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How to do your Eyeshadow with only Three Shades

Eyeshadow can elevate your look and set the tone for your appearance, but it can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start! I was a beginner once too, but hundreds of YouTube videos and hours of practice have helped me to develop my own framework as a guide. Following this framework, I like to think of a basic eyeshadow look as having three shades within a colour scheme.

The Framework

Firstly, I think of a base shade. I call this shade transition one. Transition one shades are the lightest of the three but are dark enough to show up on my skin tone. For example, a transition one shade for a neutral warm eyeshadow look could be a light beige/brown or a light orange shade. I apply transition one shades to my crease and the outer corner of my eye, using a fluffy blending brush to build the colour.  

Secondly, I think of a blender shade. I call this shade transition two. Transition two shades tie the first and final shades together. Transition two shades are similar to transition one shades, but slightly darker. Another option for transition two shades is to use the next colour on the colour wheel. For example, if my transition one shade is a light orange, my transition two shade could be a darker orange. Or, if my transition one shade is yellow, then my transition two shade could also be an orange. I apply transition two shades slightly below my crease and near the outer corner of my eye with a fluffy blending brush and to my eyelid using a dense brush. Then I blend the shades where they meet. 

Lastly, I have my final shade. The final shade is the star of the show. It can be a shimmery/glittery shade, or a dark or contrasting matte shade. For example, if transition one is a light orange, and transition two is a dark orange, then my final shade could be a red shade. If I am going for a warm neutral copper/gold look, then the final shade could be a shimmery copper or gold. This final shade should go onto your eyelid and cover any remaining space on your eye not yet covered by eyeshadow. It can also overlap the area where transition two was applied. Use previously used brushes to blend the final shade and make the look appear seamless. 

A good way to think of this look is like a gradient. You go from lightest to darkest (or to special shades like glitters). The lightest part of the gradient is near your brow bone and the darkest shades are on your eyelid and lash line. However, you do not need to use three shades or go from light to dark — this framework is not meant to box your creativity, but to give you a starting point.    

[bf_image id="q7k105-4367c8-8es4hf"] Why This Framework is Flexible

In this framework, I stayed in the same colour aesthetic and created a “gradient.” Gradients can consist of many colours; thus, this framework can lead you to more complex looks. To achieve more complex looks, you can use more than three shades. Don’t know how? Think of the shades you used. If there are colours in between these colours, you can use them in the order you would see in a gradient. 

Or, you can use less than three shades. If your transition one and transition two shades are so similar that you can’t tell the difference between them, then one might not be worth using.

Ultimately, you should first focus on a few shades and a simpler design. When you’re ready, you can expand the range of shades you use to create more depth. I created this three-colour framework as baseline for when you don’t know where to start, but there are many ways to do makeup. My method may not work for you, and that’s okay. This method is just a guide. Sometimes I deviate from it completely, while other times I adhere to it strictly. Remember that makeup is all about finding what works for you and about maximizing it once you do. 


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Bashira Tahiya

U Ottawa '25

Bashira is a first year student studying marketing. She loves talking about beauty, social issues and wellness. It's only her first year on Her Campus, but she already loves it!
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