Eyeshadow and eyeliner have basically been around since the dawn of makeup. Virtually everyone who’s made up their face has applied powders, creams, shimmers, kohls, and liners at some point. But somehow, getting your lids just right often feels like an impossible feat that’s better left to the pros.
Above the Mask
But with mask wearing not going out of style anytime soon, the eyes are where it’s at. It’s really the only thing people will see on your face when you’re out and about so it’s time for some special attention.
If you’re anything like me, you may just apply mascara (or nothing at all) and call it good most days. When eye makeup isn’t part of your daily routine, it’s easy to feel a little lost putting it on. Yes, there are a lot of different types of brushes. Yes, eyeshadow pallets are kind of intimidating. And sure, applying eyeliner in a straight line requires a steady hand. But like any life skill, all you need is guidance and practice.
YouTube to the Rescue
I’ve learned quite a bit from The School of YouTube, including how to cut my own hair, expertly wrap a present, and do my own wedding makeup. If I can learn to contour, you can master the perfect smoky, glam, cat, or everyday eye by watching a few how-to videos. When you study the makeup connoisseurs on YouTube, you’ll get a better understanding of what goes where, what to use, and how to use it.
Whether you’re just a little rusty or a total novice, these tutorials will give you the inspiration you need to step up your eye makeup game. Follow along, try out a few techniques, watch the videos again, and then practice, practice, practice. Eventually, applying eyeshadow and eyeliner will be second nature.
Sinead Cady’s Beginner’s Eye Makeup Tutorial
Let’s start with the basics. In this eye makeup tutorial, Sinead Cady (TheMakeupChair) breaks it down for beginners. She discusses priming the eye with an eyeshadow primer, foundation, or concealer, then talks about the different parts of the eye you should be aware of when applying shadows. Hint: Pay extra attention to the crease.
Next, Sinead explains how to select one light, one medium, and one dark shade of eyeshadow to compliment your skin tone. After that, she walks you through applying each color, including which brushes to use, where to apply the colors for various effects, and how to blend, blend, blend.
Alexandra Beth’s How to Apply Eyeshadow
This tutorial by Alexandra Beth (AlexandrasGirlyTalk) is quick and straightforward. With beginner-friendly language and tips, she guides you in applying eyeshadow flawlessly. The video begins with an emphasis on the importance of a good blending brush. (You’ll run into this theme a lot with eye makeup tutorials, as blending is the key to success.)
Alexandra shows you how to correctly hold an eyeshadow brush (not like a pen, but more like a paintbrush). She also recommends removing any stray eyebrow hairs before beginning for a smoother application. Then she goes into creating a “clean line” underneath the eyebrow with foundation. After that, Alexandra discusses the order to apply each shade and how to apply them for the most flattering effect.
Finally, she demonstrates a blending technique to achieve a gradient, airbrushed effect. She also mentions a few extra steps you can do for a more dramatic look, such as another coat of the lightest and darkest shades, winged eyeliner, and false lashes.
Lisa Lorles’s Everyday Eye Makeup Tutorial
This relatively short video by Lisa Lorles (LisaLorles) gives you the rundown of creating an everyday eye makeup look. The step-by-step tutorial is easy to follow, and she demonstrates with drugstore brands, which is encouraging if you’re on a budget like me. She says she has hooded eyes (arguable), so her tips focus on creating a brightening effect that resists smudging.
This routine calls for a good primer and setting powder, plus one light, one medium, and one dark eyeshadow color. Lisa explains how to apply the medium (AKA transition) shade higher up to brighten hooded eyes.
She recommends a large blending brush for the medium shadow, a small blending brush for the dark, and a small flat brush for the lightest shade, then blending it all together with the large blending brush. The look is finished off with black eyeliner and mascara.
Angie Schmitt’s 3-Step Eyeshadow for Mature Eyes
I’ve been following Angie Schmitt (AKA HotandFlashy) for a while because she has some of the best before-and-after content about long-term use of prescription Retin-A. Unlike many prominent YouTubers, she’s in her 50s and offers first-hand beauty tips for mature skin, speaking to people (like herself) who may not have worn makeup growing up or as a young adult, as well as those who might be overwhelmed with the current cosmetics market.
In this particular video, she notes how thin eyelid skin is compared to other parts of the face and acknowledges that this area tends to crease first as we age. Angie recommends applying sunscreen over the lids before any makeup, as it’s the number-one defense against fine lines and wrinkles.
Her three-step eyeshadow routine explains how to work around folds, creases, and hoods to create a bright, youthful effect. According to Angie, the first step is the key, which is to apply a high-quality primer. Steps two and three involve applying a medium and a light shade of eyeshadow, building color, and blending for a smooth finish.
Sazan Hendrix’s Wedding Eye Makeup
Next, we have Sazan Hendrix (Sazan Hendrix), who has her wedding makeup artist reapply her full wedding look as they discuss each step in detail. This tutorial is long, but it’s great for anyone looking to create long-lasting formal eye makeup. I actually watched it a few times and took notes for my own wedding eye makeup because I really love the finished look.
This video goes through an entire full face of makeup, starting with the eyes. (For weddings and other formal occasions, the pros recommend beginning with eye makeup, as you can wipe away any color flecks on your face before diving in with foundation. Also, some people rest their hands on their faces while applying eyeshadow, which can smudge the rest of your makeup.)
The tutorial starts with filling in the eyebrows, followed by a light concealer to highlight and create a clean line underneath. Then her makeup artist applies a lid primer, which she covers and sets with foundation and setting powder. Instead of eyeshadow, she uses a light bronzer for the base, then two deeper shades blended inward from the outer corners, and a shimmer dabbed on top. To finish off the eyes, eyeliner is applied unevenly and then blended out, followed by mascara.
Jaclyn Hill’s Easy Smokey Cat-Eye
Last up, we’ve got Jaclyn Hill (JaclynHill1), the unofficial queen of eyeshadow. Jaclyn has made an impressive career as a YouTube star—she has multiple cosmetics lines, including self-branded eyeshadow palettes—and is considered the authority on eye makeup.
Bear in mind, natural-looking makeup isn’t really her thing. However, if you want a glammed-up dramatic look, she’s your gal. This video goes over how to create an easy smokey cat-eye. You’ll need two brushes, an eyeshadow palette, and an optional liquid eyeliner. She recommends using a matte brown and a matte black, which you’ll apply with separate (though almost identical) medium blending brushes.
Jaclyn shows you how to pick up color on the palette and the best techniques for applying, blending, and bringing the color underneath the eye. She also squeezes in some pro tips about brush selection and the optional step of using a setting powder to “section off” your smokey eye makeup. Jaclyn completes the look with a liquid liner, which she applies with a small precision brush. And of course, the finishing touch is mascara and false lashes if you’re feeling extra fancy.
I Believe in You
With new products and techniques surfacing almost every day, the modern makeup universe is notably complex. While it can be boggling at times, creating professional-looking makeup has never been more accessible. All you need are a few eyeshadow colors, a couple of brushes, maybe some eyeliner, mascara, and a bit of practice. You can do this!
Theresa Holland is a freelance writer and lifestyle blogger specializing in wellness, beauty, relationships, and personal finance. Her work has appeared on Verywell Health, The Spruce, TripSavvy, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, and The Financial Diet. Theresa lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son.