Contouring 101

Heather Card Wed 16 Oct 2019
When contouring the face we must take our face shape, skin type and skin tone into consideration when choosing our contour products , finding the right colour is key.

The definition of contouring is " a technique or practice of using make-up, typically foundation or bronzer, in such a way to accentuate or enhance the shape or structure of the face."

When contouring, it is important to know the shape of your face.  This will determine what other areas of your face you need to address. Not all the rules of highlighting and contouring are universal and so it is important to keep your own face shape in mind whilst following these techniques.

See my blog on Determining your face shape. 

When contouring the face we must take our face shape, skin type and skin tone into consideration when choosing our contour products , finding the right colour is key as it has to be in keeping with your skin’s undertones otherwise you could end up looking dirty , bruised and generally odd if incorrect colours are used.

There are three possible skin undertones Cool, warm and neutral please see my blog on choosing your perfect base to find out how to pick your skins undertone and choose your perfect foundation match every time.

Skin type and condition plays a role in choosing the suitability of products used on the face i.e Oily skin you want to avoid anything too shiny or iridescent or at least use it sparingly, deep pores a thicker cream coverage may be required. Mature skin warmer tones work better. Dry skin want to refrain from using powder products and opt for cream or liquid based products however airbrush makeup is suitable all skin types, tones and conditions and shades can be expertly mixed.

so once you have determined your face shape, skin tone & undertone and skin type you are ready to select your contour products. There are some basic rules to follow when contouring any face shape to ensure you get a professional result.

A warm contour shades are create for warming up the skin and giving a healthy bronzed glow, cool contour shade can create sharp shadows and give more definition to the face.

Contour and highlighter should be applied after primer, foundation and concealer.

Make sure your contour is well blended, some people will apply contour and highlighter then blend it but I find it is better to contour first and then blend with a clean fluffy brush and then apply highlighter with a clean brush and then blend before setting it if I am using liquid or cream based products.

Make sure your contour shade is only 1-2 shades darker than your skin tone as to appear more natural when it is blended in to the skin we are trying to create the illusion of shadow on the face not thick lines or a painting by numbers. Who else used to love doing those as a kid.

Cream on cream

Powder on powder

Make sure you use cream, liquids on top of creams and liquid makeup and use powder products on top of powder i.e make sure you set any cream or liquid makeup products with setting powder before applying a powder product over the top other wise the cream/liquid product will grab the powder product and it will become impossible to blend 


Products available

Contour kits are a good starting point when first experimenting with contouring as the kits come in basic shades with complimentary highlight shades too to make things easier you can buy a contour kit for fair, medium and dark skin so I would recommend getting one of these.

However you can contour and highlight with products you may already own like foundations, concealer, eye shadow and some blush bronze shades as long as they are matte they will work in shading defining and highlighting the face.

Contour pencils are also good if you want something more compact and travel/handbag friendly you can get double ended products or small selection of pencils that can be directly applied to the face and blended. 

Kat Von D does a lovely powder contour and highlight palette which is refillable what’s not to love, it has multiple shades for both contour and highlight so is suitable for multiple skin tones and the shades can be blended to create bespoke colours to suit your skin this however might be better suited to makeup enthusiasts.

Tarte Shape Tape Contour Concealer is fab and comes in a variety of shades 14 to be exact in different undertones too. 

If you wanted something a little more glowy then here are some well known highlighters

Mac –Soft and Gentle is a mineralising powder that gives a lovely sheen and shimmer to the skin I have this in my kit I also like Airbase HD Glow powder it is so velvety soft and as its HD it photographs beautifully without causing flash back like some other more pearlised products can.

Benefit- High beam looks like a nail varnish but inside holds a lovely glowy liquid that looks fab on the cheekbones and brow bone I used to use this a lot on my self and was a stable of mine.

Nars Illuminator is a lovely product that comes in a variety of different under tones and has lots of shimmer to give an iridescent glow without the sparkle which is what we are going for we are not looking for glittery frosty looks for highlighter we want the lit from within glow. although some people like the very glittery frosted colours by all means go for it but this blog is about creating natural contouring.

Once you have chosen your skin tone, undertone and your favorite product now is the time to consider your face shape what areas of the face would you like to minimize or extenuate? Make look bigger, smaller, wider, thinner, shorter or longer? 

 The beauty industry tells us that the ideal, most symmetrical face shape and the one everyone strives for is the oval face shape to achieve this we may have to alter our own faces by making them appear bigger, smaller, wider, thinner by contouring to minimize and highlight to maximize.

 Everyone's face has a generic face shape as a base round, oval, square, triangle, rectangle etc however not everyone is just one face shape and we don’t tarnish you all with the same brush pardon the pun, contour is a subjective and a personal thing I just want to give you some basics so you can learn to contour your own face how you see fit.

Contouring Method


For contouring your cheek area, if you do not have obvious cheekbones and hollows, the easiest way to find them is to slightly open your jaws and suck in your cheeks or basically have a squeeze and feel of your bone structure anything soft and squidgy are the hollows and can be contoured, anything you want to look smaller, shorter or thinner can be contoured with a dark shade 1-2 shades darker than skin tone.

Using a angled contour brush working from the top part of the ears inward, shade along the top of the sunken area, stopping at the outer corner of the eyes. 

To slim your nose, blend two lines of the contour from the start of your inner brows down the sides of the bridge of your nose with a small shadow brush. Next, apply the contour shade along the jawbone, blending downward towards the neck. And lastly, brush the contour around the edges of your forehead, along the hairline only required if you feel you have a particularly long or wide forehead I normally contour temples but I tend not to contour many hairlines.

After adding the contour shade, blend the shaded area very well! This will help the color soften into the skin and look like shadows.

Highlighting is especially important when you're contouring, because it brings the light back into the areas that are naturally hit by the light, and gives your makeup more of a 3D effect.

Apply a small amount of highlighter up and outward in a 'c' shape along the top of your cheekbones and around the orbital bones. Add a bit in the center of your forehead. Dab the remaining highlighter on your brush on the center of your chin, and on the bridge of your nose. You can also apply a small amount on your cupid’s bow to give the appearance of a fuller lip.

Things to think about when contouring different face shapes

Here are some quick tips on face shapes however if you want to see how to contour, highlight and apply blusher to suit your own face shape then please see my blog.

If you have a round face, contouring under your cheekbones can make it appear thinner, but if you have a narrow face, it could make it look even longer. Round faces can often appear younger looking meaning more definition is often desired. To achieve more definition, brush contour along the jawline from the ears down to just below the corners of the lips. Always blend up and inward to create dimension.

Square faces, tend to have a more prominent jaw which will require softening this can be created by applying contour along the outer jawline and blending upward.

Oblong face shapes tend to be longer in appearance and will require contour to shorten and soften. To do this, apply contouring around the chin and hairline at the top of the forehead. Blend towards the middle of the face to blend and diffuse the shading.

Heart shaped faces tend to have wider forehead that may require contouring to soften this can be achieved by applying contour along the hairline from the temples down toward the ears. This will help minimize the appearance of a wider forehead.

The most important thing when it comes to contouring is the blending

Blend, Blend, Blend

Use a clean new brush to blend you highlighter do not use the same blending brush you used to contour with unless it has been thoroughly cleaned as this can cause the colours to merge and turn murky. I also like to use a brush to apply the contour product and then use a different brush to blend to prevent depositing too much colour as this will make it hard to blend.


I hope you have found this blog useful I know it is a lot to take in but if you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me on info@heathercard-makeup.co.uk and please check out all my other blogs 

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