Beauty Basics: The Art of Contouring and Highlighting
For those of your starting out with makeup, the idea of contouring and/or highlighting might seem a bit overwhelming. And if you’ve seen people who contour or highlight incorrectly, you might think to yourself, “Why on earth would I want to look like I have huge brownish/orange streaks on the side of my face and big white circles under my eyes?!”
Fear not beauty lovers, contouring and highlighting shouldn’t be scary, and once you learn the techniques behind it and why it’s done you’ll be wanting to try it out for yourself. So let’s get started!
First things first, let’s talk about light!
So you just got done applying your foundation to your face, your complexion looks even and you’ve disguised any blemishes or areas you might want to cover. However, by applying one color all over your face, you removed pretty much all of it’s dimension. As your face has curves and is not a flat surface, it should look like it has some depth to it.
So with that being said, I want you to think about your face. Now think about light hitting your face. As light travels across our faces, it causes the areas that it hits first to become highlighted. Those areas are highlighted because the stand out from other areas of the face.
So what areas will the light hit first on our faces?
- Brow bone
- Bridge of the nose
Now think about the areas of your face that aren’t getting hit by the light. The areas that are getting hit by the light are going to cast shadows on those other areas of the face. This is where contouring comes into play. Contouring is about emphasizing the areas where those shadows can appear.
So what areas of the face get cast by shadows:
- Hallows of the cheeks
- Under the chin
- Crease of your eye
- Sides of the nose
- Under the tip of the nose
Then why should I contour/highlight?
As I mentioned before, highlighting and contouring is going to add dimension to your face. Think of it like this, any area of the face the you highlight it going to stand out and sort of bring that area forward. Any area of the face that you contour is going to make that area recede back and look like it’s further away from you.
You can use highlighting and contouring to sort of chisel your face in way. Have you been dying to make your cheekbones look more pronounced? By highlighting on the tops of your cheekbones and then contouring underneath of them you’ll make them look like the area below your cheekbones is sunk into your face a bit more and the tops of your cheekbones pop out a bit more, hence making them look more pronounced.
So, the areas that I mentioned that get hit by light first are the areas where you should highlight with makeup. The areas that get cast in shadows are the areas where you can contour with makeup.
On the diagram below, you can see the areas in white are areas you can highlight and the ones in brown are for contouring.
NOTE: Like any other makeup you apply, you need to make sure you BLEND when you highlight and contour so it looks as natural as possible and you don’t have any harsh lines.
Here’s a face that’s been contoured/highlighted a bit:
See how certain areas of her face stand out and other recede back?
Here’s a great video on contouring and highlighting.
So now that you have a little information about contouring and highlighting you might be wondering what products/tools can you can use to achieve the desired effect?
You can use creams or powders to contour/highlight. It’ll really depend on your skin and what type of look you like. Creams are great because they tend to blend better and you can apply them before you put on your liquid/cream foundation and blend it in so it appears very natural. Powders also work really great as well. If you have oily skin, you might want to try a powder.
Here are just a few different products for contouring and highlighting:
1. Smashbox Step-by-Step Contouring Kit
2. Coastal Scents Contour & Blush Palette
3. Coastal Scents Concealer Palette
There are a few different brushes you can use to contour as well. I’m not going to list particular brands, I think it’s more important to talk about the way to use the brush. Each brand is going to have their own version of it so you can find one that is in your price range.
1. Flat top brush
The flat top brush is great for applying contour to the hallows of your cheeks. You can put product on the edge of the bristles and apply it to the hallow so you’ll have a line. Then use the flat top to buff out the edges and get a nice, natural smooth looking contour.
2. Angled Blush Brush
I really like to use an angled blush brush for contouring and highlighting because it follows the natural shape of a face very nicely and you can drag the brush to add color and then buff away the excess to get a nice finish.
3. Pointed Blush Brush
The pointed blush brush is great because it can fit into the natural curves of your face. This type of brush is great for applying contour to the hallows of your cheeks and a highlight on the tops of your cheek bones.
4. Small Contour Brush
A brush like this is great for applying contour/highlight to areas like your nose. Depending on the size of your face, you might be able to use this brush to apply contour/highlight to your cheeks, chin, and forehead as well.
5. Crease Brush
You can’t forget about the eyes! Using a brush like this, you’ll be able to apply a dark shadow to contour your crease and/or highlight your brow bone.
Well, that’s all I’ve got. I hope that helped. Get out there and start contouring and highlighting!! :]
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