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Consider This Your Pro Guide to the Daring Sunset Eyeshadow Trend

Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Staff/Getty Images

Anyone with an Instagram account knows that sunset photos are mega “like” bait, but sunset-inspired eye makeup is gaining in popularity, too (the hashtag has been used 64,000 times and counting). The look is fairly self-explanatory: an artful palette of warm hues, blended across the eyelid to reflect that just-right time of day—with maybe a deep purple or maroon for some added depth.

Celebrity makeup artist Robert Sesnek, who has worked with celebs like Kristin Cavallari and Hailey Bieber, says pulling off the gradient look all comes down to blending. “If the colors aren’t blended properly—because the colors are very bright and vibrant—it can have a paint by numbers feeling,” he says. He also recommends sticking to a palette of no more than three shades. “Again, the colors are bright and vibrant, so using two-three max ensures a more modern feel.”

His recommendations: “I like shades in pink or soft, cool red, usually a warmer orange or rust, and a golden or yellow shade. These shades work beautifully when blended out and ombréd.” His final tip? Keep the focus on your eyes. “I would do a softer, more nude lip,” says the makeup artist, adding that “It keeps the overall look balanced and modern.”

Keep reading for Sesnek’s step-by-step tutorial, plus inspiration from celebs and Instagram, and the makeup products to use to DIY your own sunset-inspired makeup look.

About the Expert:

Robert Sesnek is a celebrity makeup artist and CATRICE brand ambassador.

How to create a sunset eyeshadow look:

1. Set your base.

Use the shades Filter and a touch of Facetune from CATRICE COSMETICS’ Insta Bae eyeshadow palette for intensity at the lash line. “Keeping the most vibrant or intense colors—usually the hot pinks or cool reds—closest to the lash line ensures a more modern look,” says Sesnek. For more intense color that lasts even longer, dampen your eyeshadow brush. “I usually don’t go too far above the crease, unless I’m doing a very smoky eye, so the other colors can be blended into each other,” he adds.

2. Pump up the color.

Then, take a warmer orange or rusty shade, such as Trending, and blend that out focusing on the outer corner of the eye and slightly above the crease. “Usually with this look I’ll also line the lower lash line with the second shade and blend out to desired effect,” says Sesnek, adding, “I can always intensify and add a pink/red like Filter to the outer edges to really pump up the look.”

3. Line and define.

For extra definition, take a dampened angled brush and use one or both of the same shades as an eyeliner.

4. Blend it all together.

Blend everything together and out until you reach the desired effect, and finish off by highlighting on the brow bone or inner corner with a gold or yellow like EOTD to pull the look together.

5. Add some major mascara.

“I’ve used burgundy as well as basic black mascara for this look,” says Sesnek. “Sometimes I’ll do black on upper lashes and burgundy on the lower,” he recommends.

Major sunset eyeshadow inspo:

1. Watercolor Sunset 

Close-up of Cara Delevingne rocking a watercolor sunset eye makeup look
Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Staff/Getty Images

Cara Delevingne followed one of Sesnik’s cardinal rules of sunset makeup for her gorgeous look here. “Notice how it’s just three shades: an orange, yellow, and pink,” says Sesnik. Rather than a typical blended-out eyeshadow, Sesnek says, “I would consider this more of a creased eyeshadow look but it’s modern, chic, and current.”

2. Pinky Sunset

Jasmine Sanders rocking a pinky sunset eyeshadow look paired with a peachy blush and lipstick
Photo by Amy Sussman / Staff/Getty Images

“I love how the shades of red and pink really make her eyes appear so much more blue.” Sesnek says of the Jasmine Sander’s dramatic look. “Again, this is a great example of using only three or less shades, but the look is stunning and so beautiful.” Sesknek also adds that even though the color choice is minimal, it “still has maximum impact.”

3. Subtle Sunset 

Close-up of Sophia Bush with a subtle sunset eyeshadow look
Photo by Neilson Barnard / Staff/Getty Images

Sophia Bush is sporting a blended matte pink, orange, and subtle yellow eyeshadow shades for an equally bright but more understated look. Bonus points for matching the makeup to her dress.

4. Smoky Sunset 

Close-up of Scarlett Johansson rocking a smoky sunset eyeshadow look
Photo by Ethan Miller / Staff/Getty Images

Equal parts bright and cheerful and dark and moody, Scarlett Johansson’s smoky sunset shadow offers it all. The tricks to this well-balanced look: tons of blending and the addition of some dark shadow at the lash line.

Want to get the look? These should help:

1. CATRICE COSMETICS Insta Bae Eyeshadow Palette

CATRICE COSMETICS Insta Bae Eyeshadow Palette

This is the exact palette Sesnik recommends. “It has 12 perfect shades for the sunset eye look,” he says.

2. MILANI Concealer + Precise Blending Brush

MILANI Concealer + Precise Blending Brush
Courtesy of MILANI

This soft, vegan eye blending brush makes creating your gradient look a breeze.

3. NYX Pro Angled Brush

NYX Pro Angled Brush
Courtesy of NYX

Dampen your eyeshadow of choice to intensify the pigment, use this cute angled brush to, and boom: instant eyeliner.

4. MAYBELLINE Snapscara in Black Cherry

MAYBELLINE Snapscara in Black Cherry
Courtesy of MAYBELLINE

If you want to add an extra layer of color and dimension to your look like Sesnik recommends, try this pretty (and affordable) colored mascara.

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About the author
Lindy Segal
Lindy is a contributor at IPSY, a beauty and lifestyle writer, and Real Housewives aficionado. She was an editor at People and Glamour, and her freelance work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Who What Wear, and Cosmopolitan, among other publications.
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Article Last Updated March 16, 2021 12:00 AM