Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

Blending

What is it?
Blending is the art of mixing different colors (whether still similar in hue or on completely opposite sides of the color wheel) to create a gradient of color, not a muddying mess that obliterates the vibrancy and trueness of the individual colors used to create a particular look.

Why bother?
Using a single wash of color can be perfect or even ideal for some situations, like running out the door to make a few errands or for a simple workday, but in general, people who utilize makeup want to use more than one color, and of course, there are several good reasons behind this. Using multiple colors creates a sense of depth and dimension to the eyes, especially when used correctly. A darker color in the crease gives the appearance of a deeper, more pronounced crease; just as darkening the outer portion of the lid often defines the natural eye shape. By contrasting this dark shadow with a lighter color, the artist will open up their eyes while still allowing for an emphasis on accenting the shape of their eyes.


What do I need?
I always find that telling makeup beginners that the easiest place to begin learning how to blend and understanding what exactly you are attempting to accomplish is to use similar colors. Using two drastically different colors is not nearly as easy as taking a dark brown and a medium brown or even a dark olive green and a lighter green. I also recommend choosing browns to start with, because you simply cannot muddy up browns, as they are already brown! The texture of the shadows and the type of base you choose can also simplify or complicate the process. Smoother textures will be easier to blend compared to chalky or matte ones. By MAC, some of the easiest shadows to work with are the ones with the best color payoff, and include many of the veluxe and veluxe pearl shadows. Lustre finishes are less color payoff as a whole and tend to be more prone to flake because of the chunkier texture of the shadow itself. Shadows like Antiqued or Woodwinked are definitely recommended. A way you can tell if a particular shadow will work is to swatch both on the back of your hand and test-run it. Fingers are great to blend with, but we will get into why you should not use them for your eyes shortly. Putting the shadow on the back of your hand and seeing how easily the two colors blend together will be a good indicator of how well they will blend on your eyes with a brush.

Brushes are absolutely essential to applying eye makeup, and I cannot stress the importance of using brushes over fingers or sponge-tip applicators. Wrinkles are caused by pulling and stressing the skin out excessively, including merely pressure applied to the skin. As we get older, our skin loses elasticity, and in order to help you reduce your costs of wrinkle creams in the next ten, twenty, thirty years… brushes help correct some of the mistakes finger usage can make. Brushes will put less pressure on your eyelids allowing for less pulling or stretching of the sensitive skin there. Sponge-tip applicators are better than fingers, but not nearly as beneficial as brushes can be. One of the worst parts of sponge applicators is that they waste a lot of product, even for face makeup. They complicate the blending process because of how much excess shadow is left on the sponge, so you generally have to go through several in order to use a cleaner slate each time. Brushes pick up less color during each swipe, and this allows for better precision to determine color strength and vibrancy, but also allow you to easily switch between a light pink color and a dark blue color. Sponge-tip applicators also are much less forgiving of any mistakes you might make, because of that high color amount they pick up. Blending is best accomplished by a brush because the bristles allow colors to be subtly entwined and meshed together. I will admit that sponge-tip applicators may be able to blend shadows together, but ultimately do not find that they are the best method to go about blending successfully, especially over the long-haul.

When choosing a brush to apply eyeshadow and blend the colors together, there is definitely a wide, and most overwhelming, variety of brushes to choose from. Some users prefer to have separate brushes for the initial shadow application and the actual blending process. Either is acceptable, but it is not impossible to have an all-in-one eye brush. It is important not to use a brush that is firm or stiff, because you want the bristles to have a bit of fluffiness to allow you to sweep easily horizontally, vertically, and angularly. For instance, I find that MAC’s 252 brush is too flat and firm to do much more than apply shadow. You want a brush more like MAC’s 239, which has a bit of fluffiness, but not excessively so like the 222. The shape of the brush should be dome-like or slightly angular, but I would suggest the dome shape as being the most versatile. It is also important to choose a brush with soft bristles, and softness is not something solely reserved for high-end or more expensive makeup brushes. Sonia Kashuk makes more affordable brushes and can be found at Target stores, and their softness is not compromised by their price. Even some craftstore paintbrushes work wonderfully in the absence of cosmetic brushes! You can see what brushes I have purchased and pictures of what a good blending brush would look like by referring to my brush post.

How can I do it?
Many believe that blending is one of the more difficult techniques to master, but it is merely something that takes a degree of precision and the willingness to practice if it does not just come naturally or easily to the person. I admit that it is not always easily accomplished when working with certain colors or textures. Each makeup application allows me to practice my blending or fine-tune it, because blending is really an on-going technique. Tutorials are an excellent way to understand the basics and mechanisms behind blending, but practice truly makes perfect in this case.

You begin blending by first applying two colors or more on your eyelid. There are two methods to go about doing this: 1) you can apply each color and blend afterwards, or 2) you can apply one and then blend as you apply the second one. I would suggest following the first if you really do not know where to start, because it is a lot easier to understand the process with this method. With method one, after you have applied the two colors to your lid, you will want to take your brush and hold it just at the end of the lightest color so that your bristles are vertical to your eyelid. Generally speaking, it is easiest to blend by pulling the lightest color into the darker one. With your brush positioned correctly, you want to pull the brush gently from the edge of the lightest that meets the darker color and pull towards the darker one. You are taking the lighter color and lightening the darker color faintly, which will create a sort of gradient effect so colors gradually fade into other colors, instead of splotches or blocks of color where it is clear where each one begins/ends. You do not have to drag the lightest color all the way to the end of the darker one; the point is merely to soften the edge between them so that the color on your lid appears fluid, while still maintaining distinct colors. The second method still follows the same technique as the first one; the only difference is perhaps the application follows darkest to lightest, allowing the lightest always to be overlaid on the darkest.


The art of blending is based on a very simple technique, but it just takes familiarity with it in order to be comfortable practicing it. One trick to aid in application is to use an intermediary color between two colors. For example, if you were to blend red and yellow together, you would likely get, at the very least, a tinge of orange; if you have an orange shadow, you can place a touch of it between the two and it will make blending even easier. Colors that are drastically different need to be handled very carefully, and it is a good idea not to rush through. Blending light green and a dark, hot pink requires a bit of finesse. The blending has to be incredibly subtle because these two colors do not naturally fade into each other, and infact, may be one of the tougher combinations to blend together without muddying them up. To deal with this, it is best to bring just a hint of the green into the pink, and repeat the motions as necessary. It will be problematic if you assume you will get a perfect gradient with just these two colors; it is best to merely soften the edge between the two colors, but you are unlikely to find it looks as blended as a look that merely consists of light green and dark green. Also realize that between green and pink, there are several colors inbetween, and your lid does not have the space to bring out all of them easily, either.

If you decide to use a second brush for blending purposes, the technique is still the same, but the brush you use will most likely be fairly fluffy in nature. You will still place your brush similarly and be gently pulling the colors together, meshing them to create a form of a gradient. Fluffier brushes tend to pick up less color so they are more forgiving; one wrong tap or stroke will not necessarily ruin your makeup. For this reason, it might be helpful for those struggling to successfully blend.

What else?
Blending is merely pulling one color into and over another, almost like a venn diagram has two individual circles that share an overlapping section in the middle. You can facilitate blending by choosing a good eyeshadow base, like Urban Decay Primer Potion, MAC’s Prep ‘n Prime Eye, or L’Oreal Decrease; these not only allow your eyeshadow to have staying power and prevent the color from fading, falling off, or creasing, but they will help make blending all that easier. It is important to note that expensive brushes, eyeshadows, or other tools are not essential or even necessary to blend well. It is more about the quality of the product than the price; if the drugstore variety works well, it is not worse than an equivalent higher-end brand. I must stress the significance of taking your time and not rushing through the process if you are not comfortable with it. Use what makes you comfortable, and do not be afraid to spend an hour in front of the mirror ensuring you are doing a good job in perfecting your look. Not everyone can do perfect makeup in twenty minutes, and even those who are able, were not so when they first began, either. Have fun with it; spend one night mixing your two favorite colors together and see what you come up with. Experiment, test out new ideas, and be creative as you learn what works, what does not, and how you can improve upon your skills as a makeup artist.

Please feel free to ask questions or for clarification, make any comments you’d like, and do not hesitate to ask me for help!

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77 thoughts on “How-to: Blending

  1. Rachel

    Thank you for this! It’s really given some insight into the do’s and don’t of blending, and I know it’ll help a lot of people struggling with the process – including myself.

  2. You’re welcome :) I’m happy to offer what I do know about makeup from my experience and what I’ve found “works”, at least for me. I’m no expert, but I love to try and help.

  3. Wow, what an excellent article! I’ve definitely picked up a lot of tips here, especially about brushes of which I had no idea. :)

  4. J.

    Thank you for this article! Your website is an amazing resource and just through reading/browsing photos, I’ve learned so much. I can’t wait to make my first real MAC haul and experiment with the looks and techniques you’ve detailed. You definitely utilize your makeup creatively, know what works best for you, and write detailed, comprehensive tutorials!

  5. Tiffanee

    This is a great article! I have learned alot about brushes and blending. Thanks for this!!!

  6. Kate

    Venn diagram – I love it! Thank you so much for this article and all your gorgeous pictures. You are amazing!

  7. mapoupie

    Hi !

    Thank you so much for these useful explanation. You make it clear and simple. Blending is still a problem for me since i am a beginner, but i definitely gonna try…

  8. ms_lavendel

    heya!!!
    thank you sooo much for this!!!!

  9. J.

    What eye primer do you personally rec? I’ve thought about UDPP, but am discouraged by product waste promoted by the packaging. I see a lot of folks going with BC Paint instead.

  10. Thank you all! I am so glad to hear that the article was somewhat helpful :) I would love to hear if it had any effect on the results, though!

    J, I personally use MAC’s pigment applied with MAC’s water-based mixing medium, and for me, that keeps my makeup staying ALL day long with no creasing or fall out. Paints are definitely one way to go, and MAC also makes an eye primer, too. I know a lot of people love shadesticks like Beige-ing. UDPP has always been a favorite of many, and it definitely makes your eyeshadow stay all day long :)

  11. Tiffany

    Hi Christine,

    Let me say first off, your blog ROCKS!! It rocks hard too. lol. I’m writing because I’m a complete eye makeup newbie. I’m also Asian of Taiwanese descent which makes it oh so difficult for me to figure out how to properly apply eyeshadow. My question is, would it be possible for you to do a very basic eye makeup tutorial? Basic meaning what they’ve pounded into magazines for years.
    1. Apply base eyeshadow all over lid (I got that down, any particular shape? )
    2. Apply a medium/dark color in the crease & lashline (I don’t have a crease, at least not a big eyefold, I have a baby crease, but say I had a normal one, where would that be? and what sort of shape am I supposed to be apply it like?would it look like a boomerang type thingie?)
    3. Apply highlighter to browbone and corners (that one is down pat)
    4. Light accent color is applied to the mobile lid and slightly above center of eye. (Wha?! No idea what that means)

    So my plea is, please please please do a detailed picture tutorial please? They never even do that in books, why oh why? Thanks Christine!

    – Tiffany

  12. Mel Horton

    Hey babe! I love your looks, I was wondering, where did that tut go of how to contour/blush/highlight? Thank you sooooooooooooo much!

  13. Cheryl

    OMG this is wonderful, I have most of these brushes and over 70 MAC eyeshadows but am always looking for a fresh take on application. Great site, thank you!

  14. Meme

    Hi Christine,

    Great tips on blending – you are probably the queen of blending eye makeup!! The colors in each of your looks are always so smoothly blended.

    Here’s a question I have for you about using mixing medium with pigments.

    I’m not sure how “damp” I should get my brush (i.e. how much mixing medium to put on the brush) so that I get optimal smoothness in application and intense color at the same time. I find that when I take a small drop of mixing medium on my hand and dab my brush in it, sometimes the color will be more intense, but the texture of the pigment is still quite powdery. If I dampen the brush a lot, I get really smooth application (esp. for metallic pigments), but sometime it tends to dilute the color too much when using non-metallics. Tkanks!

    • Hi Meme!

      LOL, practice, that’s all it is, I swear it :)

      It really should be very, very little… and it does vary from pigment to pigment. Some of the chunkier pigments can take more, but then sometimes they will clump up if they’re too wet. You’ll have to play with it and exerpiment and see what works. I would start off with less mixing medium, see if that works, and if it doesn’t, dampen your brush a bit more, and so on.

      • Meme

        Thanks, that’s great advice (I’ve noticed the “clumping” when there’s too much wetness in the brush), I’ll defeinitely keep on experimenting =)

        For the homemade mixing medium – I noticed that if I apply a little onto the back of the hand and let it dry – the skin on my hand is a tiny bit sticky, is that normal or did I put in too much glycerin?

        • No problem :)

          Hmm, is it really sticky, or just the slightest? I’ve never noticed it being particularly sticky on the back of my hand. Glycerin is a glue-base, so of course, stickiness isn’t something to worry over. I think it’s fine, but if you think it’s too sticky, add a bit more water.

  15. lolo

    plzzzzzzzz… can you put a yellow loooooook

    because i have a party and it’s alllllll yellow

    i saw the yellow looks in this web site and all of them are great

    but i need more if you can :)

    • Hi there! I think I’m a little bit late on this (I went on vacation, so sorry for the late response!), but I hope you found something that worked!

  16. Xochitl

    Thank you so much for this article! I usually only use one color since blending is a bit hard for me and I’ve found articles, but none have pics! So thanks for the pics, they are seriously helpful! I just have one question, when it comes to putting colors together, can you put any two colors together? OR are there rules to combination? I’ve been wondering if using a pink on the lid and maybe something like golden olive or maybe teal on the crease, does it sound like a good idea?

    • Hi again! I hope you find it helpful! Blending is really fun and it is definitely something that just takes practice to do :)

      I’ve seen green/teal with pink before (I might have even done it!), so you sure can! It’ll be a much harder combination to blend, though, so just be wary of that :)

  17. Shendel

    I think something screwed up the layout. I can read the first 4 lines, then there is a huge beige empty box. All I can read is: “Blending is the art of mixing different colors (whether still similar in hue or on completely opposite sides of the color wheel) to create a gradient of color, not a muddying mess that obliterates the vibrancy and trueness of the individual colors used to create a particular look.”

  18. Jules

    I pretty much stumbled onto your site and love it! Definitely agree with the others that the articles and tutorials you provide give clear & detailed instructions.

    Crossing my fingers but I think I *may* actually start using some colors now!

    Thanks again!

    Jules

  19. Ignacia

    You are so talented and your advice is great. I am a makeup beginner and I wish I was as good as you, but I totally hear you when you say it takes a lot of PRACTICE. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone and I have to be patient with myself. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us!

  20. Mona

    مكياج رائع

    thanks for the nice site its on my fav.

  21. Charlene

    I stumbled on your site by accident and discovered really helpful tips and articles for applying eye makeup. I have mostly MAC shadows but I also have some NYX shadows and pigments in a variety of colors. I have always wanted some tips. Usually I find that just text isnt very helpful but with your text, you go step by step and you also include photos which is extremely helpful to me. Please continue with the tips and helpful hints. Especially about coordinating colors together. Like I said, I have so many colors but I am unsure as to what goes together as well as matching the highlight color for your browbone in. Any tips on that would be greatly appreciated. I also need some tips on applying makeup on the outer lid and crease. It never looks like the photos on your website. Please help. Thanks

  22. Mag

    Hi Christine, your articles are as awesome as your m/u creations. This is by far the most articulate and comprehensive article on blending e/s I’ve ever read; I’m sure many, many readers will find it useful! :D

    Love the gorgeous true-to-life photos and the other engaging posts too!

    Mag

  23. Hi, Christine! I checked out all of your posts that include Plum Electric, and your recs for application, but what about blending? I had a really hard time blending out the harsh line at the top of my lid and not having what looked like paint streaks or checkerboard marks where i applied it with different intensities. Then when i tried to blend shadows over it, the lines showed through no matter what colors or how heavily I applied them; even a stiff brush couldn’t budge the stuff into a fade as opposed to a line. Any tips?
    Thank you!

    • Hey Kirsten! Are you applying too much of the Metal-x shadow? I didn’t find I had any real problems blending them together or out. I really used the powders to combat with the creamy texture, though. You may want to sheer the color out where there’d normally be a harsh line before you apply powders. I think I naturally do that with all bases, so that might help, too!

      • Thanks, Christine :) I probably did use too much; I was going for a really intense (and specific) lid color, so I packed it on pretty thick to duplicate the color in the pot. That’s what I get for matching my new corset to a type of makeup I haven’t used before! *grin*

        • No problem! Good luck next time :D

          • Wow, the site looks great – nice changes! I wanted to let you know that I tried the shadow with a completely different brush and it made all the difference in the world – a hard-bristled brush was what had been initially recommended, but a soft rounded brush worked soooo much better :)

  24. sally

    hi i jus want to know how do u apply ur make up color to come out so dark? please tell

  25. Hey Christine!

    I checked your website the moment I saw the link to it on Eyeshadow sluts @ LJ, and I love it! So many things here!
    Thanks for sharing it with us.

    I was always afraid of mixing more colors, so I usually stick to eye pencil and mono colors. This tutorial is simple and blending seems simple now, lol.
    I’ll try it out asap. :D I just need more colors in my collection, hehe.

    Cheers!

  26. Melissa

    Nice Meeting you! I found your site and I c that there is alot of valuable information for anyone interested in learning more about makeup. I am starting and I need brushes. I seen how much people stress it. I thought about getting all my brushes from MAC even though they r expensive. I think I may buy a few at a time. You r not the first person who recommended Sonia K from Target. I am wondering if all the brushes r good or is it better to get different brushes from different brands. Sephora has brushes on sale online. They also have a double sided brush set. I have a few products from MAC which i want to start my collection. For i want to say hello and how wonderful it si for you to share this info with all of us. :-) Thank You!!!

    • Hi Melissa! I’m glad you’ve found the site :) There are many brands that make good quality brushes – not just MAC. I know people adore Smashbox brushes, and I have a couple from Sephora that are just fine.

      • Jennifer

        Smashbox brushes are definitely good – I have a mixture of those, MAC, and some inexpensive “no-name” ones that I find work beautifully. My fan brush cost $2.95 and I find it is just as soft and nice as the expensives!! Anyway, This means I have a brush shape for every task (Smashbox has a few shapes MAC doesn’t, and vice versa).

  27. kat

    hi.im a chinita.i have small eyes and my crease doesnt show at all.if you’ll see my eyes i dont have fold on it.so where is my crease then?

  28. Teresa

    You know, I think I would like to keep up with your site just because you compared blending to venn diagrams! :) Thanks for your tips, I look forward to learning more on your site.

  29. inu

    Thank you Christine for this really insightful article !!!!

    I second Teresa on the Venn’s diagram image hehe… brilliant !

    Inu~

  30. Jennifer

    What a lovely article… what a lovely website! I am thrilled to have run across your tips and tricks – I’ve been playing with makeup for years, but you are right, it is an ongoing process, especially as I have evolved from drugstore makeup to the more high end stuff like our favorite, MAC. I had to relearn everything I thought I knew the first time I opened a pigment and … got a mess on my lid and a load of fallout on my cheek!! LOL….

    Thank you for your tips – I’m learning lots here.

  31. Nicky

    I love your blog and I love this article. Your writing is fantastic and you make it very easy to understand different techniques. . . I went from checking your site a couple of times a week to every day! :) Thank you!

  32. Wow, this helped me out tremendously. Thank you! :D

  33. Thanks for this wonderful post.There are lots of tips that i have got in from this, and sure that most people would find this really very interesting and informative.
    Thank you

  34. JC

    what shadow did you use for the inner lid?

  35. thanks a lot lady…it gave me some HOPE!!!!

  36. cindiaz

    Thank you,i’m a newbie with eyeshadows and i love them,so i’m going to start practicing,do you have to blend the crease eyeshadow too? but to where? upwards or with the lid eyeshadow?sorry for the questions.:)

  37. Emily J

    Hey huni!
    You have got some extreme talent! I have workd in the makeup industry for over 5years now (with Napoleon Perdis) and have just recently gotten a job with Mac Cosmetics.
    What is your opinion regarding the different brands?

    Your advice given right through these blogs has been amazing! Very well done!
    I look forward to seeing more from you

    x

  38. Stefani

    this is definately helpfull. thank you!!

  39. Glam

    Can u please do a “Cutting the Crease” tutorial on YOUTUBE?? For some strange reason I just cant master it!!

  40. Mia

    This is THE BEST article about blending

  41. Whitney

    I loved this article… Venn Diagram :)
    I wanted to insert a little motherly, makeup artist advice into this already well rounded article; another reason not to use fingers (as I know for sure Christine already knows) is bacteria.
    Bacteria is deadly to your eyeshadows particularly, and can ruin them. You know how when you see testers that have one area that is shiny and even a tad hard (those weird hardened round balls that seem to sit in the eyeshadow – oil)…thats from fingers and/or oils from skin. Your own finger seems ok on your own makeup (or even your friends…I had to threaten to ban my best pal from touching my goods) however it can and will ruin an eyeshadow pretty quickly. Another little tip is to use your mixing mediums OFF of your shadows (either on the back of your hand, a petri dish or some other mixing area) and NOT in your product pan or container. You can forever ruin a brand new eyeshadow in this manner – trust me, been there killed that!
    Blending is so fulfilling when you have a moment when it all comes together perfectly, keep trying and keep reading Temptalia. Christine is a genuis!
    xoxox
    whitney

    • Yep!! So true… I just wrote about this in another post (not yet posted) about that’s why testers get DISGUSTING and crusty. YUCK!