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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.

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123 Comments

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Patty: if you want it to be more defined, use a paint brushy looking brush, like the 239, you know, just a flat one and pack it on thick, then blend. If you want a more blended look, try one of the round-tipped brushes you can use in a circular motion.

Awesome, Christine! How thorough of you.
MY question has always been WHERE IS THIS MYTHICAL “V”? People always talk about the outer V and I can never really see what in the world they’re talking about. That’s probably how you can tell they’ve blended well, so I suppose it doesn’t matter so much.

The V? You know, that is the most uninformative terminology, lol. The V is really the outer crease/outer lid area as far as I understand! It’s as if part of the V shape is the outer crease, with the other half of the V being your bottom part of the outer lid, I guess….

thank you SO much for this diagram..

Now..

..if ONLY there were as many specific words in current Italian for those parts! it drives me nuts when I’m tryig to explain my friend a certain look, because I really have no clue what words to use! so they all end up going like.. ‘crease?.. cosa?’.. cosa meaning what.. lol

Kohl liners work well for the waterline, but you have to be careful, it’s not recommended. It can really damage your cornea. Also, you might not imagine it being a problem, but I stopped doing it when I actually had to SQUEEZE black gunk out of my lower tearduct.

Absolutely. Nothing is safe on the waterline. Ophthalmologists are seeing more and younger women with blepharitis (inflammation of the meibomian glands on the lashlines) and are now attributing it directly to makeup and specifically cosmetics on the waterline. I never did it much because I don’t like how it looks, but I have blepharitis and is is no fun. It doesn’t go away, either–you’re going to have issues for life. Don’t do it, or don’t do it every day.

great diagram. very clear. now i want to know the difference between the loewcornell maxine brush to the 239. although they appear similar, there’s got to be something different, right?

thank you soooo much. only recently did i noticed that because i also use the lc brush for paintpot and it started to scratch my lid. when using it dry, it was okay but not with paintpot and i was wondering if the 239 was the same. i am thinking of getting another brush for paintpots. thanks again, it’s hard to tell just by touching the brush at the store. it’s really helpful when you have the option of others.

Christine,
loved your tutorial it really helps to see exactly what to do, but I did not understand the primer do you mix that yourself how much is 1 part glycerine? Also after you did that you put on a color on the whole eyelid was that a specific shade or did you mix that one as well? Please help me out. Thanks

Where have you been all my life?!?! I feel I have only just really learned about cosmetics and how to apply them!! Amazing – 5 mins on your site and I have a huge amount of new ideas for doing my own make-up, which I must confess, I was getting quite bored with. And the colours you use are amazing, you have re-inspired me!! thank you, thank you, thank you; I am going to start putting colour back into my make-up drawer and start enjoying them again. Your eye make-up is fantastic and I Love reading about the products/colours you use. Have a fab day 🙂

Christine,hi.I was going through NYX website, trying to get some eye colors, and i realise that they have so many different types.Which one do you think one should get.
Is it the ones in a jar or the trio?
Which ones are the best?
Sam

I have this picture saved and bookmarked! it really helps when applying eyeshadow or looking at your ‘looks’ and tutorials! You’re really a savior in the MU world, finding time outside your school and ‘mothering’ to post many goodies up for us! THANK YOUUU! Oh did you know I literally ran out to MAC to get a 239 when I started reading here. It gets the color of the e/s like what we see from the pot….and now the 213 is just collecting dust somewhere…haha.

i love everything!! im newly single and learning to experiment with eye makeup… i have small eyes that have a slight downward slant what would be th ebest look for me?? HELP PLEASE :]

Does anyone know where I can get good clip in hair extensions? I really need some extensions for my prom in a few weeks. I need a brown colour with some highlights, I prefer clipins as this is less damaging to my hair. The glue in hair extensions just aren’t good in my opinion. Any suggestions for

This is the best ever !!!!!!

Learnt so much and so so so so very excited to actually experiment now 🙂

Christine favour, may I borrow this entry and put it on my blog also? I’ll link back and post a direct linkage to your site. Pleaseeeee 🙂

Hope it’s alright 🙂 Let me know kai?

xox

I have been following your blog for quite sometime and it has REALLY inspired me to be bold with my make up…. It has helped me tremendously. The tips are great and this diagram is absolutely wonderful.

Thank you for sharing your insights and tips ! Happy New Year to you 🙂

I love your site!! I’m new with make up and I can’t thank you enough for your posts. Thanks a ton 🙂

This is the most helpful eye diagram I’ve seen. I recently came across something called the tight line. What’s that?

Hi, I’ve got a slight problem with regard to smudging! I always apply a great concealer before eyemake up. I use a ‘smudgeproof’ kohl pencil on the lower inner and outer lines of my lashes and after an hour, my eye make up has smudged and it looks like my eyes are dark underneath. What am I doing wrong? Is there anything I can do to fix this? Kirsty

Thank you infinitely, Christine, for these wonderful tips, which seem to be the best in the world! u r truly a genius, and generous as well for sharing these eye-make up techniques with us!

3 cheers!!!

Hello i have two questions: i was just wondering what you do more, eyeliner on the waterline or lower lashes? I’m trying to learn how to do the waterline properly but end up look semi racoon eyed when i try. Would you suggest just using a lighter colour when i waterline, so that it doesn’t look too heavy when i’m at school?
thankyou!:D

Christine,
Can’t thank you enough for all these tutorials! Not only am I getting more and more excited for prom, practicing and trying out all these styles, but I’m also starting to realize how to make myself look better. Great stuff – thanks again! 😀

hi..thank you so much..it is really a great help for me..i’m also confused when i’m watching a you tube on make up tutorial..but i’m having a hard time which brushes i needed to have a great eyeshadow..especially smokey eye..can you help me pls…i have a little crease..thank you so much

What a wealth of information!!! I’ve definitely been using makeup for a very long time, but I still enjoyed this post. I look forward to reading your post each evening and you keep setting the bar higher. I’ve learned so much about tones and undertones and brushes and color…Christine, you make all things beauty more beautiful.

Thank you so much for this Christine! Super informative as always. I love how you included the recommended tools too! You have been doing some really nice new things on your blog and I am really really enjoying them.

What a great reference post — I’ll bookmark this. It’s clear, practical, easy to follow, and still offers lots of options. My eyeshadow application practices are very limited; I am rarely successful using more than 2 shades in one look. This will be helpful.

It can depend on your eye shape and lid (or eye) space, too – I feel like I have medium-sized eyes overall, but I have a decent amount of lid/crease space that I can cram everything in… but I tend to take my crease colors higher up than some prefer.

I’d say definitely say try gradually moving up one shade if you want to get more detailed, which should be more approachable! And when in doubt… don’t use super contrasting shades.

Hi Christine, thank you from the bottom of my heart for this tutorial. I will print this out and experiment. See I am the girl who everyone knows as the one color eye shadow, cause nobody explained it like you just did. Now I can try more than one color at a time and actually reach to the brow. Thanks a million, you are an Angel.

Wish I’d had this post on hand when I was still trying to figure out eyeshadow! You’ve put everything in a very clear, concise way.
Also looking at these old comments, I’m even more glad I picked up a back up 239 before it was discontinued, especially as a lot of the brands you mentioned like Hakuhodo and Wayne Goss aren’t available in the UK last I checked.

Well, I know that both ship internationally, and for most of us, they’re both online only even in the US. Hakuhodo has a showroom in LA and are more accessible in Japan, I believe, but Wayne Goss is online only even here!

Okay, this post gives me a good opportunity to ask a question for choosing between two old MUFE eyeshadow formulas (because they have them for half off and I want to finish my blue, khaki, taupe, pinkish collection I’ve done from the old formula). I’ve spent some time looking at Christine’s swatches (what a blessing to do my comparisons!) and have decided between one of these two for an inner corner or brow bone color. Which do you think would be best:
//www.temptalia.com/swatches/?compare=171091,171060
I-318 Linen Khaki or D-316 Crystalline Pinky Green

If it helps some of the colors in the collection are: I-414 Yellow Ivory, M-870 Yoghurt, M-322 Khaki, M-240 Prussian Blue, M-546 Dark Purple, ME-302 Peacock, ME-930 Black Purple, S-226 Abyssal Blue & M-100 Black

Thanks lot!

This is SOOOOOO helpful! I know that I recently asked you what you meant by “Deep Crease” and I’ve spent more time lately studying your eye detail looks for certain palettes, so this tutorial here is super pertinent to my interests! 🙂

One question regarding the lower lash line: do you find/recommend different applications (color from light to dark on certain areas, or only applying under part of the eye, or not applying at all, etc.) based on eye shape or even age of the makeup wearer? I find that now that I’m older, that lining underneath my entire eye seems to close it up and make my eye appear much smaller. I sometimes use a much lighter shade below my inner lid and then gradually go darker as get to outer corner, as well as just applying lightly from the halfway point to outer corner, and no matter what I do, it seems that going without any lining under the lower lash line seems better. I smudge the color and use thin line too, as well as trying powder shadows instead of pencils, and still, same (disappointing) results. I’ve got somewhat deep set eyes, if that makes a difference.

Hey Kitty,

I’d say how dark or light you want to go is a lot of personal preference, which can be partially due to a particular eye shape or just your style or how much natural darkness you might have underneath your eyes (some don’t want to emphasize darkness at all). I usually find that having a brighter tearduct/inner corner and blending a bit toward the lower lash line helps take away “too much” darkness if I have a lot going on the lower lash line. Sometimes I’ll use the darkest color against the lower lash line and gradually fade it out with a mid-tone or even a shimmery shade.

Honestly, I’d experiment and figure out what you like or what works for you. If you have a very light lid and more mid-tones used in the crease, you may find a very smoky lower lash line totally works but that if you’re heavy on the lid and crease areas that an equally smoky lower lash line is too much (for your taste).

You could also try using a more flesh-toned shade on the waterline or lower lash line to create the illusion of more open eyes. My favorite way is really just highlighting the inner corner with something more sparkly/metallic. Have you tried just a brightening shade on the lower lash line and skipping dark/medium-toned liner?

No I haven’t tried a more brightening shade on lower lash line. What would be a good example color? I use lots of shimmer shades in eyeshadows, but unsure how light in color (or how sparkly) they would be to be a brightening shade.

In general, it’s kind of like brightening the under eye with concealer that’s a bit lighter and maybe peachier than your natural coloring – so if you are deep, you wouldn’t necessarily get a stark, shimmery white, you know? For me, I can use something like beige, gold, or peach and brighten quite a bit (I’m light to light-medium). Alternatively, if you do a pop of color on the lower lash line, you could use a lighter version of what you have on the lid – so maybe a pale or chartreuse green with a forest/smoky green look.

Got it! I’ll have to think about what I have to experiment with this idea. (Although I’ll probably end up just leaving the lower lash line alone. Fortunately, I’ve got long lashes there so mascara alone seems to work well.)

I was taught that tightlining is lining right at the roots of/in between lashes, and waterlining is lining the actual rims/waterline of the eyelids. They’re such different looks; I imagine it must cause a lot of confusion if people refer to both applications as waterlining.

Hey Rosalyn,

So from what I understand/been taught about tightlining is that it’s designed to focus on the gaps between lashes, which is effectively space where the upper lash line/lowest part of the lid meet the waterline but that most functional applications of tightlining tend to get a bit of product on the waterline and lash line. I can definitely add some clarity, though!

This diagram is SO helpful, Christine. Often, when looking at eye looks you’ve created, I get a bit confused about the 3 distinct crease areas and inner corner vs inner lid descriptions. This diagram clarifies it all so well. Mind you, I rarely wear more than 3 colours at any one time – that’s just me and my lifestyle/workplace, etc. I can’t imagine 8 different shades but nevertheless, this guideline is so excellent as a reference point.

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