Makeup Contouring Tutorial: A Beginner’s Guide

Posted on - Tuesday September 10, 2019

Contouring can help you enhance your facial features. By using skin shading that’s one step darker and one step lighter, you have the power to create high cheekbones or to create a slimming effect by adding shadows along your jawline.

In the before and after photo, you can see the beautiful results that you can achieve.

makeup contouring before and after

One of the best techniques to enhance your facial features is contouring. Although it can seem daunting at first, it’s actually easy to master, even if you’ve never tried it before. In addition, with contouring, you can bring out the best in your features. Use angular lines to create high cheekbones or create a slimming effect by adding shadows along your jawline.

If you’re an absolute beginner to the concept, here are the most important things to know about contouring.

Who Can Use Contouring?

Literally anyone can benefit from contouring. It doesn’t matter if you usually have a smooth and round face or if you have very sharp facial lines. Contouring can help you round out anything that you think is too sharp while also enhancing anything that you want to bring out even further.

Additionally, contouring has been used by plenty of people that have all sorts of makeup styles. Almost every celebrity uses some amount of contouring to bring out their facial features. You can see it in more subtle, gentle ways through old-time celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, or in more dazzling, obvious ways through drag shows.

How Does Contouring Help with My Makeup?

When you contour, you’re essentially shaping your face. The good thing is that because you already have your facial structure laid out before you, there’s not really any guesswork involved. Instead, it lifts your cheekbones and makes your face appear to have more depth and contrasts than it would if you were to use only one shade of foundation.

Remember that the amount of contouring you use can vary based upon how you want it to look. You don’t have to go all-out with your contour every day; subtle contour can be just as effective for your preferred look. Take this tutorial and use it as a base. Mold it to your liking so that you create your personal morning routine.

What Shades Should I Use?

You use three shades for your contour job: the color of your foundation, the shading color, and the highlight color. You may have to play around with the shading and highlight colors, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find just the right one.

Your foundation should be as close to your natural skin shade as possible. It can be tough to find that exact shade, so don’t be afraid to ask an experienced cosmetologist to help. Make sure it matches your skin undertone, either warm or cool so that it looks as natural as possible.

Your shading color should be one to two shades darker than your foundation. If you’re not sure what undertones or colors you should go with, remember that it should look like shadows on your face. Remember to utilize your own undertones when choosing this color, too.

Your highlighting color should then be one to two shades lighter than your foundation. Although it can be tempting, avoid sparkly or shiny highlighters, at least for everyday application. You can always add glitter once you’re finished.

Why Do I Start with Cream Products and End with Powder?

There are plenty of different ways to highlight and contour; some people prefer to use powder the whole way through, while others like the look of a liquid highlighter. This tutorial uses LIA’s True Skin Serum Concealer for highlighting and Fenty Beauty’s Match Stix Matte Skinstick for contouring because they provide an easy way for you to see exactly where you’re putting your products. That can make it easier for beginners to learn.

The finishing powder helps reduce shine and set the makeup. When you do your makeup with liquid products, it’s a good idea to use finishing powder to make sure that it looks as natural as possible. It also makes sure your contour doesn’t continue blending or bleed onto clothing as you go about your day.

How Do I Contour My Face?

The best way to learn contouring is just to start doing it. This tutorial can help you learn the basics and start contouring like a pro.


In the step-by-step tutorial, we’ll walk you through the process of how to contour, what products to use, and techniques you can try.

Step 1: Moisturize

makeup contouring tutorial

Always start by moisturizing your skin before you apply any makeup. Not only is it a smart anti-aging routine, but it’ll also keep your skin hydrated throughout the day. Here, we use Obagi Hydrate for dry skin.

Step 2: Apply Foundation

makeup contouring apply foundation

Use a liquid foundation all over your face to create a smooth and even base. Use a product that matches your skin tone, such as Radiance Awakening Foundation from Yves Saint Laurent. Be sure to blend well.

Step 3. Establish Highlights

makeup contouring apply foundation

In this step, you start to work with your facial structure to define areas that you want to highlight or bring forward. In this contouring application scheme, we created large blocks of a lighter tone starting below the eyes and extending to the midline of the cheekbones. We also highlighted the centerline of the nose, center of the brow, chin, and nose edges. LIA’s True Skin Serum Concealer gave us the strong coverage for a bright highlight.

Step 4. Build Shadows

contouring tutorial adding shadows

Now, add a darker tone directly next to the lighter tones. This contrast of highlights and shadows is what creates the illusion of shape. Add streaks along the hollows of the cheekbones, sides of the nose, jawline, and along the hairline. Here, we use Match Stix Matte Skinstick from Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty.

Step 5. Blend for a Smooth Skin Tone

contouring tutorial how to blend

Using a blender sponge, dab in small circles to create a smooth transition between your two colors. Work slowly, and be careful that you don’t overwork your blending. The goal is to create a smooth gradient without flattening out your highlights and shadows.

Step 6. Dust to Finish

contouring tutorial how to blend

Lock in your contouring using a Translucent Loose Setting Powder like this one from Laura Mercier. The lightweight finishing powder will reduce shine while setting your contouring gradients.

Now, you’re ready to finish the rest of your makeup, including eyes, lips, and brows. Don’t be afraid to use contrasts in your overall look. For example, high-gloss lips can complement your matte facial contouring.

contouring tutorial finished look

This contour makeup tutorial for beginners shows you just how easy it is to get the look of a professional makeup artist. If you’re ready to take your makeup skills to the next level, find out how you can go pro with the Esthetics Program from Ogle School, which can be completed in as little as six months.

About the Author
Jeff Chiarelli

Jeff Chiarelli

Jeff Chiarelli is the Head of Marketing for Ogle School. His responsibilities include leading Ogle School's marketing and branding strategy to amplify Ogle School's passion for helping create future beauty professionals in the communities Ogle School serves.