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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Parker

The Foundations of Makeup: Mastering Corrective Makeup Techniques for Different Eye Shapes

Woman in hospital cap with lines around eyes for eye lift surgery

Makeup artistry is more than just the application of cosmetic products to the face. A skilled makeup artist will use clever techniques to manipulate the appearance of their client's features, by creating visual 'illusions'. This may include using eyeliner to alter eye shapes, shading to hide imperfections or create depth, highlighting to draw attention to areas or make features look fuller, or using colour theory to hide skin issues or make eye colours 'pop'.

This blog focuses on common eye shapes, and the makeup illusions that can be employed to strategically correct the appearance of eye 'problems'. We use this term loosely, as beauty is subjective, and what appears to be problematic to one person may be admired by another. Let's get started!


Large/Prominent Eyes

Celebrity Example: Emma Stone

Prominent eyes are larger than usual and can be'bulgy' in appearance. Sometimes, the whites of the eyes will show underneath the iris (the coloured disc in the eyes), further enhancing the large look of the eyes. The goal is to use makeup to minimise the appearance of the eyes so they look more proportionate and less bulgy.

Woman with large, prominent, bulgy eyes

What Not to Do:

  • Avoid using very light or shimmery eyeshadows on the lids, as they can make the eyes appear even larger.

  • Avoid 'pulling' eyeshadow outwards at the corners of the eyes (such as in a 'cat eye' shape), as this will add more visual bulk and length to the eye.

What to Do:

  • Use darker, matte shadows on the eyelid and blend well to create depth. Don't extend too far past the outer corners of the eyes.

  • Apply a thick pencil eyeliner to the upper lash line and smudge to soften. This will make the upper lid appear smaller. Also apply a line of pencil under the eye and in the waterlines. Eyeliner applied all the way around the eye will close the eye in and have a minimising effect.

  • You can use the smoky eye technique to help minimise the eyes. For a step-by-step guide, check out our smoky eye tutorial on our Melbourne website.

Woman with large eyes wearing makeup
INCORRECT: In this example, the light and shimmery eyeshadows draw attention to her large eyelids and increase the roundness and bulginess of the eyes. Instead, try dark and matte eyeshadow colours with a thick smudged pencil eyeliner to minimise, 'close in' and make the eyes visually recede instead of protrude.

Small Eyes

Celebrity Examples: Kristen Stewart and Megan Fox

Small eyes can have a 'beady' appearance. The goal is to use specific makeup techniques to visually enlarge and 'open' the eyes, creating more proportion to the overall face.

Close up of young woman with small eyes

What Not to Do:

  • Avoid dark colours all over the lid as they can make the eyes appear smaller.

  • Stay away from heavy eyeliner all around the eye.

What to Do:

  • Utilise light, reflective eyeshadows on the lid to open up the eyes.

  • Highlight at the tear ducts with shimmery or glittery shadows.

  • For extremely small eyes, use a white/cream coloured eyeliner on the lower waterline to give the appearance of larger whites of the eyes.

  • Use eyeliner on the upper lashline rather than the lower. Pull it out at the ends in a wing to increase the visual length of the eye. Note: A wing may not be possible if you have hooded eyes.

  • You can also try starting your eyeliner about halfway along, just after the height of the eye peaks and then starts to drop away. Start thin to blend the line into the natural lash line, and then thicken as you go along, finishing in a lengthening wing.

  • Curl your lashes to open the eyes, and apply mascara generously to both the upper and lower lashes.

Close up of woman's eyes with beautiful makeup
CORRECT: Extending the eyeliner and lashes at the outer corners of the eyes increases the perceived size of the eyes. Using light to medium colour eyeshadows and not heavily lining the under eyes also helps. A pale cream or white eyeliner inside the lower waterline opens up the eyes and gives the illusion of larger whites of the eye.


Wide Set Eyes

Celebrity Example: Anya Taylor-Joy

Wide set eyes appear a little 'too far' apart. The space between the eyes is generally larger than the length of one eye. The goal is to visually reduce that distance to 'pull' the eyes closer together.

Woman with wide-set eyes and red lipstick, with nose ring

What Not to Do:

  • Refrain from pulling eyeshdow outwards at the outer corners of the eyes, as this can make them appear even further apart.

  • Avoid using light colour eyeshadow or highlighters on the inner corners of the eyes and at the tear ducts. This visually pushes the eyes apart more.

What to Do:

  • Reverse what you would normally do with eyeshadow. Concentrate darker eyeshadow on the inner corners of the eyes to draw attention inward and visually decrease the distance between the two eyes.

  • Blend the darker shadow out towards the middle of the lid.

  • Opt for a medium shade on the outer third of the eyes and be sure not to pull it outwards past the ends of the eyes.

  • Instead of using a highlighter at the inner corners of the eyes, place it at the outer corners of the eyes and blend into the medium shade.

  • Extend your eyebrows slightly at the start (the parts above your nose). This will give the illusion of your eyes being closer together.

Dark skinned woman with wide-set eyes wearing winged eyeliner and lip gloss
INCORRECT: In this example, a winged eyeliner extending past the outer corners of the eyes has made them look even further apart. Instead, stop your eyeliner and eyeshadow where the eye finishes or just before, and no further. Place the darker shadow near the nose and save the lighter shades for the outer corners. Also, pencil your brows so they sit closer together.


Close Set Eyes

Celebrity Example: Sarah-Jessica Parker

Close set eyes feel a little 'too close' together. They generally have a space between them that is less than the length of one eye. The goal is to use lighter colours near the nose and to extend makeup out past the ends of the eyes to visually 'push' the eyes further apart.

woman with close set eyes looking skyward

What Not to Do:

  • Don’t apply dark shadow close to the inner corners nearest the nose, as this will visually bring the eyes closer together.

  • Avoid thick eyeliner all around the eye; it can emphasise proximity.

What to Do:

  • Use light, shimmery shades on the inner corners near the tear ducts, to visually push the eyes apart and create the illusion of wider set eyes.

  • Use light to mid tones of eyeshadow through the centre of the eyelids.

  • Apply darker shades to the outer third of the eyelid and extend beyond the outer corners.

  • A 'cat eye' eyeshadow and eyeliner shape is perfect for elongating the eyes .

  • Extend the tails of the brows slightly.

  • Curl the eyelashes and apply mascra, focusing it on the outer lashes. Use the mascara wand to pull the lashes outwards and upwards (away from the nose) to amplify the illusion that the eyes are further apart.

Asian woman with winged eyeliner and red lipstick
INCORRECT: A heavy eyeliner right into the tear ducts emphasises the small distance between the eyes, while not extending it outwards into a longer wing is a missed opportunity to extend the eyes and move them further apart. This woman would also benefit from highlighter at her tear ducts, and darker shadow at the outer corners in a 'cat eye' shape.


Deep Set Eyes

Celebrity Example: Cameron Diaz

Deep set eyes tend to have an exaggerated crease and eyes that seems to 'sink' into the sockets. The goal is to use highlighting and shading principles correctly to ensure you don't visually sink the eyes deeper.

Close up of middle aged woman with deep set hooded eyes

What Not to Do:

  • Avoid dark colours especially in the crease, as this can make the eyes look more sunken.

  • Don't use a smoky eye technique unless it is done in light, shimmery colours. A dark smoky eye will visually receed, sinking the eye sockets further.

  • Don't apply highlighter under the brow bones as it will visually bring that area forwards, which will naturally make the crease of the eye below look deeper by default. Use a matte, neutral, skin coloured tone here instead.

What to Do:

  • Choose light to medium eyeshadows to create the illusion of more open eyes that are 'coming forwards'. To learn more about how dark and light colours affect the appearance of our features, check out our blog: Confessions of a Makeup Artist - 5 Makeup Rules I Wish I Knew As a Beginner

  • Focus on curling the lashes and applying mascara to open up the eye area.

  • Use a thin line of eyeliner.

  • If you wish to use darker eyeshadows, use them to line the lower lashline.

Close up of older woman's deep set eyes with dark eyeshadow
INCORRECT: Using dark eyeshadows, especially in the crease, only pushes the eyes further back and makes them appear more sunken. Highlighting under the brow bone visually brings it forwards, making it 'stick out' even further. By creating this lightened brow bone contrasted against a darkened crease, this woman has only accentuated the deepness of her eye sockets.


Normal Eyes

Celebrity Example: Kate Middleton

Normal eyes are almond shaped, and are considered 'normal' as they don't have any obvious characteristics that stand out. They are balanced, of a proportionate size and don't require any special techniques to enhance their appearance.

close up of young woman with almond shaped eyes and minimal makeup

What Not to Do:

  • There are no specific limitations with normal eyes as they appear perfectly balanced and proportionate.

What to Do:

  • Experiment with various techniques and shades since your eye shape provides a versatile canvas.

  • Classic looks like winged eyeliner work beautifully, and you can wear your eyeshadow in any style, eg. a colour wash, a classic 3-toned look, a dramatic cut crease, or a smoky style.

Stay tuned for a detailed blog on the 3-toned classic eyeshadow technique coming soon!

woman with headscarf and winged eyeliner with fluffy eyebrows


Hooded Eyes

Celebrity Examples: Blake Lively and Jennifer Lawrence

Hooded eyes have a 'heavy' upper lid which hangs down over the mobile lid (the part of the lid that moves when you open and close your eyes). This can either partially or completely hide the lower mobile lid. The goal is to avoid emphasising this heavy upper lid and not to waste time with intricate eyeshadow work or winged eyeliner on the mobile lid. As soon as the eyes are opened, any makeup here will become hidden.

asian woman with hooded eyes and coral coloured makeup

What Not to Do:

  • Avoid thick eyeliner on the upper lash line; it can make the lid appear more hooded.

  • Avoid dark eyeshadow on the mobile lid, especially if it stops short at or below the crease.

What to Do:

  • Use a lighter shade on the lid and a darker shade on the outer corner to create dimension.

  • Focus on defining the lash line with thin, precise eyeliner. Or, tightline the upper lash line by applying kohl pencil underneath the lashes insted of on top.

  • If you use choose to use dark colours all over the entire eyelid, such as in a smoky eye technique, be sure to bring the eyeshadow up and over the crease and blend away into nothing (see example below).

  • In fact, blend ALL eyeshadow out and upwards to counter the hooded effect.

  • If you wish to add colour or shimmer into your makeup design, do this under the eye instead of on top. Any 'fancy' eyeshadow work you do on top will just disappear under the hood when you open your eye.

Asian woman's hooded eyes close up with thick eyeliner
CORRECT: When doing a smoky eye technique on hooded eyes, be sure to bring the colour up and over the hood, especially at the outer corners. Use the under eye area to add more interest with liner and eyeshadow. Keep the eyeliner on top thin (or tightline under the lashes) to show as much skin on the mobile eyelid as possible. If the liner is too thick, it disappears under the hood and accentuates it.


Downturned Eyes

Celebrity Examples: Anne Hathaway and Katie Holmes

Downturned eyes tend to 'droop' at the outer corners and can result in a 'sad' appearance to the eyes. The goal is to create the illusion of lifted eyes.

Woman in burka with downturned eye shape and minimal makeup

What Not to Do:

  • Avoid eyeliner that follows the whole length of the natural line of the upper eye lid. You will only accentuate the droopiness.

  • Refrain from too much shadow on the lower outer lash line as it can drag the eyes further down.

What to Do:

  • Focus on uplifting eyeshadow shapes, such as a cat-eye, to give a lifted appearance.

  • Stop makeup a few millimetres short of the outer corners of the eye. This includes eyeshadow, eye liner and false lashes too.

  • Create a 'triangle' shape with your eyeliner that 'lifts' the eye line. Stay tuned for a blog soon on 'The Magic Place on the Eye'. This will explain in more depth where to cut your eyeliner short.

  • Lighten the inner corners of the eyes and avoid putting too much dark shadow on the outer lower corner. It will only bring the eyes down more.

  • If you wish to line the lower lash line with a dark eyeshadow, smoke it out and up towards the eyebrow tail, creating 'lift'.

Model with bright blue bobbed wig and downturned eyes
INCORRECT: Applying liner all the way along the upper lid has resulted in accentuating the downwards appearance of this lady's eyes. Instead, stop the liner a few millimetres short where the lower lash line intersects it, before it 'droops'.

Round Eyes

Celebrity Examples: Zooey Deschanel and Mila Kunis

Round eyes have an overly circular appearance. The goal is to extend the length and reduce the height of the eyes, into more of an almond shape.

Close up of woman's round shaped eyes with mascara on

What Not to Do:

  • Avoid heavy shadow all around the eye, which can make them appear even rounder.

  • Stay away from thick, dark eyeliner all around.

  • Never highlight the ball of the eyelid (the part of the mobile eyelid with the round eyeball sitting underneath it).

What to Do:

  • Use a medium to dark matte eyeshadow colour on the middle of the mobile eyelid (the 'ball'), as this will reduce the round appearance.

  • Apply lighter and shimmery shades of eyeshadow at the inner corners of the eyes.

  • Blend eyeshadow outwards to add an almond-shaped illusion to the eyes.

  • Use eyeliner to elongate the eye. Applying a winged liner can help to accentuate your eyes while subtly altering the eye shape.

  • A smoky eye can be effective if extended outwards and a lighter colour is used at the inner corners—learn how to perfect it with our smoky eye tutorial.

  • If applying false lashes, use a set with emphasis on the outer corners, or use individual lashes to the outside eyes only.

Woman with cropped blonde hair and minimal makeup
INCORRECT: Applying mascara all the way around the eyes, and having lashes that are longer in the centre of the upper lash line, has increased the roundness of this lady's eyes. Instead, focus mascara and false lashes at the outer corners of the eyes only.


Eyes With More Than One Predominent Shape

Sometimes, a person's eye shape will fall into 2 or more categories. For example, small eyes can also be close-set, which both generally benefit from lighter eyeshadows near the tear duct and on the mobile lid. Prominent eyes can also be wide-set, which both benefit from darker eyeshadows that don't extend past the outer corner of the eyes. Deep set eyes are often hooded as well, and both of these eye types benefit from lighter eyeshadows on the mobile lid and don't need a darker colour in their crease.  If you are unsure of what to do in this situation, identify which eye type you feel needs correcting the most, and follow the rules for that particular eye shape.

Woman with diamonds in a row under her eyes
These eyes are both small and hooded, making light coloured eyeshadows a must! I would only use light to medium toned shadows, and pull them outwards at the corners. Highlighter at the tear ducts would open the eyes and avoiding eyeliner all along the lower lash line would prevent the eyes from being closed in. A winged eyeliner is great to make small eyes look larger, but usually doesn't work well on hooded eyes such as these. However, you could use a medium toned eyeshadow under the outer 1/3 of the eye as a a liner, and extend this outwards to meet the eyeshadow above. The eyeliner on top should be kept razor thin so as not to accentuate the hood.
middle aged woman smiling
This woman's eyes are a mix of deep-set, close-set, small sized and hooded. I would approach her eyes with a smoky style eyeshadow placement, but in a warm, medium matte shade. I would bring the eyeshadow up and over her hoods, and smoke them upwards and outwards to create lift and distance between the eyes. A highlighter at the tear ducts will open the eyes and help push them further apart. And I would avoid eyeliner all the way under the eye as it would only close them in. The brows also need their tails extended slightly to further help pull the eyes apart.
woman with large round eyes with winged eyeliner and matte dark red lipstick
In this example, her eyes are both round in shape and large/prominent in size. She has used a winged eyeliner to soften the roundness of her eyes, but would also benefit from a darker eyeshadow especially on the 'ball' of her upper eyelid. Usually you would apply a lighter colour at the tear ducts for round eyes, but light colours accentuate prominent eyes. So I would skip this step for this particular person. Because her eyes are prominent, I would also line the lower lash line in full, including the inner rim (waterline), to help close the eyes in. A dark, smoky eyeshadow technique would be perfect.

Now You Have Mastered Makeup Techniques for Different Eye Shapes!

Knowing how to apply the right makeup techniques for different eye shapes can profoundly enhance your overall makeup look. Armed with these professional tips, you can avoid the pitfalls of makeup novices and elevate your makeup game. For further detailed tutorials and makeup guides, stay tuned to our blogs on both and as we grow our blog library weekly.


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