The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Contouring and Highlighting
Contouring is the makeup technique that professionals love and DIY makeup mavens loathe. To help you contour your way to the perfect sculpted face, MAC senior artist Gina Bettelli helped us create a detailed contouring and highlighting map for three different skin types and face shapes. We break down how to contour facial features on different face shapes, including heart-shaped, oval-shaped, and square-shaped; we also teach you how to contour for different skin tones and how to contour your nose, cheeks, and forehead. All you have to do is print out the photo that best fits your face and follow the dotted guidelines in the mirror as a reference.
You can also save Bettelli's product and shade recommendations for your next makeup-shopping trip. We've already outlined the lazy-girl way to contour, but this contouring tutorial breaks it down for newbies and pros alike. We're talking Kim Kardashian-level sculpting, people!
What Is Contouring?
Conturing is a way to shade and highlight certain areas of your face or body using makeup in order to accentuate some features and hide others. Conturing and highlighting can be done subtly to enhance features; it can also completely change facial and body features. While contouring is most often used on the face, it can also be used on body parts, such as the stomach.
Bronzer vs. Contour
Although the products often look similar in color and come in similar formats, such as powder, stick, and liquid, bronzer and contour are extremely different. Bronzer is typically used to bring warmth to the face and accentuate areas that would be naturally darkened by the sun. Contour is applied strategically to define specific features and sculpt your face. Contour adds dimension, while bronzer typically makes the wearer look sun-kissed.
How to Contour: Heart-Shaped Face
Face Shape: Heart
Is Your Face a Heart? A heart-shaped face typically has a pointy chin, and the face is widest in the brow and forehead area. Some people with a heart-shaped face have a widow's peak, but it's not a hard-and-fast rule. Overall, the face shape resembles an upside-down triangle.
The Strategy: The goal is to balance out the forehead and chin, so you want to minimize the width of the forehead by contouring along the upper temples. Then, focus your highlight shade on the center of the chin to emphasize the area.
How to Contour: Cheeks
To find the perfect placement of the cheek contour, use your makeup brush. Place the end of the tool behind your ear and follow the angle of the brush from the top of the lobe down onto the cheekbone. Your contour should go no lower than the nose and shouldn't reach any further than the outer edge of the eye.
How to Contour: Oval-Shaped Face
Face Shape: Oval
Is Your Face an Oval? An oval-shaped face resembles an upside-down egg. The forehead is slightly wider than the chin, and the face is longer than it is wide.
The Strategy: Oval faces have the easiest contouring route. "You can pick and choose the things you want to highlight and contour, because there is a softness to the face," Bettelli says. "You can add in angles to accentuate the features."
How to Contour: Forehead
Focus the contour on the forehead and chin to draw the eye to the center of the face and condense the length. Make sure to work the darker color all the way into the hairline; otherwise, your faux bronze could look a little too obvious.
Bettelli used MAC Paint Pot in Quite Natural ($23) on the model's medium skin tone instead of a dark concealer. "Concealer is often too orange, especially on light-to-medium skin tones," she says. "So, use cream eye shadow for contouring. Creams are so much more forgiving to move and shift."
How to Contour: Nose
To make your nose appear slimmer, apply a reflective highlight along the bridge and a subtle contour along the sides of the nose. "Be sure to start your brush at the top of the nasal bone and stop the eye shadow before the tip to avoid a shiny bulbous nose," Bettelli says.
How to Highlight: Oval-Shaped Face
Bettelli used the MAC Prep + Prime Highlighter in Light Boost ($27) to highlight, since it has brightening yellow undertones. Under the eyes, create a triangle shape to level out the depth of the cheekbones.
How to Contour: Square-Shaped Face
Face Shape: Square
Is Your Face a Square? The most prominent feature of a square face is the angular jawline. The sides of the face are straight, and the width of the face is almost equal to the length.
The Strategy: On a square face, the goal is to round out the sharp-angled features to create softer edges and lines. Sweep the contour shade onto cheeks in a rounded, banana-like motion to counteract the boxy face shape.
How to Contour: Square-Shaped Face
Square-shaped faces already have defined edges without contour. Contouring the perimeter of a square-shaped face will help the edges appear rounder and get rid of any angular features.
Concealers, such as MAC Studio Finish Concealer ($24), are the best way to contour dark skin tones. When applying your product, start out with a precise brush, such as MAC Large Shader Brush #252 ($34), to mark your territory. Blend it all out with a fluffy brush or a wet sponge for a nice blurred effect. "The diffused edges look good in person and in photography," Bettelli says — meaning you won't have strangers wondering if you have dirt on your face.
How to Highlight: Square-Shaped Face
When highlighting a square-shaped face, you'll want to place product on the forehead, the bridge of the nose, above the brow bone, underneath the eyes, and underneath the cheek bone. This will add length to the face.
Bettelli used MAC Studio Conceal and Correct Duo ($25) to highlight the face with two different shades. "Orange brightens, so the same way you would use vanilla on a [light] skin tone, use oranges and caramels on [dark] skin," she says. Highlight the cheekbones with a reflective powder, such as MAC Mineralize Skinfinish ($38).