“Contouring is simply creating shape and emphasizing shadows on the face,” explains celebrity makeup artist Danielle Lewis. “Contouring creates shadows where they naturally fall, which creates a slimming affect. Contouring is the first step of a two-step process. After you put those shadows into the face, you still want to add light and that’s where highlighting comes in.”
“Step one of contouring is getting a cream or matte powder that is one to two shades deeper than your complexion,” says Lewis. She also advises that contouring with a cream can be more advanced. “When you want something more subtle that’s not as sculpted, go with a powder.”
“The next step to contouring is to trace the area you want to shade in. You are essentially forming the number ‘3’ on each side of the face, starting on the outer perimeter of the forehead, down along the cheekbone, and then back out right below the jawbone. This creates the most natural contour where the face naturally has shadows,” says Lewis.
“The final step to contouring is to blend so there are no obvious lines on the face,” says Lewis. “You want the shadows to stay, but any harsh lines should go away.”
“I love an angled brush because it does the work for you,” says Lewis. “Use a brush with bristles that are soft but not too dense because the more tightly-packed the bristles, the more obvious the lines are going to be. A soft, fluffy angled brush is best,” says Lewis.
Your foundation can play double-duty when contouring. “If you already use a powder foundation, I would recommend purchasing a shade or two darker in that. Yes, there are contouring palettes, but it’s not necessary if you can get your hands on the same powder you use for your face in a shade or two deeper,” says Lewis.
Once the contouring is added on the face, be sure to add highlights, too, says Lewis. “Highlighting brings light into the face where it naturally falls. We have light in the middle of the forehead, down the bridge of the nose, under the eyes and on the chin. For highlighting, you should use one shade brighter than your foundation.”
Choosing the wrong makeup shades is the biggest mistake that happens when contouring, says Lewis. “Using products that are too light or dark and not blending them properly are where people tend to go wrong with contouring and highlighting. Makeup is supposed to mimic what happens naturally.”
If you make minor mistakes while contouring or highlighting, don’t panic because it is fixable. “Keep the foundation shade for your natural skin tone handy, because you can use it to correct any areas if you see a mistake with your contour or highlight,” says Lewis.
When you’re finished applying your contour and highlight, go over the face once more just to ensure all harsh lines have disappeared. “Even if you have the perfect shade of product and perfect placement, if it’s not blended well and I can see lines on the face, it’s all wrong. Your finished result should always look as natural as possible.”
Danielle Lewis is a celebrity makeup artist whose clients include celebrities including Angie Stone, Stacey Kiebler and Syleena Johnson. Her work has been featured on ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox, Essence.com, in Sister 2 Sister Magazine, on runways during NYFW & in films. Follow her on Instagram.