Your Definitive Guide to the Best Eyeshadow Palettes

Let’s just say it: makeup is hard. From finding the right shade, to picking the right type for your skin type and tone, makeup is a total challenge––especially for those of us who are unsure of what looks best on us. Eyeshadow, in particular, has the ability to take your look to the next level, accentuate your beautiful eye color, or stand out for all the wrong reasons.

When watching YouTube tutorials or stalking your favorite celeb’s Insta (we’re looking at you, Kylie) you can get overwhelmed with how many makeup options are out there. Plus, determining what’s worth an investment––since makeup can be hella expensive––is tough. But, thankfully, we’ve got you covered when it comes to rocking eyeshadow and buying the perfect palette. We talked to girls who are passionate about their palettes, and experts like Hasblady Guzman, a celebrity hairstylist and beautician at Bokaos AVEDA in Pasadena, and Margina Dennis, a celebrity makeup artist who has worked with stars like Tom Brady and Petra Nemcova, to fill you in.

The palettes worth the price tag 

1. Petal Essence Eye Color Trio by AVEDA, $27

Guzman uses these versatile palettes (there are 12 color combos) to create her eyeshadow looks on clients. She uses Sweet Grass for more earthy shadow looks, Aqua Pearl for turquoise and yellow colors, and Copper Haze for warm, brown colors. She says she also “love[s] using Golden Jasper” too for a more neutral look

She also has tips for perfecting an eyeshadow look when you’re just starting out. She says to make sure you’re “illuminating below the bone of the eyebrow and focus on the crease of the eye.”

And, don’t forget about the eyebrows. Guzman likes to use the Sepia by AVEDA eyebrow pencil to accent eyeshadow with a strong, filled in brow.

2. Jaclyn Hill Morphe Palette, $38

This palette features 35 unique colors from your basic nudes to a deep purple and a turquoise statement color. Hill, a professional makeup artist and YouTube star known for her makeup videos, collaborated with Morphe for the palette for two years before it eventually launched. Hill herself showcases the shades on the Morphe website and tells the fun story of how the palette came to be.

“It’s is a bit on the pricey side but still a lot cheaper than some of the popular palettes,” says Meghan Shaffer, a sophomore at Holy Cross. “There’s a huge range of shades and they’re all super high quality and pigmented.”

The palette includes matte, satin, shimmer and glitter colors to give you versatility and options for the office or classroom setting to a night out. Bonus: the names of the shades are fun too; Pukey, Obsessed, and Pool Party are just a few.

3. Urban Decay Naked Palette, $54

This famously neutral palette is beloved by many makeup gurus and was so successful that it sparked the Naked 2 and Naked 3 palettes. The shades have bronze tones in them and range from “Virgin” off-white to “Gunmetal” silver. The neutral matte colors are perfect for blending shades and for taking daytime looks into the night. The palette has fewer shades than the Jaclyn Hill X Morphe collab, with 12 in total, but the kit includes a dual-ended brush for seamless application.

The versatility of the neutral colors also means that it’s perfect for almost any skin tone.

“The Naked palette from Urban Decay is amazing! It's nude and shows up on all skin tones!” says Náosha Gregg a student at CUNY Kingsborough.

And, if you’re just learning how to use eyeshadow, buying a palette with neutral colors is a great way to dip your toes in before experimenting with more dramatic shades.

“One of the first eye shadow palettes I ever bought was the Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette,” says Makena Gera, a freshman at Marist College. “I bought it because every beauty blogger or YouTuber I could find swore by it, and almost five years later I still absolutely love it. It's a perfect start for any makeup collection because it's all basic, neutral colors, and they work so well. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is just starting to use makeup and also anyone who loves a really good quality palette. It's only a bit more expensive than drugstore brands,but definitely worth the money!

4. Galaxy Palette by Fenty Beauty, $59

The public has celebrated singer Rihanna’s makeup line for its diversity in shades that are inclusive of all types of skin tones. The Galaxy Palette also packs a punch, with 14 bright, jewel-toned colors arranged in a diamond geometric pattern. The colors are more glittery than the above palettes, so if you’re looking for a neutral, subdued palette, this is definitely not the one for you. But, if you want to look like Rihanna on the red carpet, this might be the right first step. Fenty also released an image showing what the colors look like on different skin tones, and it’s safe to say it flatters them all.

The more *affordable* options 

1. Shea Moisture, $12.99 

These palettes are sold at drugstores and are recommended for a less expensive purchase by Margina Dennis. 

She says, "Shea Moisture has well-pigmented eyeshadows with organic ingredients."

The palettes range from $8-12, but individual colors can cost as little as $3.

Dennis also has application recommendations for beginners.

"I like to initially press and supple the shadow on the lid before blending to lessen fault out onto the the face," she says.

As for finding the right shade for your skin tones? She suggests the Vein Test to determine undertones.

"If your veins on the inside of your arm appear more blue you are cool, [if they are] green, you are more cool," she says. "Palettes with colors that are more purple, blue, pink and cool browns are more cool. Warm browns, olive greens, and warm rises are more warm."

2. ‘Nudes’ by Primark, $11.15

If you haven’t been to the amazing, affordable clothing/life superstore Primark (AKA the Forever 21 of the UK), then you are truly missing out. In addition to selling the best going out clothes for bargain prices and tons of tchotchkes that you know you don’t need, Primark’s beauty section is top-notch for affordable, yet stylish products.

A writer from Cosmo put it best when she said, “I had to double check that Kim Kardashian herself hadn't sent me a surprise package.”

The palette has 28 colors including a to-die-for shimmery rose gold number. And the best part? The palette is a part of a Primark Nude collection including makeup products for the rest of the face to round out your full look for the fraction of the price. Okay, the real best part? You can say you got your eyeshadow from England because technically, you did.

3. Beauty Brick Eyeshadow Collection by L.A. Girl, $10

L.A. Girl offers buyers four distinct different palettes for the low price of $10 each. The “Nudes” palette bears much similarity to Naked both in packaging and in shades, with 10 in total ranging from off-white to a dark brown.

The “Smoky” collection definitely caters more toward a strong night look, with deep blues, grays, and black.

The “Neons” collection is a super fun combination of eye shadows that brings you back to trends of the ‘80s but with a modern twist. The palette includes neutrals like silver and black to balance out the other colors, like bright orange and emerald green.

The “Ultra” palette offers a variety of shades in the pink and purple families, with some neutral colors to break it up. If you like to experiment with different shades based on your look, but aren’t interested in venturing much outside of your go-to colors, this palette might be perfect for you.

All of the L.A. Girl palettes include a brush for application and are available at places like Ulta and Walmart.

4. 88 Matte Eye shadow Palette by BH Cosmetics, $9

This palette is perfect for those of us who hate deciding on one color to stick with or who like to switch up their looks fairly frequently. Yes, there are 88(!) shades in this palette and it includes ALL colors of the rainbow. The individual colors are smaller than other palettes, but the variety is extreme. The palette also includes a mirror for on-the-go makeup application, and two double-ended brushes.

5. Colourpop Palettes, $12-$20

Eyeshadow palettes by Colourpop come in all shades of colors-from neutral palettes for daytime like Double Entendre to dramatic nights out with Dream St. The pressed powder palettes feature 12 shades, while there are also smaller collections with 4 shades, like Vacation Mode and No Biggie

Even though the eyeshadow world can seem daunting (who knew you could put so many different colors on such a small area?) there are palettes that are the right fit for your needs, whether you’re a makeup maven or you’re just starting out. Take the time to read reviews or try out samples in the store before committing to purchasing an eyeshadow palette––especially if it’s a more expensive one. On Instagram or Youtube, applying makeup can look so easy, but it’s important to remember that there will probably be some trial and error when trying out a new palette.

Now it’s time to channel your inner makeup artist!