What The Kardashians Won't Tell You About Contouring

Let's not mince words: Most online contouring tutorials are utterly terrifying for the average person. Blending deep, dark smears of contour into icy, creamy white highlighter is not exactly what most of us want to take on when we're doing our makeup on a day-to-day basis — or ever. So. Much. Can. Go. Wrong. But that doesn't mean we're opposed to the idea of a little shading or highlighting to help our features stand out.

As you probably already know — thank you, Kardashian clan — contour and highlighter can totally change your face, but they don't have to. You can use your lightest concealer or a bit of highlighter to make your favorite features stand out, and lightly sculpt your face with a little foundation or bronzer that's darker than your skin tone. Translation: Don't fear the word "contour," because it's nothing more than an old art-class trick that you can use to your advantage in a way that suits you — even the contour virgins and beauty beginners out there.

Want to make your brows pop or frame that perfect bold lip color? Looking for a way to show off your cheekbones, or even make your legs look longer? We got you. Ahead, you'll find pared-down, illustrated guides that will show you exactly where to place your favorite makeup to subtly shade and brighten with ease.

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
The Arch Accent
Difficulty Level: 1

We know you love brows. And we do, too. But did you know that there's more to a statement set of arches than the right products and a vow to stop over-plucking? You can make your brows the focus by simply adding a little contrast in the right spots.

Grab a concealer a little lighter than your skin tone (it can have shimmer or not) and add a few dots above and below the outside half of your brows. Then, pat with your ring finger until blended. Add even more impact by topping with your favorite shimmery highlighter (best for night).
Try: Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer, $28, available at Sephora.
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
The Cheekbone Pop
Difficulty Level: 2

Adding a touch of contour in the hollows of your cheeks and a bit of highlighter on the tops of cheekbones is the fastest and easiest way to make everything go pop. Cheekbones look sculpted, skin retains a dewy glow that catches the light, and the eyes appear brighter. Consider this Contour 101.

This technique is easiest when done with powder, but you can use cream, too — just make sure to blend well. Apply your face makeup as you normally would, then suck in your cheeks and lightly dust contour, shimmer-free bronzer, or powder a shade darker than your skin tone in the hollows of your cheeks. Start slowly; you can always add more. Once you get the desired result, dust on a shimmery highlighter in a "C" shape just like you see here. Feel free to have the top of the C end above or below your brow (or both). Each will give a slightly different effect, so it's really about your preference. Buff any harsh edges with a clean brush, and you're good to go.
Try: Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow, $68, available at Charlotte Tilbury.
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
The Up-&-At-'Em
Difficulty Level: 2

Maybe you had to work late. Perhaps you're hungover. Or maybe, you were simply up until the wee hours watching Making a Murderer. Either way, we're not judging. To look wonderfully refreshed when you're running on fumes, simply use your favorite concealer for more than just your undereye circles. This will perfect any uneven tone and make the skin look bright and glowy.

Just dot or dab concealer with a touch of luminosity exactly where you see the dots here, then pat and blend with your ring finger or a damp sponge. Et voilà: bright and alert!
Try: NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, $29, available at Sephora.
The Wide-Awake Eye
Difficulty Level: 3

Professional makeup artists never leave an eyelid bare, even if the focus is meant to be somewhere else. Instead, they'll use an eyeshadow a bit darker than the skin (something with a cool undertone is best, but a darker face powder or shimmer-free bronzer will work, too) to softly contour the eyelid. This makes eyes look more awake, and makes lashes or liner stand out.

First, grab a small, stiff eyeshadow brush and lightly dust or brush the powder or cream in the general shape you see here. Then, go over it with a second, clean blending brush until it looks natural.
Try: Giorgio Armani Eye Tint Eyeshadow, $39, available at Giorgio Armani.
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
The Not Contoured (But Still Kind Of Contoured) Nose
Difficulty Level: 2

The nose is, by far, the most complicated place to apply contour, so we suggest beginners stick to just a dab of concealer to highlight. This will create a solid line that will make any nose shape appear a bit more angular (read: not severe), without looking like you applied contour — because you didn't.

Simply grab a shimmer-free concealer a little lighter than your skin, like your standard undereye cover-up, and apply it in a thin line from the middle of your brows to about half an inch above the end of your nose. Pat with your ring finger (just like you would undereye concealer) until it's blended in, then add an additional dot at the tip of the nose. (There should be a small section between the line and the dot; don't blend them together.)

This should be the last step in your face-makeup routine, but feel free to set with loose powder if you tend to get oily.
Try: Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer, $28, available at Sephora.
The Bold-Lip Lover
Difficulty Level: 4

This trick brings all the focus to the pout, makes lips look super-full, and even helps to create a sharp lip line by preventing lip color from wandering.

The trick to pulling this off is to use a small, stiff brush, like a lip or eyeshadow brush. You'll need two makeup shades: one darker than your skin (like foundation) and one lighter (like concealer). (Or pick up a contour palette.) Using the image here as a guide, apply your darker color under the middle third of the bottom lip and in a diamond shape above the Cupid's bow. Pat with your ring finger until blended, then repeat with the lighter shade using this illustration as your guide.

Keep in mind you want the color to be right up against the lip line, almost like reverse lipliner. Powder can also work — just make sure you shake off excess before dusting it on to help the precision.
Try: Nyx Highlight & Contour Pro Palette, $24.49, available at Target.
The Legs-For-Days Legs
Difficulty Level: 1

Pop quiz: What's the fastest way to make your legs look like they're starring in a shaving-cream commercial? (If you shave, that is.) With a touch of sculpting, of course. This is one of the most foolproof tricks in this story. (Really, it's very easy.)

To begin, mix a pump or two of foundation a shade darker than your skin, as well as liquid bronzer or body makeup, into your body lotion and moisturize your legs as you normally would. This will even your skin tone and make your highlighter pop. Before the lotion soaks in, use your fingers to lightly buff a line of highlighter down the front of your shins, just like in the image here. Boom: Legs for days. Just be sure to triple-check that there are no uneven patches on the legs or harsh lines on your shins. (Scared of shimmer? You can use a body balm if you want to ease in!)
Try: Benefit Bathina Take A Picture It Lasts Longer, $30, available at Benefit.
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
The Dancing Queen
Difficulty Level: 1

Hitting the town? Consider this the added step at the end of your routine to make your entire face bright and ready to catch even the lowest evening light.

Using either your ring finger or a small brush (such as a concealer or clean eyeshadow brush), dab or dust a shimmery highlighter exactly where you see the marks here. That is: just above the Cupid's bow, on the tip of the nose, the inner corners of the eyes, above and below the outer halves of the brows, and along the tops of the cheekbones.

No need to be incredibly precise; start slowly and build as desired, and buff out any harsh edges or obvious lines.
Try: Smashbox L.A. Lights Blendable Lip & Cheek Color in Hollywood & Highlight, $29, available at Sephora.
The Strapless Sally
Difficulty Level: 5

The collarbone is perhaps the most undervalued attribute of a person's décolletage. (Why must the cleavage get all the attention?) This, however, is something that makeup artists understand well and take advantage of with just a touch of contour.

This illustration may look intimidating, but it's actually pretty easy to pull this off — as long as you go really light with the product to avoid mistakes. This is simplest when done with powder and a blush brush, as a tiny brush could create weird lines. (This one need not be super-precise.)

First, lightly dust your collarbone with highlighter (the white horizontal lines here), then re-create the slightly angled lines of highlighter above them by finding the muscles that stick out when you stick out your tongue and say, "Aah." Then, all you have to do is lightly dust contour or shimmer-free powder around the lines you just made in the same fashion you see here.
Try: E.l.f. Baked Highlighter & Bronzer, $4, available at e.l.f. Cosmetics.
The Pouty Lip
Difficulty Level: 4

You may have heard the phrase "lip contouring" before and wondered what the hell everyone was talking about. Luckily, it's not as weird as you may think. The technique describes using more than one shade of lipstick or liner to shade the lips, normally to make them appear fuller.

All you need is liner or lipstick in two hues that are slightly different, but can be blended together easily. (This is super-simple if your liner is a shade deeper than your lipstick.) Using the rust color in the left image as your guide for your darker hue, simply mimic the shape. That is, draw a jagged, uneven line on the inner rim of the top lip and the bottom's lip line, creeping up the center. Fill in with the lighter hue, and voilà — a poutier version of your own lips.
Try: Huda Beauty Lip Contour Matte Pencil, $19, available at Sephora.
The Single Swipe
Difficulty Level: 3

The letter C on slide two isn't the only symbol that can help guide you to a more defined makeup look. For a quick-and-dirty swipe of definition, simply look to the number 3. Any formula will work (however, a pencil or stick will make this super-simple): Just draw on the number like you see here.

The goal is to start the top circle right next to the hairline, have the middle of the 3 hit right below your cheekbone, and the bottom half hug your jawline. Dab and blend a bit of highlighter inside the half-circles for added punch.
Try: Tarte The Sculptor Contouring Face Slenderizer, $24, available at Ulta Beauty.
Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
The Kim K.
Difficulty Level: 5

So you're ready to go to the dark fully contoured side? Use all the knowledge you've learned here as background, then grab your highlighter and contour. Again, this can be a palette, or just makeup a bit lighter and darker than your skin tone (such as your undereye concealer and a foundation that's too dark for your skin).

Using either your finger or a small makeup brush (like a concealer or clean eyeshadow brush), dot your darker color onto skin like you see here. Blend with your fingers or a damp sponge. Then, repeat with the light color. You can quickly blend mistakes or obvious lines with a clean brush (if you're using powder) or a damp sponge (if you're using cream). See, that was easy! (Not really, no.)
Try: Nyx Wonder Stick, $11.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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