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Best shadows for your eye colour

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One of the most popular questions pro makeup Nina Westbury and I get on twitter is what eyeshadow shades look best on different eye colours. It’s not surprising as beauty counters display dozens of mono shadows and palettes in an array of combinations and textures. Even the pros can get a little overwhelmed.

 

Colour theory: “Choosing eye makeup is one of the most playful aspects of makeup artistry because it is where we have the most freedom and options,” says Estee Lauder’s Carly Wolk. “To achieve a desired look, we can refer to colour theory and the colour wheel. For a more subtle look, choose colours that are harmonious with the colour of the eyes. This means choose colours that are close to each other on the colour wheel. For a bolder, more striking look, choose colours that are complimentary or opposite on the colour wheel.”

1 colour wheel

Pro tip: “Blue shades are beautiful on all eye colours as blue will whiten the whites of the eye. This in turn allows your eye colour to look more luminous.”

 

“The easiest way to get a natural look is to select two softer, more subtle complimentary shades,” says Lancome’s Lora Spiga. “I like to use a highlighter under the brow, then apply a medium to darker shadow on the lid and eye contour. I’ll finish with a liner and some mascara.”

 

 

 

Your Best Eye Shadow Shades:

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Dark blue eyes

Best shades: brown, slate grey, light purple, warm terracotta, burnt orange, gold, light pink, brown-pink, muted mauve, light dusty blue, turquoise, bronze.

Eyeliner essentials: midnight blue and black

Pro tip: “It is important to apply a dark shade of liner along the upper lash line to create definition,” says Dior’s Anne Marie VanMeer. “Black, navy, blue or grey are excellent choices.”

Pro tip: Burnt orange and terracotta are go-to shades for fashion designers in Milan and New York. You’ll see dozens of models wearing these colours every fashion week.

Pro tip: For a more daring look, play with pink and rose shadows. These can look particularly good in spring and summer.

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Bobbi Brown Illuminating Nudes Palette

 

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Lancome Colour Design Palette in Bronze Amour

 

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Dior 5-Couleurs in Tutu

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DiorShow Art Pen in navy and black

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A dual-ended brush is the perfect tool for beautiful, fool-proof application. Use the flat side to press colour on the lid, and the angled side to line the eyes.”

Lancome Dual-Ended Shadow and Liner Brush #18

 

 

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Light blue eyes

“When I work with clients who have light blue eyes, I look for shadows with complimentary tones like: soft blue, blue-grey, lavender, grey, pink and mauve,” says Lancome Pro Artist Lora Spiga. “For more contrast and drama, I’ll choose yellow-beige, taupe, gold-brown, cinnamon or coral-peach. This adds drama to the eye.”

Pro tip: “I use Dior’s Cuir Cannage palette all the time on brown eyes,” says Westbury. “If you look carefully, you’ll see that the browns are warm. They have a slight burgundy undertone and anything red or orange-based will make blue eyes pop. That is because blue is opposite orange on the colour wheel.” She says she particularly likes the matte milk chocolate shade in the center. “This is perfect for women who don’t like shimmer. It’s the perfect palette for any blue or green-eyed girl of any age.”

Pro tip: Want to make blue eyes really stand out? Line them with black eyeliner. So says MAC Cosmetics Senior Artist Melissa Gibson.

Best shades: lavender, light grey, white, champagne, peach, rich bronze, copper

Eyeliner essentials: navy and black

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Clinique Wear Everywhere Palette in Pinks

 

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Dior 5 Couleurs in Cuir Cannage

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Guerlain Ecrin 4 Couleurs in 001

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Lancome Colour Design in Teal Fury

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Lancome Colour Design in Taupe Craze

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Dior Mono Fusion #821 Chimere

 

 

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Grey eyes

“I love to use grey-blue shades on women with grey eyes,” says Elizabeth Arden’s Jamie Petrovic. “I also like to work with neutral colours to really illuminate the eyes. Misty Teal and Shimmering Taupe are always beautiful.”

“You can do almost anything with grey eyes,” says MAC Cosmetics Senior Artist Melissa Gibson. “I love to stick with a cement or silver shadow and line the eyes in black liner. That is a classic look.”

Best shades: lilac, orchid, plum, almond, cement, silver, khaki, blue-greys

Eyeliner essential: black

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Elizabeth Arden Eyeshadow Duo in Misty Teal

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Elizabeth Arden Eyeshadow Duo in Shimmering Taupe

mac eyeshadow in stony

MAC Eyeshadow in Stony

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 8.58.53 AMShu uemura drawing pencil in black

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Estee Lauder Pure Color Envy Palette in Currant Desire

 

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Shiseido Luminizing Satin Eye Shadow Trio in Bouquet

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YSl Couture Mono in Caftan

 

 

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Dark Brown eyes

 

“What makes brown eyes look rich, deep and mysterious are cool colours that have rich jewel-like tones,” says Wolk. “Purples are wonderful but beware of the ones that have warmer, red undertones (like burgundy or maroon). Stick with more blue-toned purples like amethyst and blue-violet.”

Best shades: black plum, chestnut, navy and taupe

Eyeliner essentials:

“The trick with dark brown eyes is to use a liner that is darker than your eye colour, such as mahogany or espresso,” says Bobbi Brown

“As a guideline, I like to use blue or green eyeshadows with brown eyes,” says Pro Artist Nina Westbury. “I also like to use black or grey shadows to add sophistication and elegance. Rather than applying a lid full of blue like Abba used to wear, I like to use some grey or black in the crease for contrast and dimension.”

Nina particularly likes Lancome’s Colour Design Palette in Mint Jolie for South Asian skin tones. Pair it with an orange lipstick and you have a chic party look.

Get the look: Here’s how to get the most out of the Estee Lauder Pure Colour Envy Sculpting Eyeshadow 5-Colour Palette in Envious Orchid. Apply the bronze shade, using a medium-firm brush, on the eye lid. With an eye liner brush apply the top right deep brown shade along the upper and lower lash line, smudge out the line to create an “every day” smoky look.To increase the intensity, apply the dark brown from the lower right, into the crease and blend with the matte caramel colour. To finish softly apply the vanilla colour to the brow bone.

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Chanel Illusion d’ombre 83 Illusoire

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Estee Lauder Pure Colour Envy in Envious Orchid

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Diorshow Fusion Mono

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YSL Couture Mono in Faaon

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Clarins Mineral Eyeshadow in Taupe

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Lancome Colour Design in Mint Jolie

 

Bobbi Brown’s foolproof eye: “Layer shadows from light to dark. Start with the palest shadow as the base, then layer a medium shade, and apply the darkest shade last.”

 

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Light Brown eyes

Brown eyes look natural when worn with brown shadows. But to make them the focus of your look, try navy or violet shades.

“The good thing about brown eyes is you can work with almost any colour you want,” says Gibson. “I like to use a blue eyeliner for contrast. And I do like to play with offbeat colours too.”

Best shades: medium browns, bronze, black plum, navy or dark chocolate brown, light mauve, light pink, and peach

Eyeliner essential: black

Dior Pro-tip: “Apply the bronze shade, using a medium-firm brush, on the eye lid,” says Dior’s Angie Semple. “Then, with an eye liner brush apply the top right deep brown shade along the upper and lower lash line. Smudge out the line to create an “every day” smoky look.”

She says to increase the intensity, apply the dark brown from the lower right, into the crease and blend with the matte caramel colour. “To finish, softly apply the vanilla colour to the brow bone.”

Pro-tip: Avoid using heavy eye creams on the lid before applying your eye makeup.

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Becca Ombre Nudes Eye Palette

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Lancome Colour Design Palette in Amethyst

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Clinique All About Shadow Single in Peach Pop

 

 

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Green eyes

Green eyes look mischievous and stunning when deep gold tones that are found in the actual flecks of the eye are used says Wolk. Wearing green shadows will give you a natural look. Violet (which has an element of red) will make green eyes ‘pop’.

Petrovic loves to use khaki greens mixed with brown shades. These can be worn day or night.

Best shades: plum, brown, taupe, smoky silver, silvery sage, heather, purple, lavender (any shadow with red undertones)

Eyeliner essential: navy

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Elizabeth Arden Eyeshadow Duo in Classic Khaki

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Clarins Mineral Eyeshadow in Silvery Sage

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Estee Lauder Color Envy Palette in Rebel Metal

 

 

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Hazel eyes

“I too look to the principle of the colour wheel when choosing eyeshadows,” says Cliniques Sara Whittaker. “To create a natural look, go with green/golden shades. This will create a monochromatic look that is close to your own eye colour. If you want to make hazel eyes ‘pop’, choose violet shades. This will really bring out the green/gold colour of the eyes.”

Best shades: bronze, shimmering copper, green, soft brown, purple, peach, light pink, mauve, bronze-green, gold-green

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Clinique Wear Everywhere Palette in Greens

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Clarins Garden Escape Palette

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YSL Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils – No. 5 burgundy

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Elizabeth Arden Untold Colour Collection Quad in Posh Purple

 

 

 

Violet eyes

Violet eye colour is the rarest on the planet. But as Elizabeth Taylor knew, this colour can be strikingly beautiful. Greens, greys and lavenders are particularly good choices.

Best shades: greys, greens, yellows, lavender

Pro tip: When using a shadow that is similar to your eye colour, play around with the texture. A little shimmer can make your eyes really stand out.

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 11.20.26 AMGuerlain Kiss Kiss Palette in Les Aciers

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Giorgio Armani Beauty Eye Tint in 03

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Dior 5 Couleurs Kingdom of Colours in House of Greens

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YSL Couture Variation in Tuxedo (coming in March 2015)

 

 

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The resource: Bobbi Brown’s Everything Eyes book

New York makeup artist Bobbi Brown has recently published a comprehensive guide to eye makeup. She spends several chapters outlining tips and tricks for those who wear glasses. The how-to instructions are perfect for those just starting out with makeup. Highly recommended.

87 Comments

  • Reply
    Aldi Meissenheimer
    January 4, 2023 at 4:22 pm

    Wonderful Article and I found it very informative. All My life, I thought I had Olive GREEN eyes 🙈 Turns out it’s Hazel in colour. With dark Auburn hair. I have “always” added some shade of green shadow , because it made my eyes standout. Some Ladies I know, said that I should Not be using Black Eye liner or Mascara. Could you possibly tell me which I should use?

  • Reply
    Wendy Lam-Vechi
    January 2, 2023 at 2:11 pm

    And so off I go to shop for more blue and green eye shadows for my dark brown eyes. Will try and get some greys too for those sophisticated moments

  • Reply
    O. Sunrise
    January 2, 2023 at 10:52 am

    Such a useful article. Finding that perfect shade to create a statement look can be challenging. It is very helpful to have the tools and knowledge to present your best face. I enjoy experimenting and will add the information found in this article to make my eye colour stand out.

  • Reply
    Jody Farr
    January 2, 2023 at 8:37 am

    Gréât article on what I believe is one of the most hardest decisions when it comes to makeup application. Eye colors depending on your eye color, is super helpful as it guides you to get the most of your work to make your eyes POP!! This is great! Thank you Dave and Nina!!

  • Reply
    Varsha Kukreja
    January 2, 2023 at 7:39 am

    I have deep to light brown eyes. its good to know what shades will suit on what eye colors to make them stand out with makeup.

  • Reply
    Marilyn K
    January 2, 2023 at 12:01 am

    I liked seeing the colours to go with eye colours and how you could play with them.

  • Reply
    Jennifer L
    January 1, 2023 at 6:04 pm

    I have grey eyes and always felt blues looked odd on me but maybe it was the shades I was trying, I however love greens feel my eyes pop with them and they look good on my olive skin, and I love natural colors too!

  • Reply
    Linda Sear
    January 1, 2023 at 2:02 am

    I have what I feel are between light AND dark brown eyes, so I guess I can pick and choose what eye shadow colours from either of them I like? But I tend to wear either various shades of brown eye shadow, although my favourite eyeshadow colours to wear are plum or purple! : )

  • Reply
    Alison Mentiplay
    December 31, 2022 at 6:48 pm

    Very interesting and helpful

  • Reply
    Janet Lance
    December 31, 2022 at 11:36 am

    Great information. I never knew this. My favorite shadows have always been shades of blue and mauve.

  • Reply
    Cathy s.
    December 30, 2022 at 4:02 pm

    I’ve always wondered what colors are best for my dark brown eyes. I’ve always stuck with the brown family because I knew that was ok. Great or work but parties,not so much. Now I know what to try for a more dramatic look.

  • Reply
    Jamie Johnson
    December 30, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    Wow! These are some brilliant eye shadow palettes! I LOVE that you used the color wheel to break down what color goes with what. I had to learn that in hair school, and I apply principles I learned every time I put on makeup. I have a big one on my wall in case I forget lol! I LOVE all the Guerlain and Dior palettes best. Even the monochrome shadows are just beautiful! I’ve found that whatever hue you feel most comfortable in will most likely look the best on. I also love using colors for every day looks. I just increase my eyeliner to turn it into a evening look. That, or at shimmer. Thanks Dave for all these incredibly useful tips on creating the perfect eye look! xoxoJJ
    @BaBy_J_55

  • Reply
    chucky1012
    December 30, 2022 at 2:21 pm

    Love the blue and purple shades @chucky1012

  • Reply
    Emily
    December 30, 2022 at 9:23 am

    I have hazel eyes and usually go for a neutral look, but sometimes I lean into the green. Love the colors in that Clinique palette suggested above!

  • Reply
    Janet M
    December 30, 2022 at 9:19 am

    This was so helpful as I have light blue eyes and was looking for the best shades to use. @asherares

  • Reply
    M. S. Thompson
    December 29, 2022 at 9:37 pm

    Wonderful to have such specific advice for my dark brown eyes.! Will try some of the ideas in this article.

  • Reply
    Irina
    December 29, 2022 at 3:16 pm

    Well written and so insightful! Thanks for the tips. I have hazel eyes so I’m excited to try a few of these new colors 🙂

  • Reply
    Lana H
    December 29, 2022 at 2:28 pm

    I have green eyes and have used lavender but will try a khaki green next. Thanks

  • Reply
    April Richie
    December 29, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    I have green eyes. I will definitely have to try the navy liner.
    @ SilverAcidRain

  • Reply
    Brittany Gilley
    December 29, 2022 at 6:52 am

    my eyes fluctuate among blue-greens and green-greys, so I need a huge variety of colors

  • Reply
    Susie Wilkinson
    December 28, 2022 at 4:47 pm

    @SusieWilkinson
    I love the Shiseido Luminizing Satin Eye Shadow Trio in Bouquet, perfect for my grey eyes!

  • Reply
    Dawn Purcell-Musgrave
    December 18, 2022 at 9:44 am

    I love the color chart. My eyes are green somedays and gray other days. This article has helped me choose the proper colors to wear. Thank you Dave

  • Reply
    Trisha Pedros
    December 18, 2022 at 8:26 am

    Wow beautiful pallets! I love the blue eye shadow tip! My eyes vary depending on my mood. Sometimes hazel, green or brown of course if I wear a green shadow my green pops. Same for browns. I am going to try to wear more blues & purples. I use too then stopped. Thank you my beauty guru!

  • Reply
    Karen D
    February 1, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Thank you for the info. I have green/hazel eyes with copper flecks. Nice to see them included.

  • Reply
    Michelle Scarafiotti
    November 27, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Wow I would have never thought to purchase those colors for my brown eyes, thanks for the tips xxoo
    @mscarafiotti

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