Monday, April 6th, 2009

8 Must-Have MAC Neutral Eyeshadows

About the Temptalia Must-Haves Series

A series of posts showcasing must-have products from MAC Cosmetics’ permanent line of products. Selections are based on quality, universality, uniqueness amongst the line, and the like. Limited edition shades are deliberately excluded to make buying easier. Readers’ comments act as a supplement to these lists of their favorites and must-haves. You can find the entire series here.

Shroom eyeshadow is a soft, lightly shimmered beige color. It is great for an all-over wash on the lid for the ultra neutral look, but it also makes for an excellent brow bone highlighter for just about any look. It is an essential for any one looking for neutral shadows.

Ricepaper eyeshadow is a smooth, shimmery peachy beige that can instantly brighten your look. It’s great to highlight the brow bone or the inner tear duct, and of course, it makes an awesome lid color, too.

Wedge eyeshadow is a matte, muted taupe. Mattes make for excellent neutral colors, because they can be used in so many ways. They’re perfect for giving any look more depth when used in the crease, and the contrast between finishes is often one way to add complexity to your look, too.

Bronze eyeshadow is a rich, deep chocolate-bronze shade with lots of shimmer. It’s gotta be one of my favorite shades of all-time, and I am constantly using it. It works well with other browns and neutrals, but it is easily paired with golds and greens, too. It’s a versatile shade with so much color pigmentation — I can’t imagine anyone not loving it.

See four more must-haves!

Smut eyeshadow is a deep brown-black with subtle red-tones and shimmer. It’s not overly shimmery, but it can be noticeable, depending on whether you’ve used other shimmer shadows, too. I like it for a deep, noticeable crease, and I think it’s excellent for smokey eyes, too. It’s a nice go-to for something less whoa! like a black eyeshadow, but it offers more than just “dark brown.”

Soft Brown eyeshadow is a matte, warm-toned medium brown. It has a little bit of peachiness to it, which makes it a nice way to brighten up any neutral look. The texture and color are superb, and Soft Brown is a huge favorite for me.

Woodwinked eyeshadow is a warm, medium-to-dark shimmering brown. It’s got a bit of antique gold in its coloring, which kicks up the color a notch. This is an extremely flattering color for most complexions, and it’s a very pretty shade. It works well with most shadows, and it’s smooth and blendable.

Cork eyeshadow is a matte, soft medium brown. It’s not too warm-toned, which is a huge reason why it’s recommended. A lot of browns can be very warm in tone, so having one that’s more neutral in your set is a great way to add more variety to your looks.

What are your favorite MAC neutral eyeshadows?

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193 thoughts on “8 Must-Have MAC Neutral Eyeshadows

  1. Sugarcrumb

    I have Warming Trend (i think from the Cool Heat Collection) – i use it as a brow bone highlighter and i find that it makes colours pop better (especially when you blend the colours up on the upper crease). It looks even better when you just add a touch of any white pigment that has a goldish pearl in it! Wowee!
    BTW: I love Woodwinked too – i’m on my 2nd 1!

    • Warming Trend is gorgeous :) I definitely like that one, too! I only list permanent colors in these, though, since otherwise people will be sad they can’t pick them up!

  2. Ciara

    Brown down is the ultimate crease color for me. Although i’ll have to try Wedge once.

  3. Fadya Syarmeen

    sable is quite versatile; as a lid & crease color as well :)

    woodwinked is also one of my fav…always pair it together with sable…make such a pretty everyday look ^_^

    shroom – my all time fav highlighter ;D

  4. evita

    i love All that glitters! its my fave, i wear it almost everyday!

  5. Jenny

    Woodwinked and Ricepaper are both on my fav list! I also like:

    Bamboo – to help blend eyeshadows that are above the crease.

    Vanilla – when I’m working with a whole lot of shimmer.. I like to use this as a highlighter to tone it down a notch.

  6. Ilaria

    I like Grain as a base for very soft looks.

  7. Cat

    Shroom has been a go to color for me for many years. Also i like Folie for crease and satin taupe.

  8. Andrea

    Espresso, definitely one of my neutral faves!!! Works really well as a crease colour for me and to fill in brows :)

  9. I only have Ricepaper and Wedge out of those you mentioned. It seems like Soft Brown is discontinued, am I wrong?

    My must have MAC eyeshadows/staples are Tempting, Satin Taupe, Dazzlelights and Mylar.

    I need a couple more dark brown eyeshadows… heheh….
    I have been craving and buying a lot of the matte2 colors like Copperplate and Poison Pen lately. :p

  10. Oh yea, I have woodwinked too!!

  11. sprut6

    absolutely love shroom and wedge.

  12. Emm

    Shroom, Woodwinked, Satin Taupe, and Vanilla Pigment are my fave neutrals!

  13. Shroom and Rice Paper are staples in my makeup kit. They are flattering on just about any skin tone and play nicely with others.

  14. Noemie

    love, Love, LOVE!

  15. Meghan

    Malt, Satin Taupe & Vanilla are my must haves!

  16. Chloe

    All that glitters, Vanilla, Satin Taupe and Spiced Chocolate are my fave neutral coloura!

  17. I love Texture, Dark Edge, Tempting, Vanilla and Next To Nothing. They are my all time favorite neutral eyeshadows. I’m after Shroom, Bronze, Woodwinked and Cork eyeshadows.

  18. Taj

    RICEPAPER! Is the best! LOVE IT!

  19. Viv


  20. Miss_M

    One of my favorites is Malt, a neutral matte liver type of color that gives a nice wash :)

  21. sej

    Texture and Arena are two of my faves!

  22. francesca

    My faves: 1) Shroom; 2) Swiss Chocolate; 3) Tete-a-Tint; 4) Satin Taupe; 5) Mulch; 6) Sable; 7) Glamour Check!; 8) Soba; 9) Cork; 10) Bisque.

  23. Yay, I have 6 out of the 8! Now I just need to add Bronze and Soft Brown to my collection. :)

  24. cloudburst

    Espresso, Cork, Shroom, Ricepaper, Nylon, Mylar, Satin taupe, Remotely Grey.

  25. Stefani

    Texture for my crease :)

  26. Kella

    I have always been SO IN LOVE with Jest. Is it just me?? Also: Satin Taupe, Patina, Go, Sable.

  27. Mikki

    Hellooohoooo! Where’s Satin Taupe?!

  28. Nicole15

    Definitely Shroom is my all time fave neutral. Femme Fi is up there now as well. I am shocked you didn’t put Femme Fi on the list Christine as I know you use it in a lot of your looks.

    • evangelia

      I think she was listing only perm shades so that people can build up their collections without feeling bad that they missed out previously.

      • Yes, just permanent ones for these kinds of posts :) Otherwise people will go to MAC and be disappointed when they find out the color was LE!

    • I only use permanent eyeshadows for any lists, because I know others will be upset if they can’t get them any more!

  29. Danielle

    Yay, I have all but Smut!

    I would add: Satin taupe, Jest, Naked Lunch, Grain, Wedge and Vex.

  30. Chloe

    I just love Woodwinked (my fave), All that Glitters, Ricepaper, Cork, Naked Lunch, Swiss Chocolate, Saddle, and Mulch. So pretty!!!!

  31. I just love brown and natural colors. Shroom is used every day as a highlighter. For at natural look I have Wedge and Brown Down. For a more intense look woodwinked and club to of my favorites!

  32. charlieee

    I love Satin Taupe, Warming Trend, Next to Nothing, Tempting!
    I really should get Woodwinked and Smut!

  33. hi

    Its a shame that so many love Bronze; I love the color and pigmentation on OTHER people, but on my ghost-white fair skin, it turns up as a super frosty, burnt orange – not very flattering. In my opinion, Sable is the perfect bronze color. It goes with EVERYTHING – I’ve used it with golds, greens, pinks, silvers, blah blah blah. Love it! Same thing with Ricepaper – I’m so fair that it turns up as a bright yellow-gold. I prefer Shroom as my highlighter.
    I want to buy Humid, Nocturnelle, Goldmine, and Expensive Pink – they’re pretty much the “primary colors” of their color family – all clean, pure versions of green, purple, gold, and pink.

    • Burnt orange?!!?! That’s insane!

      Have you tried it over a neutralizing base at all?

    • spider

      I also find that Bronze is way too harsh on my pale skin. I prefer Tempting or Sable. I also look good with All That Glitters, Cork or Patina.

      I love your Must-Have lists Christine, especially your new ones for specific skin tones!

      P.S. Do you think Carbon or Smut will work on pale skin? I’m skeptical!

      • I think they would – why not? I think it’s really more about what you pair them with, you know? Carbon is my ultimate go-to for a smoky eye. You can always go lighter (use a fluffier brush, e.g. the 222 or 224) and build up intensity as well!

  34. shawn

    my fav neutrals are….
    BAMBOO- fab color just by itself or perfect for a transition color!!
    TEXTURE- love this color to intensify the crease
    DAZZLELIGHT – a wash of this color is excellent on the lid for a bright fresh eye
    WEDGE – FAV matte shadow!
    ERA – a forgotten fav….
    COQUETTE – a great gray/brown that gives you a different look…besides typical brown!
    ORB – <3<3<3…enough said!!

  35. margot

    nylon as a highlighter as well as a all lid colour … it has a nice shimmer to it ^^
    sable for the crease, it’s such a nice colour and really smooth
    dazzlelight and allthatglitters are also my fav’
    Oh and after seeing a neutral look of yours (Christine) I bought Blanc Type that I find really good as a matte colour.

  36. Arika BH

    I love Soft Brown. It’s so perfect for the crease or it’s fabulous for a color between the brow highlight and crease color. I almost always put Soft Brown in the crease. Cork, Texture, and Brule are neutrals that have been on my list forever! Those are my next purchases. Smut is great, and Shroom is defintely a must have. Ricepaper is the first shadow I hit pan on. Great picks. I really like posts like this. Thanks Christine.

  37. Elizabeth

    ROMP! This is such a pretty neutral brown

  38. Heidi Pena

    Really love Satin Taupe, Shroom, Carbon (a must have), Tempting, Cork, All That Glitters, and Woodwinked.

  39. Shealyn

    I like phloof as a highlight, shroom is a little pink on me. My favourite brown would have to be warming trend! I hate hate hateeeee woodwinked though; on my incredibly pale cool-toned skin it is a warm shimmery orange, and looks pretty gross.

    • I can’t believe Shroom is pink on you! That’s so weird. Phloof! is nice, though sometime it’s a bit too frosty on me.

      Have you tried Woodwinked over a gold base?

  40. Maggie

    what’s the top, best selling mac eyeshadow?
    and also, what eyeshadows would you recommend if i’m just starting w/ mac? thanks!

  41. dolce aria

    Great list! Some of those don’t work right on me at all, but my standard “go to” set for neutral eyes is Painterly for a base, Wedge in the crease, Cork in the corner, and used to line the outer edge of my lids, and(of all the things) a thin coating of wintersky to smooth it together. I have fairly pinky skin, but freakishly pale. So even though wintersky isn’t a neutral color at all, on my skin it barely has any color unless i REALLY layer. So it works well just to blend the lid together and highlight the brown bone.

    • Painterly didn’t work for me at all! But I think it works best on paler, more cool-toned people :) I gotta go Soft Ochre for a paint pot base with my warm skin.

  42. Rosie

    I have bronze and woodwicked but they literally look that same on me (I’m African American). W/o a base u can mos def see the difference, but with a base I have no luck

  43. Nathalie

    My personal favorites in neutral shades are

    – Brul

  44. thanks christine for this wonderful post! this really helps a lot!

  45. Rachel

    Mylar. Copperplate. Femme-fi. Tete-a-tint. Bronze. Signed, Sealed.

  46. Natasha

    hey christine, could i pls suggest that when you post these “must-haves”,could you also include a swatch of these colours? hope that’s not too much trouble…. makes it so much easier to agree and rush down to the nearest MAC counter. hee.

    and on that note … i’m in love with PATINA and SOBA for that neutral look : )

    • I don’t always own the colors, to be honest. I’m picking purely permanent shades, and sometimes I have LE colors that are too close to merit buying the permanent colors. Sorry!

  47. Elle

    I love Femme Fi, Dreammaker, Warming Trend, Ricepaper, Woodwinked, Romp, Ground Brown, and Soba, and my favorite neutral-ish combo on me is Honey Lust and Mulch.

  48. Meagan


  49. Brenda


    I was looking for a few neutrals lately but didn’t know where to start with MAC’s crazy selection but looks like you’ve given me a place to start. Thanks again!

  50. Isya

    Blanc Type & Grain!

  51. Karen B

    I love Ricepaper, my very first MAC eyeshadow :)

    I also love Vanilla and Kid or a neutral look.

  52. Tamara

    My fave neutrals are Femme Fi, Mulch, Texture, Woodwinked, Soft Brown, Swiss Chocolate, Tempting, Grain, and Twinks

  53. I think Charcoal Brown, Naked Lunch and Sable deserve some love too :)

  54. kat

    According to peoples faves in the other post looks like satin taupe and all that glitters deserve a spot on this list!

    • Eight is already a lot, yeah? I wanted to make the list kind of do-able, in case people want to get their collections up, LOL! But I love that people share their favorites, because it helps others see those choices, too :)

  55. Shel

    my fav MAC neutrals:

    Blanc Type

    I’ve tried many other warmer e/s, but I tend to pick up any yellow/orange/red – looks like I’m either on fire, have picked up serious pink eye, or been in a fight. Not good!

  56. Saira

    Love these posts! I’ve started wearing more brown and neutral eyeshadows every so often now as I normally always wear colour eyeshadows. I really like Woodwinked, Tempting, Jest (has a great soft texture and goes on so smoothly) and I recently got Shroom to use as a highlighter – it’s great on, especially with neutral looks.

  57. 1. Shroom
    2. Woodwinked
    3. All That Glitters
    4. Frost
    5. Sable
    6. Satin taupe
    7. Mulch
    8. Bronze
    9. Antiqued
    10. Brown Down

    Love them all! x

  58. Mel

    Satin Taupe and Bronze are definitely my favourites, I use Satin Taupe all the time!

  59. Diana

    Great post!! I only have Shroom and Woodwinked from the list, but will definitely have the rest on my list!! I used to love satin taupe, now I love the Woodwinked with Espresso in the crease!!! :)

  60. Julie

    It used to be Grain, but now it is Jest. I even have back-up.

  61. Jessie

    Tooooo many to choose from!

    Smut and Club are my go-tos.Antiqued, too

    Go, Honesty, Tempting, Cosmic, Claire d’lune, Dazzlelight, Mystery… Glamour Check!, Kid.. Kid is good as a highlighter. Amber Lights..

    I have more, but I can’t think of the names lol

  62. christina

    Thanks for doing this Christine!! I have been looking at Mac website for two days now trying to narrow down my choices. Can you help me with the following colors? mylar, vellum, dazzlelight, vapour, crystal avalanche, ricepaper, sugarshot….they all look very similar online. I am quite far from a counter to swatch. I hope you or anybody can help. THanks again.

  63. Ana

    Brule, Phloof!, Ricepaper, Naked Lunch and Bisque!

  64. molly

    I use Femme Fi almost everyday…love love love it and its texture. I also <3 dazzlelight as an eye popper!

  65. belle

    OMEGA!!! Its a cool toned brown. I use it every day! From crease color and even to contour! Its fantastic!

  66. Anna

    maybe you could add pictures of these next to each other as well, pretty please?

  67. Molly

    Hi Christine…I want to place my final mac order tonight to get the free shipping and need some of your expertise on good brow bone highlighting eyeshadows. Can you please list your go to neutral colors.

    I have dazzlelight, femme fi, shroom, and ricepaper.

    What do you think is better for bright eyed eyeshadows as a highlighter to blend and tone down harsh eyes that is not frosty or white (something skin tonish i guess is the rule of thumb for bright eyes right?)

    I cant tell the difference on the net between brule, bisque, blanc type? Is there any preference..sorry so many questions

    Last what do you think of vapour e/s…is it really shimmery or is it a good one.

    I would love love love it if you could possibly list your favorite brow bone highlighting go to colors (Other than the ones I have dazzlelight, femme fi, shroom, and ricepaper))so that I can finalize my order. Thx a million 😉

    • To be honest, my favorite highlighters are Femme-fi, Shroom, and Ricepaper. Jest and Gleam are nice for a bit more warmth. I reach for Gorgeous Gold whenever I do really bold blue/teal looks, but that’s probably just me :)

      Brule is darker than Bisque, which is darker than Blanc Type. Blanc Type is nearly white. Vapour is OK, it’s not really shimmery from my experience, though.

      • Molly

        Thank you soo much for your quicky reply. What would be a good matte neutral brow bone highlighter then brule, bisque or any other suggestions that are closer to skin color for the sole purpose of doing a smokey eye and not having my brow bone being so bright? I want to be able to have a wash of color that blends out my harsh lines that is not as bright or shimmery as the femmi fi and shroom categories? Thx a are such a doll. TTYS

        • Bisque would have my first recommendation, then Bamboo, and then maybe Blanc Type, but Blanc Type is really light, so if you have a medium or deep skin tone, I wouldn’t recommend it.

  68. Anja

    Hi Christine What would you recommend for African American women. I am a NW45-NW 50 in foundation.

  69. TrulyNicole

    i love all that glitters and mulch (:
    those are my go to colors!
    then ricepaper as highlight

  70. Lindsey

    how similar are ricepaper and femme fi?

  71. Kelsey Mac

    Naked Lunch! oooo i love that color

  72. Izzy

    I think soft brown has been discontinued!! Can you pls recommend a similar colour?

  73. K

    Naked Lunch is my ULTIMATE go-to MAC eyeshadow, one of the very few I have hit pan on. It is more buttery in texture, more shimmery and also warmer than Shroom. I love this primarily to blend colours on my lid and into my brow but it makes a great highlight or wash. Mulch or Twinks, both shimmering rich browns (Twinks being more of a reddish brown) are also must-haves for me!

  74. Thincspot

    Faves are;
    Soba – taupy beige with the slightest iridescence
    Era – Slightly browner than Soba (a bit warmer)
    Mulch – nice dull chocolate brown with subtle gold glitter

    I’m very olive brown skinwith major yellow undertones and some of the beautiful colors like Shroom tend to pale out on my skin. These have just enough warmth to impart a soft highlight and contour to my lids.

  75. Natalie

    Wow. No one mentioned this shade – Mystery is my absolute favorite! :)

  76. Rebecca

    I think that All That Glitters is a nice neutral eyeshadow.

  77. Ria

    My top ten faves are: woodwinked, expensive pink, steamy, humid, trax, twinks, all that glitters, paradisco, creme de violet and electric eel…
    ii still have to buy from my list shadowy lady, concrete, smut and etc etc..=D

  78. Rabia

    hey!! wanted to ask Jest or Ricepaper?? (or any
    other light salmon-ish color)

  79. Katie

    Great list! I also love Orb, Brulee, Mystery, Satin Taupe, Mulch, All That Glitters, and Naked Lunch too!

  80. brenda

    -Soft Brown
    -Satin Taupe

    Also, when I need to warm up a look I use just a tad bit of Rule. It may sound crazy, but it does wonders!

  81. Carolina

    I have shroom, era, dreammaker, expresso, satin taupe and club. What other kind of neutrals do you think I should get to complement these?

  82. Janet

    My faves right now are Brulé and Kid.

  83. I guess if I’d had to pick my neutrals (NC35) they would be:
    All that Glitters
    Corduroy (love)
    Amber Lights

    Hugs Christine!

  84. Alexa

    I have all of those but wedge, cork, and smut :)

  85. Svetlana

    I would like to get some brownish MACeyeshadows to create neutral everyday looks with them but I’m not sure whicho es Ishould get.I have pale skin with cool undertones,blue-greenish eyes and blonde hair… so I guess not many browns would look good on me? Any suggestions?

  86. Sarah

    By far, OMEGA is my favorite neutral! I can’t believe it didn’t make the cut!

  87. Yianna

    can you name some neutral eyeshadows (LIMITED EDITION) that worthed to be in the permanent collection?? just curious :)

  88. kgfasjf

    I’m going to grade 12 and I’m planning on buying a 4 palette from Mac. I want a neutral eye for school. I was thinking about Shroom (highlight), Cork (crease), Naked Lunch (base), Satin taupe (hype). My skintone is light-medium (asian). Recommendation please? Top 4 e/s for a neutral palette?

  89. BooBooNinja

    This is an old post, but I’m hoping you could help me. What colour do you use for a nude wash over your lid? I’m NC20/25 and I went to the MAC store today. Bamboo seemed to work well. I think it will also be useful for blending out neutral shadows. I’m planning to pick out Cork for my crease. (That would bring my MAC complement to: Ricepaper, Bamboo, Cork, and Print. I may get Copperplate in the future.) As you can tell, I’m picking shades for a neutral, minimal makeup look.

  90. aida

    Hi!! can u tell me the difference between cork and espresso? im not sure if i need to buy both or just espresso. ty!

  91. vanessa

    hi christine i have:
    satin taupe
    i know most of these colors are not neutrals, What other kind of neutrals do you think I should get to complement these? specially patina im in love with this color…i was thinking omega or coquette, for reference im nc 20-nc30 in between thanks!!

  92. cocopai

    Hello! Do you know if there is a mac shadow thats like a mix of cork and wedge? Because i need to mix them to get the perfect color for me, and it would be awesome if there was a color thats like that without the mixing;)