How To Contour: Add Drama & Depth in 4 Easy Steps

I know what you’re thinking.

You just perfected your go-to look only to realise that it’s missing something. Is it a smokey eye? A bit of blush? Maybe contouring? 

The world of makeup artistry can feel like a rabbit hole sometimes. One minute, you’re on YouTube. Next thing you know it’s 1:00 am and you’re blasting Rihanna in the bathroom, trying to perfect the look you just saw in Cosmopolitan. 

If you’ve been there before, then welcome! You arrived in the right place on the Internet. Today we’re going to learn all about contouring. The subtle art of adding dimension to your skin, without turning your face into a rigid triangle. Keep scrolling to learn how to master this look in 4 simple steps. Let’s begin!

So, What Is Contouring?

Contouring, strobing, baking, non-touring...have you lost track of all the makeup lingo as we have? For a little background, a lot of the most popular looks of today originate from the drag communities of yesteryear, repopularised by the queens of today. (Thank you, RuPaul.) Contouring is one of those techniques that has roots in drag and is commonly used to add more depth and dimension to your face.

But a little too much drama doesn’t make for the best look. The more you highlight those chiselled angles, the more your look will start to look like costume makeup. We’ll go through exactly what you need to do to find the perfect balance for your skin.

Why Do It?

In previous years, the goal of contouring was very much in line with its drag queen use: creating dramatic, strong, facial features. How you contoured relied heavily on your actual face shape. The end goal: to create a totally new face shape on top of your natural features.

Now with natural looks trending, contouring has moved away from exaggeration, and now leans more towards accentuation. Using just enough product to create the effect. Bringing attention to your lovely natural features. An approach rooted in realism. 

Can you get the same effect with bronzer? Not necessarily. Although bronzer and contour powder seem indistinguishable from each other in your makeup kit, they produce different effects. Use bronzer for warmth. Its glimmering qualities let the sun bounce off your face in all the right ways. The contour powder is used to bring out the shadows in your look; creating a more three-dimensional effect on your face. An easy way to remember: contouring powder always has a matte finish.

1. Complete Your Base


A great look starts with all the essential elements of your daily routine. Apply any skincare as normal (e.g. cleanser, moisturiser, etc.). Add your primer to even out your skin’s texture and follow up with your foundation of choice

Apply concealer around the eyes and other areas as necessary. Basically, do everything you’d normally do in your makeup routine, and you’re already 25% done!

2. Pick Your Areas of Attention


Next, you want to pick the areas of your face you’d like to contour. The most common areas for those with rounder faces are the cheek and jawbones. But contouring can be used for more than creating chiselled features. Are there areas of your face that you’d like to reduce? Are there natural features that you want to elevate a bit more? Do you want to play around with distance, and space between the elements of your face?

Take some time to really look at the full picture and how every element on your face comes together to make you, uniquely you. If you want to experiment with reducing certain areas and accentuating others, maybe look at unconventional areas to contour. Touching up your temples and the top of your face can make your forehead appear smaller. Contouring the sides of the nose can create a narrowing effect, making your face appear longer and thinner.

It’s not just cheekbones, play around with all your features! Hide what you want, and bring out what you love about your look.

3. Pick Your Shades


Now that you’ve picked your areas of attention. It’s time to pick your shades. Deeper tones will bring out that shadow effect, drawing light away from your key areas and creating a sensation of depth. 

For a more natural look, we recommend doing only 1-2 shades darker from your current tone. For something exaggerated (think drag queen levels),  you can go a few more shades across the spectrum. Just keep in mind that you’re running the risk of making the contour effect too obvious.

Going 5+ shades or more past your usual tones will look too unnatural. This finish will appear quite muddy, and you’ll lose all the depth you worked so hard to apply.

Also, be wary of shimmery or glittery finishes. Glitter reflects light off your face, softening the angles in your face. We want a matte, light-absorbing finish. Our Conceal & Illuminate 5-in-1 Palette is a great kit to help you compare and contrast different shades prior to application.

4. Contour!


You’ve set your base, pinpointed your key contour areas, and picked your contour shades. Now it’s time to bring your look to life!

If you’re one for cream contour sticks—like this Mineral Stick Foundation—apply directly on your face to your chosen contour areas. Then use the buffing side of our Face Wand to blend the product directly into your skin. Continue until you reach your desired effect.

If you opt for a Contouring Powder go for a smaller brush. An Angled Brush or a small-medium sized powder brush works best with contouring powder. Avoid using larger brushes as you won’t get the definition needed to bring out the shadows in your contour. Big brushes cover a larger surface area when blending your makeup. They won’t pull back your pre-defined edges and will make your overall look heavier/monotone. The difference is in the details!

Pro Tips

Less is More 

At the end of the day, you want your look to appear as natural as possible. A perfect contour is almost unrecognisable and blends in with your unique features. Unless you want something super dramatic, don’t go too deep with your tones and keep your look as close to your everyday makeup as possible.

A Note on Bronzer

Yes, bronzer is different from contouring powder! Although we don’t recommend using bronzer as a replacement for contouring powder, if your finished look appears darker than expected, bronzer can help. Contouring shades typically have a grey undertone to imitate shadowing. Applying bronzer on contoured areas can bring warmth back into your face (if necessary).

Completing The Look

And the final two cherries on top: blush and highlighter. Blush will give your skin a healthy, sanguine look. And highlighting will make those shadows pop just a bit more.

A Flawless Contour For Any Occasion

In just 4 simple steps you’ll bring dimension, depth, and clarity to your everyday look. With contouring in your arsenal, you’ll have a look ready for any occasion. Check out our blog and tutorials for more tips from MUA professionals and master your contour today.

More Contouring Tutorials