Yesterday, I shared my methods for breaking down an eyeshadow palette into more digestible pieces to see color combinations more readily. I also shared some more advanced methods that built off of those basics. All of those techniques work across all palettes, even more chaotic ones, but let’s try it out and then take it to the next level with a “chaotic” eyeshadow palette. It’s still really about breaking a lot of colors into smaller sections and working from there!
Start with Visualizing Shapes
I find approaching even the more unusual palette layouts by my methodological approach to still be a good starting point, especially for anyone who doesn’t readily see color combinations jump out of them.
One of the more chaotic palettes that have come into existence more recently have been the Anastasia Norvina Pro Pigment Palettes, so I’ve selected Norvina Vol. 3 to walk readers through applying the basic methodology to breaking it down into smaller bits while also applying some additional techniques to take it to the next level.
With Norvina Vol. 3, I started by segmenting out vertical quints (columns of five shades), and what you’ll notice with this particular color scheme is that the greens really jump out, whereas a lot of the other tones are more complementary. Generally speaking, palettes like Norvina Vol. 3 are chaotic partially because they’ve been arranged with a lot less regard for complementary tones, finishes, and depths AND there are a lot of vivid shades, which can make it harder for the eye to focus on a particular section.
You can rearrange any palette that I’ve swatched and photographed through our Color Story tool, but most palettes aren’t designed to be rearranged in real life, so it can be hard to enjoy the rearranged palette in person. Physically rearranging the palette from light to dark, matte to shimmer, or grouping by cooler and warmer tones can go a long way to understanding a palette’s color scheme when it seems chaotic otherwise. I actually shared my own arrangements for the Norvina Vol. 1 (rearranged to create better quads, quints, rows/columns), Vol 2. (rearranged by color), and Vol. 3 palettes (rearranged by color) in the past.
These techniques and tips will, hopefully, help you visualize and get more out of your palette when you actually open it and try to use it!
How to Solve for Chaos
By visualizing the shapes, we’ve broken down the palette into smaller, more readily seen sections, but in this palette, there are a lot more contrasting and complex color combinations, which can make it harder to visualize them together in an actual look.
To “solve for chaos,” I took out one shade from each vertical quints I created, and I opted to remove the “odd one out,” which would be the color that you’d look at and go, “What am I supposed to do with that???” (The easy answer is as a pop of color on the lash line!) It’s like that random pop of blue in dozens of neutral palettes. It can be distracting, though, and you can see a lot more of the orange and pink tones coalesce around each other once you start ignoring the starker shades. I repeated this with horizontal quints along with primary and secondary sextets (groups of six).
Depending on the color scheme of the palette and the issue(s) you’re having, you may find taking one or two shades out of a section practical by one of these as well:
- taking out the lightest or darkest tone,
- taking out a shimmer or a matte,
- or removing a duplicate.
Start with Less Shades
Often, palettes that aren’t arranged in an intuitive way can be better understood and worked with using smaller groupings, like trios. This can create a foundation of colors to start with, and then you can add in what you need. You can also do this with duos.
For example, in the first slide, A3, A4, and A5 is harder to blend together because of the pop of chartreuse (and all three being matte), and an easy way to make two contrasting colors meet seamlessly is to stick a lighter, brighter shimmer in-between them (say D5), so you can start with the trio and then look in the palette for that perfect fourth color knowing that you are looking for something more specific. Then you might do A4 on the inner lid, D5 on the center, A5 on the outer corner/crease, and A3 as a crease/transition shade.
You want to look at the grouping you’re interested in trying and thinking about what else you might need. It is often something of a different finish (a matte to work with three shimmers or a shimmer to work with three mattes), something lighter or deeper (three lighter shades will want something to provide contrast, so go darker), or something to help blend or bring tones together (maybe a blue to bridge the gap between green and plum).
Build a Combination with Complementary Shades
In these photos, I’ve tried to show a quad of colors and then how I look and think about colors. Complementary shades are going to be colors that will blend more naturally into each other, which means they’ll be closer to each other on the color wheel (or think of a rainbow–red to orange to yellow gradient is infinitely easier to blend than red to green to purple). These would be shades to the left and right of a color if you think of it on a wheel or a horizontal spectrum.
In the first photo, I took one of the primary quads (C1, C2, D1, D2), which could use some contrast and perhaps be less tone-on-tone (it’s fairly warm and orange on its own, though it could be workable as a standalone quad). Since the quad I started with was warmer-toned with more golden and orange hues, I looked for shades like yellow, pink, red, and orange to pair with it. I’ve highlighted these additional shades, which one can then pick and choose from to complete a look.
In the second photo, I’ve selected a slightly more complex color combo from the quad containing B4, B5, C4, and C5. When I see it, I think I need at least one lighter or more contrasting shimmer to pair with C5 (a shimmery green), so I looked for lighter shimmers like C1 (yellowy gold) and D5 (lighter orange) that would work off the warmer tones but also felt like B1 (shimmery, light blue) could work as the green wasn’t super warm-toned.
I also pulled out coordinating tones to blend between B4, C4, and B5 by looking for warmer-toned shades that were more mid-tone. I felt like the pop of cooler green might work as a blending shade in the crease with C5 if I wanted to go for a more green-dominated look. The third photo shows my ultimate selection: I decided to go for a gradient of C1 into B1 into C5 on the lid with C4 in the deepest part of my crease, B4 in the crease, and B5 to diffuse and blend from crease toward brow with C1 as a brow bone highlight, and then use E5 on the lower lash line to bring everything together.