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How to Nail a Matte Eyeshadow Look in 6 Easy Steps


Knowing how to use matte eyeshadows for your makeup looks is an important skill. It’s not hard, but with the right tricks and tips you can take seemingly flat and one-dimensional shadows and use them to create dynamic day-to-night eyeshadow looks.

We all love shimmer, but the true test of your makeup skills, especially eye makeup, is playing around with your natural shadows and tones. You may have noticed you have a natural color on your eyelids that creates depth—how do you define it and use it to your advantage? By using the right colors. In a way, using matte eyeshadows is a similar concept to contouring your cheeks. Using the shadows and natural tones help you contour your eyes and create the perfect, natural look.

So, you think you’re ready to nail your matte eyeshadow glam? Not so fast! We want to equip you with the best tips from professional makeup artists—including eye prep, the best colors for your skin tone, and how to nail the matte eyeshadow look step by step. Get ready to grab your makeup brushes and your favorite eyeshadow palette—you’ll need them!

About the Expert:

Jessica Thomas is an Ohio-based freelance makeup artist. Her work can be seen in editorial spreads, in your favorite TV shows, and on the runways at New York Fashion Week.

Your Step-by-Step Guide to a Matte Eyeshadow Look

1. Eye Prep Is Essential

LAURA MERCIER Translucent Loose Setting Powder

As with any makeup look, prepping the skin is key. This is especially true for your eyelids, the thinnest skin we have. It must be moisturized, smooth, and able to grip onto any product that is swiped across it. “I love to use a concealer to base out the eye and then set it with a loose powder to prep. Previously I would use an eyeshadow primer, but I found for some primers, it would leave a bit of an ashy hue on the lids of my clients that were of a deeper complexion and didn’t aid in shadow blend-ability,” says makeup artist Jessica Thomas.

Looking for a great concealer to prep your eyes with? We’ve got our favorite concealers here. Then, we then love setting the concealer with a translucent powder like the LAURA MERCIER Translucent Loose Setting Powder to create a smooth base to blend on.

2. Start With a Neutral Base

TARTE™ sunrise Amazonian clay eyeshadow palette

You’ll want to start your look by using a flush of a neutral shadow on your entire lid. Generally, each eyeshadow palette containing matte colors or one that is exclusively matte will have a couple neutral shades that resemble your skin tone or are otherwise a taupe color (like the shades Adore and Sassy in the TARTE™ sunrise Amazonian clay eyeshadow palette). This base shade is also sometimes called the transition shade, as it helps whatever you lay over top blend seamlessly. 

3. Understand the ‘Light to Dark’ Technique

A closeup photo of a model's face with a matte look

With a smoky eye, you’re meant to use lighter tones and colors towards your inner corner and work your way out to darker tones (and sometimes as far up as your brow bone). Creating a look with matte eyeshadow uses a similar technique.

“I like to utilize the light to dark technique, starting with lighter tones on the eye and working my way into deeper tones with matte eyeshadows where the blend needs to be flawless. I like to have one eyeshadow brush for applying my product and a clean eyeshadow brush meant for blending only,” says Thomas.

4. Fill in the Rest

A closeup photo of a model's face with a matte look

Now, it’s time to add dimension with a darker shade. Color preference is totally up to you, but feel free to refer to color theory if you must. Green eyes look best with plum and burgundy colors; brown eyes and blue eyes tend to look better with neutral browns, golden colors, or even certain reds. Once you’ve decided, go in with your deeper color on your eyelids and blend out to the outer corner to create depth and dimension.

5. Create a Cut Crease

F.A.R.A.H 5-Piece Eye Perfection Set

The signature move for a matte eye look? Focusing on the cut crease. You almost want to contour that part of your eye or at least think about it in that way—you’re making it pop and doing so with matte shadow that can be a little flat on its own. By focusing on the crease, you’ll bring out the natural shape of your eyes.

Blend in a circular motion with a tapered blending brush (the F.A.R.A.H 5-Piece Eye Perfection Set has all the tools you’ll need in one place), using a back and forth motion in the crease of your eyelid. Make sure to work quickly when blending, as matte eyeshadows tend to settle fast.

6. Enhance Your Eye With Eyeliner & Mascara


Now that you’ve nailed your eyeshadow with matte shades, it’s time to top off the look! Focusing on your lower lash line, add your desired shadow pencil. If you really can’t help yourself when it comes to shimmer, here’s your opportunity to add. We love the URBAN DECAY Eye Pencils for that reason. And to make your eyes pop, don’t forget about adding mascara to your upper lashes. This will lengthen and define your lashes, completing the soft glam eye makeup look.

Looking for more tips and tricks to take your makeup looks to the next level? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your own beauty subscription. Already a member? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and TikTok @IPSY.

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About the author
Olivia Cefalu
Olivia Cefalu
Olivia is a freelance beauty writer. With experience in influencer marketing at Tata Harper Skincare and editorial at Very Good Light, she loves covering Gen Z beauty, wellness, and nail trends. Read her work on Very Good Light and Well + Good.
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Article Last Updated June 7, 2023 12:00 AM