Makeup Tips for Beginners: Eyeshadow Placement & Eye Makeup Diagram

Parts of the Eye for Applying Makeup
Parts of the Eye for Applying Makeup

Lid, crease, transition, outer v, waterline–what?  If that terminology makes your head spin, then you’ve come to the right place!  These are areas of the eye that often signal how and where a particular product has been applied to the eye in a makeup tutorial. If you’ve been a long-time reader, you’ll likely recognize the parts of the eye that I tend to apply my makeup to (and maybe recall this post in its original form), but I thought it would be good to make some updates to a very, very old post (10 years old!).

For more of my favorite makeup brushes, check out the best brushes for powder eyeshadow and best brushes for cream eyeshadow posts I’ve done in the past.  For brows and detail work, this list of must-haves should help get you started!  Now, let’s break down the where and what of a typical eye look…

Inner Tearduct/Inner Corner:  This is the area between the bridge of the nose and the inner portion of the lid.  It’s often a space that is used to brighten and open up the eyes, so something metallic is often used here.  This can sometimes be the same shade used to highlight the brow bone to help tie a look together, but it’s just as likely something different.  I often find this is a good place to add a pop of sparkle or glitter.

  • Recommended Tools:  Smaller brushes, from packing eyeshadow brushes to pencil brushes; like Smith 253,Hakuhodo B5520
  • Budget-Friendly Recommended ToolsZoeva 230

Inner/Middle/Outer Lid:  Depending on the look one’s going for, the lid can be divided up into as many or as few parts as desired.  You can have color all over the lid, over all but the outer lid/very outer corner (where the lash lines meet).  I tend to apply two to three shades on the lid, so I often break up my lid into three sections–inner, middle, and outer.   Sometimes, you’ll see a reference to the “outer v,” which is the edge of the upper lash line into the deep crease in the shape of a sideways “V.” (The outer lid/crease area in this look and this look are two examples of defining the “outer v.”)

One common placement is as a gradient: where you apply the lightest shade to the inner lid, medium shade to the middle of the lid, and darker shade to the outer lid.  For a halo effect, try applying the lightest shade to the center of the lid and flank the inner and outer portions of the lid with a medium or dark shade.  If you want to get really fancy, you can use dark shades on the innermost and outermost areas of the lid and then a medium shade to diffuse between the dark and light shade in the halo placement.

Another placement type is called a cut crease, which is where one typically applies a layer of concealer or cream eyeshadow all over the lid with a visible, harsh/sharp edge where the crease color meets the lid.  Some place more than one color on the crease, others place one for 2/3 of the crease and just use something darker/deeper on the outer corner.  Makeup washes off, so don’t be afraid to play around with placement and throw all the “rules” out occasionally!

A fourth placement places eyeshadows horizontally rather than vertically, so each shade on the lid would across from the inner to outer lid but may not take up the entire lid space.  It could be done with the darkest shade against the upper lashes (almost like eyeliner) and then gradually fading to lightest at the brow bone, or it can be done with a very light shade all over the lid, a deep shade in the crease, and a mid-tone shade above the crease and diffused to the brow bone. This placement is one I’ve often seen for those with monolids, and that might also entail thicker eyeliner or a stronger, smokier edge that follows the natural angle of the lower lash line like cat eye liner. (Check out FutilitiesMore, Hana Lee, and Jessica Vu for some tutorials for monolids, which is outside my personal expertise. Rae from TheNotice is fabulous for inspiration, too.)

Crease:  This is the area that is slightly sunken where the lid meets the space above it.  I also like to divide this area into the Crease and Deep Crease, the latter being the deepest, most sunken/hidden part of the crease (like when the eye is open).  I typically apply the darkest shade in a look to the deep crease and use a lighter, complementary shade in the crease to help diffuse the dark shade.  To make life easier, applying a more malleable, mid-tone shade into the crease tends to make applying the darker shade into the deep crease easier and require less effort for blending.

Above Crease:  Like the lid going from light to dark across, so goes the crease area as it goes from the deepest part of the crease toward the brow bone.  It’s all about creating a gradient, which is why many use a transition shade in or above the crease area to help diffuse and fade color toward the brow bone for a seamlessly, blended look.

Brow Bone:  The brow bone is the area directly underneath the brow, and this is an area that is typically highlighted with either a matte or shimmer shade.  It can range from flesh-toned to something lighter and brighter than one’s natural skin tone.  I tend to switch my brow bone highlighting shade based on the look I’m doing, as certain looks play well with a simple, light beige and others need something cooler or warmer, less or more shimmery, to come together.

A few other areas worth knowing…

  • Upper Lash Line:  This would be the area immediately above the upper lashes (the ones that extend from the mobile lid). This is typically where eyeliner is placed for those who apply it to the lid.
  • Upper Waterline:  This is the space just below upper lashes (it’s probably easiest to visually understand by knowing what the lower waterline looks like, which is much more visible, and then looking upward in a mirror to see what the upper waterline looks like).  It’s a very thin, narrow part below where the lashes extend from; if you gently push your mobile lid up slightly, it is easier to see the space (often a little watery).  You can line this upper waterline area with eyeliner, and some like to tightline, which focuses on filling in gaps between the upper lashes but isn’t quite like upper lash liner and not quite like waterline (technically the space between the two, but depending on the tool you’re using, you may get the product more or less on the upper lash line or waterline).  The upper waterline is also referred to as the upper rim.
  • Lower Lash Line: This would be the area immediately below the lower lashes.  Eyeliner can be applied here (just below the lower waterline, see below) as well as eyeshadow.  If you’re applying eyeshadow, you’ll likely want to reach for small, pencil brushes.
  • Lower Waterline: This would be the area immediately just above and between the lower lashes and can be referenced as the lower rim or bottom rim of your eye.  Some people use eyeliner on the waterline, but due to the watery nature, not everyone finds that product lasts or that they can handle product there so experiment and see if it works for you.