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    Form a rounded shape. For a slightly more defined style, pick a single shade. Blend it thoroughly over the crease, plus a small amount in your upper V. Use a thick brush in a rounded motion. This should leave you with a visible circle of eyeshadow, but in a subtle shade.
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    Apply smoky eyeshadow. Draw eyeshadow slightly darker than your skin tone along your crease. Using a cotton swab or thick brush, brush this upward almost to your brow bone, thinning it into a smoky effect. This works great to enhance small eyes, without going overboard.
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    Brighten your eyes with a small addition. Dab a small dot of white or light tan eyeshadow on the corner of your eye, near your tear ducts. This makes your eyes look big and bright without the makeup itself standing out. You can add this effect to almost any style.
    • Don't try to rub or blend this in. It should be barely noticeable already.
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  • If you're not used to applying eye makeup, hold your opposite eyelid closed with the fingertips of your free hand. This will help prevent eyelid flutters while you apply the makeup.
  • The better you get at applying eyeshadow, the bolder the colors you can get away with. Start by practicing with colors near your skin tone.
  • Apply a dark eyeshadow along your brow bone to define your eye brows.


  • Don't overdo the amount of eyeshadow. No style will look subtle if you've caked on thick layers of eyeshadow.

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Categories: Makeup | Eye Makeup