The Ultimate Guide to Color Correcting

POPSUGAR Photography | Benjamin Stone
POPSUGAR Photography | Benjamin Stone
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  • Pinpoint color correction is the extremely detailed spot correction of postblemish pigmentation.
  • The technique has recently been popularized as an alternative to using foundation.
  • We asked professional makeup artists to break down exactly how this technique works.

Color correction is a makeup application technique that's very popular but still fairly misunderstood. So it was no surprise that when content creator and artist Joni Sann created an in-depth video on the method, which involves using contrasting colors to conceal blemishes with minimal product, it went viral. In the video, which currently has over 4 million views, Sann explains how she achieved a full-coverage base, without using foundation, after picking her blemishes. The technique is a more precise version of color correction, also known as pinpoint color correction.

"Pinpoint color correction is similar to spot concealing," Sann tells POPSUGAR. "The process involves localized application of product to target specific trouble areas with the intention of masking or concealing blemishes." Pinpoint color correcting at home may take some getting used to, however, as Sann's method heavily utilizes her intricate knowledge of color theory. "A great place to start pinpoint color correcting is by first using a more accurate representation of color," Sann says. "There are tons of 'color wheels' available at a quick web search. But look for a CMYK+RGB color wheel as a guide to find your perfect color-correcting hues."

We asked Sann to break down everything you need to know about pinpoint color correcting ahead.

Additional reporting by Ariel Baker

How Is Pinpoint Color Correction Different From Normal Color Correction?
Getty | Natalia Kostikova / EyeEm

How Is Pinpoint Color Correction Different From Normal Color Correction?

The best part about pinpoint color correction is that it does not utilize heavy amounts of product on the face. "Instead of treating the entire face exactly like the spots we want to cover, pinpoint color correction allows the rest of the face to remain fresh," professional makeup artist and content creator Ehlie Luna tells POPSUGAR. "This allows more focused and detailed attention to the blemished areas that need them most."

Sann agrees, adding that many color-correcting techniques don't consider the color variances in blemishes. "Typical forms of color correction today only address one hue of the blemish instead of the overall properties of its color," she says. "Color-correction techniques that we're used to seeing tend to approach correction in a way that entirely eliminates the hue of the discoloration, leaving behind a blemish that often presents dark gray, even under full-coverage concealer or foundation."

Pinpoint color correcting not only takes these variances into consideration but also how each blemish differs from the next. "In pinpoint color correction, we address not only the value, or how light or dark the blemish is, but also the various hues that make up a blemish's color.

How Long Does Pinpoint Color Correction Take?
Getty | Carol Yepes

How Long Does Pinpoint Color Correction Take?

This method, Sann admits, is much more time consuming than a normal technique.

"The duration of a pinpoint color-correction technique varies greatly and is entirely dependent on how much correction you'd like to achieve," Sann says. "For individuals with more skin concerns who wish to correct 100 percent of their blemishes, this method can become very time intensive."

But if you only have a few blemishes that you'd like to cover or you're fine with a few imperfections showing, then you're in luck. "Individuals with a limited to moderate amount of blemishes can expect this method to take anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour."

Tips to Pinpoint Color Correct
Getty | sigridgombert

Tips to Pinpoint Color Correct

Sann's technique utilizes a few steps that can be replicated. "I start with identifying the hues that are already present in a blemish and see how I can add or take away from these existing hues without fully neutralizing [or] graying out the blemish," she says. In her viral video, her blemishes are fairly red, so she uses a lighter, yellow-based pigment to correct the color.

However, deeper or lighter skin tones may find that different shades work best, so Sann has a tip to finding your personal correcting shade. "Despite color mixes curving a bit, most of the time you're able to draw a straight line from the hue of the discoloration to the hue of the color corrector that you need to add into your foundation/concealer," she says. "If that line intersects the orange-hued zone for your skin tone at its midpoint, then the end point is the hue you should be adding into your concealer."

Best Products to Pinpoint Color Correct
Getty | Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

Best Products to Pinpoint Color Correct

Though it's best to use products that you already have at home when practicing, there are a few formulas that Sann particularly enjoys. "Some of my favorite products for correcting are the L.A. Girl Pro.color Foundation Mixing Pigment ($10) and Depixym Cosmetic Emulsions ($24)," she says. If you're starting from scratch, however, using a concealer a few shades lighter than your natural skin tone and then adding the necessary color for correction is the best place to start.

Sann also recommends artist Peter Donahue's, "color disk." "This disk is a more accurate and helpful representation of the color space we experience but translated into a 2D form to aid in visualization and color calculation," Sann says.

Pinpoint color correcting can lean a bit more advanced, so it is understandable if you'd like to start at a more baseline level. To get a basic understanding of color correcting, celebrity makeup artist and beauty expert Neil Scibelli previously broke down how to properly map out your face to effectively color correct, ahead.

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 1: Tackle Redness (Light to Medium Skin)
POPSUGAR Photography | Benjamin Stone

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 1: Tackle Redness (Light to Medium Skin)

When it comes to color correcting lighter complexions, it's important to choose your shades wisely and pay attention to your own skin's needs. Redness is typically a major issue for fairer women, so start by tackling this step first.

Color to Use: Green

Why This Works: According to Scibelli, the first step for color correcting light to medium complexions is to disguise any redness. "Red lies opposite on the color wheel from green, so a green-colored product will neutralize the dark coloring in acne or rosacea-prone skin," he says.

How to Use It: Use a green color corrector like the Exa High Fidelity Balancing Color Corrector ($27) to place a dot on any blemishes. Then, draw two lines along your cheeks if you tend to suffer from an ultrarouge flush during the day.

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 2: Hide Dark Circles
POPSUGAR Photography | Benjamin Stone

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 2: Hide Dark Circles

Color to Use: Yellow

Why This Works: Blue-purple undereye bags can be the ultimate complexion killer, but fortunately, the rules of the color wheel allow for lighter skin tones to use a yellow-colored product to offset those dark, veiny circles.

How to Use It: "Draw an upside-down triangle under the eyes to cancel out the darkness underneath them,"Scibelli says. A product like the yellow Exa High Fidelity Balancing Color Corrector ($27) can cover up dark circles completely, helping you to avoid any of those ultrairritating "you look tired today" comments from friends.

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 3: Brighten the Skin
POPSUGAR Photography / Benjamin Stone

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 3: Brighten the Skin

Color to Use: Lavender

Why This Works: Knock out sallow, yellow skin by applying a lavender color corrector. The purple shade eliminates those buttery undertones that can sometimes make you appear sickly.

How to Use it: Scibelli recommends using long, sweeping strokes of the lilac shade along the sides of the forehead and half-moon shapes along the sides of the cheeks where a natural highlight would be.

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 4: Blend
POPSUGAR Photography | Benjamin Stone

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 4: Blend

Once the colors have been applied, simply blend the shades into your skin using a blending brush, and apply foundation on top of your skin as you normally would.

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 1: Tackle Redness (Medium to Dark Skin)
POPSUGAR Photography | Benjamin Stone

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 1: Tackle Redness (Medium to Dark Skin)

The basic principle behind color correcting on darker skin tones is virtually the same as it is for lighter ones; however, there are a few key shade differences to keep in mind. (Spoiler: This is important for step two!). Keep the color placements the same and simply swap out the differing shades as directed.

Color to Use: Green

Why This Works: As we said before, green cancels out any red tones that arise on your complexion, no matter what your skin tone is.

How to Use It: Similar to how you would begin with light skin tones, neutralize any redness with a dot of green on both blemishes and broken blood vessels and a few green lines on flushed cheeks.

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 2: Hide Dark Circles
POPSUGAR Photography | Benjamin Stone

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 2: Hide Dark Circles

Color to Use: Salmon or Peach

Why This Works: "The orange undertones in the salmon color correctors neutralize purple and blue hues under the eyes, specifically for this skin tone," Scibelli says. "Using yellow tones like we did with lighter skin can wash out darker skin tones, making them appear grayish instead of fully blending in."

How to Use It: Apply a salmon- or peach-colored product like the Live Tinted Huestick in Rise ($24) in a triangle shape under your eyes to effectively cover up any blue-tinted areas.

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 3: Brighten the Skin
POPSUGAR Photography | Benjamin Stone

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 3: Brighten the Skin

Color to Use: Lavender

Why This Works: "The purple-toned color corrector is typically used under makeup as an overall brightening and highlighting color," Scibelli says. "This color cancels out dull skin tones, hyperpigmentation, and combats yellow, sallow undertones."

How to Use It: Create long, half-moon-shaped strokes using a purple-toned product like the L.A. Girl HD Pro Corrector Concealer ($5) in the same way recommended for light to medium skin tones, and apply an "X" over any hyperpigmentation or sun spots that are visible on the face.

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 4: Blend
POPSUGAR Photography / Benjamin Stone

How to Color Correct Traditionally — Step 4: Blend

Again, blend the colors into your skin as you normally would and follow up with your favorite foundation to set the look.