By now, many of us are familiar with the art of contouring. Big name celebrities and makeup artists have made it an everyday household word. However, you don’t have to be a professional in order to contour like one. This comprehensive how to contour guide will break this makeup trend down into simple steps that anyone can follow. Once you get the basics down, contouring can take everyday makeup to the next level.
What is Contouring?
Contouring is the art of sculpting of the face through makeup. The basic concept involves using a darker color to create shadows on your face. These shadows create optical illusions that change perceptions of your face shape and features. By the same token, people highlight, a process which often accompanies contouring, to create light and make certain features stand out more. In the end, learning how to contour can seem difficult, but it’s actually pretty simple. Use dark colors to create more shadows or push certain features back! This is much less intense than it gets a reputation for.
Contouring can give your face a new depth. It can create the illusion of high cheekbones, a slimmer neck, and a more chiseled bone structure. Contouring can help define the nose and, unlike most other methods of changing how we look, can be wiped away at the end of the night! It’s like plastic surgery in a palette, except you are the person who has full control over exactly what look you want to create. Choosing your presentation and self-image are important and learning how to contour enables you to do that.
Even for those who aren’t into Instagram-model heavy makeup, contouring can enhance an everyday makeup look as well. It returns dimension and depth to your face, which is essential to combat the flattening effects of the foundation. Contouring isn’t only for movie stars or an especially fancy girls night out. Contouring is for the everyday person who wants to hide their double chin or slim down their forehead. You can learn how to contour in a very natural style of makeup.
How to Contour
What Brushes To Use?
Much of this depends on personal comfort and familiarity. For some of us, we have Mac and Morphe brushes that we prefer to use when contouring out faces. There are different brushes for different parts of the face. One might use an angled brush to contour their cheeks and use a small detail brush to nose contour. Having this level of precision is nice, but it definitely isn’t essential. Brushes also keep makeup more confined, since people often use the same sponge for the foundation, contour, and highlight.
For others, using a beauty blender or makeup sponge is easier, faster, and gives better results. The sponge blends the makeup evenly and can give a more natural finish because it presses the makeup into the skin. Both of these sets of tools have their pros and cons. Experiment with different tools to figure out which ones are right for you.
Step by Step Contouring
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It’s important to figure out what you're working with. Think about what your face shape is. Contouring looks different on different face shapes, so how thick or thinly you contour certain places depends on your natural bone structure. Is your face an oval, or square? Are you trying to create more defined features, or soften harshness. Do you want a smaller forehead, or are you focusing on widening it instead? You learn these things through observation, and by practicing and seeing where you look best when contoured.
The next step of preparation is to choose between powder contour and cream contour. Cream contour is easier to blend and is said to be easier for beginners to work with. However, in hotter weather, it may be less resistant to sweating or staying in place. No one wants their makeup to melt off. So unless you’re setting your cream contour with a separate setting powder, powder contour may be a better choice.
Powder contour is more difficult to apply and blend in, but it is often better at staying in place. Make sure to use a matte color; shadows don’t shimmer! Also, make sure not to use a color that is too dark; for more natural looking contours, consider using a shade only one step away from your foundation.
To contour, you should choose a shade that's one to two shades deeper than your normal foundation shade; the inverse is true for highlighting. It’s also better to choose a shade that’s more gray-toned to mimic actual shadows, rather than a warmer tone. Remember, the goal is to create depth where there is none; to warm up the face, use a bronzer over the contour. Don’t use a bronzer to contour, because bronzer is meant to give warmth to the face, not create shadows.
Apply contour underneath the cheekbones to hollow and lift. Start from behind the sideburns, where the ear begins, and make a ‘fish face’ in the mirror by sucking in your cheeks. Contour along the natural hollow of your cheeks this creates. To enhance your cheek contour and clean it up if it looks smudged, highlight a lighter color under the contour and blend it out. Blend from the outside in to create a more natural look.
Also, make sure not to bring the contour in past the middle of the eyes; the cheeks don’t extend this far. It creates an unnatural look. Also, make sure to blend upwards underneath the cheeks to lift the bones; blending downwards will create a muddy contour. It may also create the opposite impression of sagging cheekbones.
Contour around the curve of the jawline to create a sharper jaw. Also, consider contouring underneath the chin. You can use contour in this area to reduce double chin by creating a shadow and causing it to recede into the background. Another tip is to contour higher on the chin to shorten it. Keep this contour right around the jawline; try not to blend it too much into the neck where the foundation is.
Contour along the sides of the bridge of the nose to slim it. Use a lighter touch here since it’s very easy to overdo nose contour. Remember to carry the contour all the way up into the beginnings of the eyebrows. When blending, make sure that everything is smooth and continuous. A tip when you’re learning how to contour is to blend the most along the lines between foundation and contour. To shorten the length of the nose, contour on the underside. To widen it, bring the contour past the bridge. Also if highlighting under the eyes, blend some of the highlights inwards to increase the contouring effect.
Finally, contour along the perimeter of the forehead to decrease the size and bring your face more forwards. Also, contour along the temples to lift the cheekbones even higher. Make sure to contour and blend back into the hairline, to avoid the appearance of helmet head.
Step 8 (The Final Step)
The last step in all of this is the most important: blend, blend, blend! Although Kim Kardashian style unblended contour photos may rack up millions of likes, chances are that’s not the look an everyday person is going for. So it’s important to make sure your contour is blended well with the rest of your makeup. Whether using brush or blender, make sure to dampen them before use. This tip helps to make the contour easier to blend. Tap the sponge into your face in small, circular motions to blend. Don’t drag or swipe when blending; you don’t want your contour to mix too much with the rest of your makeup.
For those using beauty sponges, use the larger, round part of the sponge to blend the larger areas of the face, like the cheeks and forehead. Use the smaller, more pointed side to blend more detail oriented places, like the side of the nose. Try to avoid having any harsh lines or streaks of makeup.
Another tip is to make sure to check how your contour looks in different lighting, especially natural lighting. If you’re doing makeup in the bathroom or bedroom, the fluorescent lighting can distort what your makeup actually looks like. Make sure to examine in different lights and try taking a picture with the flash on to get an even better idea of what your contour looks like. Another tip on how to contour is to contour before you apply your foundation, for an even more natural look.
Contouring is an important part of a makeup routine. Although there may be a learning curve for applying makeup, this simple step-by-step method will help guide you through it and help you learn how to contour like a pro. And as always, the best way to learn is to practice doing it and taking these tips and tricks into your real life mirror.
Featured Image: Image via Pexels