Wednesday 29 July 2015

How To: Contour and Highlight Like a Pro

Ah the elusive art of contouring. Something that has been around for many, many years behind the scenes at fashion shows but has only really become popular in the wider mainstream of beauty in the last few years. Though its difficult to know exactly where the makeup technique started, it is generally credited to Kevyn Aucion, an American makeup artist to the stars who worked with nearly every A-lister imaginable. He was described as having "invented cheekbones" after he started using his revolutionary makeup technique and the art of defining features seems to have continued from there on.

Fast forward to recent years and everyone is all about contouring, from your little sister to your gran. But how on earth do you do it?! In this guide, I'm going to teach you how to contour and also show just how it can change the shape of your face and enhance your bone structure. In order to do that, I'm afraid I'm going to have to provide you all with some rather questionable and at some times downright scary pictures of my face so...bear with me!

First things first, what do you need? There are so many contour palettes these days as well as contour sticks, highlighter pens, bronzer / highlighter duos etc that it can be hard to know what to choose. In simple terms, all you need is a product that is a couple of shades darker than your natural skin tone and another that is a couple of shades lighter. Personally I prefer products that are matte and have a more ash tone as these tend to look more natural on me but it's really up to you what colours you choose.

One thing I will say is that if you aren't really familiar with contouring but want to give it a go, there is absolutely no need to spend huge amounts of money on the contour specific products. In fact, if you have a matte brown eyeshadow and a light creamy eyeshadow, you don't have to spend any money at all to give it a try.

My palette of choice was a cheeky eBay bargain that I bought to initially try contouring. I've since tried other various contouring tools but genuinely find this one the easiest to use plus the price keeps my bank balance happy so it's a win-win! There's a range of colours for contouring as well as a couple of colour correctors which is an added bonus. In this tutorial I'm going to use the cream highlighter (top row, 2nd in from the left) and the darkest shade in the bottom right corner. I then use a Cargo Bronzer and Rimmel Stay Matte powder to set it.

Here's where the scary stuff starts! Below is a slightly terrifying close up of my face to show my starting point. We can use these as a reference to compare with the ones after I have contoured to help see the difference it can make.
Next up is knowing exactly where to contour. Below is a picture of where I place my contour and highlight which you can use as a general guide. Please excuse the ridiculous face I am pulling but I was trying to show where all of the makeup was added! 

As you can see, I place the darker colour at my temples, either side of my chin and nose, along the bottom of my jaw and in the hollow of my cheeks. To find the right part of your cheeks, do your best trout pout impression and tap the colour from your hairline outwards, following the dip underneath your cheekbone. However, be sure to not bring your contour any further than the middle of your pupil.

The highlighter is then placed under the eyes, across the top of your cheekbones, the center of the chin, nose and forehead and above the centre of your lips.

The next step is blending and this might actually be one of the most important parts! Leave an unblended line across your face and you look less like you have the bone structure of a goddess and more like someone playing army dress up. So...yeah...get blending!

Since I use cream based contour products I like to use a fairly sturdy brush to blend such as the Real Techniques Stippling brush but if you use powders, you can use a softer blending brush. Again this is personal preference so see what tools make it easiest for you and roll with it. I tend to blend in the highlighted areas, then the contoured areas and then a general blend between each section to ease the transition between the colours. Finish off by gently brushing over a little bronzer on the contoured areas and a translucent (or skin toned) powder across the highlighted areas to set.

And here is the finished product!
When comparing to the previous image, you can see that my cheekbones look much more defined, as is my jaw line which gives the impression of being a little thinner (thank the lord!) and my nose has been slimmed down. The highlighted areas around my eyes gives a brighter and healthier look to my face and my top lip looks fuller.

The wonderful thing about contouring is that it can be adapted to any face shape and for any features. Once you've mastered the basics, there is nothing stopping you from using contouring and highlighting in different ways till you find what you like best. All you have to remember is that contouring can be used to reduce features and highlighting makes them more prominent. So if, like me you would like to give the illusion of a slimmer nose, add a little more contouring along the sides. Or if you feel you have quite a rounded face and would like to make it appear more angular, use more countouring along the sides of your face and really accentuate your cheekbones. To give you an idea of how it works, below is a handy little image of different ways to tweak contouring based on your face shape.

While it's certianly not something I would do every day, it's a great way to enhance your look for a big event and I am quite a fan! What do you think of contouring? Are you just getting on board or are you a contouring pro? What is your favourite contouring product to use? Leave me a comment to let me know!


  1. Replies
    1. Really glad you found it useful, have you tried contouring before? Thank you for stopping by!

  2. This is literally the best written out contouring tutorial I have ever read. *applauds* Really useful. What did you type in to find the palette, I'm really interested now.


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