What’s your go-to tool & technique for applying contour?

I’ve been using Hakuhodo G511 lately, but I don’t know if I’ve really settled on a go-to overall. I’ll alternate between that (which is more of a foot-shaped, angled brush) and a fan brush (MAC 184).
For application, I dip lightly into the powder and then gently sweep into the area I’m shading, and then I use soft sweeping motions outward to diffuse the edges.

— Christine
We hope you'll consider supporting Temptalia by shopping through our links below. Thanks!

Compare Any Two Swatches

Curious how two shades compare to each other? Type in the shades below to get instant side-by-side swatches!

We hope you'll consider supporting Temptalia by shopping through our links below. Thanks!


Comments that do not adhere to our comment policy may be removed. Discussion and debate are highly encouraged but we expect community members to participate respectfully. Please keep discussion on-topic, and if you have general feedback, a product review request, an off-topic question, or need technical support, please contact us!

Please help us streamline the comments' section and be more efficient: double-check the post above for more basic information like pricing, availability, and so on to make sure your question wasn't answered already. Comments alerting us to typos or small errors in the post are appreciated (!) but will typically be removed after errors are fixed (unless a response is needed).

We appreciate enthusiasm for new releases but ask readers to please hold questions regarding if/when a review will be posted as we can't commit to or guarantee product reviews. We don't want to set expectations and then disappoint readers as even products that are swatched don't always end up being reviewed due to time constraints and changes in priorities! Thank you for understanding!

Comments on this post are closed.

I sometimes skip contour altogether (and I don’t really bronze at all), but if I’m applying a contour color, I either use my Eco Tools tapered blush brush (while pinching the brush to flatten it) or my Elf flat contour brush (that more dense, thin, flat-top brush). I usually go with the Eco Tools since I already use it for blush. I just apply contour, then wipe the brush off, then apply blush after.

I’m in love with the Elf blush brush for contouring. It’s fluffy and narrow at the end so it picks up the perfect amount of product. It surprised me because I have purchased other expensive contour brushes but I keep coming back to this one.

There’s probably as many ways to contour as there are faces. If the objective of contouring is to create optical illusions, then it takes some thought and practice regarding which products to apply where and what brushes will do the best job. In other words and in my opinion, there’s no one product or one brush that will suit everyone’s needs. Because I’m not going on stage or walking the red carpet, figuratively speaking, I contour only where it benefits me and with a shade that’s best for my complexion. Having said all that, I use 1 brush or BB to apply creams and 2-3 brushes to apply powders. And, Dustin Hunter, if you’re reading here, I wish I were as talented as you are so I could contour my cheeks with the palms of my hands. You are the master of KISS (keep it simple stupid)!

Power contouring: no real “go-to” tool (any brush, angled or round that allows me to place powder on the edge of the hair/bristles.) My “go-to” technique is to place the product right under the cheekbone, mid-face to almost outer eye corner, then I buff it in. Sometimes I use only highlighter and contour (vs. H + C + blush), especially if I use a powder contour like a bronzer.

Cream contouring: if I am applying a deep, cream contouring (under my foundation), then I use a contouring stick or darker cream foundation (pan), applying the latter with my index or middle finger, and the blending in either with a dense, round foundation brush (or what I prefer to use as a foundation brush, like Zoeva’s 102 Silk Finish, Kiko’s prior black brush line [when they had a very densely packed flat round brush similar to Face 05 but with rounded hairs that I modified and made the bristles shorter by pushing it further into the ferrule when it fell out, of which I was so glad].)

I use a technique that I was taught in a theatrical makeup class, modified for everyday street wear. The technique relies on principals of light & shadow, as well as likely light source(s). Obviously I use different products & intensities, but placement is pretty much the same. It may seem a bit complex, and does take a bit longer to execute than what is typically seen on Social Media, but the end result is worth it.

With powders, I take a large fan brush by Sonia Kashuk, and starting from the ear, apply product just below the actual cheekbone, stopping where the fleshy “apple” of the cheek begins. Because I’m using a duo-fiber fan brush, I often have to go over this line a few times to build up to desired intensity. I then gradually blend product for a gradient *downward*, stopping at the natural “hollow”. Going lower and/or with a uniform intensity is what typically causes a “muddied” effect. With creams, I do the same technique, but use a Royal SG850 paint brush.

To get the best end result, I follow up with a “natural” highlight, using matte products, a flat concealer brush for creams, and an angled blush brush for powders. I apply product just touching the top of the contour line, blending the gradient upward, stopping at the eye socket. Again, product should not go further inward than the outer corner of the eye.

I will often intensify my highlight with a more intense product, placing that just on/around the eye socket. Blush can then be placed on the “apples” of the cheeks, and/or bronzer lightly to the higher planes of the face.

Again, this seems complicated & time consuming, but I’ve been doing it for so long, it doesn’t take any more effort than applying my lip products. Also, some minor tweaks & adjustments may be necessary if I’m going in with blush and bronzer, but the basic techniques are the same.

Finally, 2 things to keep in mind: while IG/YT makeup looks great on camera, noone walks around with a ring light all day-light comes from above. Also, never do the “fishy face”, as that may cause contour product to be placed too low on the face.

I also want to add that I don’t look for “highly pigmented” products for contouring. The end result should be apparent, but actual product shouldn’t be obvious.

While i do still love how perfectly my old, trusty e.l.f. Angled Contour brush works, there is just something about the Lisa Frank angled brush that I received from Ipsy that I love even more. The LF brush disperses the contouring product in a less harsh, more gently diffused application, so it just looks more realistic and softer.

Oh crud, I forgot to add technique! Okay, so I sweep the contour from where my cheekbones begin just above my ear (yes, they really are that high!) moving the product in a gradient, darker to lighter, inwards to where it lines up with my pupil of my eye. Then, I blend it gently upwards to soften any harsh lines or heaviness. I apply my blush afterwards, meshing them together where they meet. This gives a gentler effect than the general IG heavy handed application techniques!

If I contour at all, I usually just use the Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder with the Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt brush. Usually it’s only to emphasize my cheekbones, but sometime, when I’m feeling self-conscious, I go just under my jawline to define that as the weight gain from this illness has given me some pudge there.

We try to approve comments within 24 hours (and reply to them within 72 hours) but can sometimes get behind and appreciate your patience! 🙂 If you have general feedback, product review requests, off-topic questions, or need technical support, please contact us directly. Thank you for your patience!