Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Beauty Basics: How to blend eyeshadow

This is a blending brush, and it will be your best friend if you know how to use it.

I can't even count the times I was following a tutorial and the overly chipper lady said with her honeyed voice 'And now you blend!' as she happily took a brush in her hand and started working her magic. Magic that I, as a newcomer, didn't understand and when I tried to replicate the look it often fell flat when it came to blending. As it turns out, blending is a little bit more difficult than simply taking a fluffy brush and wiping it all over the freshly applied eyeshadow.

I learned how to do it in the end, but I still  feel like most people explain blending eyeshadow like this, which frustrates me:

I'd like to credit this image but I have no idea where it actually came from. Please let me know if you do!

That said, I can't really blame people for skipping steps when explaining things. It can be hard to remember what it's like for a new person to learn all of these things that now come so naturally to you. Hell, I bet that I skip a few steps here and there as well. 

Anyway, today we're not skipping steps. I'm going to teach you about blending as thoroughly as I can.

First of all, you'll need to recognise when something is actually blended nicely. There is however not a truly clear opinion on that. Some people like things a little bit different from me, but for the sake of this article let's just say that something is blended properly when you have a nice colour gradient going on without any harsh lines. 


At first sight this eye look might look fine to you, but under closer inspection you can see the harsh lines on the outer corner towards the browbone and a lack of a true gradient when the eye is closed. A little bit more blending on the outer edges would make this look a lot less harsh.



In this case, someone's been a bit too excited with the blending brush. When you overblend the colours become muddy instead of there being a nice gradient. They kind of go all over the place and create a look that's probably a lot more subtle than you wanted. All definition and depth is lost. Keep in mind that this eye look was made with the same amount and colours of eyeshadow as the look above. 

Overblending happens more easily than you think, but it's easy to resolve as well. Just reapply the eyeshadow until you're happy and then blend again. It's very normal to reapply, and it's very normal to lose definition as you blend. 

Just right

As you can see, there's a much nicer gradient from light to dark going on with the colours now. Thbere are no harsh edges but there's still a lot of definition and depth created by the placement of the eyeshadow colours. 

What you regard as 'just right' might also depend on what you were going for. I was going for a strong but well blended look, but if I had wanted something more subtle I could have kept blending and make it softer. 

Here are a few more examples of former looks that are blended to my satisfaction:

So how do I blend?

Well first of all, you'll need a good blending brush. A really good blending brush is as soft as a baby bunny's fur, fluffy and also clean. The last thing you want is to ruin your look by accidentally bringing yesterday's black eyeshadow into the mix. The sizes and shapes of blending brushes vary. I have one that's quite small and slightly tapered, there are ones that are bigger, smaller, rounder, more tapered etc. I like that mine is a bit tapered because it means that I can blend small areas as well as larger ones. 

Second of all, use two different motions for different areas. Use small windshield motions going back and forth on the larger areas that need to be blended out to skincolour. Don't press too hard, let the brush do the work and be patient. For extra clarification, with windshield motions I mean jerky little back and forth motions along the area on the left of the diagram. 

When you want to blend two eyeshadow areas together, use small swirly motions. You almost don't have to move the brush at all, just gently place it on the area you want to blend and softly swirl the brush until it's blended. Repeat this at every eyeshadow area you want to blend together. 

Typically the areas that you need to blend is where eyeshadow colours overlap, as shown in the image above.

The reason I'm telling you to use small and gentle movements is because if your movements are too large there's a chance you'll just move the eyeshadow around but not blend it properly, it'll get muddy instead. If you do tiny areas at a time there's a much bigger chance of success. 

Some more tips and tricks

* If you have difficulty blending two colours together, choose another eyeshadow colour which intensity is in between the two you want to blend. For instance, if you're trying to blend gold and dark pruple, use a lighter purple or pink in between the two colours to create an easier gradient. 

* Practise blending with two colours that are very far from eachother in intensity. Such as white and black, or dark brown and light gold. Or two colours that come from entirely different colour families, such as blue and yellow. The more different the colours are, the harder they are to blend and the easier it is for you to spot any mistakes and areas to improve on. 

* Conversely, if you want to make it easy for yourself and succeed quickly it's best to use colours that are alike but different in intensity. Such as grey and black, or bronze and dark brown. Beware of the colours becoming muddy though. You don't want to lose definition and the depth that you're trying to bring to your eyes.

* Remember that you can usually easily fix a botched blending job. When a look is too dark you can blend it until it's more subtle and all the harsh edges are gone, when a look is too washed out you can always add a bit more eyeshadow and blend it again. It just takes a bit of patience. 


  1. oooooh the last eye look is really pretty :)


  2. Brilliant post, Han! I used to do big windshield motions, than I tried swirling motions all over, but it tends to overblend. I' ll try to move my brush less now. I'm just not patient enough!

  3. Thanks Emma! I used to be so impatient as well, I underblended everything haha. I'm a bit better now, but when I'm in a hurry I go for subtle eyeshadow so that the blending is easier haha.

  4. the last golden pinkish eyeshadow looks so great on you im getting all jealous now. i wish i was a caucasian xD (im asian btw)

  5. I feel like every makeup newbie should read this post! So detailed and helpful thank u!

  6. Aw that's so nice of you, thanks! I'm so happy it was useful for you!

  7. I've just found your blog (I googled Sleek palettes...:))) and wow, thanks for your posts!! I'll read through your blog, love your make ups and tutorials!

    Have a nice day! :)

  8. Wow thanks Kata! That's a wonderful compliment, and I'm very happy you like reading my little drabbles! :D

  9. Julia, Junes abstracts4 June 2014 at 11:03

    Great guide! Found it through Reddit (where I'm adiosflamingo)!

  10. Thank you for this! I always hear the gurus say "now blend".. and when I do it, it looks overblended.. so I googled how to blend eyeshadow and BAM.. found this.. thanks it really helpful with the illustrations

  11. What a thoroughly pleasant instructional! You are a very articulate author, and a pleasure to read. Well done! The content is spot on and very helpful too! Thanks!

  12. FInally! I've been looking for a tutorial that talked about the motions! Thank so much for this tutorial D:

  13. This is the best tutorial on blending I've seen and very helpful. I'll be sharing this for sure!

  14. What a thoroughly pleasant instructional! You are a very articulate
    author, and a pleasure to read. Well done! The content is spot on and
    very helpful too! Thanks!